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." http://www.sim.org/index.php/project/84400

And here's the link to the video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPo620kV_Ig

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 (www.nps.gov/colo/parkway.htm ... 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 (www.history.org) 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 (http://www.seedsavers.org/). 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.