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One of the advantages of living with an electrical engineer is that any and all electronics can be modified to suit your needs. Observe: when we brought Paulo home, it was quickly discovered that he enjoyed a gentle rocking motion. Nuno’s solution to this? Devise a sort of pulley with a motor and a piece of string to rock the car seat.

Baby’s first mod. You can see Whuff’s wee head peeking out just a bit. Yes, I let him put the baby in this contraption. No, I’m not sure why. I was more than a little sleep deprived.

This was abandoned as quickly as it was constructed (let me point out for the record: it did indeed work. It pulled the seat forward and then let it drop back) for two reasons: #1) the motion was very, VERY subtle and while it could keep The Whuff asleep, it wasn’t enough to actually put him to sleep. For that you still needed to rock the seat manually, or y’know, HOLD him. #2) It made a pretty heinous noise that didn’t really bother the baby, but certainly bothered his parents.

I pointed out that a swing would do exactly the same thing, but better. Nuno was a bit miffed that someone had already thought of this. Yes, he’s new to the world of babies and their many contrivances. So, we got the swing. The swing did indeed soothe the baby to sleep at times when mama’s arms are TIRED, YO. The only downside? It eats batteries. The batteries on that thing lasted literally a week. And let’s be clear: while we were relying on it to get him to nap now and then, he was still sleeping with me at night and was held more hours of the day than I can really count. That’s some pretty short-ass battery life right there.

So, Nuno asked me if I wanted to modify the swing to be plugged in. And I said “DEAR G-D YES.” Not only do I want to give the earth a hug and really hate throwing away batteries because they’ve got all those chemicals and make baby seals cry (don’t ask me HOW, but I’m sure baby seals are involved), but more importantly, I did not want to face that horrible moment when the batteries ran out and we didn’t have any more batteries and nothing would soothe the baby and OH THE HORROR.

The swing, modified. I did have to talk Nuno into removing that red light that you see since at night, it was WAYYYYY too bright. My temporary solution, as I’m no engineer, was to throw a blanket over it. Hey, we all troubleshoot in our own way.

I know that looks pretty ad-hoc, and indeed it is, but I care not. It WORKS. The only disadvantage is that the way it’s set up means that the swing can’t currently be moved, but whatever.

Then came the bouncy seat. I have an embarrassing number of photos of Whuff in the bouncy seat and again, I promise you he doesn’t spend ALL day in it, it’s just one of those places where he’s particularly adorable and also doing a modicum of HOLDING STILL. When he’s more free range, this kid is dancing up a storm and all my photos come out blurry because he’s PAULO FLATLEY, LORD OF THE DANCE. Anyhow. Parental guilt for seeming like one of those parents whose kids are in the bouncy seat all day long and then their heads get all flat aside. The bouncy seat. Is awesome. And can be moved.

Now, our apartment is tiny so this just means being moved from the table to Nuno’s desk to – ok, while I’m admitting embarrassing parenting methods – the kitchen counter. The base is small and plenty sturdy, so it’s perfectly safe to have him on top of a table and he really prefers this to being on the floor as he likes being at eye-level with us to chit chat. And “bouncy” is really a misnomer for the seat. It doesn’t move, it just vibrates. I kinda wish I had one for me.

The bouncy seat’s modification to plug-in power is in process as its portability has proved invaluable and so this time, things have to be done a little more carefully to have a plug that can be moved around. However, that’s not to say that it hasn’t already been optimized. (And truly, it’s better on batteries than the swing was.) I’m not just talking about the binky-string optimization (which has since been taken down when Whuff got his arm caught [non-perilously, just enough to really make him mad] on it), but more electronic futzing.

He did indeed make sure the cord wasn’t long enough to go near his neck, but the elbow. Oh, the elbow.

There was one flaw with the bouncy seat that needed immediate fixing. In order to conserve battery power, the seat would turn off and stop vibrating after a certain period of time. I’m not sure what the interval was, but I knew every time it turned off since someone was no longer content to sit in it – requiring me to turn it off and then back on again. Not a pain for me, except if he had been asleep and this had woken him up. So, I asked Nuno if he could fix it – and fix it he did. Obviously, we do need to rig it up to plug in now since it’s no longer conserving batteries. Nuno’s ordering the parts and after we get back from Vermont, will be optimizing it.

Ah yes, have I mentioned that we’re going to Vermont for a week to have a wedding ceremony? No? Oh, well, now I did. We’re legally married, but didn’t have an actual wedding and now we’re having one on June 4th. More about that at some other time.

This does bring us to our next optimization: my breast pump.

I don’t use it often, but I’m going to have to when I go to pick up my dad and a friend from the airport. I don’t want to bring the Whuff with me as I don’t know if there are going to be delays or whatnot. Also: three adults and a baby in a Honda Fit is a tight squeeze. So, he’ll be staying with my mama and I’ll be the airport shuttle service. Now, the airport is a little less than two hours away, meaning if all goes well this will take about five hours round trip. That’s five hours without nursing.

Today I did a “dry run” (HAAAAAAAA. Yeah, “dry” is NOT what happened.) to see if I could go five hours. I nursed Paulo at 6:30 and he fell dead asleep afterwards. After some soul-searching about waking him up, I decided against it on the grounds that he wouldn’t be hungry yet and gave him over to Nuno at 8 for my nap (I nap from 8-12 and he hangs out with dad and gets a bottle), figuring I’d get up at 12 and nurse. I woke up at 11 from the pain of my dripping boobs. Clearly, anything longer than a four hour break is going to require me pumping.

Which is where the optimization comes in. My teeny wee pump (as the times when I have to use it are few and far between) is a plug-in. I’ve looked for a battery powered pump and only found really expensive ones or manual pumps. Neither is what I want. So, I need to find a way to either plug my pump into my car or have it battery powered to be able to pump on my airport run so that my boobs don’t totally explode. Nuno is happy to oblige in his love for optimizing things, so we’re off to Radio Shack tonight to find parts.

Yes, in addition to teaching and doing his own research, Nuno can put “breast pump optimization” on his resume. I know any parent would certainly be impressed.

ED: In our trip to Radio Shack to get parts for this project, I discovered you can just buy a household item adapter pluggy thing for the car. Nuno was both thrilled with the simplicity and slightly deflated that his skillz would not be put to use this time. I guess some people manage these things *without* electrical engineers.

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