Alexa

Our family might be getting a little bit obsessed with Alexa. We came to consider her part of the family when Jane received an Echo Dot as a school reward and offered to sell it to us cheap. We liked it enough that we bought a battery base so we could move it from room to room.

I quickly came to hate the battery base because people were not returning the Echo Dot to the kitchen, leaving me to wander the house calling for Alexa like a lovelorn fool, hoping for an answer. So when Prime Day rolled around, we bought a few more.

Now there’s a Dot in the bedroom named Betty (get it? Bed-ty?) and one in “the big room” named Bigelow. The one with the battery base is moving to my husband’s studio although right now it’s still in the Kitchen with the name Kitty, which will become the name of the one that will ultimately reside in the kitchen but still sits in its box right now. I guess I should let my husband name the one in his studio, but I’m partial to Stuart or Studebaker.

The names don’t mean much. It’s just more fun and instructive when accessing them via the Alexa app than “Your Echo Dot”, “Your Second Echo Dot” and so on. The wake words for all of them are still Alexa, although the one in the studio will answer to Computer, which really catches my husband’s fancy. I imagine he’ll speak to it in the stilted voice of Scotty from Star Trek.

Anyway, there was some discussion about whether the Echo Dots were far enough apart to allow them to all have the same wake word. I’m lazy enough that I want to just talk to Alexa whatever room I’m in and expect a response. I don’t want to remember that I need to call her Echo or Amazon or Computer in one room and something else in another. My children are quickly showing me the flaws in this desire.

The boys were recently participating in their Alexa song ritual where one of them tells her to play a song and soon after she starts playing it, the other one calls her name and requests a different song. Or she doesn’t know the song and so they start arguing over who can better construct the name of the song so she can find it. It tends to be very frenetic and loud.

Jane and her boyfriend were in the kitchen while this was going on and Jane soon banished the boys to their room. Their room is across from mine, where I stood folding clothes. I was perplexed at hearing Alexa’s name coming from their room but soon realized that they had taken Kitty with them and Hal was trying to get her to play a song.

Daryl felt he knew better how to do it so kept telling Hal to let him try. Hal got louder, trying to talk over him. Daryl would suggest they just look it up on YouTube on his phone. Hal kept trying.

Before long, Hal was running up and down the hallway loudly yelling “Alexa, play blahblahblah by the blahblahs” while his brother gave chase, triggering the other Echo Dots as they went.

Betty triggered on his request as he ran away so in the bedroom, Alexa announced, “Playing Hello by Adele.” Through Bigelow, she said she didn’t understand the request. And all the while, with Hello as background music, Hal continued his desperate attempts to get his song.

He had a wild look in his eyes as I grabbed him by both arms in the hallway. “You need to stop,” I said. “You’ve gotten Alexa all worked up. You can’t run from room to room calling out her name.” But once he was stationary, he was an easier target for his brother and the argument soon escalated to the point that I rescued Kitty and returned her to the kitchen.

All was then quiet on the Alexa front. Until…

A storm came in the night and knocked out our power. When it didn’t come back right away, my husband disconnected the wi-fi router hoping to spare it any damage from a storm-induced power surge. Three hours later, when the power came back on, Alexa felt it was necessary to loudly proclaim to me that she was sorry but she couldn’t connect to the internet. I had been asleep up until that point and after lay awake for hours.

At that moment, I was really not sure if Betty would be allowed to stay in the bedroom. She’s on probation right now.

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The Karaoke Tribe

Hal had received some books from his grandmother for his ninth birthday. I hadn’t looked at them closely but they looked like biographies of less famous American historical figures geared toward younger children. I noticed him reading one of them one morning as he waited for me to be ready to take him to school.

“What book were you reading?” I asked as we headed down the driveway.

“The Journal of Jesse Smoke.”

“Smoke? S-M-O-K-E?”

“Yes.”

“How is it?”

“Good. It’s written like it’s his diary except he doesn’t share his feelings.”

“OK. I don’t know Jesse Smoke. Who was he? It’s a true story, isn’t it?”

“I think so but I don’t know he was. I haven’t read much of it yet.”

“Well, when you get further into it, please tell me about him. I’d like to learn.”

And with that, he absorbed himself in the book (which had to be tricky since he had just finished wrapping himself up as a pretzel inside his hoodie to protect against that oh-gosh-so-awfully-cold-Texas-October morning weather).

After a few minutes of silence from the backseat, he announced, “Mommy, I don’t think this is a true story. A bunch of people just turned themselves into bears to go down a hole. And – if you are a real human, you can’t just turn yourself into a bear.”

I was fairly certain this was an historical book, so I took a guess and said, “Well, there were Indian tribes who basically believed they could turn themselves into animals. Maybe he’s telling one of his people’s stories as if he believes it to be true.”

There was a slight pause.

“He’s a Karaoke boy.”

“A what?”

“A Karaoke boy.”

“Spell it.”

“C-H…. E…. R-O…. K-E-E.”

I was very careful not to laugh. “Cherokee, honey. The word is Cherokee. They are an Indian tribe, Native Americans.”

One of the most fun parts of being a parent has been listening to my young readers try to pronounce the words that they’ve only seen in print. To combine Hal’s mispronunciations with Daryl’s most famous from years ago, it sounds like Jesse Smoke comes from a family of Karaoke Madge-i-cans. (Magicians).