Margo, Alexa and Jeff the Bear

January is supposed to be the month where we shake the bad habits of winter break and get back on our routine. But school didn’t start until the 4th, we had two days, then another weekend. That Monday the forecast called for a slim chance of freezing rain but 100 percent chance of NCAA Championship football in town. I didn’t disagree with the school cancellation because let’s be honest – if we had our normal Monday traffic on top of 100,000 football fans and the President’s motorcade, I-20 would have been backed up to Tuscaloosa. We mustn’t forget, Amazon HQ2 is watching.

The following week we celebrated MLK day with a Monday off, one day of school and then an actual snowstorm. Some schools were closed a full three days. We resorted to playing Xbox and watching the better part of a Netflix series called “Haters, Back Off!” There has been so much sitting around the house I’m thinking about investing in some new sweatpants.

Despite the irregularity, we made a stab at our family New Year’s resolution of getting the kids to stay in their own beds through the night. Grandma gifted a giant Teddy bear (Margo named him Jeff) but that didn’t quite solve it. So we added a Zen-like fish tank and got them Amazon Echo Dots thinking they could choose soothing music to fall asleep to and set custom alarm clocks.

Elliott went with a new-age sounding chime for his alarm and Margo went with Missy Elliott “Yo—time to wake up! The first step to being a superstar is rollin’ out the bed!” But since the kids had usually traveled to our bed by the scheduled time, the alarms proved worthless. That is, unless hearing me holler “Alexa Cancel!” first thing in the morning is worth anything.

One night Margo asked me to suggest relaxing music. The first thing that came to mind was “Orinoco Flow’ by Enya. Margo queued it up and then about 20 seconds in she shouted “Alexa Cancel!” She wanted a new suggestion. I must have been in an 80’s fog because next I recommended “Songbird” by Kenny G. Part of me just wanted to see how emphatically Margo could demand that Alexa shut down Kenny G and another part of me was chuckling at that phase I went through in 8th grade where I thought I was into jazz… To my surprise, she dozed off. Perhaps it’s a curly hair kinship she and Mr. G share.

Another night I went in to read with Elliott and he must have felt like buttering me up because he said “Alexa, play Elliott Smith on shuffle.” Initially, I thought of Alexa as a know-it-all hockey puck but she’s growing on me. My favorite thing is the way she answers when she doesn’t know the answer. It’s flat but self-affirmed: “That is not something I know” or “Hmmm, I am not sure about that.” I envy the equanimity with which she can bow out of a given question. I’d like to adopt her cadence when Elliott asks me for help with his Math homework or Margo asks when we can go to Six Flags.

Still the night wanderings continued so obviously Alexa and Jeff needed a little help raising our children. We took the dramatic step of putting Elliott’s bed in Margo’s room. Surprisingly, the kids were on board. During the daytime they fight like Itchy and Scratchy but at night they just like knowing another warm body is nearby. So Elliott’s room now houses their desks, stuffed animals, Nerf Hoop and beanbags. And Margo’s room is quite literally, a bed room. Playing nightly on that stage is a dramatic bedtime routine featuring two kids, two adults, two fish, the dog, a hockey puck named Alexa and a giant Teddy bear named Jeff. We may need the month of February to hit our stride.

Tim Sullivan grew up in a large family in the Northeast and now lives with his small family in Oakhurst. He can be reached at