A Dumb Guide To Making A Smart Home

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Look, some dads are tech masters who are always on top of the latest thing, but I just hadn’t thought about home automation before. I had Alexa, and loved it, but I figured smart lights and everything would mean rewiring the whole house. But then I was part a “favorite things” gift exchange and someone gave me a pack of four smart outlets, and it was a huge “Oh, duh” moment.

To have a smart home, you don’t have to reprogram your whole house’s electricity…you just take remote control of an outlet. I downloaded the Smart Life app, plugged in one of the outlets and held down the button until it blinked.

smartoutlet

With my phone connected to the wifi, they synced up and were good to go. I grew up with frustratingly slow tech, and had to deal with computer virus hell in the 90s, so it’s still crazy to me how intuitive and quick most things can work now! I could plug in anything to this outlet: a lamp, the Christmas tree, a surge protector connected to all devices in the room, and control it all from my phone.

Anakin
(GIphy/)

Now, the next phase of any conquest is delegation. I enabled the Smart Life skill in the Alexa app so I could use it to control the smart outlets. Fun Pro tip: You can reprogram Alexa’s response word to be “Computer.” So for a while I could say “Computer, lights” and the lights would go on or off! It was basically like being a starfleet captain all the time. Word of caution though: you say the word “computer” way more often than you think you do. It’ll hear you, man. It’ll hear you.

Of course once I got started, I became hooked. I wanted to connect full rooms and the outdoor lighting. I wanted to control the thermostat and the garage door. I wanted unlimited power! So, my next step was buying several smart switches.

smartswitch

These work the same way the outlets do, but for the internal stuff, and even the nicer ones only run for about $20. They allow voice, remote and timed control of anything that isn’t plugged in – ceiling lighting and fans and so on. I installed them myself, but it’s a little more complicated so no shame in hiring a professional for this part. It was still way easier than the complete rewiring I’d always imagined, and setup with Smart Life was just as easy as the outlets.

Now I have 6 smart outlets and 4 smart switches on the grid. With Alexa, it’s super easy to create groups for different rooms, like: Family Room, Kitchen, Outside, or larger groups like: Whole House.

Alexa Groups

From here, I was basically set to go. Smart Home: Activate! But I tend to dive…deeper.

There’s a section in the app called “Routines,” and it’s key. With it, I schedule all of my groups to turn on and off depending on day and time. For example, the box fans in all our bedrooms (#whitenoise4lyfe) are programmed to turn off, while the lights all turn on just before alarm time every morning. This is usually enough to wake up my kids without an alarm!

 

Alexa Routines

All of the downstairs lights are on when my wife gets up at an ungodly hour for her workout. My outdoor lights turn on and off at the appropriate times. The customization possibilities are awesome. Routines can also be voice-controlled, and you can make your voice commands whatever you want by typing it in the app.

So when I say “Alexa it’s TV time!” she says, “Heck yeah let’s get this party started” and turns on the Family Room.

AlexaCommand

You can also use these routines to mess with your kids. When I ask “Alexa, who is the best?” she responds with “Joel is the best” and that is an airtight argument from an omnipresent computer controlling our entire lives. 

Now I have a Nest thermostat, a Roomba, and a Chamberlain garage door opener, all controllable through Alexa or by a schedule.


I was really impressed by how simple and easy it was to get all this up and running. The big takeaway for me was realizing that having a smart home wasn’t something that’s just for super rich people living in future homes. I know there’s more that could be done, and as prices on the tech come down, I’ll probably automate more stuff. Eventually, I will achieve the ultimate goal of an automated breakfast machine, like from Back to the Future III.

 

 

The Dad loves cool stuff, and we want to share it with you. We are a part of the Amazon Affiliate Program, so we may earn a fee if you buy stuff from links featured here. But this was a true story, and it happened mostly before that whole arrangement, so no bullshit. 

Tweet Roundup: The Funniest Tweets About Winter…With Children

(Getty/Elizabeth Sallee Bauer)

Gloves, hats, mitts, boots, snow pants, jackets and the dreaded snow day. These are just a few of the hardships people who parent in cold climates have to endure.

Here are the funniest tweets about winters…with children.

If you have kids in school, winter can be especially frustrating.

So try to look at every snow day as a blessing.

