Defeated

Man trapped in snowed-in car for two months now awake, says hospitalSo there I am, lying on my back on the kitchen floor, out of breath, hands frozen numb. My wife’s feelings are hurt, my dog’s locked up, and the baby’s crying. And I just kept thinking one word: Defeat. 

As I’m sure you’ve all heard on the news, Kentucky’s just been hit with a really bad snow storm. We woke up yesterday morning to almost a foot of snow, which was really quite awful because we just had a snowstorm and the rain just washed it all away the day before. I mean, I had my shorts picked out and everything.

So we woke up to about ten-inches of snow, and luckily it was already my day off, because I think I’ve used up all my personal time already (thanks, snow). And just like normal, I take the dogs out to go potty.

The dogs have been really good about not going potty inside on the carpet, which led me to stupidly trust that Pixie just might not have needed to go number 2 in the snow.

Big mistake.

We’re all back inside, the baby’s awake, Sarabeth’s in the bedroom and I’m in the kitchen putting away last night’s dishes. And then I hear Sarabeth yell from the living room, “Andy! Come here! Run!”

When I get to the living room, I saw (and smell) feces smeared everywhere. On the curtains, the carpet…the baby (I’m still learning that when it’s too quiet, that’s actually not a good thing).

Sarabeth quickly ran the baby to the bathroom for a bath while I pulled out all the cleaning supplies in our house and got to work. “I’m going to have to rent a carpet cleaner,” I told Sarabeth when she finished washing the baby. “I’ll just clean the living room.”

“If we’re going to spend $50 on a carpet cleaner, we might as well clean the whole house,” she said, logically.

Even though she was right, I was infuriated at the prospect of having my whole day shot to clean the entire house. If you’ve ever used a carpet cleaner before, you know how slow those things are!

And, like the gentle, loving husband I like to think I am, I yelled at her that I didn’t want to waste the whole day cleaning the carpet, and I stormed out of the house to rent the stupid thing from Home Depot.

But my feet were instantly stuck in the driveway. So I had to spend fifteen minutes shoveling the foot-thick snow from the door to my car. I dropped my keys in an effort to pry the frozen car door open and had to dig in the snow for them. (I’d been telling myself to get a pair of snow boots and gloves for so many years, but never took my own advice.)

When I finally found the keys and got the car door open, I realized I was utterly and completely out of breath and my hands were completely frozen to the point that they were so red they could have guided Santa’s sleigh.

Seeing stars, I dragged myself back to the front door and, not having the use of my hands, tapped the door with my elbow. Sarabeth was kind enough to let me back in so I could let my hands warm up under the kitchen sink. But my legs were giving out, so I had no choice but to lay down and catch my breath on the kitchen floor.

Turns out, Sarabeth had the brilliant idea of covering the living room with a giant blanket, as she knew I wouldn’t be able to drive all the way to Home Depot in that weather.

Moral of the story? Make your dogs go outside, no matter how cold it is. And don’t ever yell at your wife; she might not let you in from the cold.

I’m just lucky I married the right woman.

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Big Hero Six Review

BIG HERO 6Finally got to watch Disney’s newest animated movie Big Hero 6.

Not surprisingly, I loved it. And yes, that could be due to the fact that I’m biased toward Disney movies once again (I mean, who hasn’t been the last ten years?).

I think it’s great that Disney is expanding its universe into unfamiliar (to me, anyway) territories such as anime comics, which is what Big Hero 6 is based off of.

Who’d have known Anime could be so much fun and original? Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure Disney took some major creative liberties to get it up on screen, but the fact that they’re reaching out and making unknown stories known, I think is a good thing.

Now about the movie itself. While it doesn’t linger long in your mind like Frozen did, and it’s not as emotionally gut-wrenching as Meet the RobinsonsBig Hero 6 delivers in all the ways a Disney movie should – with some new twists and extremely poignant scenes.

You’ll no doubt fall in love with Baymax and Hiro the moment they’re introduced, and the lesson about letting go is a really tough one to teach kids and teenagers, and I think Disney does a superb job of getting the point across and creative an avenue for parents to talk to their kids about death.

Lots of fun. Great visuals, tons of humor, and dark action make this an awesome film for your next family movie night. Keep ‘em coming, Disney. Share your thoughts of Big Hero 6 below.

I only share the best on my new Author Facebook Page.

No TV For My Daughter

GA4051_2iwatch-tvIt may sound like a miracle, or even undoable or impossible, but our daughter is almost 13 months old and she has never once watched TV.

I work for a cable company and, let me tell you, it’s true what they say about TV being Picture 6the surrogate parent for children. If I get calls from customers and the cable’ s out while the kids are home there is going to be hell to pay and innocent people will be slaughtered throughout the world and nations will collapse until I get that TV back on.

