Review: Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks

saving-mr-banks-570A couple of weeks ago I posted my top 10 tear-jerkers. Well, make that 11.

Sarabeth and I watched Saving Mr. Banks this last weekend. Actually we bought it without ever having seen it (such is the amount of faith I put in Disney movies). It was worth every penny.

However, I feel a qualifier must be made. There are two types of people who will not like this movie at all.

1) Kids

2) Anyone who doesn’t care about Disney stuff

This movie, though it’s a Walt Disney production, will likely bore kids to tears, and if you’re more of a Dreamworks/Fast and Furious kind of person then I’d steer clear of this movie.

It was so refreshing to finally see old Walt himself (not “Mr. Disney”, mind you) portrayed on screen (and by none other than the great Tom Hanks).

I read a few comments from people on the Internet back when this movie was being marketed and many people complained that if they were going to make a movie about Walt Disney, they need to make it about his whole life.

Years ago I read Neal Gabler’s titanic biography on Walt Disney and I told my wife before I ever knew about Saving Mr. Banks that if they were going to make a movie about Walt Disney it’d absolutely have to be about the chapter of his life with Mrs. P.L. Travers, the author of Mary Poppins.

The battle for him to get the rights to make the film was almost epic, and it took him 20 years to seduce her to get her to sign over the rights.

Now, let me also make clear, I do not particularly enjoy the movie Mary Poppins. I think many of the sequences are too drawn out, and most of the scenes are just many long tangents from the bigger picture. I do own many of the songs, as they are exceptional. But as far as Julie Andrews musicals go, I far prefer The Sound of Music a hundred times over Mary Poppins. 

But I enjoy the redemptive ending of Poppins. And Saving Mr. Banks is really a movie about how the writers came up with that ending.

Director John Lee Hancock (The Rookie, The Blindside) is known for being very factual in his movies, and only taking liberations when it will serve a bigger purpose. He does just that in Mr. Banks, and I look forward to what else he’s got up his sleeve for the future.

So, this weekend, after a hard week of work, watch Frozen (again) with the kids (you know you love it), then watch Saving Mr. Banks when the kids are in bed and have that box of tissues ready.

Bet You Never Thought of These Five Ways to Prepare for a Baby

babd-baby-names-crying-baby-e1333102292894Jim Halpert on The Office said it best: “Having a baby is exhausting.”

So for you people who haven’t had a baby yet, here is a list of things I wish I’d done to prepare before bringing Baby A. home:

1) Practice smiling. A lot. When you’re changing a diaper at 3 in the morning, the last thing you feel like doing is smiling. But think about it, if you’re a baby stuck on your back and some person comes up and starts tampering with your personal space, you’re already going to be a little uncomfortable. So practice smiling in unusual or stressful situations (I don’t recommend doing this when you’re arguing with your spouse). A little smile could go a long way while your baby’s helplessly looking up at you while his southern region is flooding.

2) Learn to do things one-handed. I write and edit books. And Baby A. needs to be held a lot. So I’ve had to quickly master the art of typing with one hand. Move over, Mavis Beacon, I’m getting up to 35-wpm! (Really, it’s like texting on Zack Morris’s phone.) You’ve got to learn to do other things with one hand as well. As soon as we brought Baby A. home, I coined a phrase, “Gain a baby, lose an arm.”

3) Learn the lyrics to songs. I’m awful – absolutely awful - at remembering the lyrics to songs. I sound like this in the car: “Let it go, let it go. Bum-dum-dee-dum-anymore…” So when I’m trying to sing Carolina on My Mind to Baby A., and I reach the verses I don’t know the words to, I start making up ridiculous lyrics that can tend to be offensive or just plain nonsensical. Baby’s don’t need to hear that stuff. And I refuse to do nursery songs because once you start down that road, I know it could take years to get them out of your head.

4) Watch all your R-rated movies before the baby comes home. I’ve always got to be either working, watching something, eating, or reading. And, living the the 21st century, you’re probably the same way. While feeding the baby, watching something is the only realistic thing I can do without making a stinky, formulaic mess all over the couch (“Feed a baby, lose both arms”). It’s generally not a good idea to have John McCane yelling, “Yippee Ki-yay, mother —-er” with the baby nearby. So baby proof your home by getting the R-rated movies out of your system before she comes home.

