Sunday, December 26, 2010

Of Snowstorms And Thieves

An epic snowstorm hit us yesterday, Christmas Day, with the first flakes falling about the time I was barbecuing steaks for Christmas dinner. It's been snowing since yesterday afternoon and we have 8 or 10 inches of snow on the ground, making for an interesting trip for Brenton as he was trying to fly home to Virginia from Oregon. He flew out of Portland last night, made it to Chicago early this morning, then to Philadelphia later this morning, only to find out all the planes in the City of Brotherly Love were grounded today. So two people he was in line with at the airport trying to find flights to Richmond -- it wasn't going to happen until tomorrow -- talked him into renting a car to drive from Philly to Richmond. We rendezvoused with him in Richmond about 6:30 this evening and made it home safely through all the snow, praise God.
So we get home and are all gathered around talking and laughing and catching up. Then stories start spilling out and I have to say I'm amazed at what goes on in this house, right under my feet. It turns out that Ethan is an accomplished thief. You see, the kids play this elaborate game called "Town" which I've described before where all the kids have businesses and operate like a real-life city. Well, their cousin and my nephew Killian was in town this summer and playing the game and Ethan quickly marked him. Taylor was the banker and everyone had bank accounts, complete with fictitious names, pin numbers and a special identification word that was a particular Monopoly piece. Well, when Ethan saw Killian opening an account in line he jumped in behind him to see what information he could glean. He heard Killian receive the "name" on his account, so he had the first piece of information. Then he saw Killian put his pin number on a slip of paper in his coat pocket.
So he started visiting Killian's place of business, a gun shop, and during the course of his friendliness asked if he could buy Killian's coat. He caught Killian by surprise and he asked Ethan why he wanted his coat. Ethan told him that it looked so good on Killian he hoped maybe it would look good on him too. So Killian sold him his coat and voila, Ethan had the second piece of information. Ethan sauntered over to the bank, but not before finding out from Killian his secret Monopoly piece (the boat) and how much money he had in the bank ($580). When Ethan got to the bank he said he needed to transfer $580 from an account into his account, provided the banker with all the necessary information and walked out $580 richer. But not before he rolled around on the floor laughing for a while. Later in the day, Taylor said, Killian walked in and wanted to withdraw $20 from his account. Taylor said Killian was quite surprised when he was told he had insufficient funds to receive $20.
So I'm wondering, do I ground Ethan for identity fraud, embezzlement, theft and assorted other charges in a game they were playing? These are big questions. Then I find out what happens when the kids do business with Ezra, who owns a store. The kids say they usually buy in bulk because when Ezra asks for money for the items purchased, his "customers" hold out money and hope he takes ones. Sometimes he takes the big bills, however. But Ethan said he likes to buy big items and give Ezra three one dollar bills. The thing is, Ezra always asks if his customer wants change back. "I always say, `Yes,' " Ethan said. "Sometimes something will cost $20, and rather than give him a 20 I give him three ones because Ezra thinks the three bills are more money than one bill, even if it's a 20. Then he gives me change back." As Ethan is telling this story I find myself laughing with the rest of the family. Then I find out the town had its own mob that had hired guns knocking off stores, there were hit men and assorted other criminal enterprises and I'm thinking, `What on earth is going on up there?' Until, music to my ears. MerriGrace became a cop, started flashing around a badge, writing up search warrants, confiscating guns, threatening jail time and basically cleaning up the town. Believe me when I say I'll sleep better tonight. Hopefully she locked up Ethan for a long time.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter Solstice In Virginia

As the sun dropped behind the York River on the First Day Of Winter, I headed out to Cappahosic -- one of my favorite places -- with my trusty new camera. I like my camera. All the kids were out in the yard playing "Medieval" -- the older kids want to be sure that I mention they were doing it to make their young siblings happy -- (even if it looked to me that they were having a good time, including Ethan/Claudius) and I was tempted to shoot photos of them. But I was told in strict terms by, hypothetically speaking, two cardboard box sides/shields-carrying sisters who might have been carrying battleaxes and who might have possibly been named Evie and MerriGrace, not to take photos of the battle. Lest the photos end up on Facebook. And I was pretty sure Ethan/Claudius and Taylor the Barbarian (it may have been Romans vs. Barbarians) were having a really good time leading their young charges in battle formations, ambushes and other very violent forms of warfare involving very frightening and brutal tactics that led to horrible, agonizing maiming, disemboweling, even death and the like.

So I headed out to Cappahosic to capture the sunset on the shortest day of the year, a frigid day that actually brings me warm feelings because I know we are one day closer to summer. The long shadows cast by the sun's low orbit across the southern sky will shorten, ever imperceptibly. I was the only one out there on the beach at Cappahosic landing, believe it or not. A cold wind swept off the river, numbing my fingers. The tide was going out and it appeared as if the tide today had been exceptionally high, scrubbing the sandy beach firm. It was a fine afternoon and a lovely sunset. Enjoy the photos.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Taylor Arrives Home From Oregon

This morning I returned from a short trip to the gas station with Olivia and as we walked up to the porch a small plane flew overhead. Olivia looked up and pointed. "A plane!" I looked up at the Cessna, or whatever it was buzzing overhead. "Yeah, a plane," I said. Olivia smiled. "Taylor's in it," she said. Well, not quite Olivia. Taylor was already in the house. We picked him up at the Richmond airport last night a little after 9 o'clock and everyone stayed up until midnight catching up with him. He's been away the past 3 months at Cornerstone School of Ministry in Corvallis where he's growing in wisdom of the things of the Lord. He's home for 3 weeks, a stay that everyone has been looking forward to for, well, 3 months, even if it will be woefully short.
A little while ago Taylor was playing the guitar and singing a worship song in the living room and Madeline was in the kitchen doing dishes. "It's better with Taylor here," she said. Yes, it is. Not just because when he got up this morning he did the breakfast dishes -- before he even ate breakfast. And not just because he's doing the laundry right now, or because he's already played "Battle" with his little brothers and sister and died several gruesome, protracted deaths that confirmed their superior battle skills. (Yes, that's Eli up there doing a front-flip off the footstool onto the couch during one of the battles. His mama wasn't home is all I can say.) Ethan smiles more. The girls laugh more. Julie glows a little brighter. Our house is a little closer to complete when Taylor comes home. Brenton comes home the day after Christmas for around 9 days. I imagine things in the Sabo house will be complete then.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Snowfall In Gloucester, Va.