Sure, you could use the weather as an excuse to be lazy inside.

But that will quickly try your patience.

So take the young’ns outside and make the most of it!

First, you gonna wanna bundle them up.

Be sure to invest in a nice coat they’ll hate.

Like, HATE hate.

Don’t forget the mittens. They will.

Ready to head out?

Perfect! Time to build a snowman. Round up an old scarf, a carrot, and okay they’re already bored.

Cool. Great.

Plenty to do inside.

8-Minute Short Film About a Dad and Son Will Hit You in the Feels [WATCH]

(YouTube/Pepe School Land)

Short film Alike highlights an all too common theme in parenting but in a fun, whimsical way. It opens with a father loading up his son’s backpack with an unreasonable number of textbooks. The son, seen joyfully running around the house, is instantly anchored to the ground when his dad straps it around his tiny shoulders.

Acclimating to the bag’s immense weight, the boy happily wobbles out of frame. His father grabs an equally heavy work briefcase and follows suit out the door.

On their walk to work/school, the boy spots a violin player in the center of town and is instantly captivated by the performance. Surrounded by grey buildings, grey cars, and grey pedestrians, the boy, father, and violinist appear to be the only things in color.

Despite his son’s obvious enchantment with the musician, the father reminds his son of their responsibilities, slips the backpack full of books back on his son, and leads him back into the drab, colorless environment of the city. Clearly, this severe lack of color isn’t a simple design choice.

After a quick embrace, the father departs from his son’s school and heads to a dead end, soul-crushing job. Surrounded by menial tasks, the color literally drains out of him. Watching the clock with dull grey eyes, he counts the minutes until he’s free to leave, his color only returning when he’s with his jubilant son once again.

The son, however, retains his color initially—daydreaming about the violinist and the way the music made him feel, but he’s told day after day that his passions are not appropriate. As time wears on, his color also begins to dwindle and he’s forced to leave his interests behind to conform to the other students.

In a behind the scenes video, the film’s co-director Daniel Martinez Lara explains how fatherhood means constantly asking ourselves what the best things are for our children at any given moment. We try our best and don’t always get it right. This film doesn’t answer that question per se but acts as a reflection of that process.

This is the reason the father and son characters are playfully known to the film crew as “Copi” and “Paste.” We often consider our children to be miniature extensions of ourselves rather than unique individuals with dreams, desires, and personalities. Alike begins with Copi dragging Paste through the motions of what he believes life should be. It isn’t until he listens and acknowledges his son’s passions as legitimate that a genuine connection is established once again.

Parenting can often be viewed as a long list of “shoulds” and “musts,” but it’s also an opportunity to see your children for what they are: amazing people. So, while we have a responsibility to teach and guide our kids, so they don’t become garbage human beings when they grow up, it can also be important to stop and just let them listen to the music every once in a while. You never know what you might learn as a result.

Dad Grades: Homer Simpson From The Simpsons

(20th Century Fox)

D’oh! In whole year we’ve been doing Dad Grades, we’ve neglected to offer analysis for one of the most iconic, influential, beloved dads in the history of pop culture: Homer J. Simpson. Let’s jump right into it.

STRENGTHS

By the end of any episode surrounding him and his kids, Homer Simpson has revealed himself to be, deep down, a caring and devoted father. Jumping the Springfield Gorge on skateboard to earn Bart’s respect.

Working two jobs to afford Lisa’s dream pony.

And as far as Maggie goes, who could forget this tug at the heartstrings?

 

WEAKNESSES

Wow. Okay. Where to begin. Chokes his son, for starters.

The first sketch of Homer strangling Bart (1988)

We know this is the same unrealistic cartoon violence they themselves satirize by way of Itchy & Scratchy, but we’d be remiss to omit that piece of information from this very serious analysis. Yikes.

Look at this.

That’s a mace.

Don’t worry. All uphill from here. Drinks excessively, can’t forget that one. Again, fully aware cartoons operate within their own system of both physics and ethics, so we’re good on smug comments condemning the actions of Wile E. Coyote or whatever. You knew this damn well this Dad Grade had to happen at some point.

(20th Century Fox)

Kept Bart out of school for some time to start a business that amounted to stealing and reselling grease. Multiple crimes in that sentence.

