Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Catharsis Of Cooking: Dad In The Kitchen

I'm not sure when I got my start in the kitchen. I have memories of living in Prineville, Ore., in our little 860-square-foot house with only a couple of boys underfoot and making chocolate chip cookies. I have fond memories of canning peaches in that little house in the early- to mid-90s. A proper, tree-ripened peach, I do believe, is the perfect fruit. My time in the kitchen expanded over the years to the point that I prepare probably half of our dinners. That makes me a line cook? A buffet chef? A foodie? Or whatever you would call someone who prepares dinner for an intimate crowd of 13 or more, depending on how many Sabo kids are present and accounted for at the time.

Cooking for me is a multitude of things. It can be an act of service, a way for me to help out in the family and give Julie a break. It's an outlet for creativity, taking these raw ingredients and assembling something tasty. It's a passion, something I truly enjoy. I enjoy tweaking recipes and have my own versions of chimichangas, chili, soups and other dishes that I've conjured up over the years.

On Saturday night I made this soup for the first time that was wonderful. Madeline called it "amazing." I agree. I found the recipe on Pinterest. Yes, I'm on Pinterest (hey, don't judge). It's a tortellini and kielbasa soup that I came across after craving a sausage dish. I'm not sure how to explain it, but sometimes I just crave sausage. I like fixing soups because you can easily double recipes to accommodate large volumes of tummies and soup rarely, if ever, loses its tastiness as leftovers.

I highly recommend this soup. You will not be disappointed. Here's a link to the recipe I found on Pinterest: Killer soup

Friday, August 29, 2014

KLOVE Feels The Love: Mike Novak Gets $140,000 Bonus

Raise your hand out there if you listen to KLOVE. That's a lot of hands. Mine was up. In a lot of places in this country KLOVE is the default Christian radio broadcast station, often due to limited options. And certainly when King and Country's "Fix My Eyes" or Chris Tomlin's "Waterfall" starts flooding the van via KLOVE, my 3-year-old son Judah goes all karaoke and starts belting out the lyrics. He's even been known to break out in song in the grocery store, restaurant or other public places. It's pretty cool, I have to admit, to see a 3-year-old so passionate about music, much of which he hears in a vehicle on KLOVE.

That said, here's an insider's peek into KLOVE's finances. I make no editorial comment; this information is only in the interest of transparency. We're all familiar with the fall and spring KLOVE pledge drives and here's a brief look at where the money goes. KLOVE is run by the non-profit Educational Media Foundation (EMF) that is based in Rocklin, Calif., according to annual Form 990 records filed with the IRS. Educational Media Foundation operates the KLOVE and Air 1 radio stations broadcast across the country and over the internet.

According to records filed with the IRS in late July, in 2013 EMF had total revenue of $141 million, an increase over the $133 million of the previous year. EMF had total expenses of $81.6 million, for net revenue of $59.5 million, records show. The company reported net assets of about $290 million. EMF provided grants of $156,077 to tax-exempt organizations that "support and promote Christian evangelism, edification and values," according to the records filed with the IRS.

Here's the compensation of the top employees, according to the IRS records:
1) Mike Novak, CEO/President/Director: $557,669 (including bonus of $140,000)
2) David Pierce, chief creative officer: $297,023
3) Alan Mason, COO: $280,628
4) Eric Moser, CFO: $238,828
5) Kevin Blair, General Counsel/Secretary: $259,144
6) Brian Burger, VP of Human Resources: $231,051
7) David Atkinson, VP of Finance/Treasurer: $208,835
8) Joe Miller, VP Signal Development/Asst. Treasurer: $275,537
9) Dan Antonelli, VP International: $295,135
10) Virginia Walker, VP of Listener Services/Asst. Secretary: $147,451
11) Randy Rich, VP of Philanthropy: $230,854
12) Sam Wallington, VP of Engineering: $206,247
13) Brian Gantman, Govt Affairs Director/In-house counsel: $217,515
14) Chuck Pryor, KLOVE Programming Director: $187,708
15) William Lyons, Principal Data Scientist: $179,702
16) Frank Maranzino, Director of Studio Technology: $176,375
17) Richard Allison, Business Manager: $155,302

Total wage and compensation expenses were $30.2 million, according to the records.  EMF also spent $211,725 on online radio programming in France, records show.

Other expenses included $531,000 to a company operating a call center,  $507,000 to a Washington D.C. law firm for legal work, $441,000 to Covenant Capital Partners for consulting work and $405,000 to a Florida broker for the purchase of a radio station, records show.