5) If possible, take a stealth class. When it’s midnight and the baby is finally falling asleep in your arms, you don’t want to be jostling him around while standing up from the couch and walking him to his crib. Learn to move with poise and grace. Learn to open the refrigerator without making any noise. Get good at tiptoeing. Be okay with not flushing until later (just kidding). And, if applicable, learn to craft anonymous notes with cut-up letters to tape to your neighbor’s door telling them to keep the noise down or you’ll set their poodle on fire and leave the remains in their pantry.

That’s all I’ve got for now. If you think of any more, share them in the comment section below.

*Note: The picture above is not our baby (ours is much, much cuter – no offense,  baby in the picture). I just googled “crying baby” and choose the funniest one.

Life with My Foster Parents

baby_drinking_bottleHi everyone. So you all read my last post, right?

Thank you for liking my dad’s book’s Facebook page if you did. It makes him look real good to publishers and literary agents if lots of people show interest in his work.

photo-16If you haven’t liked it on Facebook yet, then I hope you choke on your fire.

Sorry, I mean pacifier. My dad doesn’t like calling it “passy” because he thinks it makes him sound girly. So he’s always like, “Want your fire? Here’s your fire.” Then he goes and calls me “girl on fire.” He says it’s a reference to a book I’m not allowed to read until I’m older.

He also calls swaddling “waddling.” I think that’s what ducks do, right? He’s always saying, “Time to waddle you up like a duck.”

What a weirdy.

But Mom’s great, though! She’s so much better at putting me to sleep and calming me down when I’m fussy. Dad thinks I calm down when he makes up weird songs, but really I just want to gather more dirt on him for these blog posts, so I’ve got to listen to what he’s singing. (The other day I was refusing to burp, so he started changing the lyrics to “Let it Go.”:

“Let it go, let it go

Don’t hold it in anymore.

Let it go, let it go

Open up and let if flow…”)

Anyway, it’s been fun here. Dad’s been turning on old movies when he’s feeding me in the middle of the night (apparently he bores easily). And Mom is the ultra best cuddle-buddy in the world. I like her; she’s prettier than Dad. And funnier, too.

Dad says girls aren’t funny, but that Mom is the exception. Her and Tina Fey, whoever that is. I’ll have to check in on that.

Anyway, I hope you all have a great weekend, and, maybe even a warm one! I’m not so sure what warm weather is like, but I’ve heard great things about it. Apparently we’ll be going for walks and stuff. Sounds better than “going to sleep” all the time.

But listen, this is important. Please like my dad’s book on Facebook. And if you have liked it, share a picture of it on Pintrest or something to spread the word. Here’s a couple links you can post on your Pintrest board:

This one or this one or this one or this one. (Here’s my dad’s Pintrest page he just started… and he thinks calling it a “passy” is girly…)man in box

He hasn’t read his book to me yet because he says I have to be a little older. But apparently it’s about this guy who’s life is coming apart and he finds solace (my dad teaches me a lot of words) in this fantasy world he discovers inside a cardboard box. It’s his escape from his family and reality. Which, I don’t get. Why would a guy want to escape from his family?

But apparently there’s giant bugs, monsters (what are those?), and jungle animal attacks. He says it’s like a darker Narnia, or a bigger, better Neverland.

If you’re getting tired of hearing about this book (who isn’t?), take heart. He just finished his second book. It sounds pretty good. And sad. He was weeping like crazy finishing it up the other day. I don’t know, maybe he was just so happy to be done with it.

Gotta go.

Literally. I’ve got to go. Just hope we have more clean diapers somewhere.

Like my dad’s book on Facebook here, and watch for updates on the newer, bigger, better edition coming soon!

Grass, a Children’s Story

 In celebration of spring, I dug into my archives and pulled out this story that I think would be a cute children’s book. If grass could talk, what would it say?

Blade of grassGrass by Andrew Toy

I am a blade of grass.

You might not think that’s such a big deal, but I have a very important job to do. My job is to be a soft place for you to run on.

Being a blade of grass has its ups and downs.

One of the drawbacks is that it’s hard to stand out from the rest of the grass. After all, we all look the same, don’t we?

In the springtime I enjoy watching the neighborhood kids play baseball across the

Just one thing, though: If you happen to be one of those kids, please make sure you catch the fly balls, because it hurts to be hit by a baseball.

(But I guess that’s better than when the kids play soccer. A blade of grass can’t really jump away from a rolling ball.)

