Monday, February 19, 2018

DIY: Two Fixes for a Motorola Video Baby Monitor that Stops Working

Video baby monitors have a remarkable tendency to break on you, which is a shame considering how expensive they are and how much parents rely on them!   We have a Motorola video baby monitor that we purchased in 2014, so it's well out of warranty.  It has worked great for the last 3.5 years and we added a second camera for baby M in 2017.  Our monitor is Motorola model MBP36BU (the model number is on the bottom of the camera), but the two fixes below should work for most Motorola video baby monitors (and maybe other brands as well. 

Fix #1 - Parent Console Stops Holding a Charge

About a year ago, the baby monitor stopped holding a charge.  It worked fine as long as it was plugged into the wall, but wouldn't hard a charge when running on battery power.  I'd charge it fully, unplug it to carry around with me while baby napped, and the battery would die way too fast - sometimes only 20-30 minutes from fully charged to completely dead.  Luckily, that is an easy and cheap (~$10) fix - you just need to replace the battery, which you can order inexpensively on Amazon.  This is the exact battery I ordered, which has held up well for over a year now.  Unscrew the battery cover on the back of the parent console, remove the old battery, and insert the new battery.  Problem solved!

Fix #2 - Parent Console Doesn't Recognize Charging Cable

I was NOT pleased when, this week, the parent console started not recognizing the charging cord being plugged in!  (The charge cord was plugged in, but the battery symbol in the top right corner didn't show that it was charging.)  This meant that, once the existing battery power was drained, the monitor couldn't be used either plugged in or running on battery power!  After talking to friends and reading online, I found that this is a common failure point - sometimes you can wiggle or prop the charging cord just right to get the monitor to recognize it, but it loses contact repeatedly, resulting in the baby monitor dying after the battery runs out.  

I am nothing if not stubborn, so I refused to resort straight to buying a new baby monitor!  Cue more research....apparently Motorola baby monitors in particular tend to have poor solder joints on the charge port; over time, repeatedly plugging and unplugging the charge cord over the years puts strain on and loosens these solder joints, eventually causing them to fail.  How long this takes varies depending on the quality of the original solder and the use of the baby monitor (how often the cord is plugged and unplugged from the parent console, etc.)  Apparently, at 3.5 years of daily use, ours lasted longer than many!  

Based on the symptoms, it sounded like this is what had happened to my monitor - the charge port had come un-soldered.  Before taking apart the monitor to confirm, I reached out to a local computer repair shop to see if they had someone who could re-solder the charge port if that was, indeed, the issue (emphasizing that it was a tiny part).  When he confirmed he could help, I then got brave enough to open up the baby monitor to take a look!  

Using a tiny Phillips head screwdriver, I first removed the plastic battery cover on the back of the parent console, removed the battery pack, and then removed the second screw located underneath the battery.  I then used a tiny flat head screwdriver to gently pry open the baby monitor along the seam around the outside edge.  This took a bit of finagling to locate exactly where the fasteners were located, but I was eventually able to gently pry the front and back of the baby monitor apart, revealing the circuit board.  As soon as I did this, a small part fell right out of the inside of the monitor - sure enough, it was the charge port!  The solder joints had come completely undone, resulting in the port being totally loose inside there - no wonder it wasn't working!  

I took the loose charge port and the disassembled parent console to the computer repair shop, where they re-soldered the charge port onto the circuit board.  I put everything back together again - snapped the 2 sides of the baby monitor back in place, and replaced the 2 screws and battery pack, and presto - the baby monitor now recognizes the charge cord!  This repair cost around $50 for the solder job; considering a new baby monitor system with 2 cameras would have run around $200, going the repair route was a significant cost savings, kept a baby monitor and 2 cameras out of the landfill, and saved me the hassle of programming and re-wiring new cameras!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Toddler 101: Traveling with a Preschooler (Airplane / Road Trip Bag Ideas!)

We have several upcoming trips that will involve flying with our preschooler and infant, so I am stocking up on kid supplies for the flight!  C got a Pottery Barn Kids backpack for Christmas, so I'm planning to fill it with snacks and entertainment to keep him busy (and hopefully quiet) on the plane!  

While we own all of the items below, I didn't buy them all just for this flight!  We've acquired some of these over the years for other flights, road trips, Christmas gifts, etc; I keep them stored away in a closet so they maintain their novelty factor on airplanes or long road trips :)

My Little World Sticker Books - these sticker books are great - the price point (~$3) is great for the quality and the number of pages/stickers in these books.  Most cheap sticker books only have 1-2 pages of sticker activities and are tiny; these are a normal children's book size, provide several pages of activities, and the pages are coated so that you can move the stickers around.  

Make-an-Animal Sticker Sheets - these come in a 96-pack and are the cheap 1-page, smaller sticker sheets; however, these are great for "quantity over quality" - C can complete one and then move onto an entirely different animal.

Color Wonder Travel Kit - I love Color Wonder - mess-free markers that only work on the special Color Wonder paper!  No stressing over marker getting on the airplane seat!  This one is great because it comes in a hard plastic travel kit; you can store the Color Wonder markers and paper inside, and there are clips on the outside to secure the paper.  These are also great for road trips when there's no tray table to use - perfect for coloring in their lap!  There are blank Color Wonder pages for free drawing, as well as character-themed Color Wonder pages for coloring.  

Melissa & Doug Water WOW Books - these are great for travel - the fun of paint without the mess!  The little water paintbrushes are easy to refill at a water fountain or from an airline cup of water, and the pages dry quickly so they can be painted and re-painted!

Contigo Kids Water Bottle - I pack this in C's backpack so we can fill it at a water fountain after going through security, instead of buying overpriced airport bottled water.  I also like that it is spill-proof, so I don't have to worry about him knocking over an entire bottle of water on himself, me, or our bags!

