4 New Book Announcements from the Author of The Man in the Box

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It’s been a busy year for us Toys. Aside from bringing our beloved foster daughter into our home, having some major job changes, helping one of our pups recover from back surgery, I’ve also been very busy writing my next few books.

Many of you may have read my debut novel The Man in the Box, and may be excited to know that a bigger, more suspense-filled revised edition is due sometime down the road. But in the meantime, I’m excited to share with you brief details about my next four books.

I Am the Lion (2014) fiction

The story of a young girl, Lydia, raised by her widowed, bipolar father who struggle to find common ground. Only when Lydia’s fourth-grade teacher steps into their lives do they slowly build a connection, but that bond is threatened when a secret comes out that threatens to scar Lydia for the rest of her life.

Oskar (2015) young readers

Meet Oskar, a dachshund who lives in Germany in the year 1940. He aspires to be a Nazi like his role models, but when he meets a young Jewish girl, he learns what the Nazis’ agenda really is, and changes course.

Untitled Ghost novel (TBA) teen 

A boy and a girl are best friends until he dies in an accident. He visits her as a ghost, living life vicariously through her, laughing with her, playing with her, singing with her, and falling in love with her.

Tomorrow’s War (TBA) fiction

Several families struggle to survive as unknown forces affect the earth’s weather from above.

Leave a comment below. Which book are you most looking forward to? And happy reading!

On My Own

home-alone_2Sarabeth and the baby have been out of town for a couple of days visiting family. So I’m holding down the fort with the help of our two crime-fighting miniature dachshunds, Pixie and Prim. They don’t like it when Sarabeth is gone because when she’s here – with the baby’s moods permitting – we hold to a pretty regular and predictable schedule.

We watch a show while eating dinner, share some ice cream, and snuggle on the couch – the one thing the pups live and die by.

But when Sarabeth’s gone, they have to be locked up all day while I’m at work. They’re not used to that. Plus, I’m a pretty flighty person, so when I get home from work, I don’t really follow a schedule. I might shower before dinner, I might do some reading before I eat, I might watch a movie or read a book. I just kind of go with what I feel like. One night this week I spent forty-five minutes tearing up the place tracking down a fly.

The dinners are sub-par compared to what I come home to from work when Sarabeth’s been cooking. I revert back to Mac and Cheese (with hot dogs), and frozen pizzas. Quality lost; weight gained.

Sometimes I sleep in the bed.

Sometimes I sleep on the couch.

Either way, I go to bed much later because I can keep the light on to read as late as I want. Or I watched a movie that was a little too long and too scary and I had to spend twenty minutes booby-trapping the house.

Either way, it comes down to this.

I might feel like I need my alone time and I might get annoyed by my baby’s crying and spit bubbles, but when it comes down to it, when they’re gone, it’s not as great as it sounds. I just spend a lot of time wishing they were home so I can eat better food and go to bed on time.

Can We Talk Harry Potter for a Moment, Please?

Hogwarts-castle-harry-potter-166431Harry Potter and I have a history together. It’s rather a messy, complicated history, and really, I’m the one at fault.

In other words, it’s not you, Harry – it’s me.

I read the books about six or seven years ago when they were given to me as a gift. I read up to book six and stopped. I wasn’t impressed.

I honestly have no reason why I didn’t like the books.

I was stupid and narrow-minded.

It’s likely that I just wasn’t fully committed to jumping on the Hogwarts bandwagon. Maybe I wanted to be the “mature adult” who didn’t get sucked into such childish storytelling.

Well, fast forward to about this time last year. Nothing significant happened; I had no premonition or anything like that. I just didn’t have anything to watch; The Office had ended a few months earlier.

So I decided to rent all the Harry Potter movies from the library. I watched them all in about a two-month period. When I finished with movie number eight I immediately dug through my things and pulled out my old Harry Potter books.

