Sunday, June 29, 2014

Nail Guns 101: Or `That's Not A Toy Gun'

Serious remodeling, circa 1997 in Prineville. That's me, on the right of course.
Remodeling is a way of life in the Sabo house. Since roughly 1997 in Prineville, Ore., through houses literally coast to coast, the sweet sounds of a Skil saw, Milwaukee sawzall, Makita compound miter saw, finish nail guns, jigsaws, drills and assorted other power tools have been the norm for our family. We've tackled an addition that more than doubled the size of our house in Prineville. We basically built a 4,000-square-foot house in Corvallis, Ore., in a project that was supposed to be a "remodel" but ended up being virtually "new construction." We've manufactured bookcases and entertainment centers, remodeled kitchens and bathrooms, painted, repainted, trimmed out, sanded, spackled, torn down, built up and everything in between.

Somehow, miraculously, no one has suffered serious injury. We've had close calls; I remember being grabbed by my dad on a scaffolding after I started falling from two stories up while putting in a window at our Prineville house. That would've hurt. I popped my shoulder out a time or two, or maybe three or four, while working on our Corvallis house. That did hurt. Every time. I'm notorious for suffering cuts and scrapes on the smallest of projects; I pretty much donate blood anytime a power tool or hammer is involved. Some of us have stepped on rusty nails or screws, or mistook a thumb for a nail, or had a misfire on a nail gun. On our latest project a person very dear to me handling a cordless drill had an unfortunate catastrophe with it during a cabinet installation that resulted in a gash in my hand. That was a bloody mess. There's been other incidents, such as the time a huge burn pile of construction debris was lit on fire and that turned out to be just a little bit too close to our house. The Corvallis Fire Department showed up for that one. But our brand new house didn't go up in flames and that's all that mattered. It gave the neighbors something to talk about, that's for sure.

It's actually a pretty good track record of safety when you think about it. With all these kids running around and power tools everywhere and we all have all our digits and limbs ... God is good to us. That's not to say there haven't been close calls with the power tools. I was reminded of this tonight when I was using a finish nail gun on some toe kicks and quarter-round trim I was working on in our new kitchen we're finishing up. I was on the floor working and put the nail gun down to take a measurement and when I turned around Seth was eyeballing the tool and reaching for it. Like he was apprenticing or something and was going to lend me his expertise. I managed to remedy that situation right quick and got the nail gun out of harm's way. There's some built-in safety features on that nail gun and he really couldn't have done any damage but sheesh these kids are quick these days. It was also a good "Parenting 101" reminder for me that every parent surely has heard: Don't leave the locked and loaded nail gun on the floor.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Finishing Well

This is Judah. He's very much into Caillou, Lightning McQueen, Thomas the Tank and as you can see he totally rocks a pair of heart-shaped sunglasses. He's fun, talkative, cute as all get out and has an amazing set of eyelashes. He's also, like any 3-year-old I've ever known, prone to fits, disputes and general phases of disobedience. We are working on curing him of those rebellious moments and let's just say it's a work in progress. But our desire is to finish well with him -- and Seth -- as parents. Even after 25 years of the "terrible twos" it's no time to kick back and relax.

One interesting aspect of having children as young as 18 months living in the same house as children in their 20s is the observations of the older kids. Especially when the younger ones act up. Believe it or not, we've had frequent occasions where one of our sweet, innocent, very young lads or lasses does something so contrary to family harmony that it causes a great tumult. For example, in our house yesterday Brenton initiated disciplinary proceedings against Judah by sequestering him in his bed, much to his little brother's vociferous dismay. Judah was loud in his dismay. And when I say loud, it's loud; he's got serious lung power and I think he will grow up to either be a worship leader or a world-class miler. Maybe both. It turns out Judah had just taken all the little toy cars from Olivia -- without asking -- by brute force. Here's how the conversation between Brenton and MerriGrace went.

MerriGrace: "What's he in for?"
Brenton: "He confiscated all the cars from Olivia."
MerriGrace: "Oh. Grand theft auto."

There's even frequent occasions when there have been much more minor transgressions that cause a bit of a row. Truth be told, Julie and I can be a little worn out from correcting our lovely little ones and have a tendency to "let things go." Been there, done that after all. We can try and disguise it as "mercy" or "grace" ... but that isn't quite accurate. We've just gotten soft sometimes.

