All posts tagged family

5 Ways to Manage Your Families Digital Lifestyle with Google Apps

Google Apps for Families

I may dig Apple hardware, but I’m also smitten on Google services (I think there’s a #ManLaw about a grown man using the word smitten). Anyway, I use Google Apps for all my BrothaTech stuff, as well as for my family.

That’s right, even though businesses and educational organizations large and small are the primary clients for Google Apps, intergrating it into the day-to-day operation of my family is a great way to add some digital structure to my family lifestyle.

If you’re the Chief Technology Officer for Family, Inc. like I am, Google Apps can also help your family organize, collaborate, and be more productive. Check out my latest post on Babble highlighting 5 Ways to Manage Your Families Digital Lifestyle with Google Apps

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Are You Ready To Introduce Your Kids To Technology?

Tech 2.0 Birthday GiftMy youngest daughter (AKA, Tech 2.0, AKA, Pooter) turned 3 years old this past weekend. We asked her what she wanted for her birthday. She’s into “Dora The Explorer”, so she had a laundry-list of Dora-branded merchandise she required.

Since I’m a techie, I had half a mind to give her a ton of age-appropriate gadgets to as they say “train up a child…” So I did some research of course found a magnitude of geeky toys you would expect my kids would have. Suprisingly, my other half wasn’t so sure about forcing encouraging her to adopt technology so soon.

Since she is only 3, I’m certain she would’ve loved anything we bought her. Conversly, she has the attention span of your average 3 year-old. So no matter how big her eyes got after unwrapping them, and no matter how interactive or educational the tech gifts were, she would be “on to the next” probably sooner than I would have liked, especially if I spent a good amount of money on not only the gadgets, but also the must-have accessories.

Additionally, I wasn’t born a techie. Growing up my parents were just below middle-class, so we didn’t have all the latest and greatest tech gifts of our time. Fast forward to today, all I can think about are gadgets. As a result, slowly but surely, my kids will be exposed to technology simply by watching Mrs. Tech and I. I mean, they already know how to unlock our mobile devices and navigate the screens to get to their favorite apps & games.

In the end, “Granny & Pop-Pop Tech” went overboard and got her a bunch of stuff, while Mrs. Tech and I made a compromise and got her some items off her “Dora List” while sneaking some tech in there and got her a cute little digital camera…that takes horrible shots, but is cute.

Technology is everywhere. My girls are only 5 and 3, so they will undoubtedly grow up in the digital age. Eventually, we will start integrating S.T.E.M. type stuff into their daily routine. But for now, I think I will let my kids just be kids and enjoy some of the simple things that we grew up on like dolls, blocks and candy.

What do you think? How soon should parents start introducing tech into their kid’s lives?

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Our Black Marriage Weekend Getaway Thanks to Hotel Tonight

hotel tonight banner

Mrs. Tech and I postponed our Valentine’s Day in-town weekend getaway due to a complete babysitting catastrophe. We eventually decided to call in our raincheck this past weekend and planned a nice weekend out on the town to celebrate Black Marriage Day 2013.

Our plan was to drop off the kids early Saturday morning/afternoon, pack an overnight bag and head into the city to chill out for the night. Maybe do some shopping and get all jazzed up to pay too much for some food we’ve never heard of and hang people trying too hard to impress each other. There are a ton of swanky hotels down in Atlanta, but my wallet isn’t quite ready to #BallSoHard “You see, the way my bank account is set up…”.

The folks of Hotel Tonight were nice enough to sent me some credits to try out their “same-day deals on hand-picked hotels” service to see if I could do just that: Find a nice deal on a fly hotel for Saturday night.

The day started off late (as usual), but I did manage to also get the “Mistress” cleaned up and looking nice while Mrs. Tech dropped the kids off at Granny Tech’s house. After I got back from the car wash (just in case you though I was cheating on my wife), it was time to open up the Hotel Tonight app on my iPad and try my luck at finding a hotel deal on such short notice.

The way Hotel Tonight works is everyday at 12 noon, they release hotel deals that you can book for one to five nights. The hotels are scoped out by Hotel Tonight staff in-person, versus just spitting out general results based on location and availability. I’m assuming the hotels would gladly offer deep discounts to Hotel Tonight users because the rooms would otherwise to unbooked – Rather get some money than no money at all.

georgian terrace hotel on hotel tonight

One of the best iPad app experiences period!