Snow has this unique quality of combining peace and electricity ... the peace of frozen water in remarkably unique flakes that fall silently from the sky covering everything in a white blanket ... and the electricity that comes when kids in the house realize it's snowing outside, prompting a mad dash to pull the boxes full of the winter gear out of the attic or garage. The snow gear is pulled out by little hands looking desperately for matches -- a mishmash trail of mittens and boots leads to the door -- before they are yanked on in the mad dash to rush outside to play in the fresh snow. The end result is a gaggle of kids in boots and coats and wool caps building snowmen and throwing snowballs and piling up snow in snowy slides before coming back inside, shivering with rosy cheeks and numb fingers and toes and leaving a pile of soaked coats and mittens and snow-covered boots on the floor. Now it's late and the coats and boats and mittens are drying out and the worn out kids are chattering about the day in bed and wondering if tomorrow brings more snow and more fun. And outside the snow reflects the Christmas lights hanging from the houses, leaving the neighborhood aglow.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Sleep Chronicles, Vol. I

A more appropriate title for this post would be "The Lack Of Sleep Chronicles, Vol. 6,283." Or something along those lines. With kids, sleep is frequently something to dream about. You know what I'm saying? Here's how my "restful" night went last night. I drifted off to sleep somewhere around 10:30 or so, which is fairly early, generally speaking. But I was still catching up to Saturday night, when for reasons I won't go into I was awake and tossing and turning for most of the night. Some personal trauma I was dealing with and I'll just leave it at that. So last night started off so pleasant ... sleep came quickly. Don't you like those nights? Me too. Then at 11:30 the phone rang. I awake with a start and think, `You've got to be kidding me.' It turns out, Julie's sister in Canby, Ore., wanted to check in. I'm thinking, uh, you know that whole time zone thing? ... Anyway, Julie happened to be up, got the phone and started chatting away (she loves her sisters, even at 11:30 at night) and so I tried going back to sleep. Emphasis on try. At some point after midnight I succeeded. I remember that because I recall glancing at the clock and seeing it was 12:01. At last, though, sleep came and it was lovely.

Until 3:27 when I awoke and wondered who was in our room. And why. It was Eli. I have no clue what brought him to the foot of our bed. I mean, he didn't have any aches or pains, no discernible lingering fear from a bad dream, I don't recall him hitting the bathroom to tinkle ... he just wanted company? Egads. At some point I managed to fall back asleep ... until 4:30. That's when Ezra arrived in tears and complaining about a leg ache. Some children's Tylenol was appropriated and he was situated on the floor next to Eli and still the whimpering continued. I thought maybe he was cold so I headed upstairs, fetched his blanket and returned and covered him up. Amazingly, Eli slept right through all this.

You know how when you are awakened from a blissful slumber quite frequently you can't return to that state of blissful slumber? That was me. To top it all off, one of those wonderful little Sabo boys kept kicking our bed ... I'd get all drowsy and then whack! I know I went to sleep at some point because I woke up again at 5:30 ... then 6:05 ... and finally 6:45. There's a reason I was tired this afternoon. Here's what gets me though. Eli is usually up by 7 o'clock, sometimes earlier, especially on the 2 days a week when he gets to play video games. Then he is up at the crack o' dawn doing school or whatever to take advantage of his precious video game time. This morning? I didn't see him until well after 8 o'clock. And Olivia, who is usually aroused sometime around 7, didn't make an appearance until somewhere around 8 o'clock as well. Same story for Ezra. Isn't that how it goes? The one morning everyone sleeps in, I can't sleep in. And to think another baby is on the way.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Dozen Christmas Stockings On The Fireplace

Kudos to Julie's Aunt Judy back in Oregon who has labored over Christmas stockings for wee Sabo kids for more than 20 years. She's sent 12 of them to us over the years, and here they are in all their glory. Next year we'll have to make room for a 13th stocking. I was looking at the fireplace and imagining what it will be like when we start having grandkids and everyone gets a stocking. The fireplace will be covered. So will the wall. That's going to be pretty cool. Until you know who gets to fill all those stockings. Yowsa.

I managed to squeeze 58 percent of the Sabo kids in this photo this morning before we trundled them off to Miss Jen's house where they spent the day making gingerbread houses. Yes, Miss Jen invited them over. On purpose. Said it was "fun" even, if you can comprehend that. So nine Sabo kids made the trek and they each made one gingerbread house. It was quite an affair of candy, gingerbread, frosting, and snacking and they had a great time. Best of all, you can eat the work. If you're looking at the photo and wondering why every one's hand is raised, I was asking them who was a good kid this year. Hardly objective answers, however.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Gloucester County, Late Fall

We had our first frost of the end of the growing season on Monday after a protracted, lovely Fall and for me it was like a day of mourning. I'm not a cold weather guy. Had enough of that growing up in Bend, Ore., the land of eternal winter some years. Just to show you how abruptly the seasons change here, I believe it was Wednesday it was upper 60s, a warm wind blowing in from the south. Now they say it might snow this weekend. I have my doubts, but you never know. The cold winds have blown in from the north and dusted most of the leaves off the trees. The coats have come down from the attic, the shorts are being retired for the year and the canister of hot chocolate mix sitting in the pantry is already empty.
Here's some shots of Gloucester Court House. At top is the obligatory monument to the Confederacy and the men of Gloucester who lost their lives in the war that tore the nation asunder. It numbers more than 100, I believe, which is an extraordinary toll on a small, rural county. I'm reminded as I study the monument that no self-respecting Southern community lacks a monument to the Confederacy. I thought it framed up nicely between the two bare trees. There's some symbolism in there somewhere, but I'm too shallow to figure it all out. Maybe you can make hay of it. The shot below it is Gloucester's Colonial Courthouse, built in the 1760s and still in use today as a public meeting house. It's amazing to think that troops mustered there during the Revolutionary War. Then again, Gloucester County dates to 1651 so there's no shortage of history around here. When my folks were in town four weeks ago I showed them a house built in 1750 that's only a couple of miles from where we live. I bumped into the owner of the home at a gas station and she said it's been quite a labor of love to fix it up. Christmas is around the corner so Merry Christmas. Tomorrow is the Christmas parade in Gloucester. Should be fun.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

When Brothers Are Separated

Tonight I had read a bedtime story to Gabe, Eli and Ezra and said prayers with them and was downstairs in my "office" studying Matthew 13. I can hear them talking up there from my "office" and caught wind of a conversation they were having with Claire. Then, inevitably, someone asked her for an apple so she headed downstairs. I asked her what was going on up there and it was something about Brenton not being someone's brother. So I headed up to investigate. As expected, Ezra was at the center of this conversation. I walked in and asked the boys what they were talking about. It turns out, Ezra doesn't think Brenton is his brother. I asked Ezra if this was true. He nodded. I asked why. "Because he doesn't come home," Ezra said. "So he's not my brother." I asked Gabe and Eli if they thought Brenton was their brother. They said he was. And is. Gabe tried to explain to Ezra that even if Brenton isn't here, he's still his brother just like Brenton is still my son even though he's not here. Ezra would have none of it.