ShareMedia Services, of Eden Prairie, Minn., was paid $340,180 by EMF for consulting work, which includes "pledge drive coaching," IRS records show. ShareMedia describes itself as the "experts in broadcast fundraising." Gross receipts from pledge drives involving ShareMedia were tabbed at nearly $34 million, records show.

KLOVE also purchased $109,402 in products from Be One Sportswear, a company based in Sacramento, Calif., that's a Christian-based promotional marketing company. The company is owned by a spouse of one of the EMF officers, according to the records filed with the IRS. EMF also spent $1.9 million on travel.

Guidestar, an online source of financial information on non-profit organizations, has copies of the EMF financial records filed with the IRS. To see the IRS Form 990 records for EMF via Guidestar, go here: KLOVE financial information

One thing to note, EMF gets very high scores from Charity Navigator -- a four-star rating with four stars being the highest score.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

No Child Left Behind: All The Sabos Came Back*

I'm not sure where to categorize on the scale of miracles what occurred this summer in the Sabo family. Somewhere between the Red Sea parting and the lame man walking might be where we would insert: "Sabos travel 8,100 miles across America and don't lose any kids." Now, don't get me wrong, there may have been times where the Sabo adults may have thought it to be in the best interest of family harmony to "forget" a child in say, Wyoming. Or Nebraska. Maybe even metropolitan southern Utah/northern Arizona.

That child may have been 3 and go by the handle of "Judah." But after much prayer and fasting it was decided to keep Judah with us in the van. We just duct taped his mouth shut. Just kidding! We did no such thing ... though I confess to the sin of entertaining such devious thoughts. Ultimately we survived, thanks in no small part to portable DVD players and a gallon of Benadryl. Just kidding again! We were drug-free on the trip. But I am very thankful for modern technological marvels such as portable DVD players. The only downside? I pretty much know "Frozen"line by line and wake up in cold sweats on some nights with "Veggie Tales" songs crashing through my sub-conscious and horrible nightmares of Larry Boy in superhero tights.

You hear horror stories about people leaving kids at gas stations and in restaurants or other places. And perhaps it's remarkable that we can walk into an In-N-Out restaurant in American Fork, Utah, or picnic at Little America in Wyoming, and drive away with all kids present and accounted for. What's our secret? I try not to travel with more than 10 children at a time, that way I can get in my airport shuttle van and use all my fingers and toes to count kids. If all of the digits are used, I know that we're good. Which is exactly what we did on our trip home from Oregon this summer. On the way out to Oregon Claire trailed us in her car and then remained behind to attend Cornerstone School of Ministry in Corvallis, Ore., for the year.

So it was 10 kids all the way home. Piece of cake, eh? All I had to do was count. But I remember one time my heart going a flutter when I looked back about an hour after we had stopped and were back on the road -- I believe we were somewhere in Arizona, or maybe Oklahoma ... or maybe it was Nebraska -- and try as I might, I could only see 9 little heads back there. I asked around to see if anyone had seen a little blond-haired, blue-eyed kid named Ezra and didn't get an immediate reply ... it was almost time to hit the panic button. After a few moments Ezra's head finally popped up. Big exhale. Have you ever had that feeling before? It's horrible.

There may have been one time we left a child at church on a Sunday several years ago. But it may have been a situation when someone called us to inquire if we were short a kid in the van while we were only a few blocks away, so we knew that the child was in good hands. Not exactly panic time, but still something where our parenting card could have been up for review.

When I think about all the things that could go wrong while cruising through 18 states, three time zones and the Texas Panhandle, I am very thankful that we fulfilled all the requirements of the "No Child Left Behind" Act.

*Except Claire, who remained in Oregon to attend Cornerstone School of Ministry. We really, really, really miss her. In fact, Julie cried pretty much all the way to Idaho after saying good-bye to Claire in the Multnomah Falls parking lot.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

One Piece of Advice For Parents In Raising Kids

Any parent knows there's a million things that occur within the parenting realm that go into the process of raising kids. And that's just in one day. I'm no parenting guru, or expert, or someone who knows the recipe for the secret sauce of parenting. But in a quarter-century of being `Dad' to a significant brood of children I've learned a thing or two. Or a million. And there's a million more things to learn.

But I've been thinking about this bit of advice I'm going to share a lot lately as my older kids have hit adulthood and have started making big life decisions. With a million more big life decisions to make. It's been important to me over the last decade for my kids to see how I make decisions. This photo above, taken by one of my daughters last summer of Mt. Ararat, is symbolic of what I'm saying.