I’ll save my short reviews for a later post, but right now I’m well into book five, and Sarabeth is rapidly catching up with me. We cannot get enough of this phenomenon that we missed out on for so many years.

Sarabeth has even made butterbeer for me twice and I have told her to buy me a Harry Potter wand for Christmas.

Yes, the turn-around is that drastic.

We don’t celebrate Halloween, but we’re talking about celebrating Harry Potter.

I want to paint a lightning bolt on our daughter’s head, let my wife’s hair go frizzy, while we all wear stripped scarves and go out and put hexes on things.

We’ve decided that for our daughter’s 11th birthday, we’ll give her an invitation to Hogwarts to introduce her to the books.

Oh, and we’ll definitely be visiting the Hogwarts castle in Universal Studios, thank you very much. It is now the reason I work overtime.

The moral of the story is simple.

Go back and retry that thing you once hated. And don’t ever think you’re too old to enjoy something so awesome.

 

 

10 Movies About Adoption No. 4: Meet the Robinsons

Meet_the_robinsons_wallpaper-400x250So I’ve been talking a little about movies about adoption. When adopted kids are of age to learn about their adoption, it doesn’t have to be a bad or negative thing. In fact, it isn’t even remotely that. And some films and shows out there actually give adoption a very good name, which could be helpful to watch with our kids. One such movie is Disney’s Meet the Robinsons.

As silly and goofy parts of the movie may be, there are some very moving scenes when the story refocuses itself around Louis’s adoption by the gigantic and zany Robinson family.

There are no qualifiers. Louis is with the Robinsons for less than a day when they learn he has no parents and immediately they are ready to take him in as a son. That’s a big point about adoption, is that no one earns it. The only prerequisite is that they are available. Our little girl did nothing to earn her place in our home and our hearts. She just simply was. And we loved her immediately for it.

On the flip side, Louis, in the movie, has a chance to see and meet his mom that abandoned him as a baby. All his life he’s been plagued by questions about her – why did she abandon him, where did she go, who is she? What was wrong with him? And so, presented with an opportunity to meet her, he declines in the end, because he realizes who his real family is.

He learns that he is valuable and loved. A message that every kid, orphaned, adopted, or biological, should hear time and time again.

To be honest, I can never ever make it through this movie without needing a few minutes to gather myself together. Especially when I watched it once we had our foster daughter whom we are about to adopt.

As far as adoption movies go, Meet the Robinsons ranks as one of my all-time favorites. I highly encourage any adoptive family to watch this, as it can stir up some very fruitful conversations.

10 Movies About Adoption No. 3: Lilo and Stitch

WallpaperIf you Google a list of adoption movies, Lilo and Stitch isn’t likely to be there. True, it was overlooked by many since it came out durring Disney’s sub-par years, but it’s actually a little gem wedged between the direct-to-video Cinderella II and the deplorable Country Bears. So because of Disney’s track-record the studio was setting for itself at the time, it’s easy to see why many opted out of watching this movie about a destructive alien invading Hawaii.

But it’s good. It’s not a masterpiece, or unforgettable, but it’s a good flick to pop in while the kids are still up and about.

In it, the alien Stitch ends up being adopted by Lilo’s older sister (sorry – spoiler alert). But I think it’s a good reminder that families can be made up of many different nationalities and cultures. And besides that, people outside the world of adoption often can’t imagine adopting a “destructive” or “wild” child, which is essentially what Stich is.

Our seven-month-old is going through a very grouchy stage right now. She’s frustrated that she can’t move on her own from point A to point B. So she cries all day long. Toys don’t make her happy, pacifiers don’t pacify, and don’t even bother trying to put her to sleep – you might as well try taming a rabid zombie.

But still, that doesn’t matter. We love her even when she’s kicking and screaming and blowing bubbles so forcefully that it sprays all over the spinning ceiling fan. And so what if she’s a little loud because she’s teething (or not teething)?

