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It's the first week of autumn, which marks back-to-school and back-to-reality after the lazy summer season. But fall doesn't have to be frenetic! These apps, gadgets and services can help save time and hassle, making the season feel like a summer breeze.
Between work, school, playdates and sports games, kids and parents alike are often overbooked -- and it's hard to keep track of every family member's schedule. The app Cozi (free for Apple, Android and Windows devices) aims to help busy parents check out the entire family's schedule in a single place. You can access and update calendars on the fly from any device, and also share chore or shopping lists.
If you have schedules on lock and need only the list part of what Cozi offers, the Android app Out of Milk lets you create a shopping or packing list and share it with other devices or with family members.
Amazon’s newest device, the Echo, is like the iPhone's Siri on steroids (if she lived inside a speaker). The $180 gadget looks like a fancy Bluetooth speaker, but it's a connected device for the home that's activated by your voice. Like Siri, you can ask for things like the weather or the age of your favorite actress. But you can also ask the Echo to buy music, re-order items on Amazon, read you audiobooks, wake you up with your favorite podcast, or control your smart lightbulbs and other Internet-connected home devices.
Don't forget about Fido!
It's hard enough to get kids organized and smiling for photos after a soccer game or in the pumpkin patch. Throw a dog into the mix, and it becomes near impossible to get everyone to look at the camera at once. The app BarkCam is like an Instagram for dogs: You can snap photos, add filters and share to social media. But BarkCam has a special additional feature. It comes pre-loaded with a bunch of funny sounds to get your pup's attention. Tap to play a dog barking, a duck quacking or another noise to get the dog to look at the phone, and snap away. BarkCam is free in Apple's App Store, and an Android version of the app is coming soon.
Also check out the FitBark activity tracker that attaches to a pup's collar, and the Pooch Perks monthly subscription box that comes packed with food, toys and other treats so you can skip the stop to the pet store.