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.

Battle of the Bands: Little Brother vs. One Direction

This morning was a good morning. Hal returned to the land of the living – he had been ill and was asleep when I got home last night and never stirred from the couch all evening – despite all the bustle of activity around him. At one point, he heard my voice and reached for a hug but was back asleep in no time. He slept all night too. But this morning, he bounded in, full of energy. We told him to take a shower and eat some breakfast.

It was a good morning for Jane too. Today was the release day for the new One Direction album that she had pre-ordered months ago. She had the music on her iPhone and was trying to devour all the songs as she prepared for school.

And that’s where the collision occurred.

The happy, energetic, feeling-better seven-year-old was singing heartily in the shower. The happy, excited teenager was trying to listen to her new music while applying make-up and fixing her hair in the same bathroom.

“Hal! Can you please stop singing?”

{More singing of nonsense words.}

“Hal! Please! I’m trying to listen to my new music!”

{Singing continues.}

“HAL! I asked nicely!”

I called to Jane. She called back in an irritated voice.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“I’m trying to listen to my new music but Hal keeps singing.”

“Singing in the shower,” I said, “is an intrinsic right. You can’t deny someone their right to sing in the shower.”

“Well! I didn’t want to turn the music up loud and bother people!”

“But you can’t tell him not to sing in the shower. It’s a primal need. You’ll have to go get ready in your room or wait to listen to your music or just put up with him.”

She groaned.

“Jane?” I called out.

She’d had enough. In her most tortured, irritated teenagery voice, she yelled back, “ARE YOU STILL TALKING TO ME?!”

“Yes. I just wanted to tell you that I’m glad the One Direction album came in. I’m glad you are getting to enjoy it. I’m happy for you.”

“Oh. Thank you.”

“You handled that well,” my husband whispered.

“It’s what I really planned to say all along. Really.”

But I will hold the “ARE YOU STILL TALKING TO ME?!” line in my head all day. As my mother-in-law loves to say on Facebook, it was my first laugh of the day.

Relative Importance

This morning, my boys were having a discussion about the relative importance of things.

Daryl, the puberty-entering near-twelve year old, was sitting at the dining room table, eating his cereal and milk. Hal, the learning-to-read-efficiently near-seven year old, was sitting in the living room, reading a book.

“Hal,” Daryl called out. “You need to come eat your breakfast.”

“I’m reading!”

“So? You need to eat breakfast.”

“Reading is important.”

“Not as important as eating breakfast. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You need it to fuel your body for the rest of the day.”

“Well, reading is more important than eating!”

“No it’s not! You have to eat or you’ll die. You can read after you eat breakfast.”

When I related the conversation to my husband, Hal clarified his reasoning. Turning to his brother, he said, “Well, what if you ate poison, huh? If you ate poison, you’d die! And what if that poison had a sign on it that said ‘poison’? If you read it, then you wouldn’t die. But only if you can read!”

Who can refute such logic? Certainly not an older, thinks-he’s-so-wise brother.

Water?

Sharing a room with your brother must be complicated. As my husband and I lay in bed this morning, dreaming of the day when we wouldn’t have to get up if we didn’t want to, we heard Hal call out on his way to the bathroom.

“Daddy! Daryl peed on my bed!”

This gave us pause. Before Daddy could respond…

“No I didn’t!!” was called out from their bedroom.

“Daryl,” my husband said, “why did you pee on Hal’s bed?”

“I didn’t!”

“Yes he did!”

“Daryl, why did you pee on Hal’s bed?”

“I didn’t! It was water.” Some faint giggling accompanied the protest.

“Why do you have water on Hal’s bed?”

“Because I have a cup of water.”

“Why do you have a cup of water on Hal’s bed?”

Some more giggling from their room.

Then Hal called from the bathroom, “It wasn’t water! I saw stuff coming out of his penis!”

“Daryl!” called my husband in feigned seriousness, “Why do you have a cup of water coming out of your penis?”

Daryl giggled some more but didn’t reply. Hal didn’t renew his complaint either. So either Hal is relatively OK with his brother peeing on his bed, or he didn’t really believe that’s what happened any more than the rest of us did.