Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A Different Perspective

One of Miss J's favorite things recently is being flipped upside down. She'll crawl up to me and put her head in my lap as a sign to flip her upside down.

I love caving in and letting her hang upside down. Why?

Babies love to predict what is going to happen next. They crave routine.

She is developing a hypothesis. I'm not so sure what hypothesis/hypotheses she is forming. Maybe it's if I put my head in Mommy's lap, she'll flip me upside down. Most of the time I'll swing her upside down. Every once in a while, I'll do something else, like tickle her to see her reaction.

The world also looks different while hanging upside down. People seem to be hanging from the ceiling! It's not really so, but it looks like it when you're upside down.

Your body feels different! Blood rushes to your head, and endorphins kick in. You try it - handstand on the couch, I won't tell anyone.

Babies are discovering the world around them. Help them out a little bit.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Acute Baby

I saw a design similar to this onesie when I was pregnant with Miss Baby J. We are kind of maker-type people (when we have the time). I put it on my list of things I want to make her, but I figured that I'd never get to it (much like updating this blog, which sat lonely for a few months while I was trying not to drown).

Anyways, I had a few days over winter break to create my own shirt. I dyed a white body suit purple and drew the design in Inkscape before John helped me convert it into a digital file that is compatible with an embroidering machine. It's fun to have unique, nerdy pieces, and "acute" model to wear them:

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Inside of a breast pump

There, I've said it, "breast" is now on my blog. It's no secret that I work full time outside of the house. My breast pump provides me the opportunity to give my children milk during their first year. A few weeks ago, my older pump (~5 yrs old), which I currently use and keep at work, began acting up. It would oscillate and lose suction with each cycle. As an engineer, I wanted to find a fix.

For a week or two, just re-positioning the tube connection to the pump would keep it in long enough for my pumping session. Then that didn't work. I just needed the external pump cylinder (what I'll be referring to as the "suction piece") to stop moving in and out of the pump. If it was stationary, the suction would work just fine. In a pinch, I grabbed some scotch tape (the only tape I had handy) from my desk. That worked for a session or two. Then I added more and more tape until finally I remembered to bring it home to ask John for some duct tape (which we didn't have! I feel like we failed as mechanical engineers).

I explained the situation to John and that I just need the suction piece to stop moving and it works. John wanted to open it up. I was nervous, but it was well out of warranty and heck, we're engineers!

Voila! The inside of the pump. It's so pretty, and fairly basic!

We saw the plastic clips that held the casing surrounding the suction piece were broken and coming off, allowing the piece to move in a way that it wasn't supposed to. We needed something to wedge in there. Luckily, I hoard milk caps (for science!). With a hole cut out to fit the pump cylinder, a milk cap was wedged into the pump. The pump was closed and tested out. It worked!! It's been ok for a week now, and I hope it lasts for another 3 months. A penny solution is much better than buying a new pump!

Broken clips, like the one shown under the motherboard and our milk cap wedged in at the far right

On a customer service note, my original pump did die 9 months into J (5 yrs ago). It was still under the first year warranty, so I called and they overnighted me a new one (which is the one that broke this time)! I was (and still am) a very heavy pump user, and until I acquired a second pump, I was bike commuting with my pump, which probably gave it some extra shaking. All-in-all, I've been very satisfied with my breast pump.

Is there anything you recently took apart or reverse engineered to see how it works?

Are there any mommy tools that could be helped through better engineering and technology?

The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) had an innovation contest to redesign the breast pump. I'd love something quieter, less bulky/clunky, and more discrete!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Baby Science at Feeding Time

Simple science experiments that babies do on their own - and how you can embrace the science:

*Squish their food - How does that feel on your hands? Give them something else to squish with a different texture. How does that feel? How does it feel on your face? How does it feel on your hair? (It's inevitable, you'll have to hose them down anyways).

*Prefer one food - Give the baby a few different food items on the tray and watch him/her pick up the preferred items first. Once the preferred items are gone, watch which item disappears next. It's a form of sorting, the bin is just his/her mouth!

*Drop things - Where did it go? Did you hear it hit the ground? Give the item back to them (assuming you're ok with whatever condition the floor is in). Whoa, did it happen again? Was it the same? Then offer something different (i.e. plastic, wooden, metal spoons). Did that sound different? How about this sippy cup? Whoops, the lid fell off. Did you hear the water splash on the ground? (you'll have to wait a few minutes while I clean it up!)

Little Miss J is now 9 months! As you can probably tell by this post, we're well into the feeding craziness of babyhood. Oh, being a parent is fun!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Card games for preschoolers

With the new baby, we've been spending a lot of time at home and encouraging quiet activities. Being from Vegas, I have more than my fair share of cards, but J recently received a Batman deck for his birthday, which increased his interest in card games. Here are a few of our favorites so far and the skills that they teach the players.

Go Fish!:
How to play: Shuffle the deck of cards. Each person gets 5 cards, and the rest of the cards go in a pile in the between the players. The players look at their cards (not showing their cards to opponents), and if they have any matches, the players put them face up in front of them. The players then take turns asking one another if they have a card that would match a card that is currently in their hands. If the person asked has the card, they forfeit (give) the card to the asker, and the asker gets to go again. If the person asked does not have the card, they say, "Go fish!" and the asker picks from the pile of cards in between them. We play a variation that if the person draws the card that they just asked for from the "Go fish!" pile and gets that match, they get to go again. We play until one player gets rid of all of his/her cards. Then we count everyone's matches, and the person with the most matches win!
Skills: Matching is important in science, especially biology with classification of species. Go Fish! also teaches the mathematical skill of strategy where the players have to listen and remember who asked for which cards. The players want the most matches.

How to play: Shuffle the deck of cards. All of the cards get evenly distributed between the players (2-4). The cards are placed face down in a stack in front of each player. Nobody looks at their cards. Each player then holds their deck of cards face down and places the top card from their deck face up in the play area, in between the players. The player who drew the largest card gets the cards in that round (which the won cards go face down into a pile/stack in front of the player, when a player gets to the end of his/her deck, he/she picks up and shuffles the cards in front of him/her and resumes drawing his/her cards). If the largest card is a tie, the players go into "War" which requires the tied cards' players to place 3 cards face down (they put down 1 card per syllable while saying "I declare") and then one card face up (saying "war!"). The person with the largest face up card gets all of the cards that round. If it's tied again, repeat "War" until someone gets a larger card. All  number cards (2-10) have face value, and then the face cards are greater than number cards. The order of face cards are Jacks < Queens < Kings < Aces. Repeat the drawing/collection of cards/War until one player has all of the cards (the winner has all of the cards).
Skills: War teaches the mathematical skill of greater than/less than. This is a game of chance. It all depends on the cards the dealer gives whoever is playing. You aren't allowed to peak at your cards, so there's no strategy here. It would be nice if you get the higher, face value cards through wars, but you have no control over it.

Stay tuned for our "More Card Games" that we've taught J. They need a little more of a schematic description either via pictures or diagrams, and I'm not doing so well in the free time category at the moment.