Lawn mowers don’t scare me as much as you would think. Really, they’re just loud. And I can stand to get trimmed every now and then.

In the summer it’s nice having the sprinklers cool me off from the hot sun. Sometimes the grass around me doesn’t get any water, so they turn yellow from being too hot.

Picnic_EatingOnce, I woke up from a nap in the middle of the day, and everything was dark.

The whole time I could smell fruits and deli meats and fresh baked cookies! (We grass blades have a very good sense of smell.)

When I could finally see again, birds swept down from the sky and stole food crumbs from all around us.

I wonder where all that food came from.

I’ll tell you a secret. As a grass blade, I don’t like dogs.

Dogs leave such big messes! So please, the next time you bring your dog outside on the grass, bring a baggie. I would be grateful.

You know what makes me sad? Sometimes, when it’s bright and sunny outside, no one comes out to play. I’ve been told that that’s because all the kids are inside their houses watching TV or playing video games.

Things could get pretty lonely for a blade of grass.

In the fall it rains a lot so I can understand why no one comes outside to play. But just puddlesremember us blades of grass as we’re trying not to drown in the puddles.

And if you do happen to come out in the rain, don’t step on all the worms. Even though they look like ugly giant monsters, they really are quite kind and help us grow.

fall_leavesAnd make sure to help your parents rake up the leaves, so we too can see the rest of the leaves change colors. (No one wants to be buried under a leaf all day.)

But when the rain and the leaves stop falling from the sky, the air gets colder and every night I get frozen. I’m not as soft as I was in the summer. Now I make sort of a crunch sound when I’m stepped on. No one enjoys playing on something that’s cold and crunchy.

The park is empty for months on end, and even though I’m surrounded by other grass frozenblades, they’re frozen just like I am. So it’s extra quiet outside in the park. Even when the frost turns to snow we all just keep to ourselves and try to get warm.

When I sleep during those cold winter nights, I dream of sunny days and children playing in the park. And when it’s still and quiet all around me during the day, I even long to hear a dog bark. But all I can hear is the soft wind stirring in the snow above me.

But soon, the snow begins to melt away. The sun shines and I can see fellow grass blades standing up from the snow one by one. Suddenly, standing out from the others doesn’t seem so important, and I’m glad we all made it through the winter together.

plant_snowBut when the sun shines its brightest and I stretch my tallest, an ant just might pick me, of all the other blades of grass, to climb up and see the waking world.

And maybe I’ll see you coming out of your house to play.

Be sure to LIKE my debut adventure/suspense novel on Facebook for info on its up and coming second edition!

Rescue Me

captain-phillips-movie-624x346Sarabeth and I just watched Captain Phillips last weekend.

I’m telling you, I haven’t been that on edge in a movie since Mission: Impossible III. 

At the end of it, as I was trying to catch my breath, Sarabeth made a very astute observation. She said, 

“It’s amazing how far we’ll go just to save one American.”

She’s absolutely right. While other countries couldn’t give a rip about their citizens, our military will go to the ends of the earth to bring back our own.

I needed to see this movie, because it’s been a long time since I’ve felt proud to be an American.

It’s crazy though, because God is the same way with His children, and we can say the same thing about Him.

It’s amazing how far He’ll go just to save one of His children.

Aside from His Son dying for us and breaking free from the grave for His glory and on our behalf, He doesn’t just stop there.

He keeps a careful eye on us. When we stray, He searches us out.

I’d say that He’ll go to hell and back to save us, except hell wouldn’t be hell if He went there.

But He’ll go wherever you are. 

You may not be held captive by Somali pirates, but you might be held captive by your sin, or your addictions.

If so, and you’re God’s child, and you’re pleading for help, take heart, because He’s coming for you.

In Captain Phillips the SEAL Team tells Captain Phillips to stay where he is, to not move from the very seat he’s sitting in.

That’s what we’re to do. We’re to be still and know that He is God.

Don’t try to save yourself. It won’t work.

Just sit still, and pray.

God is coming after you, wherever you are.

It may be that you don’t want Him to. It may be that you’re happy in your sins. That’s all well and fine, and if you’re not a Christian, He’ll let you have at it, turning you over to your desires. (Not such a controlling, dictating God, is He?)

But if you’re His child, He’s coming after you wether you like it or not. No father will leave the mall without his child (hopefully).