If you look at the photo you see this little church in the foreground. It's a lovely, photogenic church that in and of itself is worthy of being the target of your camera lens. Yet it is dwarfed in scale, in beauty, in power, ruggedness and mystery -- the `wow' factor -- by the mountain looming over it. The mountain lends insignificance to the little church, however photogenic and captivating that house of worship may be.

Big life decisions affecting families are like this photo. There may be something seemingly rather small and inconsequential that confronts me on occasion and I can look at it and on the surface think it's not that big of a deal. Or maybe it is something of a big deal, but I don't think of the ripple effects of that decision.

Taking a different job, for example. Maybe the new job is better paying and on the surface seems like a better deal for my family because we'll have more income. Yet what's the price of that increased pay? Is there less time with the family because responsibilities and demands increase in the new job? How do you put a price on that? Will there be more travel or a longer commute that will take me away from my family? Have I weighed the long-term effects on my family of that?

For my family there's been some major decisions that have occurred over the past six years or so, such as quitting my job in Virginia to attend the School of Ministry in Oregon, or planting a church (Calvary Chapel Gloucester), or refusing to let our athletic children participate in travel team sports that compete on Sundays (and would interfere with church). What Julie and I have done as parents is take time to seek the Lord in these decisions and wait on Him to provide the answers. In prayer, in reading the Bible in our daily devotions and in waiting on God is how we have made our decisions, along the way including our older children in that process.

One of the most important things that has occurred is that our decisions have been grounded in Scripture. We have been able to apply to our decisions verses we have come across in our devotions that speak into our lives. Sometimes they just jump off the page at you. Our older children have been able to similarly make decisions. One of the major blessings of that process is that when things have gotten hard and difficult and doubts have crept in about a decision, we are able to go back and stand firmly on that verse, or promise, and know that God is in control and is guiding our path.

Our children not only need to see us make decisions, but see how we make decisions. Look at the life of Jesus. Over and over again in Scripture when you see big things looming in His life you see Jesus agonizing in prayer and it's not uncommon for Him to spend all night praying. What is the process you go through in making decisions? One of my favorite verses is Hosea 12:6 that essentially says to wait on the Lord continually. It's a verse that runs completely contrary to our American culture but is one that I have found is invaluable to decision-making. Wait on the Lord, hear Him out, read His word and let your children in on that process.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The World's Strongest Man. And He Has ALS.

It would be virtually impossible to be living in America and have no clue about the ALS "Ice Bucket Challenge" that has inundated social media. It's the summer of the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Yet how many of us actually personally know people afflicted with "Lou Gehrig's Disease," as it's commonly known? What sort of interaction have you had with someone with ALS?

One of the most remarkable men I've ever met and spent time with is very likely nearing the end of his life in the unrelenting grip of ALS. His name is Jay Tolar, a man affectionately known in the Sabo household, and very likely many other households, as "Coach Jay."

In July 2010, my family traveled to Serving In Mission headquarters in Charlotte, N.C., for three weeks of missions training. For two of those weeks, Coach Jay spent time with my older children pouring into them a legacy that will likely span generations. It's a tribute to him that four years later his wisdom, his attitude, his grace and perseverance continues to have a profound effect on my children who had the privilege and honor to spend many hours a day with him. All of us got to know him and his wife Heidi and children Jake and Julie.

Coach Jay had been an SIM missionary serving in Nigeria, where he was born to missionary parents. A big strapping, athletic man at 6-foot-4, Coach Jay's body has betrayed him and is deteriorating. He is now confined to a wheelchair requiring everything to be done for him and I've received emails that indicate the ravages of ALS may be nearing an end.

I spoke and texted with my son Ethan, now 21, about Coach Jay earlier today.  Ethan told me that Coach Jay was amazing in how he was handling his diagnosis of ALS. There was no self-pity, no woe is me, no signs of depression from Coach Jay.

Coach Jay's faith and trust in God and God's plans was undeterred. He was a steady, immovable rock on sands that were shifting ever so mightily beneath him.

Ethan said that the best marriage talk he's ever heard came from Coach Jay. I asked him what it was about the talk that was so good.

"Just about treating your wife with honor and love in all situations and that in turn she will respect and submit to you," Ethan wrote. "About what it means to be a husband, laying down your wants and needs for your wife and family."

Here's how Taylor, now 22, summed up Coach Jay in an email: "What can I say about Coach? I only spent two weeks with him, but those two weeks will ripple through the rest of my life. He did so much more than teach me how to walk with God, to be a strong leader, a loving husband, a compassionate father, an inspiring coach, a man after God's heart. He exemplified it.

