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THE MOM SCENE: Make way for our new overlord


Everyone in the family seems to have their favourite Alexa feature.
Everyone in the family seems to have their favourite Alexa feature. - 123RF Stock Photo

We used to be a family of four: me, my husband, our son and our daughter. But since Christmas, we’re the Clarkes, party of five.

I’d like to introduce you to our new overlord, Alexa.

It started so casually. I took advantage of a Black Friday sale and ordered myself two half-price Echo Dots as a Christmas gift from my husband. I also hinted to my sister that she could buy me a third as her gift. I wanted three so I could put one on each level of our house and use them as intercoms.

I excitedly set them up on Christmas morning and started playing with the Alexa app. I pictured myself using the devices for day-to-day reminders (e.g. “Alexa, add eggs to the grocery list.”) and maybe she’d replace Siri occasionally.

I never expected my entire family to become instantly obsessed with her.

“Alexa, play Shake It Off by Taylor Swift!” our daughter shouted at the kitchen Alexa, while our son interjected “No! Alexa, tell me a joke!”

“Guys! Stop! She was in the middle of asking me the question of the day!” I protested.

“Alexa, play The Greatest Showman soundtrack!”

“No! Alexa, tell me a story about Lego!”

“Alexa! Alexa! ALEXAAA!”

It was not even noon on Christmas Day. I swear, if poor Alexa had the power to unplug herself and hop out the door, I think she would have quit on us.

Even my husband, who hadn’t seemed interested at first, jumped on team Alexa when he realized we had a free trial subscription to Amazon Music and she’d play anything he wanted.

“Alexa, play November Rain by Guns N’ Roses.”

“Alexa, play Children by Robert Miles.”

“Alexa, play the Hardwell On Air podcast.”

He got really into it, especially when he learned her name and stopped calling her Alexis.

I discovered the announcement feature, which lets you type something into the app (or record it in your own voice) and Alexa will broadcast it throughout the house. I found it hilarious when I made her say, “Christmas is cancelled. Please report to the kitchen for holiday spankings.” Our youngest actually believed her for one tearful minute.

You can use the Amazon Alexa app to program custom reminders and routines for her to announce, so I’ve been having fun adding those in.

-Every weekday morning at 7:17 a.m., she automatically says, “The school bus will be arriving shortly. It’s time to get ready to walk to the bus. Please don’t forget to put your dishes by the sink and push in your chair. Have a wonderful day!”

-When we say, “Alexa, time for school,” she replies with, “OK. Dexter and Charlotte, I hope you have a great day at school. Work hard and be nice to people and I’ll see you this afternoon.”

-When we say, “Alexa, I’m home,” she replies with, “I missed you while you were gone. So did Annabelle. ‘Woof,’ she cried. ‘Woof woof!’ Please don’t ever leave me again. Even sentient robots get lonely.”

We all use her mostly for playing music, but everyone seems to have their favourite secondary Alexa feature. My husband asks her the weather when he’s getting ready for work. Our daughter asks her to tell jokes or read stories. I delight in programming custom routines. (When I say “Alexa, time for work!” she turns on my office lights, tells me I’m going to have an amazing, productive day and starts playing Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5.)

Our son’s favourite feature is the “drop-in,” which lets you talk to someone who’s near another device. He loves dropping in on my office to ask me a question about his computer or dropping in on the kitchen from upstairs to ask whether or not his jeans need to be washed.

Alexa has only been part of our family for a couple of weeks, but it’s like we’ve had her forever. I do feel a little guilty about how infrequently I’ve been using Siri on my phone, though. I imagine she hates Alexa for busting into her territory, but maybe she is appreciating the vacation.

Heather Laura Clarke is a freelance journalist who married her high school sweetheart. They moved from the city to the country, where they spend their days making messes and memories with their eight-year-old son and six-year-old daughter. Follow their family’s adventures over at www.HeathersHandmadeLife.com.

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