December 17, 2014

The Day the Sound Went Out

I was at a complete loss.

I was trying to watch a Syracuse Basketball game online and stream it to my television but for some reason I was not getting any sound.  I guess I could have just sat there with no audio, but that just seems weird to me.  A big part of watching the game is being able to hear it.  Sometimes I would rather watch a game at home than go to it live, because I like to hear the announcers.  But here I was, five minutes until tip off and I wasn't getting any audio whatsoever.

Enter the TuneIn Radio app on my phone.

I've had this app on my phone for a while now, but I have never really gotten to use it.  I occasionally listen to a friend of mine on the radio in Buffalo but I never really needed it to listen to a Syracuse game until this one.

It couldn't have been any easier to find the game that I was looking for.

When I started the app I saw that I could browse a bunch of different categories including sports.  From there I found the page for Syracuse University and much to my surprise there was the local radio feed for my beloved Syracuse Orange.  They are one of 85 college basketball broadcasts that TuneIn will carry this winter.  So unless you are a fan of the Geneseo State Blue Knights, it's a safe bet that you will be able to listen to your team online.

I used to get the Syracuse radio feed at my house in Central New Jersey.  I would have to slowly go through the radio dial and find it between all of the static.  You think you found it, but then it turns out to be Rush Limbaugh or Dr. Drew Pinsky.  It was a pain in the butt.  Now, it's just a few taps on my phone and I can hear the beautiful voice of Matt Park and the sweet sounds of the Carrier Dome.  Technology is utterly amazing. No longer do I have to listen to the annoying Dick Vitale.

*I was compensated by TuneIn and Life of Dad for my thoughts on this.  All opinions are my own, unless my wife tells me otherwise.

John Willey - Daddy's in Charge?


11 Things I've Learned About Christmas in 11 Years

Its' hard to believe that this is going to be the 11th Christmas that my wife and I have spent with kids. We are still in the grasp of Santa Claus, but I fear that this will be the last year the jolly old elf gets all of the credit for the big day.  Tyler is in the fifth grade now and I am shocked that he still believes in Santa or is at least still playing along.  I suspect that he has known for a couple of years now, but just won't come out and tell us.  He's a smart kid, perhaps smarter than us.  Some fourth grader told Carter on the bus that Santa isn't real, so who knows what he thinks.  He's never really been into the whole holiday as much as his older brother.

I've noticed some things in 11 years.

1. No Christmas is as exciting as when your kid is two years old.  Christmas peaked that year.  The first couple of years the kids have no idea what is going on, but at two they expect something will happen and Christmas morning when you are two is an explosion of excitement. Tyler dressed up as Santa to go see Santa that year.  Walking through the mall that year is something I will never forget.

2. The first Christmas really is a waste for the kids.  It's nothing more than a photo opportunity with a new "Baby's First Christmas" outfit.  Kids can't open anything at that age and they really have no clue what is going on.  just give your kid a box.

3. The first Christmas is anything but a waste for parents.  It might be a photo opportunity, but never again will your kid wear the "Baby's First Christmas" outfit.  Christmas changes when you have a kid.

4. Kids react differently to Christmas.  Our oldest loves everything about Christmas, our youngest is pretty indifferent.  He makes a list, he checks it twice; he'd be happy if a big box was delivered on a random Tuesday afternoon with a bunch of toys and games.  He could do without all the Christmas trimmings.  The first couple of years Carter was fine with Santa, the next few he was scared to see him.

5. Christmas turns into a game. Part of me just wants to spill the beans about Christmas.  The kids find random presents that were supposed to be from Santa.  They see our browsing history on the computer.  Presents have to be switched from Santa to Hanukkah.  It's not easy nowadays hiding everything.

6. Every Christmas special on TV talks about not believing in Santa. It puts doubt in their heads.  Why would a young kid have any reason to not believe?  Yet, every show starts with some kid questioning the existence of Santa only to be convinced in the end that he is real.  Maybe it's the parent in me that wants to make it last as long as possible and I'm thinking about it too much, but I can almost see the wheels turning in my kids heads whenever it gets brought up.

7. It's not easy to shop anymore. We used to be able to get the kids anything and they would love it.  Throw some Legos or Star Wars stuff under the tree and the kids would be thrilled. Now?  They love their tablets and they don't really play with toys that much anymore.  It's all about video games, but you can't have EVERY present be a video game.  They just don't NEED as much stuff, but they WANT a lot of stuff.

8. Whatever they want they will no longer play with by New Years.  Like a lot of kids last year, Tyler had to have a million rubber bands last year for his Rainbow Loom kit.  Two days later they were forgotten about.

9. Christmas lists can't be made out until Thanksgiving.  Sure kids can wish for things throughout the year, but I learned my lesson with Pokemon two years ago.  It's all Carter wanted in October, so we bought a bunch of them online.  By mid November he wanted nothing to do with them.  We still have those cards and he actually is starting to play with Pokemon again, but that wasn't a fun holiday.

10. It is indeed the most wonderful time of the year.  Amazingly I'm happy not getting anything for Christmas.  Seeing my kids open all their presents is good enough for me.

11. The moment after all the presents are opened is the saddest time of year.  You have no idea what Christmas is going to look like the following year.  How will the kids change?  Will they care about Santa anymore?  How much Christmas magic will still exist? Every year the kids are less and less excited about the holidays. A lot changes over the course of a year's time.

Who knows what next year will hold, but I suspect I will learn a little more.

John Willey - Daddy's in Charge?


