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.