"He's not my brother," he said. I believe he even gave a nice harrumph for effect. I asked him if he thought Taylor was his brother. Ezra nodded. Apparently Taylor hasn't been gone long enough -- he left in the middle of September and is coming home for 3 weeks on December 17 -- for Ezra not to consider unbrothering him. That's a good thing. I tried to explain to Ezra that Brenton is his brother regardless of where he is, but I might as well have been trying to explain the nuances of brush strokes in impressionist paintings. I tell you. When Ezra gets his mind set on something, he's hard to budge. Brenton is due to come home the day after Christmas and will spend about 10 days with us before he heads back to Corvallis. Hopefully he'll get some good bonding time in with Ezra and become Ezra's brother again. Ezra and I talked this over for a while but everything I was saying seemed to fall on deaf ears. Finally I asked him if he would go to the airport with us to pick up Brenton. He shook his head no. I asked Gabe and Eli if they would go to the airport with us to pick up Brenton. They seemed excited about it. So I asked Ezra again if he would go with us. "He has to," Gabe said. "Everyone is going." I wanted Ezra to answer the question, so I asked again. Slowly Ezra nodded. I told him that would make Brenton happy. Maybe Ezra is coming around. Maybe his two older brothers, the wise sages in that room, will be able to convince Ezra that Brenton is his brother. Maybe Ezra will just sleep it off and wake up talking about his brother Brenton. I think Ezra just misses Brenton and doesn't know how to handle it. Hey Ezra, it's okay. We all miss Brenton.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

KLOVE's Mike Novak: Compensation Tops $500,000

About a month ago the omnipresent Christian radio station KLOVE wrapped up its fundraising drive. You probably heard it, too. Pleas went out for more funding and you had kids giving their allowances, businesses committing, single moms pledging, families pledging, the works. God bless 'em if that's how the Lord is leading them to spend their money. The radio in my Volvo doesn't work anymore, one of the effects I suspect of a vehicle with 323,000+ miles on it, so I don't listen to KLOVE as much as I have in the past. I do spend more time in the Volvo praying, which is a good thing. KLOVE is about our only option out here in Gloucester, Va., as far as Christian radio, so we listen to it in the van. I'm really not sure where I stand on KLOVE ... I appreciate the effort to bring Christian music to the masses on a platform that literally stretches across the country. But I hear the same songs over and over again and many times I'm looking for something fresher and seem to hear songs I heard 10 years ago again and again. As I said to Ethan a week or so ago while we were riding in the van, "Is no one making any decent Christian music anymore?" That being said, I decided to take a peek at KLOVE's books as I did about a year and a half ago on this blog. Let's just say being one of the bigwigs at KLOVE pays off handsomely.

As I mentioned, KLOVE stretches across the country and has radio stations and transmitters all over the place, so it's a big business from that standpoint with lots of employees. The parent organization of KLOVE, Educational Media Foundation, reported revenues last year of $88.2 million, according to forms filed with the IRS. Total payroll, including benefits and taxes, topped $25 million and net revenue was $16.7 million, according to the forms filed with the IRS.

I'm sure you've all heard the voice of KLOVE President Mike Novak, especially at pledge time, and last year (2009) his total compensation was $506,198, according to documents filed with the IRS. Think about that for a minute ... wow, that's a ton of money. It takes 12,655 people pledging $40 a month just to cover his compensation. Is he operating Christian radio stations or working on Wall Street? He received $343,792 in base compensation (that's $28,649 per month) and "bonus & incentive" compensation of $110,000 (A lot of us got bonuses on par with that last year, right?), other reportable compensation of $9,628, retirement & deferred compensation of $22,549 and "nontaxable benefits" of $20,229. The big question to me is what is acceptable for a guy of Novak's position and stature? Is $506,198 acceptable, considering there's no disclaimer come pledge time that 12,655 of you monthly pledgers are just paying for Mike? As the guy who runs what essentially is a national organization, is he deserving of that paycheck?

Here's a couple of head-scratchers from the IRS forms. Dick Jenkins, the former president who is no longer with KLOVE, received $300,000 in "other reportable" compensation and another $13,196 in nontaxable benefits. That's only 7,830 $40-per-month pledgers to pay for a guy no listed as the "former president." Speaking of guys no longer with the organization ... former radio personality and programming director Jon Rivers left KLOVE in early 2009 and earned $261,543 in "other reportable" compensation and $3,659 in retirement and other deferred compensation last year, for a total of $265,202. Rivers subsequently attributed his departure to an addiction to prescription painkillers and maybe there was a contract or something that KLOVE couldn't get out of. Who knows. All told, KLOVE listed 14 people earning a minimum of $114,000 or more last year on its IRS forms. Not bad for Christian non-profit work.

Don't be fooled. "Christian ministry" often seems to be simply big business operating as a "non-profit." Sure there's plenty of good hearts out there at KLOVE with a desire to serve Jesus Christ and play Christian music and the like. But when and where does "Christian ministry" blur the line between personal gain? I think whether you are a pastor at a church, a CEO of a Christian "non-profit" organization, a missionary, or in whatever capacity you believe the Lord is calling you and leading you and directing you, when it comes to money the question always boils down to whether or not the Lord gives you a peace about your paycheck. Is there any check at all on your heart? When you read the Bible every morning (hopefully you're reading the Bible ...) are you paying attention to what is being said about money? How do you justify these paychecks? The Apostle Paul had something to say about this: "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." (1 Tim. 6:10 NKJV) Jesus, the ultimate authority, weighed in on this: "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21 NKJV)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving & Black Friday

We're giving thanks that Thanksgiving went off without a relative hitch, with just a few mishaps in the kitchen that didn't really amount to anything. The croissants didn't quite pan out, so to speak, and our turkey pan leaked in the oven, causing a very minor disturbance in the oven that only added a hint of smoked turkey to the dinner. But the ladies on the cooking team -- Julie, Anna, Claire, Evie & MerriGrace -- did an outstanding job and we've unanimously concluded that we will invite them back next year to cook up another dinner. Most importantly, we are really stoked already about next year's Thanksgiving dinner. The turkey turned out scrumptious, nice and moist and the spuds, gravy, sweet potatoes, Jell-o dish and whatever else was put in front of us was downed in remarkably short order. To think there was still dessert! Apple pie, pumpkin pie, cheesecake ... wow. The little kids worked off dinner, as you can see, with some "horse races" upstairs. I think my belly would have dragged on the floor, otherwise I would have joined them. I took the photos instead.