Why? Because, let’s just get it out there – no one wants to actually spend time with their kids.

Let me disclose here that I am by no means a perfect parent in this regard (but my wife on the other hand…well, let’s just say that without her convictions and strength as a mother, I wouldn’t be writing this post).

We didn’t employ any fancy tricks or adopt some rigorous legalism to abide by. Simply put, we don’t think it’s necessary for a baby or toddler to watch TV. Whether or not it does any harm, what good could it possibly do?

Below are a few reasons why our little girl doesn’t watch TV.

1. The TV is not a babysitter or a go-to

Just as our little girl wouldn’t want to be replaced, we as her parents don’t want to be replaced by anyone or anything. We want to instill in her that we care deeply for her and that if she has problems, her parents – not the TV – are going to help fix things.

funny-reading-book-vs-watching-TV2. TV should not be our primary source of information

Call us old-fashioned, but we don’t believe you can learn everything there is to learn from the boob-tube. Books are where it’s at. That’s where you get all your knowledge and information and build your verbal and writing skills. The Internet, too, can be a source of education, if employed properly, but let’s be honest, the computer’s more fun for games, just as TV is served much better as an entertainment outlet. Let apples be apples and oranges be oranges.

3. I don’t want to watch Playhouse Disney or Spongebob SquarepantsClassicSpongeBob

Let’s be honest. No adult wants to watch those mindless fart-joke happy cartoons day in and day out. If the TV is going to be on, it’s going to be what Mommy and Daddy want to watch, because we’re the ones that pay the cable bill. This also is a great accountability paradigm because it forces us to cut back exponentially on shows that are damaging or inappropriate.

4. What’s wrong with family time?

Now, out of the whole household, I struggle with this one the most. I’m an introvert to a fault and I’m not of the mushy-huggy lovey-dovey persuasion, and would much rather spend my time advancing my career as an author, which can be just as bad as flopping down in front of the TV when my kid wants me to play with her, or my wife wants me to pay attention to her. But I think there’s definitely something to be said for old-fahioned family time, and the TV doesn’t have to be a part of it, at least not all the time.

Now, none of this is to say that we’re never going to let our kids watch TV. But we’re setting the ground rules now that the TV is not the ultimate go-to, that there are other ways to learn about the world, there are better forms of entertainment than cheap cartoons, and that we can, indeed, exist without cable in our lives and actually enjoy each other’s company.

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How We Got Our Daughter Part 2

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Click here for Part 1 of our story

The next two days seemed longer than the last year in some ways. We were told that they would call back to tell us to come meet our foster daughter. We spent our time  wisely, running across town picking out newborn girl clothes, baby bottles, blankets, and a plethora of pacifiers.

And then no call came. We were under the impression that they’d call us back that same day. That night must have been the longest night of our lives. Our little girl was alone in a hospital basin and we couldn’t be there for her. We spent the next day with our phones turned all the way up clutched tightly in our hands. Every sound caused us to answer them. All the while the nursery remained barren and silent. We lost even more sleep that second night. Was it all a misunderstanding? Did they call the wrong people?

Sarabeth and I were by each other’s sides the entire weekend while we waited for permission to see our little girl. Exactly one year ago today, at Target, picking up more baby stuff, Sarabeth and I split up so she could grab the paper towels at the back of the store while I began checking out.

The phone rang in my pocket annoyingly loud just as I was swiping my Target Rewards card. For the first time ever I blew someone off by answering it while they were talking to me (I don’t envy retail workers). I panicked because Sarabeth wasn’t nearby to take notes and I had a terrible memory, especially under pressure. I waved and jumped up and down to get Sarabeth to hurry back with the 12-pack of Downey. She started jumping up and down too when she reached me and we both started crying like little school girls in the middle of Target on a busy Sunday morning.

I drove fast enough to the hospital to merit getting yelled at: “You don’t want to die before meeting your daughter, do you? SLOW DOWN!”

There are three things in my life I’ll never forget as long as I live.

1) How terrified I was all four times I saw Jurassic Park in theaters.

2) Meeting my wife (even though I still get some facts wrong). And,

3) Seeing my daughter for the first time.

She. Was. Beautiful. I generally don’t think babies are that cute, but this one, she was perfect in every way. The first thing I thought was that ironically, she looked exactly like Sarabeth (no jokes, please – I’ve tried). Seriously, even the nurses were saying it and people still say it today. And the other thing I thought was that even though we were just fostering this beautiful little girl, I knew we’d keep her forever.

We’re hopeful to adopt her this summer.