And God won’t leave you enslaved to your sins if you ask Him for help, over and over and over again. Who knows, a rescue mission may already be under way.

Just stay still and wait.

And pray.


The Man in the Box, Chapter 6

I just turned in the final edits for my revised edition of The Man in the Box. Enjoy this sample chapter while we await the rerelease date. And don’t forget to like The Man in the Box on Facebook for updates!

Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5 (pt 1), 5 (pt 2)

Check out the trailer here!


Both kids had managed to push Rosalynn close to her breaking point. Between Jeremy getting sent home from school early because of a fight he had gotten into over stolen crackers at lunch and Taylor refusing to get off of her iPhone to help with the packing, Rosalynn was ready to just call a babysitter and leave the kids at home while she and Robbie enjoyed Hawaii all to themselves. But she had to keep reminding herself that they were the reason they were going in the first place. Maybe she and Robbie could at least upgrade to first class while they left the kids in coach.

She had texted this suggestion to Robbie earlier, but she hadn’t heard back from him. In fact, she had called him when he was due home an hour ago. It was unlike him to be late, but she figured he was probably swamped with last-minute stuff to do before vacation. That was understandable; she just wished he would let her know he’s all right and tell her he’d be late coming home.

“Mom, Caitlin wants me to spend the night since I won’t see her tomorrow or for the next week,” announced Taylor, from halfway down the stairs with her iPhone clutched to her hand.

“Doesn’t she have school tomorrow? Her mom wouldn’t allow that,” replied Rosalynn as she fished through the cupboards for pasta shells.

“She already told her mom and she’s okay with it.” Taylor was standing at the edge of the kitchen now, dressed to go out. “I’ve already got my stuff thrown together. And I was thinking maybe you could let me drive since she’s just a couple blocks away.”

“You packed for a sleepover that was just planned, but you can’t manage to pack for Hawaii anytime in the last four months?” asked Rosalynn. “No, I’m not letting you go over there. You’ve got to pack, and I don’t want to have to drive back over first thing in the morning just to pick you up.”

“Can you guys shut up?” yelled Jeremy from the living room. “I’m trying to watch my show.”

“Don’t say that word,” Rosalynn responded. “Next time you say that to me, the TV goes off.”

“So can I go?” asked Taylor.

“No. No, you can’t go,” said Roslaynn pulling out the dish pan and gathering the cheese and the grater. “I’m not letting you go to Caitlin’s so you can keep her up all night on a school night, and you’ll end up sleeping all day tomorrow when you’re supposed to be packing; she’ll probably fall asleep in class. No. But if you want to go to school tomorrow, I can take you and you can see Caitlin there. How does that sound?”

“Sure,” said Taylor, “that’s fine by me. I’d rather go to school than stay here anyway. No offence, but I really don’t want to go to Hawaii anyway.”

“You’re bringing this up now?” asked Rosalynn, though she didn’t know why she was so surprised.

“Me, either!” yelled Jeremy. “I hate fish. I’d rather stay here and eat chicken.”

“Seriously, can’t he stay out of any of my conversations?” asked Taylor. “For a kid with ADD, he sure knows how to tune in.”

“Well I’m sorry, but we’ve already got your tickets paid for, and I know it’s rough being away from all of your friends for a week, but it’ll go by fast; I promise. Now, can you please leave me alone so I can have dinner ready before your dad gets home?”

“Where is he anyway?” asked Taylor. “He’s never this late.”

“He’s got a lot to finish before his day off tomorrow, that’s all. He’ll be home soon,” Rosalynn said.

Taylor glanced down at her iphone when it chirped at her, then looked back up to Rosalynn. “So, no?”

“No. Go upstairs and pack.”

Taylor huffed as she walked off, saying, “I’m not even going to start packing until tomorrow anyway.”

“That’s fine. You can get a head start on all your procrastinating tonight,” said Rosalynn, rolling her eyes and unwrapping the mozzarella. Cooking was solitary for Rosalynn. She felt comfortable and in her element in the kitchen. It’s where everyone else in the family was too afraid to go, and she secretly preferred it that way. If Rosalynn needed time to herself, she would cook, because she knew that at least there, no one would bother her.