The app is available for iOS and Android devices. I must say, the Hotel iPad experience is one of the slickest app experiences period – They layout alone is persuasive enough to make you want to book a room. I mentioned that Hotel Tonight vets the hotels personally, so in addition to listing locations, maps, and contact information, amenities, and why they choose the hotel, they also include high-res images that show off very flattering details of its hotels. The images on the iPad version do a good job of showing you what you’re in for before you book.

Hotel Tonight also has their own rating system that goes from “Basic” to “Ballin” (their words, not mine) that will also give you the lowdown on the hotel. After browsing the app and getting a look at all the nice hotels, price was the las thing on my mind, but just to give you an idea of the type of deal I got – I ended up booking at the “Luxe” Georgia Terrance Hotel in the heart of Midtown Atlanta, right across the street from the Fox Theater. The regular rate was $205, but was listed on Hotel Tonight for $140, so I booked it with the quickness by tracing the bed at the bottom of the screen with my finger to confirm (another nice touch). We packed up our stuff, did some shopping at the uber-bougie Mall in Buckhead on the way downtown and checked in.

hotel tonight luxe ratinghotel tonight booking process

The check-in process was super smooth. Hotel Tonight sent over all my information. All the Hotel needed was my credit card (just in case we ran up a hefty room service bill) and we were on our way. The room was pretty big – two bedroom, living room, kitchen and washer/dryer. WiFi was free (but I always bring my own) and it has one restaurant and two bars just in case we didn’t want to leave the property.

Mrs. Tech and I decided to step out and hit up a upscale restaurant with hard to recognize menu items and not a lot of selection…but the food and drinks were good though.

After that it was back to the hotel to…relax without any worries. The next morning, we shared what was possibly the most expensive omlet and hashbrowns known to man and watched Law and Order reruns before checking out.

Overall, we got a chance to relax and remember what it was like without little monsters enjoy each other’s company “if only for one night”. The Georgian Terrace is one of those hotels that will definitely go on my “we have to stay here everytime we need to getaway for a short time” list.

One of these days, my wallet will be able to book it at full price. Until then, anytime I can make an excuse to book a hotel in midtown Atlanta, or anywhere on a whim, I will make sure to consult Hotel Tonight to get a real overview, and a nice discount.

Pro Tip: Be sure to use the code “tgaines7″ to get $25 off your first booking with Hotel Tonight – You’re welcome.

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Advice Needed: Valentine’s Day With The Tech Girls

Ninja of Love
image courtesy of ckschleg on Flickr

I just had a revelation: I have to share Valentine’s Day with not one, but three ladies. Normally, I am “the man” when it comes to planning special events with/for Mrs. Tech, so I want to share experience with my little ladies as well – I just don’t think dinner at Chick-fil-A will cut it. Although, I’m sure they could care less, lol!

I’ll probably find a nice spot to take my little ones to on Thursday night (Mrs. Tech and I are doing some “grown” stuff later this weekend), and give them some candies and a card, but I wanted to do something cooler…

Dads (and ladies too, since I KNOW y’all can’t keep your opinions to yourselves): Any ideas of some cool V-Day places, things & gifts you would suggest a Daddy share with his girls?

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Samsung Smart TV Kids App – Kids Learn While Parents Control

Samsung Smart TV Kids App

Even at 4 and 2 years old, my kids are pretty interactive. They can navigate our smartphones like champs. With Kids App on our Samsung Smart TV ES8000, parents can let their kids watch Video On Demand, and play educational games from a kid-friendly content, while parents can actively monitor their children’s development.

Parents Section

My Choice

What I like most about the Kid’s app is that if puts parents in control. In the My Choice section, I can select the content I want my kids to watch, versus just plopping them down in front of a television channel and viewing whatever comes on next. So when my kids are allowed to watch some TV, content is already waiting instead of wasting TV time to actually find something to watch.

Present Stickers

The My Kids app also makes watching TV and completing other tasks interactive. The app rewards kids for completing tasks with stickers that are added to a Sticker Book. Another cool features is I can use the Kid’s app as the central hub for rewarding my kids for doing anything, like completing their homework, or eating their vegetables…without having to remind them fifty-eleven times.

Viewing History & Timer

My child’s activity in the app is being recorded. While my kids play games, watch videos, or read books, the Kids app shows the total time watched in the upper-right corner of the screen, so I can keep an eye on how long they have been engaged. I can go back and get a better idea of where in the app my kids spent the most time and view their progress. I can also set a timer to alert my kids to how long they are allowed to use the app. Alerts are shown when the set time runs out.