"He taught me that being a man isn't about killing, it's about dying. He taught me that every day men are called to die to their flesh, their desires, their needs, and put their wives, their children, their friends' needs before their own. He showed the beauty of hoping in Christ and the power of faith in Christ. I hope that, one day, I can become half the man that he is. To Coach, who always reflected his Savior, and now will know Him just as he also is known."

Taylor added a passage from Scripture: "Yet indeed I count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead." --Philippians 3:8-11.

I can't accurately convey how humbled and honored we are as a family to have spent time with Coach Jay. I know he will soon hear the words we all hope to hear from our Lord, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Here's a video produced by the SIM media team on Coach Jay. God bless you Jay. We love you and look forward to a heavenly reunion with you.

Jay Tolar video

Friday, August 22, 2014

Cultivating A Heart Of Thankfulness, Just Like A 3-year-old


After 25 years of raising wee lads and lasses, I still have things plenty of things to learn, observations to make and new insights to glean when it comes to child rearing. There's a bunch of reasons for this, I imagine. One of them is the uniqueness of each of our children and what each one brings to the table in terms of personality, energy, behaviors, skills and other traits. 

Judah, our resident 3-year-old, is a little guy who I would describe as irrepressible. He has this unquenchable fire to live life to its fullest. And what I love about him is how it's spilling over into his budding understanding of God and Jesus. He absolutely loves church. A couple of months ago I walked into the bedroom he shares with about 20 brothers 5 brothers to get him out of bed. Here's our conversation:

Judah: "What day is it?"
Me: "Sunday."
Judah: "It's Sunday?"
Me: "Yeah, Sunday."
Judah: "Yay! It's church day! I love Sunday!"

Haha! I love that about him. He also loves to pray. When it's dinnertime he likes to pray for the meal before I do and his prayers are, well, sincere. He's always so thankful when he prays and it's such a good reminder for me to cultivate a heart of thankfulness. God is truly good and I am blessed immeasurably. My prayers should reflect this. In some of his dinnertime prayers he's thanked God for his Lightning McQueen potty seat, going potty like a big boy, his toys and other things. But hey, I just appreciate the fact he's thankful.

A few months ago I shot some video of his bedtime prayer. You can find the video here: Prayer video

Even though it was June and warm outside and we hadn't had snow in months, apparently snow was on Judah's mind because he was STILL thankful for it. Isn't that cool? How often do we thank God for things He has done in our loves that are in the distant, let alone near, past. And I love how nothing is too inconsequential for Judah to be thankful about. Yes, it's kind of silly and cute and everything, but to me it's a reminder that the Lord's many blessings should not go unmentioned. 

Here's a really, really close transcript of Judah's prayer, as best as I could understand it:

"Thank you for this God and thank you for this beautiful day and for a lot of friends and the snow wars and the snow and all the friends. And thank you for this God and thank you for this beautiful day in the grass and watching Paw Patrol and video games and Super Smash Bros and Infinity and Cars video game and Mario Cart, Amen!"

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Burying Lizards Alive And Getting Rich Quick

                        Lizard/amphibian thought bubble: "Don't bury me alive!"

If someone told you to bury a lizard and you would get rich, would you do it? Perhaps on the surface it sounds silly to you. Or does it?

My day job as a missionary is communications manager for Transformational Education Network, an organization dedicated to bringing Christian education and computer skills training to young adults in Africa and the Caribbean. In that capacity I get emails from around the world and came across one yesterday that got me chuckling. Christie Dasaro, our TEN3 director in Nigeria, wrote about an ongoing "Computer Holiday Adventure" computer training outreach session that is being held at our TEN3 school in Jos, Nigeria. The session has 16 students, some of them touching a computer for the first time, she wrote.

Some good news out of the session is that two of the students gave their lives to Christ and six students rededicated their lives to Christ after a Bible lesson of, "What do you believe and why the Bible?" Christie wrote that she has "never been excited teaching CTO Bible like yesterday. To God alone be the glory."

She relayed one interesting story as the students shared beliefs in their culture. One student said, "If you catch a lizard alive and bury it, after three days you will become wealthy." That sounds patently ridiculous to us in America, eh? Not so fast. We have plenty of strange cultural beliefs: The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow; Santa Claus; The Tooth Fairy (who, by the way, needs an income-generating strategy because the Sabo household has lost an amazing amount of teeth); Affordable health care. Coming from a culture in which a survey several years ago showed nearly 40 percent of lower-income people believed buying lottery tickets was a good wealth-building strategy, we better not judge.

