Thursday, July 24, 2014

Homeschool Field Trip to Oregon Fish Hatchery

                                          Sabo boys at the hatchery fish ladder

We set out for Oregon this summer for several reasons, among them to include spending quality time with family and friends and visiting and updating supporters and potential supporters of ours for our missionary work with TEN3 ( We have been achieving all of that and in between I purposely, intentionally and even deliberately have resolved not to get cheated on our time in Oregon. Hence, within two days of our arrival I had canned 30 pints of Marionberry and boysenberry jam,. Later one evening I took the kids down to the Canby High School track for a Sabo Olympics and later took a scenic, back road drive with the family when the highway was readily available. Today was another of my "Oregon resolution" days.

Julie and our five daughters went and visited her Aunt Judy in Gresham so the lads who remained, Abram, Gabe, Eli, Ezra, Judah and Seth, decided to take a field trip. Well, technically I decided. I wanted to visit a fish hatchery out in Oregon and today offered the opportunity. The kids were simply along for the ride and trusting Dad wasn't completely out of his melon with this idea of a good time. Our "educational" excursion proved to combine all the key and required elements of homeschooling field trips: Brain stimulation, fun, adventure, varying degrees of danger, a stop at a rural convenience store for chips and snacks and man versus nature that has the potential to go awry. At least those are the required elements of my home school field trips. Certainly there's a time and place for art galleries, museums, operas, symphonies and visits to historical sites. Just not today.

We set out just after lunch for Milo McIver State Park and the Clackamas Fish Hatchery in metropolitan Redland, Oregon. Or maybe it's metropolitan Viola, Oregon, neither of which may even be on a map. So maybe it's metro Estacada, Oregon? However you slice it, we got there by rolling in our van through the hills of northeastern western Oregon, bisecting and snaking through the hay fields and Christmas tree farms and splendid Cascade foothills vistas. It's gorgeous. Even on a relatively cool, cloudy day. At the fish hatchery we were all alone. Except for a few workers who paid us no mind. Inside the hatchery was everything you would want to know about salmon, in this case primarily steelhead and Chinook. Outside the buildings in holding pens we saw hundreds of the monstrous critters and dreamed of salmon on the grill. Well, at least I dreamed of landing one of those 40-lb. behemoths for a grillfest.


After touring the hatchery, we hiked a short distance down to the Clackamas River and that's where the fun and adventure really began. First off, the water is cold. The boys were shocked at how cold it is this time of year when they plunged in up to their ankles. They are used to the York River in Gloucester, Va., where the tidal saltwater is 80 degrees or so in mid-July. A fisherman we met on the Clackamas, Jason from southwest Portland who could not seem to get over the fact that I had 8 other kids who did not make the "home school field trip" trek, estimated the river was 55 degrees. I explained this novel concept of "snow melt" to the boys and how the rivers in Oregon are fed by melting snow from the mountains. Which makes the water freezing. In reply they shivered. I guess they understand.

We arrived at a bend of the Clackamas River where several fishermen, including Jason, were trying to snag the elusive salmon. My boys promptly started throwing rocks in the river. I tried to direct them away from the fishermen and mostly succeeded. The mouth of the creek where the salmon head upstream to the fish hatchery is at the bend so the older boys ditched their shoes and socks and clambered over rocks to the creek channel. It was a bit dicey for them getting out there over the rocks, but while stationed along a rocky chute they nearly managed to wrangle, or noodle, or whatever you want to call it, a few steelhead out of the watery chute to shallower calm water where we would've, I don't know, tried to wrestle them out of the water and take them home for the grill? Okay, so maybe "nearly" is a little strong. Gabe and Abram managed to actually touch a couple of steelhead salmon -- mind you these steelhead are easily in the 15 to 20 lb. range -- and it was exciting, even gripping you might say, action. Especially when the lads ended up pretty wet from being splashed by steelhead determined not to go down in history as the knuckleheads who got caught by hand by some "fishing" greenhorns from Virginia.