Unlike most of the country apparently, the entire Sabo clan, plus Anna, skipped the Black Friday shoppingpalooza -- sleeping in until 7:30! -- where Americans exercised their right to act like knuckleheads and spend money that probably a lot of folks don't have on things they don't need. That's so American, eh? I'm really struggling with the whole Christmas spending season this year. We have plenty. Our kids have plenty. They have toys they don't play with, we've got enough TVs to start an alcohol-free sports bar (Hmmmm. What exactly do you call an alcohol-free sports bar?) and then I watched a video today. It's always good to have perspective.
The video is of Matt Megill, who we met during our 3-weeks of training at Serving In Mission this summer. He's a doctor who was on his way home for a respite from serving at a hospital in Galmi, Niger. Here's a link to some information on the "hospital."

And here's the link to the video.

So the question for us, in light of this need in Niger, is what would God have us do financially this Christmas season?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Tragedy Unfolds In Gloucester

As you can see from the above photos, it was river city in Gloucester tonight. Olivia was downright inconsolable. I managed to capture the raw emotion of the moment on film, so to speak, and I hope these images don't make you break out into tears. You see, here it is, on the eve of Thanksgiving with so much to be thankful for, and Olivia is sad. Really, really sad. I'm not sure what exactly made her so sad, whether it was Julie leaving with all the other girls to go to a movie or whether it was the prospect of staying at home with four brothers and Dad. Maybe a combination of the two, perhaps? I think it was mainly Julie leaving, because as soon as she caught wind that her mama was going somewhere without her, the pity party started in full.
What was fairly remarkable was that right after I snapped these photos I asked her if she'd like to see them. "Yeah!" she said, somewhat giddily, the tears and mournful expressions disappearing in what I would almost call `glee.' As soon as she was done viewing herself in such a pathetic, sad and sorrowful state, Olivia promptly resumed her former pathetic, sad and sorrowful state and started crying again. It's an amazing ability to be able to turn on and off the tears like that. Is it genetic? A learned trait? A product of the immediate environment? Further study should shed some light on it. And I don't know how to break this to my sweet Olivia, but there may be plenty more tears ahead. There's the tears for the dreaded "Bad Hair Day" and tears for the "These Jeans Make Me Look Fat" moment and, more immediately, tears for the "Ezra Isn't Sharing" frustrations and tears for the "I Don't Want To Ride In My Car Seat" fit and the "I Want To Sit In A Booster Seat" kerfuffle and even tears for the "I Don't Want My Diaper Changed" act up. Now the diaper thing always throws me. I always think, `Girl, do you smell yourself? I'm going to get fined by the DEQ for violating odor pollution standards!' The emotional roller coaster of a 2-year-old is almost too much sometimes. Throw in the emotions of 8 eight other siblings living at home and things can periodically get out of whack. Not that it makes me want to cry or anything.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fall In Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia

Today I had to run into Williamsburg, Va., to Massey's Camera Shop to pick up a memory card for my newfangled digital camera. I've been looking to score a step up in the camera department from my point and shoot for some time, both for work and play and finally pulled the trigger on one ... only to order it online and when it arrived find out it doesn't come with a memory card. Which makes it hard to take photos that are a step up from my point and shoot. The folks at Massey's were excellent, and I highly recommend them for all your photography-related needs. If you're in Williamsburg. And need a camera. Or camera equipment, gear, paraphernalia, etc., etc. You get the idea. (Editor's note: You'd think Massey's Camera Shop was paying you for advertising. Author's reply: Now there's an idea! Shameless blogging name-dropping for dollars!)

So I walk out of the store and my Volvo (more name-dropping!) is parked down there and as soon as I hop in there I have to drive home -- albeit down the Colonial Parkway ( ... cha-ching!), which is particularly splendorous at the moment with the trees all ablaze in color, hardly any traffic -- and go to "work" writing a story about road construction in Gloucester (complete with photos!)...hmmmmm. Or I could take a walk into Colonial Williamsburg ( proper on a 70-degree Fall day and, uh, you know, "test out my camera" to make sure it works properly with my new excellent memory card from Massey's Camera Shop. I'll give you one guess which route I took. Boy it was a beautiful day to walk around Williamsburg and "work" the kinks out of my new Sony (bet you knew that was coming, eh?) digital camera that I bought from B&H Photo Video Pro Audio "The Professional's Choice" (a credit on my account is forthcoming, I'm sure.) and had it shipped via UPS, where "We Love Logistics" (maybe they'll let us ship something free to Brenton and Taylor?).
As you see up there, I snapped some photos of the Colonial Williamsburg scenery, getting the bugs out of the camera. Everything went very well and I'm pleased to report my camera seems to respond just fine, despite the limitations of the shooter. This whole adventure raised a troubling ethical question, however. Tomorrow is Nov. 23, at least on my calendar. The temperature here is supposed to hit 75 degrees. Seriously! I mean, isn't it snowing in half the country? And it will be warm enough here to play in the sprinkler in the yard! Here's the dilemma. On what may be the last beautiful day of the year in our neck o' the woods, and considering I have no personal days or vacation days left, at what point is it unethical to "come down with a fever," or to have a "migraine," or to have "some sort of bug," that requires me to stay home from work? Well, technically I work at home so it makes it even doubly tougher not to work, even when sick. I'm not saying I would do something like that. No sireee. I'm just saying that I can see how the average American worker could be faced with the dilemma of being "sick" on a day when it would be so much finer to take the family on an outing and, uh, you know, work out the kinks in my camera and practice in a real-life situation so I would be ready to use it for work. Or something like that.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The `Family Plan' & Working At Home

Today I took our fourth child into the Verizon store to get a cell phone. Brenton has his own plan, Taylor and Ethan are on the plan with me already, so Claire is the third child to go on the "Family Plan." It's like 10 bucks for another line, unlimited texting and Claire babysits so much I think she's in my tax bracket -- minus the dependents -- so I think she can swing it. Generally in our household when the kids get of age and enjoy some income we try and have them pay their own way for things like phones, car insurance, Busch Gardens tickets ... basically things beyond the necessities in life. That's one reason why our kids generally start driving later than most other kids. We want them to save money they would spend on car insurance to salt away for college, or in Taylor's case the School of Ministry in Corvallis. Taylor didn't get his license until he was well past 18. I think Brenton was 19. Brenton paid for all his school himself. Praise God, eh? And here's another thing. There's nothing wrong in my mind with hauling kids around town, even though I might think it's a hassle plenty of times. I know that I'll miss the time spent with Ethan in the car driving him to or from a baseball game. I miss the times driving Taylor to or from work or wherever he's going. With our teens the alone moments in the car are precious, particularly with all the demands on us in this casa.