The manager at the local convenience store near my house said she has many customers who spend hundreds of dollars a day on the lottery. I was in there once clutching Seth in one arm and a pop in the other and the dude in line in front of me dropped $600 cash on scratch tickets. I blurted out, "Feeling lucky today?" He looked at me and shrugged. When he left the clerk said he usually spends more. Wow. Just wow.

Christie ended her email about the student's lizard story by writing, "Thank God, the lesson opened his eyes to see the lies of the devil and know the truth." It's a small thing to have this child's eyes opened about a faulty community cultural belief. But in the big picture, through the TEN3 session his eyes are being opened to a much greater truth: the gospel of Jesus Christ.

When I quit my newspaper job in May to work with TEN3, I left the relative security of more than two decades of work as a reporter knowing that in four years of missionary support raising through Serving In Mission, I had built up only about a year's worth of funds. I felt strongly the Lord's leading in becoming a missionary with TEN3, affirmed through much prayer and confirmation in Scripture, and have faith the Lord can supply the funding to continue beyond next summer. My faith isn't in burying lizards alive, or the lottery, or some other scheme, but it's in the God who has provided for me and my large family for the past 20 plus years. We lack nothing and have been blessed tremendously.

One other thing moves me to work with TEN3 and see lives transformed around the world. Our schools are open to anyone of any beliefs, but the gospel is proclaimed unashamedly. In her email, Christie asked for prayer for one of the 16 students, who is Muslim and is hearing in the class about the hope of salvation through Jesus Christ. In a world that seems to be coming unhinged, riven by violence, hopelessness, warfare, disasters and unfathomable turmoil, the only true peace is in Jesus. One of my favorite verses is John 14:27, where Jesus says, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Pictorial Of Our Trip Through The American Southwest

Here are some edited photos I took from our recent visit to the Grand Canyon and surrounding area in Arizona and Utah. It was a fantastic trip and it's such a staggeringly beautiful area! I love to see God's canvas in person and His creative flourishes. I am so thankful we had the opportunity as a family -- or most of our family -- on the trip to see this part of our beautiful country. If you haven't been able to visit this part of the country, I highly recommend it. It is absolutely breathtaking and I'm looking forward to going back and taking more photos.

                                         GRAND CANYON

                                         A HIGHWAY 89 VIEWPOINT

                                          VERMILION CLIFFS

                                          COLORADO RIVER

                                ROCKING V CAFE IN DOWNTON KANAB, UTAH

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Government Estimates The Costs of Raising Kids. We're In Trouble!

                                          Seth, aka the `Quarter-Million Dollar Baby'

My friend and former Daily Press colleague Peter Frost, now with the Chicago Tribune, wrote an article recently on the government's estimate of what it costs to raise to the age of 18 a child born in 2013. The figure the government came up with was $245,340. You read that right. Two-hundred-forty-five-thousand-three-hundred-forty. Dollars.

Um, we're in trouble in the Sabo household. Now you know why I'm always scrounging around for change in the couch! I'm still trying to wrap my head around a quarter-million bucks. Per kid. Some quick math tells me that with 14 kids, my tab is/will be in the vicinity of 3.4 million. Dollars. I'm thinking my kids are going to have to pull their own weight on this one. I'm going to start charging rent. For everyone. (Pause.) I just broke the news to Seth. He looked ... puzzled.

As I'm trying to digest this news, some thoughts ran through my mind. For starters, I didn't know I am supposed to buy my kids a Ferrari when they turn 16. Another thing: My house that I bought earlier this year cost less than what I'm going to fork out for the latest edition of the Sabo family. At least, according to the government's estimate.

There is some good news, though. As I read the article more closely I saw that the $245,340 is for middle-class folks pulling down more than $61,300 a year. So raise your hand if you're "lower-income" folks making less than $60k a year. (My hand just shot up. Actually both hands. I guess that means I surrender.) If that's you with one or two hands up, then you're only on the hook for $176,550! Sweet! I only have to buy my 16-year-olds a Lexus now!

As I probed further into the article, going to the very depths of it, I found this gem of a paragraph: "Expenses per child decrease as a family has more children, the report said, as children share bedrooms, clothing and other items." True dat! We stack them up four and five to a bedroom in the Sabo house! I noticed last winter we had a kid's coat in the closet that we've had since Brenton was 2! That was 1991! Seth pretty much uses everyone else's toothbrush! Anything to save money in the Sabo household! (Just kidding!)