                            Jason the fisherman walks up the chute hunting for steelhead

At the end of the field trip we ended up a bit chilled, wet and empty-handed. But our day was far from over. No sirree. On the way home we stopped at the Redland Store for chips and drinks. That's always a highlight of any educational field trip. Then just on the outskirts of Canby we stopped at a roadside peach stand and snagged a box of Red Haven "seconds" -- basically peaches that aren't exactly the pick of the peck, though by tasting them you'd never know it -- for $1 per lb. There is something absolutely heavenly about the aroma, color and flavor of fresh, tree-ripened peaches. Don't even bother arguing with me about it because that is the absolute truth. And lastly, we stopped at the Fred Meyer in Canby and picked up a wild sockeye salmon from Alaska for the grill. Maybe it wasn't a steelhead out of the Clackamas, but it proved to be a darn close second.

                                                 Red Haven peaches

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sabo Road Trip Across America: Part I

                                                  Van life. Sabo style. Seth is hungry ...

On Sunday, July 13, 2014, the Sabos launched what can only be described as "The Great Sabo Road Trip: Version 4.0." For the fourth time we would set out in a van across this great country, traversing rolling hills, majestic mountain passes, treeless plains and deep gorges as we aimed our Chevrolet Express west toward Oregon. On a road trip that would be the fourth time we would go coast-to-coast across America, we would tackle what few families would dare to even imagine: Drive 3,069 miles over the course of 5 days in a van stuffed to nearly exploding with kids, luggage, gummy bears, goldfish crackers, various other snacks, pillows, blankets, coolers, an iMac and, as you can see in Seth's grubby little mitt, pizza. No road trip across the country is complete without pepperoni pizza after all.

It's hard to describe in words what it's like traversing the geographic heart of America in a van posing as a moving house full of kids. But let us try.

Day 1: Gloucester to Danville, Kentucky. Just east of Charlottesville, a mere two hours into our journey I hear Judah's van from the depths of the abyss: "Are we almost to Oregon?" Oy. It's started.
We make it to our destination of our new friends the Morlotes -- amazing hosts and wonderful people -- sometime after midnight. We're safe, we're sound and we survived driving through a thunderstorm in a 3-car caravan late at night on Kentucky roads, with only one detour through a McDonald's parking lot.

                                                  The road trip struggle is real, man.

Day 2: Danville to St. Joseph Missouri. We drove 600 plus miles, a journey low lighted by the sight of black clouds, howling winds and debris being blown across I-70 outside of St. Louis. I was pretty sure we were going to drive through a tornado. We managed to pull off the freeway and find cover in a mall while the storm passed. We stormed the food court like locusts, or a tornado, leaving virtually nothing in our wake. If you happened to be in a mall near St. Louis and saw a man with a bunch of little kids riding the escalator over and over again, well, that was me. What can I say? The Sabos are easily entertained.

                                              The elephant is stuffed. The kids are real.

Day 3: St. Joseph to Laramie, Wyoming. What a day. I learned something on our drive and that is that they grow corn in Nebraska. And that Nebraska is a very loooooooooonnnnnngggggg state full of corn. Our highlight in Nebraska, besides watching the corn actually while we hurtled down I80 at 80 mph, was a stop at Cabela's in Sidney. Anyone who is anyone stops at the Cabela's at Sidney, which happens to be the site of company headquarters. As you can see in the photo above, Cabela's was a big hit. A Cabela's is basically a taxidermist's dream. It's like a zoo full of dead animals, and I say that in a good way. An elephant, moose, elk, deer, bobcats, mountain lions, birds, squirrels, fish ... if it's covered in hair or fur and walks in four legs it's pretty much stuffed and in the Cabela's in Sidney. Somehow we managed to walk out of there without buying any firearms. Or trying to stuff an elk in the van for Judah to pet along the way. Other highlights included an amazing thunderstorm in metro Cheyenne. When the storm parted and the sun poked through the clouds it was breathtakingly gorgeous.

                                              Somewhere in Wyoming. Or was it Idaho?