Speaking of demands, I hope my editors don't read this blog because sometimes work gets in the way of life. I fix about half the dinners around here and tonight I was on so I was rustling up some chili when an editor called wondering about this story I was supposed to file ... um, well, didn't I do that? Pause, and then came the answer: `No.' Really? So literally while I was spooning out beans into my pot of chili I learned that I needed to "clock back in" so to speak and write a little ditty about a dude who won a million bucks on a scratch lottery ticket. Piece of cake, right? Except that I figured I'd check out Facebook while I was "working" and noticed that Julie was online. Hmmmm. She had been doing school all day, I was "working" in between taking Claire cell phone shopping and cleaning out the grocery store (I still can't get over the Christmas tree that showed up in the store like the day after Halloween, but that's another story... and the kids are watching the Grinch on TV right now ... ) and here was a big chance to talk to her. "Hey babe," I typed. "You need something?" came the reply. Ahem, I thought, not exactly, "Hi my wonderful, doting husband! I was just thinking about you!" but it's a start. Then Taylor texted me from Oregon. Somehow between Facebooking my wife in the next room (Believe it or not our cyber conversation picked up and we decided to make it movie night! Yesssss!), Taylor texting me and Olivia sitting on my lap asking if her hair looked pretty ("So, so pretty Olivia. So pretty."), I managed to write something that somehow passed for written English with complete sentences, correct use of punctuation and lovely, stylistic presentations of present participles (Or something like that ... it sounded good when I just wrote that. I'll have to go back and read the story and see if there were indeed one or more lovely, stylistic presentations of present participles. But you get the idea. It will be a major upset if that little story doesn't win a Pulitzer.)

And now, as I'm blogging, comes music to my hears. I hear Julie telling the 20 little kids in our house to get ready for bed. OK, OK, it's only, uh (counting with my eyes closed using my fingers ... 6!) six little kids (Our 2 biggest kids are in Oregon and another 4 kids are at a Bible study.), but sometimes it feels like 20. You know what I mean? Soon, Lord willing, it will be quiet in our house, no one will be needing anything, no errands to run, no meals to fix, no diapers to change, my editors won't be calling wondering what happened to the story I was supposed to write ("Hey, I'm busy here, you know!" How do you think that would fly?), the house will be quiet and it will be oh so peaceful and pleasant and relaxing. Just me, my wife, a movie ...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Chimichangas Are Hot? Really?

It is hard to put into words how remarkably lovely this Fall has been in Gloucester, Va., where as you know the county motto is the "Land of the Life Worth Living." It sure has been this Fall. We're still getting samples from the garden, as you can see, and no frost is in the forecast through Thanksgiving. That's a growing season, baby! The leaves have all turned, as is obvious from the photo above, and we still have a few flowers abloom, and I've got some gorgeous plump tomatoes that are green that I'm hoping to make the turn to ripeness before the inevitable frost hits. We made it through October without turning the heat on in the house ... I'm not sure if we ever made it through a summer in Bend, Ore., without turning the heat on at some point. I remember watching the fireworks show off of Pilot Butte on our roof in the comfort of a down parka, sipping hot chocolate and singing Christmas carols. Well, maybe the last part wasn't exactly true, but you get the idea. I remember fishing at a lake somewhere west of Bend up toward Mt. Bachelor with my man Chris Hamilton and getting snowed out ... on June 30. So spending an afternoon like today outside with 5 of my kids playing soccer in the back yard in shirtsleeves is absolutely remarkable.
Perhaps one of the downsides of this extended Indian Summer is that the garden is still producing. I say that tongue in cheek because some members of the Sabo household aren't sharing the same level of enthusiasm for the bounty, the fruits, the produce from our garden. The main culprit is that our "Fish" pepper plants are still producing. For the uninformed, the "Fish" pepper is a pre-1870s African-American heirloom, according to my packet from Seed Savers Exchange ( One of my homies in Corvallis, Sean Buckout, ordered me up a packet and God bless the man for thinking of his dear brother in Gloucester, hard on the shores of Chesapeake Bay. The plants produce unique peppers that ripen from cream with green stripes to orange with brown stripes to all red. They were traditionally used in oyster and crab houses in the Chesapeake Bay, so they are like homegrown here! My batch of Fish peppers had a homecoming! But here's the thing. As you can see from the top photo, the pepper plants are still producing. These peppers are described as "medium hot, perfect for salsa." So naturally I think they go with anything. As has been noted previously on the pages of this blog, I like my Mexican food with a kick. Not everyone in the Sabo house is on the same palate as yours truly, however. But they don't cook dinner. Bwaahh-ha-ha.
I rustled up some chimichangas the other night and threw all the Fish peppers I had in the batch. Creamy with green stripes, orange, red, whatever, in they went all chopped up and ready to spice things up! If it looked like a pepper, smelled like a pepper and admitted under waterboarding torture it was a pepper it went in the pot. Alas, the "medium hot" label might be a little misleading, some in the Sabo household would say. Abram was chowing down and enjoying the quality and exceptional taste of his chimichanga when suddenly he paused midchew, got this little facial tic and his face reddened up. Next thing I know he was drinking water like he'd been in the desert with nothing to drink for a week. He wasn't the only one who had a run-in with a spicy bite of chimichanga. I played dumb. "The chimichangas are spicy? Really? Interesting. Must be the seasoning." (Wink, wink.) Everyone seems to have recovered alright, no hospitalization needed. And I'm still scrounging up a few Fish peppers.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Team Sabo In Norfolk, Va.

Grandma and Grandpa Sabo are in town for several days before they ship out to the Middle East for a couple of weeks. On a glorious Fall day when the mercury scared 70 degrees, we trekked down to Norfolk to check out some joint that invented the waffle cone. We managed to arrive at the exact location where the waffle cone was reputed to be invented, but just one small problem. The place was closed. D'oh! We went with Plan B and headed to the Norfolk waterfront, where we quickly spied a behemoth with big guns ... no, it wasn't Ethan, who benched 170 lbs. the other day even though he weights just 125 lbs. It was the USS Wisconsin, a battleship sporting 16-inch guns that battled the Japanese in WWII, the North Koreans in the Korean War and even got in the scrap known as the Gulf War. Back in the day, the battleship could launch a one-ton shell up to 23 miles. That's range, baby! Now the USS Wisconsin is moored at the Norfolk waterfront and is open for tours as a floating museum. One small detail is the cost. For the 15 of us to see the Wisconsin, it would have cost approximately $1,785. Well, maybe not quite that much. But with prices starting at 12 bucks for an adult, I would have had to take out a second mortgage to finance it. We passed on the tour, unfortunately.

So we went with Plan C. We let the kids crawl around an anchor from the USS Antietam, an aircraft carrier, in a nearby waterfront park. The anchor, in a word, is h-u-g-e. Then we hit an indoor mall a half-mile or so away, where we cleaned out a Hershey's ice cream stand on the food court. Grandpa's retirement fund took a big hit by the time we finished with Hershey's. The kid with the ice cream scoop saw us coming and called the headquarters hot line looking for emergency supplies. I think they sent someone to the nearest Wal-Mart. As you can see from the photos, the ice cream was good, real good. After wrapping up the ice cream fest, we piled into a nearby bookstore. After some quality book window shopping, we launched on the journey back to the van, zigzagging through downtown Norfolk, which is always an adventure when you're herding 2 dozen kids! Well, maybe not quite that many kids. But with Ezra on the run from the time we got out of the van, and some other kids scrambling around a bit oohing and ahhhing in the "big city," it felt like I was trying to herd cats. Ezra is a flat out runner. The kid just loves to run. A chip off the old block, I reckon. I'm happy to report that not only did we make it back to the van, but we also brought back 10 Sabo children ... the same number we left with! Amazing!