The Playground section is where all the content can be viewed. I can browse all the titles or search according to character. I must admit, our kids are Nick Jr. heads, so a majority of the content in the Kid’s app was foreign to them, to say the least. After playing some titles from the app, my kids enjoyed it just the same.

Sticker Book

When my kids complete tasks, their stickers and certificates are saved in special Sticker Books that I can create for each of my kids. I can create Sticker Books for all kids of activities from watching videos, to completing household chores, etc. I can also set up certificates for when my kids complete pre-set tasks (watch 5 videos), they can get a virtual certificate…that I doesn’t take up space in a drawer. Let’s be honest, all those parents out there are NOT keeping all the gobs of awards their kids get from school.

Here is a quick video that does a better job than me of explaining the features in the Kid’s App

I’ll be honest, the selection of content in the Kid’s app doesn’t automatically blow me away, but my kids are young enough to where they will get attached to just about anything after a couple of minutes. After a couple of minutes viewing some content, I could tell that they were impressed. What does blow me away about the Kid’s app is that it gives parents a great deal of control over the content their kids consume on the TV. Additionally, the app rewards my kids for participating in educational content, so I feel that my kids aren’t wasting time away just watching television.

This post was sponsored by Samsung Smart TV with Motion Control. Opinions are my own.

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Home-Made Popcorn and Drive-In Movies – My Legacy

This past Saturday, I updated my Facebook status with:

“Why am I soooo excited that we are going to the drive-in?”

My Aunt responded with “It’s in your blood”. She is right – As kids, our parents would pop some popcorn, put us in our PJ’s, pack up the station wagon with juice, snacks, and blankets, and take us to the drive-in movies on a summer night.

No lie, to get the most out of the evening, our parents would make us lay on the floor in the car, and cover our heads, so we could get in at a cheaper rate. If we got there early enough, our folks would bring the grill and cook up some BBQ, while we played with the other kids on the playground right under the movie screen.

drive-in movie speakerThat was 25+ years ago back at the Tibbs Drive-in in Indianapolis, IN. But the memories are still fresh in my mind. Drive-ins, with their corny intermission cartoons, and big metal speakers you had to hook on your window to hear movie audio, are now all but extinct…but the memories are still fresh in my mind.

There are still some Drive-ins around, but our kids were too young to sit still long enough to enjoy the experience when I started a family of my own in Baltimore. So we never made the trip. Fast-forward to today – We are now down in Atlanta and our kids have enough focus to enjoy a movie. So it’s time to share my Drive-In childhood memories with my kids.

It was a cool Saturday night, but I was afraid we wouldn’t have another shot until next summer, so I decided to hit the drive-in anyway, before fall weather really set in. So I reached back in my mind to pull up the “tips to a successful Drive-in experience” my parents perfected.

1. Passed down through the generations popcorn recipe and other snacks & refreshments: Check

2. Kids, drowned in bug spray and suited up in their PJ’s: Check

3. Station wagon Crossover SUV with fold-down 3rd Row Seats: Check

Tech Kids at the drive-in

…One thing I didn’t account for was how popular the Starlight Six Drive-In in Atlanta was. The line of cars to get in was pretty long. By the time we got in, found a spot, and got comfortable, we were 20 minutes into the movie. It was a little breezy, but the jackets and blankets kept us warm as all four of us sat in the back of the family SUV while we ate the family-recipe popcorn.

Of course, the experience is a little different then versus now. Instead of a big, mono-tone speaker hanging in our window, we tuned to the screen’s FM frequency to blast the movie audio throughout the premium speaker system (had to sneak some tech into this post), and there was no movie intermission reminding me to go the lobby to get myself a treat. On the flip side, we were able to hang around and watch an additional movie guilt-free…just like old times.

Speaking of old times, a night at the Drive-In is still less expensive than in theaters . The price of admission is cheaper, and since we brought our own snacks and refreshments, we didn’t have to spend any money at the snack bar.

To make a long-story short, i’m glad there are still some Drive-In movie theaters around – Gives me the ability to pass down a part of my legacy to my kids, and it sure beats an expensive couple of hours at the movie theater.

Are there some memorable activities you did as a kid that you’re now able to share with your own kids?


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