Day 4: Laramie to Boise, Idaho. A 690-mile run in which we only traveled through 2 states. On the East Coast, particularly the Northeast, if you travel 690 miles you're going to hit at least 6 to 8 states. I don't even know if we traveled through that many counties. Wyoming is an absolutely amazing state. For example, we were nearing Cheyenne, or maybe it was Laramie, and Judah had to go pee. It was quite urgent, in fact. We made it to a rest area on a mountain pass at 8,700 feet elevation. That is way up there! Just walking to the restroom is a lung burner! Then when you are up on the high plains of Wyoming where the interstate speed limit is 80 mph, you can look literally as far as the eye can see and not see a single tree. Zip, nothing, nada with leaves. It's grassy hills and plateaus and indigo skies with fluffy clouds you think you can grab when you roll down your window. Our trip had a bit of a hiccup when a hazmat incident closed I80 at Evanston on the southwestern fringe of Wyoming into Utah. A very helpful Wyoming Department of Transportation worker we reached by phone directed us to Highway 30 through Kemmerer and on into Idaho. I have to say, it was a gorgeous drive. Everyone raved about the scenery: The stark, rather desolate landscape of southern Wyoming to valleys where green hay fields straddle the river bottoms and a few herds of antelope roam (Seriously. We saw them.), to big skies and picturesque mountain ranges forming the backdrop of little towns like Soda Springs, Montpelier and Georgetown. We're actually glad about this detour.

Stay tuned for Part II of our road trip, when we pick it up with an incident in Idaho involving a small Sabo within the tight confines of a Dodge Dart that left Claire and Evie traumatized. Perhaps for life ...

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Out Of The Mouth Of Ezra: His Best Quotes

In a family of 14 kids, it takes something to distinguish yourself. Each of our kids has their giftings in  various endeavors such as music, athletics, bug catching, eating, or even eyelashes (see Judah). But hands down the Sabo who has come up with the best quotes is Ezra, now 8 years old. We can sit around as a family and laugh about his humdingers, which roll off his tongue very naturally. Here's the list of our top Ezraisms, in no particular order. What's your favorite?

1) Ezra isn't a fan of thunderstorms, particularly when he was younger. He really didn't like it when someone would leave the door open while watching the show. One time he had enough and ordered the front door shut, barking: "Don't let the thunder in!"

2) The kids -- even our older ones -- all really enjoy playing the game "Town." It entails everyone having a profession and basically operating a town. There's a banker, a sheriff, a thief (it's always Ethan), a baker and a doctor and other professionals comprising Saboville. One time Ezra was apparently under the weather so he went to go see Dr. Claire. He walked into her office and announced, "I'm here to get fixed!"

3) We were at missions training at Serving In Mission when Ezra was just 4 years old. During one of his classes the teacher asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. Ezra thought about it briefly. "I don't know," he said. "A man or something."

4) Ezra and his brothers were running around the house with their shirts off. Julie wanted to know what was up with that and why they didn't have their shirts on. Ezra was incredulous. What kind of question was that? "Because boys just do dat stuff," he said.

5) There was a certain finality to the way Ezra went about things when he was 3 or 4. There wasn't much gray area, no wiggle room, nothing to be misconstrued. He explained it best this way: "That's just how it be's!"

6) Olivia was newly potty trained and happened to be taking care of business with the bathroom door open. Ezra happened to be running by and saw her in there going potty. As he zoomed by he hollered out, "Keep pushing Olivia!"

7) Ezra was very particular about how he liked his peanut butter and jelly sandwiches back in the day. It had to be just so or it got sent back to the kitchen. But the details could get a little fuzzy and something could get lost in translation if you didn't know what Ezra's instructions entailed, such as whether he liked it cut up in halves or quarters. Taylor was making him a p.b. & j sandwich and was trying to get the particulars. An exasperated Ezra finally announced, "I want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with no jelly, crust off and I want it in halvits and pennies."