One more little detail. To get to Norfolk from Gloucester we have to bisect the James River. If you think the Willamette River, or the Deschutes River, or the Columbia River is a halfway significant body of water, you ain't seen nothin'. The James River at its mouth is 5 miles wide. To get to Norfolk, you go over the James River part way, then you go under the James River the water in a 2-lane tunnel (one way) ... then back up and over. It's the first time Grandpa and Grandma Sabo had made the trip through the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel. They thought it was pretty cool, especially when you see 3 aircraft carriers berthed at Norfolk Naval Station off in the distance.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Zoo In The Van

Julie arose at 5:41 this morning to prepare for a grand adventure. She was heading to the National Zoo in Washington D.C. with the 5 youngest Sabo children and a friend and her 2 daughters. What a noble cause! Today would hit 60 degrees here in Gloucester, about that in D.C., a crisp gorgeous Fall day with leaves aflame, the sun orbiting lower on the horizon but shining bright, nary a cloud in the sky...lovely, just lovely. A perfect day to hit the zoo. Now mind you, this is no small feat for Julie, a third of the way through pregnancy and energy-challenged by the seed growing in her womb. What a trooper, though. What a dedicated mother! Such maternal instincts to desire to drive her young children 2 1/2 hours into the very teeth of our nation's capital, to treat her progeny to the sights and sounds of gorillas, pythons, hippos, giraffes, crocodiles, monkeys, zebras, polar bears, Democrats and whatever other unusual species inhabits the National Zoo. The plan was to leave at 6:30 a.m., and departure time was actually 7 o'clock. So not too bad in that department. But things got interesting.

Alas, a slight hiccup as it were on the journey north. About halfway to D.C., Olivia decided it would be a good time to test the very limits of her ability to projectile vomit. Let's just say the results were impressive. Somewhere on Route 301 northeast of Tappahannock, Olivia hurled in a sudden, unexpected fury the likes of which, thankfully, have not been witnessed in the Sabo Family Truckster for quite some time. No warning, no time to don protective plastic wear ... just one big urp. Julie pulled the van over for the inevitable cleanup. And what a chore it was, I'm told. We're still unsure what prompted the hurling fit because afterward, she was quite chipper and showed no ill effects of flu-like symptoms the rest of the day. Was it a bad granola bar she had gotten into on the road? Was she merely car sick? The genesis of the mysterious vomiting sickness remains a mystery.

We do know this. Ezra had a solution to the problem. Not knowing whether Olivia was genuinely taken ill and intending to vomit repeatedly, the agonizing decision was made to turn around and head home. Now mind you Ezra woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. You can't blame the dude, because 6:15 a.m. comes awful early, especially for Ezra. He refused to get dressed and when he was finally coaxed into getting into a shirt and given the option of 4 -- yes 4 -- different pairs of pants, he decided to have a protest. No pants were going on him. It's unclear why he was protesting, it's just that he was. Possibly because he equates getting dressed after breakfast, but that's just a guess. Various methods of "coaxing" were unsuccessful. Until it was announced the van was leaving to go see the wildebeests, lions, tigers and water buffalo without Ezra. Then we saw some action. The nearest pair of pants were donned in record time. Anyway, for a guy who didn't want to get into the van, he sure had a change of perspective along the way. When told after the Olivia incident the trip to the zoo would have to wait, Ezra said, "Can't we just leave Olivia here?" Uh, on the side of the road, in her diaper? Julie broke it to him gently that they couldn't just leave Olivia on the side of the road. Then he suggested leaving her with Daddy. Apparently he was under the impression they could just drop Olivia off with Daddy and hit the zoo. The 1 1/2 hours in the van just to get to the spot where Olivia hurled must have flown by for Ezra.

Imagine my surprise to see the van pull into the driveway, just a few hours after departure. We can report with certainty that the kids were troopers and made the best of it. Julie made the best of it as well. She managed to get a nice nap in today, which made me happy. I know how hard these pregnancies are for her and how tired she gets and sick she feels. Not enough to go all Olivia on us, but we do appreciate that she was willing to take them and came home laughing about it. As for Ezra, I just asked him if he still wanted to go to the zoo. "Yeah," he said. "Maybe some other day when Olivia doesn't throw up. If Olivia wants to go we can still bring her. And if she doesn't throw up we can still take her." What a guy.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Great Cosmic Mystery

See this kid here? Yeah, right up there with the blue eyes and easy smile. Dude's got issues. He's going through this phase lately where he harrumphs and announces rather menacingly that he's not eating dinner, doesn't like dinner and wants something else. So there. This new 'tude erupted out of the blue one night and he's been on a kick lately, doing this every few nights. We have no idea where it came from, the cause of it -- did he suffer a severe case of indigestion after a recent meal that aroused his anti-dinner antics? -- and when it's going to end. I wasn't home for dinner tonight due to being in Newport News working late on a story with another reporter about a 71-year-old woman who's been married at least 10 times, sometimes without the proper divorcing proceedings occurring before the ensuing marriage, and has left a slew of angry ex-husbands, not to mention she now faces charges of bigamy, perjury and theft. Look for the story in the paper soon.

Anyway, back to Ezra. Julie reported to me that he once again refused to eat dinner tonight. He stood there, lip thrust out, arms crossed and 100 percent attitude. So he got sent to a room until his attitude improved, with the warning not to dare come out until he was ready to grub or he was likely to have a cheeky encounter with Mr. Spoon. After a while, he made an appearance and slinked out of the room before eventually sitting at the table. He still refused to eat, however. Everyone else finished the chicken and rice casserole, the plates were cleared off the table, the kids who dutifully finished dinner headed off to play ... and there sat Ezra. He was relentless in his determination to show everyone that eating is a sign of weakness, the consuming of food the mere Achilles heel, or soft underbelly, or shortcoming of lesser 4-year-olds. Ezra was in for the long haul, his commitment evident in his steely glare. This fast was on!