(20th Century Fox)

Oh yeah, DANGEROUSLY stupid. Jumped over Springfield Gorge on a skateboard Did we include that as a strength? Yeah, that was a dumb thing for him to do. I mean, a DRAWBRIDGE closed on his head one time.

Just an unprecedented level of ineptitude, really. A horrible example to set for your kids. We here at The Dad do not take such reckless abandon lightly.

You know what? Let’s just stop with drawbridge on head. Doing a deep-dive on the paternal competency of Homer Simpson is like watching footage of hot dogs being made. Trust us, best to just throw some relish on that bad boy and enjoy it for what it is.

VERDICT

Over the past year, we at Dad Grades have offered analyses on countless TV and movie dads, all the while priding ourselves on doing so with both accountability and fairness. We aim for complete objectivity throughout every one of these super serious evaluations that should be taken seriously. We do not like what we’re about to do any more than you do. It is with a heavy heart that we give our very first…

FINAL DAD GRADE: F

Check out our previous edition when we graded Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor!

Dad Builds Wheelchair-Accessible Igloo for His 9 Adopted Kids

(Reddit/danthoms)

Parenting is a tough gig. We’re all doing the best we can, trudging through, mostly happy to survive another day without blowing it too badly.

Then we run across some parents who are doing more than merely surviving, they’re crushing it on every level, and making us look like amateurs. Like the Cincinnati dad who built an igloo for his kids, complete with wheelchair access. Nine kids. All of whom have special needs. All of whom they’ve adopted.

If I had nine kids, I wouldn’t have the energy to get out of bed, let alone build an igloo, let alone add a ramp to the igloo! Gregg Eichhorn is a superhero, and so is his wife Katie.

“We adopt all medical and special needs kids because seems like those are the kids where they have the hardest time finding homes for them,” Eichhorn told CBS.

His oldest, 19-year-old Zahara, was adopted from Uganda. She is non-verbal and uses a wheelchair, but she had no problem rolling into the enormous snow fort her dad built with his sister. She couldn’t wait to get in there.

“Her face lit up – she gets super excited,” Eichhorn said of Zahara’s reaction when she saw the igloo. “I think she felt like a movie star.”

He wasn’t the only one! Elijah, Zahara’s brother, also uses a wheelchair, was excited about the igloo. All nine of the Eichhorn kids were.

“They’re all loving it. They think it’s really neat,” Superdad said.

Obviously. Who wouldn’t want a badass igloo like that in their yard!

Reddit agrees. One of Gregg’s friends posted about the igloo on Reddit and it immediately took off, garnering over 70,000 upvotes and nearly 1000 comments as people shared their admiration for the dad, and for his handiwork.

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Eichhorn is happy for the extra attention his viral post is bringing to special needs children who need homes.

“I think it’s really important that all kids with medical and special needs that are orphans have people to step up and provide them with homes.”

Dad Lands Vacation Dates for Sons With Funny Classified Ad

(NZ Herald/Facebook)

If you reach a certain age and aren’t in a relationship, parents simply can’t accept it. In their eyes, you are their little prince or princess and anyone would be damn lucky to be with you.

So, bless their hearts, they do their best to help you out with setting up blind dates and plan, planning social events, or just incessant prodding about their need for grandchildren.

One particular dad from Portland, Oregon went above and beyond, however, when he placed an ad for not one, but all three of his sons in a New Zealand newspaper while they were there on vacation.

(Facebook)

“Hello Parents. We are from the States (Oregon), visiting your beautiful country. My wife and I have three wonderful, successful, handsome, alas unmarried, sons between the ages of 28-32,” the ad in the NZ Herald read.

“We are not expecting, just hoping, to introduce our sons to nice NZ daughters. At the very least we’ll embarrass our sons and the truth is, we do find some enjoyment in that.”

Neil, the proactive father, said the ad immediately received over 200 replies and he was doing his best to sort through them all since his sons still had no idea any of it was happening.

“I’m somewhat surprised that I have got quite a lot of responses,” he said.

“It is hard to tell how many are genuine. A few are maybe just scammers but for the most part, people are really amazingly nice in your country.”

(NZ Herald/NewsTalk ZB)

Neil’s sons—Matthew, Jeremy, and Benjamin—range from ages 26 to 31 and all have steady jobs in the Pacific Northwest region. According to their dad, though, their dating lives haven’t really been a serious focus for any of them.