At the bottom was a link to the government calculator to calculate how much it's going to cost to raise your kids. I clicked on it. One problem cropped right up. You could only calculate 6 kids. So I had to do 2 calculations since now we "only" have 10 kids under the age of 18 living at home. Some figuring revealed I'm in it for $72,086 in child-rearing expenses. This year. Which could be a problem since that's waaaaaaayyyyyy beyond what I make.

There's some explanations of how the numbers are produced, but I can't help but think it's the same office producing these figures that comes up with the federal government's budget. All I know is that my kids are fed, clothed, bathed, taken care of and generally nurtured. How does it all work in the face of these frightening "costs" the government says we are forking out? As I say frequently, the Lord provides. We are in very good and capable hands. Even if the government might not think so.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Cooking Dinner For Multitudes. Or Dinner Every Night At The Sabos.

We get a ton of questions about what it's like at meal time around here. I'm not sure if people are considering inviting us over for dinner and weighing the costs -- literally -- or if they're just curious. As you can see from the above photo, basically it's a box full of veggies every night with several pounds of barbecued beef.* When you are cooking for 16, which I believe is the total number in the Sabo household as of today, it's pretty much all about volume. But technically with a few older kids away at school we're typically only cooking for 13. Piece of cake, eh?

When it comes to preparing meals, I start out by taking all the seats out of our 15-passenger van and then backing it up to the loading dock of the nearest nearby grocery store.** The non-perishables, to include the pastas, cereals, flours and baking products, canned goods and other edible products, are in large boxes on wood pallets that are stuffed into the van with a forklift. We buy the milk in multiple-gallon containers similar in size to small vats. A small vat of milk usually gets us through a few days.

Perhaps by now you are thinking, `Surely he can't be serious!' You would be right. There's no small vats of milk, no forklifts packing our Chevy full of non-perishables and certainly no backing up to loading docks (although that seems to me a pretty good idea now that I think about it). I will say I spend a lot of time at the grocery store. They know me well there. And when it comes to cooking, consider that we have a lot of little kids with little tummies. Except maybe Seth. The other night we got some pizzas (4 larges) and I cut several slices in half for the younger set. Seth, however, got a whole piece. He likes his pizza.

The other night for dinner was clam chowder and fish sticks. The biggest pot in the house was used for the chowder -- we had some leftovers -- and a box of 48 fish sticks was disposed of by the hordes of ravenous Sabos. Is that the way it is in your house?

So taking into account smaller tummies, in theory we're cooking for more like 9 or 10. See! That's not so bad. Now, things change when all the kids are home from school. Those aren't little tummies. Essentially there's foraging occurring in the Sabo kitchen for a solid 18-20 hours a day when everyone is home so it's vital to stock up come Christmas or Thanksgiving. You know how people totally stock up in Virginia when there's word of a hurricane that's heading our way? That's how we treat the times when the older kids return from college. It's hurricane grubbing season.

As for the cost of feeding everyone, well, that's privileged information. Let me put it this way: We have a smaller mortgage. As for how we feed everyone, I have a simple answer: The Lord provides. God has been so good to us over the years in so many ways. We have been blessed abundantly in children, in provision of all our physical needs, in friendships, in memories and so many other ways. It's been a true feast.

*Just kidding! This box full of veggies pictured above was brought to us by friends and we've got big plans for it over the course of several, even multiple, meals that have already begun. The barbecued beef, however, was very, very tasty!

**Just kidding! I don't actually take ALL of the seats out of the van before backing it up to the nearest nearby grocery store.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Low-Budget Date Nights. Or Parents With Funding Issues.

                                          Swan Tavern Antiques in Yorktown, Va.

You and your honey/hunk/sweet thing/lovey-dovey/sugar pie -- or whatever it is you call your spouse/mate/life partner/husband/wife -- may be so financially secure that every date night you take includes $15 appetizers, $30 steaks, $15 desserts and a short cruise for $100 a pop in the bay. Not to mention the tab for the babysitter. Plus tip.

The Sabos, however, operate in a different financial realm. Five Guys is high-end for us. We've been known to head to dinner with coupons. From McDonald's. We like going to the nearby Mexican restaurant because it's all about volume; we can take home enough food for a second "in-house" date the next day, provided our boxes of food can somehow survive the gauntlet of starving chitlins rummaging through the fridge over the course of about 24 hours. Basically there's a better chance of Los Angeles being smog-free in August than a box of Mexican food leftovers surviving more than a few hours in the Sabo fridge, however.