Until, out of the corner of her eye as she busied herself in the kitchen, Julie thought she spied a fork lifted to a little boy's mouth ... could it be? Did Ezra just take a bite? She approached the stalwart young defender of the Principle of the Matter -- that principle being that sometimes a boy has to stand for something he believes in, that something being in this case the right to decide whether or not he need partake of the nightly sustenance. Did you just take a bite? queried Julie. The look on Ezra's face can only be described as scorn, as if to say, "How dare you even suggest I would lower myself to take a bite of dinner, demeaning the very essence of my being. You may as well dress me in a frilly pink tutu and curl my hair with curlers and have me prance around. I may be 4, but I have principle." She pressed him on the matter and his brow furrowed more deeply, the squint of his icy glare becoming more fierce. She urged him to open his mouth so she could see for herself whether he took a bite. He relented and slowly his lips parted, his jaw slackened and it was revealed at last the truth of the matter. Julie peered in his mouth. She saw rice. And chicken. "You did take a bite!" she gushed. "I knew I saw you!"

Ezra smiled. Then he proceeded to wolf down his chicken and rice as if he had not eaten even a tiny morsel all day. The storm had passed. The mysterious force that erupted in such sudden fury with extraordinarily severe consequences disappeared as suddenly as it had reared up. The sky cleared, the sun shone brightly, all was good again. In the end, only one small detail remained. It was the vexing question that haunts every parent, a mystery of untold depths that sometimes comes in staccato bursts, depending on the child and the circumstances and whatever else causes this cosmic behavioral quirk to burst forth like a supernova: What on earth was that all about?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

`Red Dragons' Are History

In case you've been wondering, and frankly I can't imagine a scenario where you would be, I'm happy to report that the "Red Dragons" got into the win column this Fall. We didn't exactly light up the win column, but we battled to the end of the season and finished with 2 victories. Against 9 losses. Somehow some other coach got the league's coach of the year award. I will say, however, that those 2 victories were very glorious, no doubt about it. One of the games was a victory against the dread "Cookie Monsters," a team that had beaten us on two previous occasions. In what can only be described as the biggest sporting victory on American soil since the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team victory over the Russians at Lake Placid, we trounced the Cookie Monsters 2-0 in a game I may never forget for the way the Red Dragons battled, fought and got every ounce of ability out of themselves to defeat what had been up until that moment a superior opponent. (Of course, it helped that during the match one of our players sent the other team's best player to the hospital when, during a collision when both players were going for the ball, he landed with his size 9 cleat on the back of the other player's hand, crushing it.)

You can see here a photograph of our team in between a couple of our tournament losses on Saturday. We played three games, lost all three by a combined score of something like 15-3 ... but look at these kids. Smiles! They're having fun! Even while getting beaten to a pulp! I'm not sure whether that's because we just got done feeding them pizza and handing out trophies to them or whether they're smiling because they knew the season was, mercifully, almost over. Whatever the case, several of the parents and players asked me when it was all over if I was going to "coach" again in the Spring. They thought it would be good to keep the team together.
I wasn't sure how to answer that. Yeah, I had a great time and it was fun coaching the kids and they were a great group of kids, but it is a pretty big commitment. And there's probably someone out there who could actually teach these kids something about soccer. You know, maybe coach them up to at least 3 or 4 victories. We'll see. Maybe between now and the Spring season I'll pick up a few soccer strategies. Gain some insights. Understand the nuances of the game, such as the difference between "indirect" and "direct" kicks and "offsides." I'll just put this out there right now. Gloucester Parks and Recreation 9- to 11-year-olds watch out. The Red Dragons might be back. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Friday, November 5, 2010

28 Weeks To Go ... Time To Pick Names!

Julie went to the doctor on Wednesday for an ultrasound and brought home a snapshot of a healthy little baby boy or girl in her womb. Baby appeared to be waving, sort of letting us know every thing's fine and it's nice and snuggly in there. We have no clue if it's a boy Sabo or a girl Sabo percolating in there. That's another 8 weeks off before we get that photo confirmation. If, that is, we decide to find out if it's a boy or a girl Sabo. I'm not sure if I want to know. Surprise is good, though I'll be 42 when baby is born and I'm not sure if my heart will be able to handle all the excitement at that ripe old age.

We've been tossing around names here at Sabo central. We're experienced at this. I must say, though, this seems to be the first time we've been seriously kicking around baby names this early in the game and possibly even settled on a couple. There's some logic behind this. Our experience is that traditionally our babies have been born rapid-fire. Sort of the Uzi of baby birthing ... one right after the other. (Was that a good analogy? Could I have chosen a better one?) I have barely had time to get the last baby's name down pat before the next one is upon us. Who has time to pick another name?

This one is a little different. With a full 2 1/2 years since the last Sabo baby exited the womb, there's been plenty of opportunities to name drop. We have some pretty serious candidates at the moment, as far as names go. That's good because it will give me plenty of time to practice remembering the baby's name when the need arises to remember said baby's name at critical junctures, such as when someone inevitably asks me baby's name. I've actually had some rather embarrassing moments lately when someone asks me the name of the kid who is with me and I give them a name. You know, just sort of throw one out there without thinking about it too much. Then the kid gives me a strange look and I suddenly remember, `That's not Ezra! That's Gabe!' I quickly correct my mistake, uttering the disclaimer, "I was just making sure Gabe knew his name. Heh-heh." The person usually gives me the `Yeah, right!' look, followed by the look that says, `Egads! Someone pull his parenting card! He can't even remember his kid's name!'

Here's the thing. As a parent of 12 kids, I have to remember 24 names -- first and middle names -- not to mention the occasional mother's maiden name I have to remember to fill out certain important documents, as well as my own names, my wife's names, my wife's maiden name and on top of all that now I'm coaching a soccer team with 12 kids on it and I have to remember their names (at practice the other day I just randomly started calling some kid on my team `Bob'; he thought it was funny but the truth is I couldn't remember his name) ... can you give a brother a break? And I'm not even getting into birth dates, anniversaries, social security numbers, pin numbers, addresses, passwords ... what's really frightening is when my kids start getting married and there's spouses names to remember ... and then they start having kids! What if there are 20 grandkids! What if there's 40! What if there's 60! Don't be surprised if when the Sabo grandkids start appearing I just make everybody wear nametags. And one other thing. If we do have 60 grandkids, what's Christmas going to be like?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Warning: Little Boy In Bathroom

You're probably looking at this photo and thinking, `What a cute photo.' I look at this photo and think, `Claire just peeked into the bathroom after one of these little boys came out of it.' It's a look of horror, in case you're wondering. I've had it. I'm tired of having to put yellow police tape over the door of our bathrooms after one of the little boys exits it. Don't get me wrong, I love our little boys. But mercy sakes, can you aim sons? It's like a firefighter who can't handle his hose in there! Maybe it's just our house. Maybe I'm a bad dad who hasn't taken the proper time to cover the subject of "Toilet: The Hows and Whys of Proper Aim" with his wee lads. All I can say is that it seems like every time one of the little shavers walks in there it's going to be a seat-soaking, wall spraying, floor warping experience.