Wipe-clean ABC book - this is great for practicing letter tracing, and the marker easily wipes off with a baby wipe!  This book is a compact size with sturdy pages and several opportunities to trace each letter (both lower and uppercase) on each page.

I Spy 4-in-1 Book - C loves doing these I Spy books, and they provide a great opportunity for independent play.  I like this one because it has 4 books in 1, which is both less expensive than buying the 4 books separately but also occupies him for longer since there are 4 times as many pages.

LilGadgets Volume Limited Headphones - these headphones are great because the volume is limited to a safe level, so I don't have to worry that he's damaging his hearing.  There is also an extra jack for another set of headphones to plug into the child's headphones (a parent or a sibling), so two people can listen to the same audio simultaneously.  Although we REALLY try to limit iPad use, we usually bring it on long road trips or flights for times of desperation - we load it with episodes of Daniel Tiger, a movie or two from Netflix, and a few children's audiobooks.

Wet Ones Resealable Antibacterial Wipes - I never go anywhere without these!  I like these slim, flat, resealable packages - I keep them in my car, purse, diaper bag, and there will most definitely be several packs coming on the plane with us! These are great for wiping hands before and after snacks or meals, as well as wiping down the germy airplane armrests and tray table.

And all the snacks!  I usually bring small bags of goldfish, small boxes of raisins, and Dum-Dums for a treat (and to help with little ears popping!)

Monday, February 5, 2018

DIY: Painted Brick Fireplace

I have wanted to paint our brick fireplace since we first bought this house 6+ years ago; however, the brown brick looked OK with the then-tan wall color, and we were SO sick of it fell on the back burner.  We just had the living areas repainted a light gray, and as soon as the painters left, I knew the brown brick had to go.  It was finally time for a white-painted brick fireplace!

B wanted to have the painters come back to handle it, but I read a few articles online and thought we could DIY (plus, immediate gratification instead of waiting on an opening in the painters' schedule).  If you're thinking of painting your brick fireplace, DO IT!  It's both inexpensive and straightforward but makes a big difference in the whole room's look.  Here's what we did:

1 wire scrub brush (we used one similar to this)
Vacuum cleaner with upholstery attachment (we used our Dirt Devil Scorpion)
1 spray bottle
1 plastic scrub brush (we used one similar to this)
2-3 cups vinegar
1 tube paintable caulk (we used this kind in a squeeze tube since we don't have a caulk gun)
Painter's tape (we used Frog Tape)
Plastic drop cloths
2 paint trays
2 angled paint brushes (we tried several; this one worked the best)
1 gallon masonry primer (we used Zinsser 123 primer)
1 gallon interior latex paint (we used Benjamin Moore Simply White in semi-gloss finish)

Step 1: Scrub

We used a wire scrub brush to scrub away at the brick, paying particular attention to the area right around the firebox that had soot buildup from the previous owner, who used wood in the fireplace (we have since switched it over to gas logs).  The goal here is to loosen any debris or dust on the face of the brick, as well as in the mortar lines.

Step 2: Vacuum

We used an upholstery attachment on a handheld vacuum to brush and clean the brick surface.  The upholstery attachment helps brush out any dust or debris that might be stuck in the mortar lines.

Step 3: Clean

Several articles I read recommended TSP, but I didn't want to use anything that harsh with an infant in the house.  We used undiluted white vinegar in a spray bottle, saturating a small area of the brick at a time and scrubbing it with a scrub brush.  This should further remove any remaining dust or buildup on the brick surface, prepping it for better paint adhesion.  We allowed the brick to fully dry overnight.

Step 4: Prep

We applied Frog Tape to protect the trim and the wood floor around the brick, and covered the floor, firebox, mantle, and nearby furniture with a plastic dropcloth to protect it from paint roller overspray.

Step 5: Caulk

We caulked any visible cracks, both on the surface of bricks themselves, as well as in the mortar lines.  Since we were painting the brick white, I knew cracks would show up black against hte white paint and be even more noticeable.  The caulk directions said to allow it to dry for 2-6 hours, but we let it dry overnight to be extra safe.  After caulking, we re-vacuumed the hearth to pick up any bits of dried caulk that may have fallen.

Step 6: Prime

We primed the brick using a primer made for masonry, first rolling on primer using a thick-nap paint roller, and then using an angled paint brush to apply primer to the deeper mortar lines and edges that the paint roller was unable to reach.  We allowed the primer to dry overnight.  We used gray primer, which was a MISTAKE under white paint - it took 3 coats of white paint to cover all the gray.  Learn from our mistake and use white primer!

Step 7: Paint!

Finally! We used the same method to paint the brick as the primer - first, a thick-nap paint roller, followed by an angled paint brush on the mortar and edges.  We used Behr semi-gloss paint, color matched to Benjamin Moore Simply White.  It took 3 coats to cover the gray primer; if we had used white primer, we probably could have gotten away with only 1 coat - 2 at the most.  Remove the Frog Tape while the paint is still wet to avoid pulling off paint.

Step 8: Touch Up

After painting the brick white, the seam between the mantle and the fireplace, as well as the fireplace and the side trim, was noticeable - the gap looked like a black line between the white brick and the white mantle/trim.  We used the same white caulk to caulk in between the mantle and the brick, and the brick and the trim. It looks seamless now!  We also used a small craft paintbrush to touch up any spots we had missed with the white paint.

I LOVE the result!  Our whole living room feels brighter with the white brick fireplace instead of the dull brown brick!  I also love how much decorations "pop" against the white - our Halloween decorations show up so much better than they used to!

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