So almost subconsciously Julie and I have begun to specialize in the "creative dating lifestyle" category. For example, on our recent trip to Oregon we took a lovely stroll through her former hometown of Canby, Ore. She was a great tour guide and pointed out all of her old downtown haunts, walked me by her old elementary school and pointed out how small the trees used to be in Wait Park. It was a wonderful time together unencumbered by the demands of small children ... wait a minute. Now that I think about it I recall pushing a jogger stroller on our jaunt. Which wasn't empty ... well, I guess it was a date with just the three of us -- Julie, Seth and me. An intimate walk through town with Julie was a nice thought at least.

Anyway, there are times that we are alone together in a formal "date" setting that includes the obligatory dinner. When you have the volume of children we have, you have to pick your spots but thankfully we have older kids who can watch the little kids. But sometimes you just need to get away, albeit cheaply, to have adult conversations without interruption, to share your dreams about the future (Mine entails 100 grandchildren. No pressure kids if you're reading this, but my biological clock is ticking and I don't have any yet.) and sometimes just to HAVE SOME PEACE AND QUIET! Er, excuse me. Our house is actually typically peaceful and somewhat serene even because people who come over to visit often remark how quiet it is in here. But there are those moments when it feels like someone just targeted my house with some sort of smart bomb -- or is it a dumb bomb? -- that causes endless arguing, whining and general chaos. You know what I mean?

All this to say that earlier this week Julie and I managed to take leave of our children, drive down to a large crafts store and actually "browse" through the aisles without even thinking of how long we were taking. It was paradise! Then on the way home on a complete whim, spur of the moment, even spontaneous act, we ducked into Yorktown, parked the car and walked around through the historical Colonial buildings dating back to the 1700s. It was a perfectly delightful August night. The sky was ablaze following a thunderstorm, the smell of the rain was wafting in the air and it was just the two of us, alone in our conversation as darkness crept over us. It was absolutely wonderful. Who can put a price tag on that?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Chasing Mr. Darcy. Or Was It Mr. Wickham?

No road trip across America is complete without a running of the bulls. Or in my case, a running of the bull. We were on the homestretch of our 4-week jaunt across the U.S. when we landed in very rural Tennessee, a type of place where the outskirts and inskirts of town are pretty much the same thing. It would become a night I'll never forget, an unexpected moment of bonding with my teenage son Abram that we'll talk about for years.

We took a respite from our travels for dinner and fellowship at the hillside estate of our good friends Chris & Sharyl Bertoni, who make their home in VanLeer, Tennessee. The greater VanLeer area is the type of place where everyone still has a land line, folks in oncoming pickups wave to you and cattle and horses outnumber residents. It was right around sunset, about the time we were rounding up our kids to hit the road when the Bertonis got a call from a neighbor. It seems one of the two Bertoni bulls was about a half-mile away in their neighbor's yard. Chris shook his head. This particular bull had a history of following through on his thoughts that the grass is greener in other pastures. Chris was not amused, but needed some help in rounding up the wayward bull. He asked Abram, our 14-year-old, and me if we could help him out. No problem, we said. To me it sounded like a good adventure, a good capper to a memorable road trip that was drawing to a close. Abram didn't look so sure about things and quietly asked me if the bull would kill him. I assured him it wouldn't. I mean it's not like we would be chasing him down with a stick or something, right Chris?

Well, actually that's exactly what we did. There's nothing like chasing a ton of beef with love on his mind armed with a stick. I mean, what could possibly go wrong, right? We walked outside and Chris handed Abram a length of sturdy 1-inch PVC pipe and he handed me a handle of what appeared to be a garden tool, minus the garden tool part. We could use them to wave at the bull to get him to go where we wanted -- he showed us how to properly wave our arms and look threatening -- and if that didn't work we could whack the bull about the head. Okaaaayyyyyy Chris. If you say so ...

And with that we were off, walking down the long, sloping gravel driveway armed with our sticks and our wits -- and suddenly fervent prayers -- to find the runaway bull.  As we headed out into the darkening, humid, insect-laden Tennessee night to fetch the wayward, amorous bull ogling the nearby heifers, I had a question for Chris.

Me: "So what's this bull's name?"
Chris: "Mr. Darcy."
Me: "Haha! Seriously?"
Chris: "Yes. But he should be called Mr. Wickham."