One thing that doesn't help is the wait-until-the-very-last-second habit of some of our unnamed little boys. Instead of taking care of business at the first inkling of a full bladder, they wait until the full bladder is about to explode and the end result is the tinkling turns into a jet spray horror show. I can see it coming, too. The little potty dance jig that sometimes includes full-blown crotch grabbing to stave off an "accident" is something I can spot out of the corner of my eye. As soon as I see the potty dance I "encourage" the little lad to get into the bathroom to take care of bidnis ... and we all know what happens next. The bidnis starts before the britches are properly dropped and the seat properly lifted and you have the equivalent of the Bathroom Armageddon.

Somehow we'll survive all this. I'm sure I'll laugh about it. Someday. When we're not wiping down the seat, mopping up the floor and giving the wall a good cleansing. Until then I'm investigating the costs of 6-foot-high urinals. The kind with a little faux fly painted on it at the bottom. Seriously. I, uh, saw one of those recently. Believe me, everyone I know tried to hit the fly. I can only hope that it would work in our house.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

She Said What?

The other day Olivia was upstairs eating Doritos. On the carpet. That's a no-no in our house. So Claire called her on it and told her she needed to go downstairs and eat the chips in the kitchen. Olivia looked at her, licked her lips and said, "I'm busy." Then she proceeded to eat her chips. We have a wee lass here, just 2 years old, with a "Princess complex" and that is not a good thing. This morning she was wearing some new hand-me down pants that looked great on her. Fit nicely, didn't sag anywhere, not too short, not too long. Just right. She walked up to me and wrinkled her nose. "These don't fit," she said. I tried to convince her that, au contraire mon ami, they look great on her. I was half-expecting her to say, "Do these make me look fat?" Needless to say she went in the bedroom and changed her pants.

The other day Olivia said to MerriGrace, "I'm funny." MerriGrace said, "No you're not." And Olivia said, "I'm funny." So MerriGrace told her to tell her a joke. Olivia said, "Your life's a joke."
Um, where does she learn this stuff? I've said for quite some time that I have my work cut out for me with this sweet little girl. It's going to take some doing. Prayer is appreciated. We've also said for quite some time that one cure to the Princess complex would for her not to be the caboose of the family, so to speak. But the Lord has had other plans for us as far as having the No. 13 Sabo baby. Until quite recently. A shocking development has occurred in the house o' Sabo: Julie is pregnant. The ultrasound shows a healthy little one growing in her womb with a heartbeat Julie got to hear tapping along at 170 beats a minute. Julie's 11 weeks along and we're praying for a healthy baby in the middle of May (Let's see, what is it about August? We have Taylor's birthday on April 29, Brenton's and Madeline's on May 1 and Claire's on May 17 ... ). It would really be helpful for me if the baby was born on May 17. Since that's Claire's birthday it's easy for me to remember. So perhaps the solution to Olivia's Princess complex is just months away.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Wanted: Soccer Coach

Somehow this Fall soccer season I got roped into coaching the 9- to 11-year olds team that Madeline and Abram are on. It had probably been somewhere around eight years or so since I coached youth soccer, back when Taylor and Ethan wrought havoc in the Corvallis league. The rust shows, as far as my coaching ability. I have a great group of kids who are fun to coach, but they're probably wondering if they're going to win a game this year. Our record at the moment stands at 0-4, with some of those losses pretty ugly. But it's not about wins or losses, right? I sure hope so. In my defense, the last game we played, on Saturday, was a very winnable game. But our best player was lost for the season two games ago -- his neighbor's dog bit his hand so hard it fractured a finger and he's in a cast and can't play -- and one of our other top players went on a fishing trip to Tangier Island (it's out in Chesapeake Bay and worth googling; oddly enough, ESPN is featuring the island in a commercial during this college football season) and missed Saturday's game. We lost 4-2, but Abram scored a nice goal and you can see him in the photo standing in front of me describing the look on the goalkeeper's face when Abram hammered the ball home into the net. Madeline is on the right, mostly obscured but slightly visible in a goalkeeper's jersey. She allowed no goals in her stint as goalkeeper in the 3rd quarter, in case you were wondering, though she did have one mental lapse when she tried to pick up the ball in the box while defending the goal. That was fine, except that was when she wasn't wearing the goalkeeper's jersey.

None of the kids on my team, called the Red Dragons, seem too upset over the mounting losses. I don't know what it is with kids these days. Am I the only one losing sleep over this? Am I the only one breaking out in hives as we occupy the cellar of the Gloucester Parks and Recreation 9- to 11-year-olds Premier League? Am I the only one trying to e-mail Landon Donovan for some soccer tips and to see if he could swing by Gloucester for a clinic? I'm thinking of extending practices for another hour. Maybe having them run a lap around the entire field for every goal that's surrendered. WWVLD? (What would Vince Lombardi do?) Somehow these kids are having fun. They smile and laugh! During the games! Sometimes even after the opposing team has scored 3 goals! In the first quarter! One kid came up to me after the last practice and asked if I was going to coach again in the spring, and if so he wanted to be on my team! This kid is crazy! He might go a whole year without winning a soccer game! If I use one more exclamation point, I might go crazy! Anyway, perhaps these kids are on to something. I think I'll give this whole exercise of losing but having fun a good think. In the face of all these defeats, these kids keep coming back. Despite the coaching.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

So Long Summer

Here's a couple of reminders of summer, Gloucester style. Or at least Sabo Gloucester style. The shot at the top was taken at a Peninsula Pilots baseball game. Ethan's in uniform because while playing for the Gloucester American Legion junior team he was named to the All-Star team. The All-Stars were honored by the Peninsula Pilots and we had an awful good time going to the game and watching college kids play in a wood bat league. It was made even more enjoyable by the fact that a couple buddies from metropolitan Yorktown, Steve Mezzapesa and Brian Horner, went to the game. Ethan had a fine summer playing for the Legion team, batting leadoff -- hitting over .400 -- and playing mostly in the outfield and at third base, with occasional catching duties. Now he's back playing fall baseball for the Gloucester High School, preparing for the spring season.
And then we have a sunflower that MerriGrace grew in our raised bed in the back yard. Her flowers turned out splendidly, as you can see. It was the hottest summer on record here in Hampton Roads, and that means something out here. It was a relentlessly hot, sweaty, sticky summer, marked by a noticeable lack of summer thunderstorms. Ezra never really had to worry about anyone letting the thunder in. Even at the end of September we had temperatures in the mid-90s. Last week, however, the rains fell in earnest -- at one point our 24-hour rainfall total topped 4.5 inches -- and the coolness of Fall has set in. What a relief. We still have tomatoes in the garden and I mowed the lawn the other day, but it's the time of year when the kids can play outside all day without coming in all purple and the air conditioning isn't running nonstop. The kids, and my wallet, like these days.