When that happens one of our older kids will shoot us a look that says, "Did you hear that?" or "Did you see that?" There are even times they'll come right out and say, "I never got away with that." I actually appreciate these looks and comments because it's a reminder that discipline is for the benefit of our children. We were at a baby shower today and a young woman who had been visiting with my teenage daughters pulled me aside and told me how much she enjoyed talking to them and how wonderful they are. I was very blessed by her comments and as I thought about it on the drive home I was reminded that molding children takes work. It takes consistency. There are times it takes punishment and for the children to know that there's consequences for bad behavior. It especially takes love.  While the process may be trying and difficult, I know that someday Judah will appreciate our efforts. Maybe he'll even give us a thumbs up.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Meeting

Julie & me, circa early 1990s

It was a meeting ordained by God. I believe that completely. On April 30, 1989, my good friends Mark and Bob Webber -- twins who had grown up with the former Julie Young and attended school with her in Canby, Ore. -- hauled me to their friend's house to meet her. I was just finishing my sophomore year at the University of Portland, but the track season was continuing and the Webbers and I were training together. I was staying with them at their home in Canby, heading up to school during the day for workouts, and in the evenings we would make the rounds of town meeting their friends. All of whom happened to be young women. Go figure.

The night I met Julie in her living room she was 8 months pregnant. Her former boyfriend was long gone and she was living with her parents. I distinctly remember thinking something along the lines of, "Wow. She looks really good for 8 months pregnant." (Yes, it's true. I kept her pregnant pretty much since then, eh?) We had a great time together that night and spent a lot of the evening laughing. Two hours after we left late that night, Julie went into labor. The next day she had Brenton by C-section. The Webbers and I drove up to the hospital to see her and her new baby and of the three of us, I was the only one to hold Brenton. I've always liked babies. Still do it would seem. I think perhaps that must have made an impression on Julie.

Over the next couple of weeks as I stuck around Canby to finish out the track season, I managed to trick Mark or Bob into visiting Julie. One time we were at a park playing tennis and I said, "Doesn't Julie Young live around here?" In a matter of minutes we were paying her and Brenton a visit. Over the summer I would write her letters and managed to drive the 3 hours to her house from Bend for visits. It was within a few months of meeting that I confided to a friend I was going to marry her. He thought I was loony. To get to the point, exactly 16 months after Brenton was born -- Sept. 1, 1990 -- we were married at a church around the corner from her house.

I am forever indebted to Mark and Bob for introducing me to the young woman who captured my heart. And I am still so in love today. I admire my wife so much. Her beauty, her patience, her love, her perseverance, her faith, her strength. She has what I would call a pure relationship with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, an active faith and pursuit that defines who she is and will be. It's a part of Julie that attracts me to her. One of many things. I love her laugh. From the beginning that's always something I loved about her. Hearing her laugh makes me believe that no matter what's going on around us, all is right in the world. She makes beautiful babies.  I always say my children have their mama's good looks. The other day she had her hair pulled back and I don't know how to explain it but there's something about when she wears her like that ... it makes me a little crazy for her. Heh-heh.

We've had some hard times. I've lost count of many houses we've lived in and how many moves we've made. She's followed me across the country and back, with all sorts of kids in tow, more than once. She's endured difficult pregnancies, hard births and miscarriages (I wrote about one here: and managed to survive a knucklehead husband. I've said some hurtful things over the years and those I regret deeply. I've spent too much time being selfish and not enough time giving her the time to pursue creative outlets. I want that to change. I could go on but what I really want to say is that it makes me smile to think about spending another 25 years with my beautiful, loving and forever patient and kind bride. I love you Julie!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Subtle Differences Between Boys And Girls

It's frequently that I give Julie a hard time about her childhood. Her childhood comes up typically when her sons are doing things that are completely foreign to her, which can involve anything from belching and other bodily function contests, to new and inventive uses of small explosives. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating about the explosives, but it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibilities. I mean, now that the statute of limitations has passed I may have participated in some Fourth of July sparkler bomb manufacturing back in the day in Bend, Ore.