December 12, 2014

My Son's First Phone. It's not a Toy Anymore

**I have been paid by Tracfone and Life of Dad LLC for the following post.  All opinions are my own.

I have been toying with the idea of getting Tyler a phone for a while now.  I didn't have a phone until I was 25, partly because I felt I didn't need one and phones just weren't that big of a deal back in the dark ages when I was growing up.  I suspect that even if phones were in wide circulation when I was a kid, that I probably would not have owned one. I was either in school or I was watching TV in my bedroom.  My parents knew where to find me.

Tyler isn't that much different than I was.  He doesn't spend his hours rotting away in front of the TV like I did, but I kind of know where he is all the time.  He is either at school, or he is sitting right in front of me.  He does head over to his friends house from time to time, but for the most part he hasn't really needed a phone.

But he starts Middle School next year and I suspect a lot of things are going to change.  He will be joining clubs, meeting new friends from all over town as a opposed to our development that we live in, and probably will need to be in contact with us out of the house a little more than he is now.  It's just not the same world that I grew up in, and a phone now kind of seems like a necessity.  I hate to say it, but I wouldn't want him to be the only one of his friends that DIDN'T have a phone.  As much as there is a need for a phone, there is an even bigger need to fit in... especially in Middle School.

I wasn't sure what kind of phone we should get him.  Like a lot of kids he has a tablet that he uses, but he can't make phone calls from it and it doesn't really fit in his pocket if he is heading over to a friends house.  Right now he has to rely on wifi and with a cellular connection it makes communicating with us that much easier.  This is where Tracfone comes in.

With the launch of their new SpongeBob SquarePants bundle I was asked to help promote it by having Tyler test it out.  I don't think we would have gotten him one for Christmas, but their LG Optimus Fuel™ Android™ phone just might be the perfect starter phone to get this holiday season.

It's time to graduate to a better phone
Something like this
It's perfect for his little hands
The main thing that I like about it is their award winning NQ Family Guardian™ parental control app.  Not that Tyler would ever be up to no good, but this gives me the ability to see where he goes online, what apps he is downloading, where he has been, and basically everything that he does on his phone. Safety has always been one of my main concerns with a phone, and this app helps calm any fears that I might have.  The GPS tracker also lets me know that his isn't somewhere that he is supposed to be.

You can zoom in closer 

Another one of the things I like about this Tracfone is that there is no contract to sign up for.  I know that with my plan it's $70 a month and that just seems silly for a 10 year old boy to talk and text with his friends.  With Tracfone you can get a prepaid talk, text, and data plan for as little as $19.99 for 90 days.  For a kid, that makes so much more sense.

The phone is available for a limited time at Kroger, Target, and Walmart stores nationwide for $29.99* (usually $79.99)** and includes a year of the Family Guardian app for free, which is a $39.99 value.

I don't know what kind of phone my son will end up getting as his first "official" phone, but it's nice to know that there are phones like this one that can put my mind at ease.

Also, thanks to the guys at Life of Dad you can track Santa on social media.  Just follow the #TracSanta hashtag... Have fun!

*Plans and phones are sold separately... check coverage and availability at
** Limited from 11/29/14 to 12/31/14

John Willey - Daddy's in Charge?


December 8, 2014

The Tale of Two Tailgates

I don't get to tailgate much.

My favorite teams are a five hour trip away from my house so loading up the car with food and beverage and schlepping to a stadium is something that I am not going to do that often.  I did get the chance earlier this year to see my Syracuse Orange take on Notre Dame at Metlife stadium, but that really is a once every few years sort of thing.

I really wish I had the chance to do it more often.  It sucks when your alma mater is so far away and they don't visit your area more than they do.  I really wish I liked a team like Rutgers which is only about 20 minutes away.  Then I could take the kids all the time and tailgating would be something that we do every weekend.  But I hate Rutgers, I hate everything about them, and I really can't stand their bandwagon fans.  These red "Rs" I see on everyone's cars when I live really gets my blood boiling.

So it was surprising that the first tailgate party that I would take Carter to was a Rutgers game in New Brunswick, New Jersey.  I swore I would never visit the place unless Syracuse was playing them, but when your son loves football and his Mighty Mites team is going as a whole, then you have to make exceptions.

You will notice though that Carter is the only one not wearing some form of red.  Taking him to the game was one thing, actually cheering for the home team was another.  I will say though, that while I dislike Rutgers, that Carter had a great time playing with his friends and the food and beverage made the whole day a lot easier to swallow.  This day was not my typical tailgate.

My usual form of "tailgating" now involves me sitting on my couch with a six pack of beer and easy access to my refrigerator.  Since my Syracuse Orange Men's Basketball team is on TV quite often, this type of tailgate is commonplace.  Just last weekend they had a game against Holy Cross.  Since it wasn't THAT big of a game, it was relegated to ESPN 3 which of course you can only watch on your phone or by streaming it to your television.  It's not the easiest way to watch a game, but it's better than not using it at all.

I had an issue though.  While the picture was OK, I wasn't getting any sound.  Rather than fiddling with the TV I decided to fire up my TuneIn Radio App that I downloaded onto my iPhone.  Browsing through different categories I was able to find the Syracuse University radio call of the game.  I was able to sync up the sound with the video on my TV and instead of sitting in silence for two hours, thanks to the TuneIn Radio App I had audio to match my video.  Not living in the Syracuse area, without this App I would not have been able to listen to the game, and it couldn't have been any easier.

So while the rest of the family and friends were busy with their board games, I was busy with my six pack and my beloved Syracuse Orange, who won by the way.  It would have been nice to watch them in person... but this was the next best way.  You too can #TurnTheGameUp this winter with your favorite team and TuneIn Radio.

Disclosure: I have partnered and was compensated by Life of Dad, LLC and TuneIn for this promotion.

John Willey - Daddy's in Charge?