Oh, and that was Sarabeth’s birthday. I know I’ll never be able to beat that gift. And we stayed with our daughter at the hospital that night and for the third night in a row, we didn’t sleep. But for a much better reason.

Happy birthday, Sarabeth, and happy “Hi Day,” little girl. We love you more than you can ever imagine!

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How We Got Our Daughter Part 1

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A year ago we met our infant foster daughter for the first time. Below is the epic saga of how it all came to pass. And, you’re welcome.

Sarabeth and I had been married for four years while everyone around us was popping babies out like gum ball machines gone haywire. We applied to be foster-to-adopt parents in February of 2013 thinking that would be a quick fix to a deep void. Come Christmas morning eleven months later, we still had no kid to lavish with gifts. Every Christmas was becoming harder and harder and only brought us more devastation.

It’s one thing to want a bike for your birthday or yearn for a promotion, but to have an ever-empty nursery in the house to welcome no child is a pain that even Hemingway couldn’t describe.

Enter bitter cold January of 2014. No child. Our background checks for the foster program had been lost. Again. Redo, resend, repeat. Goodbye, January. Hello February 6, five years into marriage and one year after applying to be foster parents, a day that would forever change our lives.

It started with an email from our assigned social worker: “You’ve been approved.”

My ever-optimistic thoughts: Oh, good. Now we just have to wait another year while they find us a kid. 

My phone rang. I scan my calls, so I didn’t answer it.

A minute later I got an email from the same social worker: “Can you answer your phone? We have a baby to place with you if you’re interested.”

My thoughts: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I pressed Call Back and immediately I was told that there was a newborn baby who needed a home and would we be willing to accept her? I was already emailing my wife. The frantic message looked something like this: Were aprived! They have a gbabya. Y or B?

Her response: Yes! Yes! Yes!

“We’ll take her!” I screamed into the phone as though I were at an auction.

The funny thing is, even though we had no idea what she looked like or had ever heard her cry, and knew very little about her, Sarabeth and I had already fallen deeply and madly and hopelessly in love with her.

Tune in tomorrow for the rest of our story…

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First Steps

Baby A

So we’re pretty excited. Baby A. took her first steps last night, at 12 months and 11 days old. Sarabeth and I were playing with her in the living room before bedtime and she happened to be standing up. I was sitting approximately two small feet away.

She was holding one ball, and I was holding the other. She really wanted that ball. She then took not one step, but two steps toward me to retrieve the other ball.

And then I heard singing behind me and when I turned, Lady Antebellum was in our dining room singing “I Run to You.”

Baby A. has also been *almost* saying “Hi,” accompanied by an excited wave of the hand.

But her first definitive word so far? “Da.” I count that as “Dad,” but Mommy and I are kind of in disagreement over that. So then I just said, “Fine. ‘Waaaaa!’ is the new word for Dad. So I still win.”

But at any rate, I’m very proud of my little girl. And we’re still very much looking forward to her permanent goal being changed to adoption in March.

On another note, have you read about my upcoming teen book? I think it’s pretty spectacular so far… click here to read a teaser.

Adoption Update and My Upcoming Books

IMG_1086After five years of yearning for a child, Sarabeth and I brought one-month-old “Baby A.” home from the hospital as our foster to adopt daughter. So the year’s been full of dirty diapers, midnight feedings (mostly done by Sarabeth), social worker visits, and court dates.

So you might be wondering if we plan on actually adopting Baby A. as our own.

Yes, that is our plan. And our hope.

Good news is that the state has a date scheduled early next year to terminate parental rights on Baby A.’s biological parents who have been virtuously nonexistent from the day we met her in the hospital.

Not that we’re complaining. It’s made the process that much smoother. And IMG_1127once those parental rights are terminated, the court will move to the next phase of Baby A.’s permanency and proceed to work toward our adoption of her to make her a permanent part of our family.

By that time we’ll be able to post actual pictures of her face and reveal her name. (No, we don’t actually call her “Baby A.”)

On the other front, I’m still busy with my next three books. Two of which I am excited to share a little bit about with you today.

The first one is a teen book called These Great Effects, about a fifteen-year-old girl named Adelle who strikes up an unusual romance with a boy…whom she killed. It is a coming of age story that I’m super excited about because I haven’t laughed so hard while writing, and I know that the tears are going to start flooding in about a chapter or so, because I know what happens.

The other one is a young readers novel about a dachshund living in 1940s Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 10.03.48 AMGermany during the war and he wants desperately to be a Nazi, but his ideas about the world are shaken when he befriends a Jewish girl whose parents were taken from her. I have a team of artists from Rose State College in Oklahoma developing the book trailer for it now.

Be sure to pick up my newest book, I Am the Lion for your Kindle.

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