8) Ezra and other kids were arguing over who would get the first brownie of the batch Claire was baking. Claire wasn't going to stand for it and asked what they would say if she sent them to bed with no brownies. Ezra responded, "I would call you the unhappiness maker."

9) Ezra and his brothers and sisters were outside riding bikes after a thunderstorm. Something didn't feel right to Ezra, however, and he hopped off his trike. Lo and behold the seat was wet. He ran around a bit and then suddenly scrunched up his face. "Hey," he said, "who peed my pants?"

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Go Fourth And Blow

In celebration of Independence Day, all eyes along the Atlantic seaboard are on Hurricane Arthur. It appears at the moment that Arthur is going to stay well offshore, which means things will be fairly normal for the holiday. If you count thunderstorms and horizontal rain as normal. The forecast still calls for plenty of wind and rain on the Fourth, making the prospect for enjoying the holiday less than tantalizing. Grilling some dogs and burgers may be a bit dicey and we're also in the market for rainproof fireworks. Maybe we'll just light them off indoors so the kids don't miss out. Just kidding!

Life out here on the East Coast the past decade is so different from Oregon. I remember out there in Corvallis getting a handle on the weather by looking to the west. If I saw clouds, it's probably going to rain. If I didn't see clouds, it might rain. If I saw a mix of clouds and blue sky, it might rain. Now when I lived in Bend or Prineville on the dry side of the mountains, I still looked to the west. But didn't figure it would rain no matter how many clouds I saw.

Here in Gloucester, though, I never know where the weather will come from. It could be a Nor'Easter, a hurricane or tropical storm sweeping up from the south, or a tornado or derecho bearing down on us from the west. I had never even heard of a derecho until we moved out here. Nor did I pay much mind to hurricane season. That's all changed. We've had storms drop up to 10 inches of rain in one day -- that's a year's worth in Bend and Prineville -- on us and a violent thunderstorm with 2-3 inches of rain in short order isn't unusual. We've had tree limbs go through our bedroom window at midnight in a storm, a tree fall on our neighbor's house in a tornado, a run-of-the-mill thunderstorm send our last grill cartwheeling through the yard and for good measure we've had an earthquake, an EF-3 tornado and thundersnow.

We had one hurricane blow through a few years ago at a time when we had two visitors from Oregon. Two friends also opted to bunk over at our house, for some reason they thought it was safer in a house where people are packed in like a jar of pickles, and so we had somewhere around 19, maybe 20 people in the house. I had them all stay toward the front side of the house away from the trees in the back yard. No one got hurt, everyone was safe and what I remember most is hustling over to our neighbor's house to help him out when a tree went through his roof.

I don't remember that type of stuff in Oregon. Nor do I recall any runs on groceries when bad weather was on the horizon. Out here, the mere mention of a hurricane, or snow, or any related natural disaster  sends people in droves to the store to stock up on water, bread, milk and eggs. It can get a little crazy and I hesitate to take to the kids to the store for those trips. It might get kind of dangerous. I guess it's all part of the adventure. As Ezra used to say, "That's just the way it be's."

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Working At Home: Mr. Mom

I've worked at home since 1993. Back in the stone age of working remotely, I believe it was just after Al Gore invented the Internet, I was working in my bedroom of our 860-square-foot house in Prineville, Ore. I was a newspaper reporter for The Bulletin and every morning around 7 a.m. my wakeup call was my editor. We were an afternoon daily and our deadline was in the morning so I'd wake up to my phone ringing, roll out of bed, clear my voice and practice saying hello a few times so my voice wouldn't crack when I answered the phone and start my day. To give you an idea how long ago that was, it was back when we only had three little boys.

From The Bulletin, to The Oregonian as a correspondent in Corvallis, Ore., to the Daily Press as a bureau reporter in Gloucester, Va., through seven houses and one barn (the barn is another blog post ... or two or three) I've been working at home. I've seen it all. And done it all. I've interviewed people while changing diapers. It's kind of hard to take notes and, well, wipe bottoms, but you pick your spots and learn to drag out conversation while you're finishing you're duty and then get back to note taking when things are all cleaned up. I've cooked dinner while working, filed stories in between innings of Wiffle ball games and worked most days in casual Friday attire. Well, maybe even more casual unless you go to work in your pajamas.