“I know one of my sons uses these dating sites and is always going on introductory dates and meeting somebody, but he hasn’t had a serious relationship in quite a while,” Neil told the newspaper.

“I decided to help. I have no idea what will happen, but at least we will be able to meet some people.”

Neil says he’s still deciding when and how to tell his sons about the ad, probably waiting until they are actually on the flight to New Zealand or casually slipping it in while they disembark.

“I might say, ‘Oh, by the way, I did place a little ad for you guys’,” he chuckled.

“I am sure they will be surprised and annoyed, but I am sure they will laugh. We have a good relationship and are always joking with each other. They know I am a little unusual in that regard.”

As it turns out the brothers were all good sports about it. In total the ad sparked more than 600 responses and even resulted in a few dates.

“Between my brothers and I, we went on a few one-on-one dates,” Benjamin told the Daily Mail.

“[New Zealand women] are very intelligent, kind, friendly people. We love their accents. They were a lot of fun, everyone we met seemed nice.

“I think we will continue to stay in touch with the people we met. We really want to come back – it was a beautiful country.”

Father Figures: Unconventional and Unexpected

“We were 10 months into marriage as 23-year-olds, new to NYC. Jake was in grad school at Columbia while we were getting used to living in our 400 sq. ft. studio in Washington Heights. His mechanical engineering midterms were coming up, so I made some freezer meals and went to CA to visit my family while he studied and took tests.

Two days into my trip home, we got a call from an old friend to adopt her sweet baby girl.

While my saying yes was immediate, I of course knew I should probably consult my husband! So I called him, around midnight his time, and asked him if we could keep her! (This is possibly what caused him to go grey at 25?)

He replied, “What? Is that allowed? Of course! We have to do the right thing,” and watching him meet her a week later was the most special experience. It was an unconventional and unexpected way to enter into parenting, but he is absolutely crushing the dad game and it’s as if the dad jokes started immediately.

It’s like something releases in the brain once you’re wildly in love with your kids. He’s holding off on the white leather New Balances for now, but causes our daughter, Stella Grace, to light up with his imaginative play and jumping on the trampoline.

He even said it’d be okay to have a few more kids, and he just bought me a minivan, so I assume that means he wants to max it out! I’m thankful for the father he is!”

– Monique Coleman

Want to share a story about fatherhood? Email fatherfigures@thedad.com

Frosty the Snowman Stops Vehicular Vandals in Their Tracks

(Cody Lutz Media)

Sometimes things just work out perfectly.

Cody Lutz of Petersberg, KY enjoyed the recent snowfall in the “Bluegrass State” by constructing a giant 9-foot-tall snowman with his fiancee and soon-to-be sister-in-law.

Lutz commented in a Facebook post that his fiancee’s sister was “elated to experience the biggest snowfall she’s ever seen.”

(Cody Lutz Media)

Using a giant tree stump as a foundation for “Frosty,” this giant snow fellow was about as sturdy as they come. So much so, in fact, that he survived a head-on collision with a would-be vandal’s car.

When Lutz cam home later that day, he noticed tire tracks leading up to the snowman from the road. Clearly, some motorist out there had vehicular snowmanslaughter on the mind but underestimated all the junk in Frosty’s trunk.

(Cody Lutz Media)

The snowman looks a little worse for wear with the tree stump in its base now exposed, but the snowy imprint of the bumper definitely adds some flair.

“You reap what you sow,” Lutz said. “Still standing and still smiling, Frosty certainly had the last laugh!”

The Best Comments of the Week 1/20

(Getty)

Every week we pan for comedy gold in the comments section of our Facebook posts. If your comment cracks us up (or warms our hearts) we’ll showcase it here!

Here’s this week’s roundup of the Best Comments of the Week:

1. GO. TO. SLEEP.

2. Dirty Dishes

3. Memories

4. Capri-Fun 

5. Likes Gas

6. Survival

7. Vision

8. Go Away

9. Strikes

10. The New Jr. 

11. Switch

12. Drive

13. Blinded by the Lights

14. 30 Minutes or Free

15. Important Date

Check out the previous edition of our The Best Comments of the Week here.