Sunday, April 26, 2020

Cause My Arms Are Tired | A Field Expedient Baby Carrier

Far and away the fanciest furniture in our home belongs to our little one. Yet, his favorite resting spot continues to be our arms. And while his near 15 pounds of baby cuteness doesn't sound like much, he gets heavy! Our goto carriers are the Moby Wrap* and Baby Bjorn, and they both work really well. Yet, I found myself looking for other ways to help lighten the load.

Inspired by an Aden + Anais extra large swaddle blanket (47x47 inches baby!) that my Sister-in-Law and Brother gifted us, and memories of playing with Furoshiki wrapping, I wondered what would happen if I rigged up a sling to carry the kid around.

I laid the blanket out and tied the opposite corners together like so:

At this point, I had a sort of crude bag that could be slung over my shoulder. Carefully, I slid our 10 week old baby into the space and let the blanket take his weight:

The square knot that bore the most of the weight cinched down nicely and showed no signs of slipping. The blanket itself also felt secure. And just like that, I had the world's worst baby carrier. The knot dug into my back and the kid was nowhere near secure enough to go hands free. Yet the hack showed promise. The weight had been shifted away from my arms, and one hand had been freed up. At this age, the Moby Wrap works great as a place for the baby to cuddle and sleep. Using my improvised sling, which is mostly just me holding him, I found he could face out and interact with the world.

Over the last couple of weeks this little setup has been truly helpful. When I need just a little extra mobility or want to give my arms a rest, into the sling the baby can go. I also like that as long as I carry one of these blankets in his baby bag, I've got a backup baby carrier. This would have been handy when we visited a museum and found out that strollers were a no-no.

Soon he'll outgrow the sling, and at that point I should be able to use more carry options with the Moby Wrap (like say hip carry). But in the mean time, I'll take all the help I can get.

Two final points: First, I bet there's an established way to do what I'm doing. Perhaps it's a product you can buy or a well known hack. Either way, I won't be surprised if someone leaves a comment: uh, if you just bought X, you'd get all the benefits you have now.

Second: Shira's not impressed with the sling idea and has her own solution: lifting weights and having actual arm strength. To each their own, I suppose.

*Case in point, I'm composing this blog post as our little one naps in the Moby Wrap on my chest. Man I love this thing!

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

3am Audio Hack - Playing Lullabies and Netflix at the Same Time

Years ago, as we prepared to take on our first Foster Placement, I read this book. One piece of advice from this text has stuck with me:

There are no maintenance tasks with a baby.

That is, while diaper changing or feeding a little one a bottle may feel like work can be done on autopilot, it's worth striving to avoid this. These so called 'maintenance moments' are in fact a opportunities to connect and be present with the one you're caring for.

Over the years, this advice has served me well. But I also have to admit, even I have my limits. When it's 3am and I'm rocking a little one back to sleep for the 4th time, I think I can be forgiven for wanting to unplug from the moment. And that's what my latest hack is all about.

Did you know that on Samsung devices, you can go to: Settings » Sound and Vibration » Separate App Sound to configure your phone such that one app plays audio through the speaker and other apps play through a Bluetooth headset?

Why is this useful and what does this have to do with rocking a baby to sleep at 3am?

Using this setting you can softly be playing lullabies via Amazon Music on your phone's speaker, while binge watching a TV show on Netflix using a pair of Bluetooth headphones.

Just remember: with great power comes great responsibility; So use with care.

The Separate Sounds functionality should also be useful for solving the age old problem of having Google Maps navigation be announced via the phone's speaker, while a podcast plays via Bluetooth audio. Got to love these non-standard, random'ish features manufacturers add to Android OS.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Passover Thoughts, Covid-19 Edition

I've been mulling over what it means to celebrate Passover in a world wrestling COVID-19. For one thing, it meant trading a raucous multi-family seder for a quaint (and delightful!) one between Shira, Myself and our 11 week old.

Like the first Passover our ancestors went through, we find ourselves under a stay at home order, with an unseen force lurking outside ready to do harm. Sure, the CDC has called for social distancing, and not smearing lamb's blood on your doorpost, but the message remains the same: stay home, heed the instructions of experts, and stay safe.

I'm also gaining fresh perspective on what it means to have your life dramatically altered seemingly overnight. We look at the Jews leaving Egypt as going from slaves to free men and women. But that's with the benefit of a hefty dose of hindsight. In the moment, you can appreciate how it must have felt like trading one precarious situation for another. That is, to go from a slave to a wandering people unsure where your next drink or meal could be found.

While COVID-19 restrictions didn't go into effect at the stroke of midnight, they have descended on us at an alarming rate. Suddenly, parents are home-schooling teachers; office workers are work-from-home employees, and a massive number of people are simply unemployed. Basic human interactions, like sharing a meal or giving a hug are now off limits. The science tells us this is all for our own good. But like those Israelites heading into the desert and being told how fortunate they are to be free, you can be forgiven for wondering: what the heck did we get ourselves into?!

Here's to enduring the scourge that is COVID-19 with as little hardship as possible, and diligently looking for ways to use it as fuel for good. Like our ancestors, may we be able to look back at these events and see more than just the challenges. And next year in Jerusalem! Or really anywhere, as long as it's together in the same room.

Monday, April 13, 2020

A First Hike in Gunpowder Falls State Park

Two weeks ago, the stars looked to be aligning: the weather was going to be top notch, and our day free. We could finally get in some quality hiking! Because we wanted to practice smart social distancing, we opted for what appeared to be a low traffic hike: Little Gunpowder, Winterfell, Quarry Loop located in Gunpowder Falls State Park.

We arrived at the trail head to find cold and dreary conditions. On the plus side, the cruddy weather appeared to be keeping people away. Off we trekked into the wilderness, opting to take the hike uphill first to help us warm up.

For the first half of the hike we found the seclusion we were looking for. We saw no other hikers, and while the conditions remained cold and damp, they also served to enhance the scenery. With the mist, it felt like were in enchanted woods.

This was our little guy's first official hike and for the first couple of miles he slept right through it.

As we descended the Quarry Trail and re-joined the Little Gunpowder Trail we found ourselves with a choice: go left and log an out-and-back hike which would get us more miles and a chance to see a waterfall. Or go right and close out the loop we'd started. At this point, our 10 week old woke up and urgently asked where his next meal was. It also became clear that it wasn't going to warm up and that the 70+ degree temps we'd anticipated weren't coming. We hadn't expected to hike the full day in 50 degree weather, and weren't properly equipped for the day.

So we opted to close out the loop. We encountered a few families at this point, and I'm sure we looked like quite the sight: our little guy slurping down a bottle while we hustled back to a warm car.

All told we logged only 4.26 miles out of the planned 6.6. I got yet another hard won lesson in the need to closely watch the forecast and plan accordingly. I kick myself, because if I had planned for cold weather, we'd have almost certainly completed the full hike.

Still, I'm counting the hike as a success. We learned about a new state park to explore, our 10 week old got his first taste of the wilderness, and a number of gear choices were spot on. Mainly, I carried a large backpack which had food, our little one's diaper bag and my essentials, and Shira carried the kid and a small fanny pack with her essentials. At the last minute, Shira opted to use the Moby Wrap carrier instead of a Baby Bjorn one. The reasoning: the Moby does especially well in cold conditions. This turned out to be a smart move.

Later in the day Shira noticed this tweet from our trusted weather friends Capital Weather Gang:

And where's Gunpowder Falls State Park? Outside Baltimore. D'oh!

I look forward to getting back to Gunpowder Falls State Park and seeing this elusive waterfall.