But there’s a line in Lilo and Stitch that we often use in our family, as I’m sure most other fans of the movie use as well:

“Ohana” means “Family” and “Family” means no one gets left behind.

I’m sure our little girl will cause us some headaches and give us ulcers in the coming years, but she’s still our family, and once she is adopted, always will be.

Some foster parents are amazing enough to take in older kids – kids that society has deemed as “troubled” or “a nuisance” – like Stitch. But they’re still worthy of our love and care. They’re still as valuable as anyone else. And they still need a family just like anyone else.

And they’ll probably require a lot more love and attention than other kids, but I think in the end, it can be worth the effort.

This is my family. I found it, all on my own. Is little and broken, but still good. Yeah, still good.

Hugs

Shel Silversteen penned a poem called “Hug-O-War.” You’d probably remember it if I started it off for you:

I will not play tug-o-war.mar15

I’d rather play hug-o-war.

Where everyone hugs

Instead of tugs,

Where everyone giggles

and rolls on the rug…

I don’t do hugs. They’re just not my thing.

dtv-tommyboyKids hug parents. Girls hug puppies. Heavy-set people give bear hugs. Women hug women. Tommy Boy hugs.

But I, Andrew, do not hug. I’ll shake your hand, or even better, I’ll high-five or fist-bump you. (“Knucks!”) But the best of all is a head nod. “Hey. What’s up?”

“Nothing. You?”

“Not much. See ya.”

“See ya.”

But there’s a problem with all of this. I don’t like hugs, but

I’m married.

And my spouse is a woman.

And women hug.

My wife likes hugs.

The first time Sarabeth and I hung out together as a couple, we could have hugged when I said good night.handshake

But we didn’t. I shook her hand. No joke.

But here’s the thing. Sarabeth knows me and my needs. She knows that I need affirmation and compliments. And she doesn’t give out compliments freely. But she gives them generously to me because she knows I need them.

So it’s only fair that I hug her more than once a week.

Because I love her.

What does your spouse love? What do they need every day?

My wife needs hugs.

10 Movies About Adoption No. 2: Punky Brewster

Screen-Shot-2014-04-05-at-15.55.02No, this isn’t a movie, but you probably remember this show from the ’80s, about an orphaned girl with mismatched socks and her dog Brandon who were adopted by the old, grouchy, set-in-his-ways Henry Warnimont.

Punky Brewster’s mom ditched her in a grocery store. The eight-year-old was suddenly and unexpectadly abandoned with no one but her dog to comfort her. She and Brandon find themselves living in an empty apartment when the landlord, Henry, finds them occupying the space.

After a series of mishaps, Henry decides to make Punky his foster daughter. At the end of two seasons Henry then proceeds to adopt Punky Brewster to maker her his daughter forever.

True, it’s no Office or Big Bang Theory. Humor-wise it’s proabably closer to Full House than Home Improvement, but it does embody the themes that we are living out in our household with Baby A. being our foster daughter. And it’s a show I plan on using as a tool to help educate our little girl about the journey her mom and me are on in trying to secure her officially as our daughter.

I’m taking the time to point this show out because in an emotional 5-part strand of episodes, entitled “Changes,” in season 2, the show walks viewers through the process of moving from foster care to adoption.

If you haven’t lived out the process, it can be difficult separating foster care from adoption and foster-to-adopt from adoption and all the terms can get kind of jumbled and confusing. You can Youtube “Punky Brewster – Changes” and a list of the five episodes will come up.

If you have an adopted child, sometimes it can be comforting to know that they’re not alone and that there’s nothing wrong or weird about being adopted. Punky never shows resentment toward her foster dad or spends her time hashing out the what-could-have-beens in her life – not that there’s not an appropriate time to do that – but instead, she looks toward the future with hope and optimism with her new father and she recognizes that he loves her just as if she were his biological daughter.

After all, even though Baby A. wasn’t born to us, it’s impossible not to see her as one of our own. And hopefully she’ll always feel that way toward us.

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