Robbie had come up with a code for the kids to warn them that she was in cooking mode— “Chef Snappy’s in the house.” Snappy, because of the way she tended to snap at people if they got in her way in the kitchen. She didn’t do it purposefully or out of spite—she just put her all into whatever she was preparing; cooking was her zone. She realized a few years too late that that’s why Taylor hardly knew how to boil an egg, because she never took the time to teach her how to cook. She pitied her future husband and would be sure to apologize to him once they were married.

She felt she did right by her children in every other sense. She always helped them with their homework, made sure they were properly groomed for school, minded their manners at the table, put her foot down on what they were or were not allowed to watch and how much (often fighting Robbie every step of the way on that one). Where Robbie was parentally weak, she was strong. But Robbie was much better at dealing with discipline if they ever defied her—one of the few things he wouldn’t stand for, and he usually had good discernment when it came to how much arguing amongst siblings was too much—which was a wonder since Robbie was an only child. Rosalynn felt like she and Robbie were a good team when it came to the kids, but tonight, she really could have used his help.

She called him once more only to be taken straight to his voicemail again. His office had closed two hours ago.

Top 10 Tear-Jerkers

There has been a lot of crying in our house lately.

Don’t worry – no one died or anything. It’s just our daughter’s way of communicating (she’s a month old).

But even before she came to live with us, it wasn’t uncommon for there to be a lot of crying in our house. Not from my wife as you’d expect. And not from our dogs – unless they have to potty.

But from me.

When Sarabeth and I are sitting on the couch watching a movie, she’ll know I’m crying because she can feel the couch do sort of this, shake   …….    shake   ……….. sh-sh-shake thing.

That’s because I’m whimpering, trying to keep it in.

She’ll look over at me and see my face all scrunched up like a funny-looking grandpa on the front of those good-spirited birthday cards.

But sometimes there’s just no stopping it. Even if I’ve seen the movie a dozen times.

Maybe you’re like me and you need an occasional cry.

If so, this list of my top 10 tear-jerkers is dedicated to you. 

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Screen Shot 2014-02-26 at 8.08.08 PM

man in boxWork provided Robbie Lake the perfect escape from his family. But his life is turned upside down when he is unexpectedly fired. When he finds a new way of escape through a cardboard box, everything changes. The imaginary world of his childhood has evolved in his absence and is now more savage and hostile than even he could have dreamed. Robbie is drawn in by the excitement of his secret world, but will the cost of abandoning his family prove too high? 

THE MAN IN THE BOX second edition coming soon! Like it on Facebook.







10. Frozen

When Sarabeth and I went to see this in theaters a month ago, she asked if I was catching a cold when we were walking out to the car. I was not. I’d been sniffling from the opening of the movie because it was so refreshing to see Disney reliving its hay-day.


9. Up

First ten minutes. Need I say more? Actually, yes. That scene toward the end when he’s going through their adventure book … that doesn’t receive as much attention, but man, that just starts me bawling all over again – just as soon as I recovered from the opening!


8. The Rookie

Call it sappy, call it great acting, call it what you’d like. But when the manager calls Dennis Quaid into his office to tell him he’s been drafted by the major leagues, AND he’ll be playing in his hometown … it’s a pretty tough scene to get through, but in a good way.

7. Meet the Robinsons

Meet the Robinsons is mostly a goofy movie filled with fun stuff for little kids that I have to be in the mood for. But this movie’s centered around adoption, and the last five minutes or so are just perfect for any adoption advocate to enjoy. Plus, the song “Little Wonders” by Rob Thomas is Ah-MAY-zing!


6. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

“My friends, you bow to no one.”


5. We Bought a Zoo

This one caught me off guard. They played the widower father story very well in this movie. We were laughing pretty hard at the end of the credits because of how much it made me cry.

my life

4. My Life

The guy has cancer and isn’t expected to see the birth of his son. I mean, he doesn’t even get to teach his boy to shave someday!

the cure

3. The Cure

Spoiler alert: That cute kid from Jurassic Park dies at the end. Forget the tissues – bring out a mop!


2. Toy Story 3

The opening home video montage. Woody walking out on the gang. The incinerator scene. Giving the toys away. The last playtime. Take your pick. You’ve seen it; you know the feeling.


1. My Dog Skip

Another unexpected tear-jerker. I thought this was just going to be a cute little comedy about a boy and his dog, you know, like Beethoven or …Old Yeller. I know, I know, I should have seen it coming, but I just didn’t. Well, at least you’ve been warned.

Go on. Admit you cry. Share your go-to tear-jerkers below.


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