Julie, however, fondly recalls games with her three sisters of "Beauty Pageant" and all-night dance-a-thons and baking contests. Really? Fond memories of my friends and me entail menacing the rural Bend sagerat population with BB guns, golfing in the cemetery, peeing contests (length and duration of whizzes were compiled, with bonus points if you could write your name in the dirt) and games of tackle football that were really good when blood was drawn.  It's really entertaining when our older boys get together, which happens all too infrequently now that they are college age and older, and reminisce about the good old days. Typically the reminiscing involves petty thievery of household items and goods -- their favorite is when they pilfered the TV out of the downstairs living room in which a visiting auntie was sleeping and managed to haul it up to their bedroom to play video games all night -- boxing matches, small-time gambling over board games with the loser typically forced to strip buck nekkid and run around the outside of the house, terrorizing babysitters and various combinations thereof.

Now our teenage girls can laugh and giggle all night about their shenanigans as well. Craziness such as playing mermaid in the bathtub, their secret inside jokes that still make them cackle, all-night mani/pedi parties and when things got really out of hand marathon sessions of Pride and Prejudice movie watching. Somehow our girls have survived all that madness!!!

This all came to mind the last couple of times I visited Target and Wal-Mart with a bunch of my kids and hit the toy aisle. Take Olivia, my 6-year-old. She goes right to the doll section and eyes all the dollies and clothes and bling and accessories and mercy sakes can it be excruciating for her to try and settle on just one or two things with her birthday money. On the other hand there's Judah. He's 3 and you cannot imagine the sheer thrill he experienced when he came across the Despicable Me "Fart Gun." When he first pulled the trigger and that "gun" emitted the sound that can entertain little boys -- and big ones, too -- for literally hours on end the sound of his maniacal laugh filled the stores. That gun passed so much gas in the hands of Judah the earth's temperature rose measurably. I am thankful Julie didn't make those trips when Judah was blasting away. I'm sure she would have been horrified, even after two decades plus of raising boys. As for me? Well,  I admit it. I grabbed a gun and started pulling the trigger, the howls of laughter peeling forth.

Monday, June 23, 2014

I Know What Causes That

Somewhere along the line my wife Julie and I decided to really go for it. When we married our initial ambition was to have two kids. It seemed like a good number at the time and we figured we'd have two boys who would be best friends and do what boys do. You know, things like play Legos together, wrestle around some, take their shirts off for no apparent reason -- typically in a grocery store or at church -- and drop their britches in the front yard and pee as the neighbors drove by. The boys would wave, of course. I wouldn't want them to be unneighborly when they're peeing in the yard after all. Anyway, they would do all of the things that boys do that horrify their mothers, especially mothers like Julie who had no brothers and was uninitiated to the rather crude, aggressive, obnoxious and yet lovable ways of little boys.

But things got a little crazy in the Sabo house. Somehow, shortly after the arrival of our second son Julie got pregnant with a third son. I say somehow because the #2 Sabo, a lad named Taylor, was just 5 months old when the immaculate conception occurred -- while she was still nursing the wee boy no less! We'd been told she wouldn't get pregnant while nursing. Let me just say that is complete bunk. Nursing and pregnancy go hand in hand with Julie and I say that from experience.

Anyway, after the third Sabo, a chap we named Ethan, who followed the firstborn Brenton and Taylor, the thought occurred to us that if we had our way we would be Ethanless. Which I admit on some moonlit nights, when he pulled all-night, colic-induced fussing sessions, didn't sound so bad. But we loved Ethan in that crazy way that parents love their children. That thing where you hold your baby and sniff that sweet eau de baby and caress the softest, most beautiful skin you've ever felt and listen to those quick little breaths and there's peace and joy and love and unbridled affection all at once. There's nothing else like it in the world. Truly our children are gifts from God.

And so we thought three boys would be perfect. Until somehow Julie got pregnant with Claire. So we accepted Claire as God's blessing in our lives. Now things were really perfect with three boys and a little daddy's girl. Until along came Evie. It was at this point that we quit dabbling, somewhat ineffectively I might admit, in birth control and accepted God's desire for us to have kids. Lots of them. We took to heart the Biblical concept of "Go forth and multiply" and did our best to live it out.  So the pattern of Sabo child birthing continued pretty much unabated, not just for years mind you, but decades. Yes, decades. Julie has given birth to 14 little blessings, spanning four different decades. The '80s, '90s, '00s and '10s have all been graced by the arrival of little Sabos, who presently number 9 males and 5 females, ranging in age from 25 to 18 months.

Over the years, the number one comment from people who learn about our extraordinary number of offspring is, "Do you know what causes that?"  My answer is yes. Yes I know what causes that. I reckon we're pretty good at it.