I know that when we started my daughter on rice cereal she didn't take it so well for me. My sitter would tell me that she ate real good for her but when I tried to feed her at home she would not want it or only a little. What I ended up doing was mixing fruit in with it like banannas and applesauce. I also always mixed it with her formula instead of water. She seemed to like it with the fruit, and then eventually she started eating it with or without the fruit. They say that when starting them out they may not take to it right away and at first may only eat about 3 tablespoons or less. Also as far as if it is too soon for applesauce.. Our pediatrician said there is either formual/breastmilk or there is food. No matter if it is applesauce, peas, whatever they all fit in the same catagory. So with my daughter I just started a new fruit and vegetable everyweek. I believe applesauce was the second one we tried. Everything went okay, now she is a wonderful eater. It just took a little time and a little testing.
****PS - thanks for sharing on your teeting and ear infections. Good luck!