I had flashbacks of 23 years of working at home today when I was in several hours worth of Skype phone calls. Typically I mute the audio to cut down on the background noise that's easily manufactured by a dozen or so kids inhabiting a 1,570-square-foot home. We had a heat index topping 100 degrees outside and the kids stayed inside mostly, but they were great. Midway through the afternoon Julie went to a local hospital to visit a friend who just had a baby -- with my blessing -- and so it was me and the kids and my Skype call with my boss. Now God bless our kids. They've learned to tiptoe around Dad when he's on the phone in conversation and the older ones try and keep the younger ones in check. There's been some interesting moments, such as the time I was talking to the District Attorney in Prineville about a criminal case I was covering. It was a really small 2-bedroom house we lived in and one of my kids was having a monster fit and emitting rather bloodcurdling screams and the D.A. casually inquired if there might in fact be a crime of child abuse being committed that very minute within the confines of my house. He was joking. I think.

If you work at home enough, there comes that moment -- sometimes frequently -- when in the interest of keeping peace you do something that proves to be regrettable. All parents face the moment of truth in varying stages, I guess, whether you are working at home, riding in the car, out in public, or even within the private confines of your house. It's that moment of weakness or weariness parents are all too familiar with when you know you shouldn't, but in the interest of sanity, general peacefulness, or to get your kid to pipe down, you give in to their demands. That moment occurred this afternoon when 18-month-old Seth wanted the Chapstik he eyed near my desk. I knew I shouldn't, I knew it would be trouble, but he was getting noisier and I couldn't distract him and I was trying to Skype ... and I caved.

He grabbed the Chapstik and toddled off while I resumed my conversation. When he returned several minutes later, let's just say he wasn't going to struggle with any chapped lips, or anything else for that matter. No chapped lips, no chapped cheeks, no chapped hair, hands or arms. I have no idea how that much Chapstik could be contained within one little tube. The dude was totally lubed up.

But here's the thing. Seth very well may be the caboose of the Sabo tribe. This may be the last Chapstik incident in Sabo children history. There will come a day, perhaps soon, when I will miss those days when Seth walked around looking like a cute little tube of cherry Chapstik.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Happy birthday to our `baby whisperer'

We're in a stretch where in just more than 2 months, we have 7 kids celebrate birthdays. I'm pretty sure I could name them all and get the dates right, but in the interest of brevity you'll have to take my word for it.

Today we celebrate MerriGrace's 16th birthday, even though she is AWOL. She's spending the week at high school camp at YDI in Head Waters, Va., and boy howdy do we miss her! Specifically, Judah misses her. When he discovered on Sunday afternoon after church that she was leaving for camp he wept openly. An anguished cry from the depths of his soul. From the time of his birth MerriGrace has been Judah's second mom. In the mornings when he wakes up he calls for her. She puts him to bed -- hauling him around for bedtime kisses for everyone -- and when he's troubled he calls for her. It's pretty cute. She's always been known as our "baby whisperer" because not only can we count on her to help with the babies, but she has a way with them. She's gentle but firm at the same time. She's loving and patient but she won't be taken advantage of. She's got it all when it comes to maternal instincts.

Today Judah was suffering angst of some sort and inconsolable and climbed up into her bed for comfort. What's significant about that is this is a guy that still sleeps in a pack-n-play -- admittedly we have a shortage of beds in the house -- and doesn't climb out. Yet this afternoon he can climb up to the top bunk in hopes of finding his sister. Last night I think he had MerriGrace on his mind because she usually keeps an eye on him. He came up to me and said I should keep an eye on him. I asked if there was any particular reason I should keep an eye on him. He said he might be up to something. MerriGrace will get a big kick out of that story when she hears it upon her return home.

Happy birthday MerriGrace! We love you!