About a half-mile walk later we found Mr. Darcy under the watchful gaze of Chris' neighbor. Mr. Darcy appeared to be chewing his cud -- or maybe slobbering -- as he stood in her front yard right up against her fence staring at ... horses? Yes, they were horses. I asked Chris if Mr. Darcy was confused. Chris opined that Mr. Darcy was not only confused, but quite stupid as well. I believe Mr. Darcy heard that because I think I heard him snort. We visited briefly with Chris' kindly neighbor before "encouraging" Mr. Darcy to head back home. I could only assume that it is a universal truth that Mr. Darcy was a single man possessed of a good fortune who merely wanted a mate. The interruption of this desire, even though it was clearly a bit muddled as he pursued members of an entirely different species, proved vexing for Mr. Darcy.

He pawed at the dirt and lowered his head, shaking it from side to side. I've seen this type of activity -- in bullfights. This wasn't a good sign as it appeared Mr. Darcy would not go gently into the good Tennessee night. In fact, it appeared to be something of a standoff. Chris, however, was not up for games and started cuffing Mr. Darcy about the ears with his stick trying to turn him and guide him back roughly toward home. Over the next several minutes the three of us managed to herd Mr. Darcy in the general direction of his pasture, but not before he made a futile run for another pasture and generally misbehaved by jogging about in circuitous paths. I got the hang of standing my ground with my stick looking menacing and even managed to get in a few licks of Mr. Darcy when he got within striking range. Several times Abram and I resorted to the arm-waving and stick-pounding on the road that Chris said would prevent Mr. Darcy from crashing into us. It worked mostly. Until we hit a fork in the road and Mr. Darcy started making a beeline for Kentucky. Which is the exact opposite direction in which we were trying to get Mr. Darcy to head.

Chris, already in a foul mood, went sprinting after Mr. Darcy, yelling rather mean things about Mr. Darcy's character, disposition, intelligence and general demeanor as he huffed it up a hill. Chris returned soon afterward, afflicted not only with labored breathing but a foul disposition as well, saying Mr. Darcy was gone and out of sight and that when he finally did catch the amorous chap, the worthless bull would be rendered into hamburger. I offered to head up after Mr. Darcy and track him while Chris and Abram started heading back to the house to fetch a pickup -- and possibly a high-powered firearm. We parted ways and I began my pursuit of Mr. Darcy. As I crested the hill in a slow jog, my stick at the ready, imagine my surprise to see Mr. Darcy staring right at me just up the way. I tried to play it cool, acting like you know, I was just out for an evening jog in my New Balance running shoes with my stick. I managed to hug the other side of the road and slip past Mr. Darcy, then turned on him. I must have surprised him because immediately he took off down the hill. I yelled at Chris that Mr. Darcy was heading for him. Chris couldn't believe his luck.

Alas, Mr. Darcy wasn't through paying visits to neighbors. He ran all through the yard and around the house of another neighbor on our way home, with Chris hollering and chasing him the whole way. Then Mr. Darcy pulled a fast one and started backtracking toward where we found him. Chris was beside himself as Mr. Darcy tore back toward Kentucky. Enter Abram. He took off and ran down Mr. Darcy in a mad sprint before managing to "convince" Mr. Darcy with inventive uses of his PVC pipe to turn around. It was a heroic effort by Abram, who proved his mettle and courage in the face of desperate exasperation on our part. It was well dark before we finally got Mr. Darcy confined to the corral at the foot of the Bertoni driveway. I will not forget the forlorn look possessed by Mr. Darcy as the lock on the gate clinked shut. We gazed intently at each other. Then we parted at last with mutual civility, and possibly a mutual desire of never meeting again.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

An American Journey: A Family's Trip Across The U.S.

                                         The Grand Canyon

Our summer road trip is in the bag.  Twenty-seven days, 8,100 miles, 18 states, one astonishing national park and a million memories. We traveled to Oregon and back in just under four weeks, one big family in one big van. At times our journey was a blur -- the 710-mile drive with just one stop on our last day from Franklin, Tenn. to home comes to mind -- and yet so many other times I wanted time to stop, the sun or moon to stand absolutely still in what seemed like a perfect moment. The few brief hours at the Grand Canyon come to mind. Plenty of other moments come to mind: An evening in the cool summer air of Kanab, Utah; the mind-boggling fireworks from a distant lightning storm lighting up the New Mexico sky; the view from Highway 89 where the Vermilion Cliffs jut up from Highway 89 in Arizona after we had touched the clouds on a 7,000-foot mountain pass.

                                          Kanab, Utah

The American West is absolutely alluring. The sky is so big and blue, the canyons are carved so deep into the earth and the mountains seem to kiss the sun. The landscape alternates between the staggeringly harsh and forbidding deserts and lovely and inviting river valleys. So many times I found myself thanking God for allowing me to take the trip and share it with my family. We enjoyed reunions with so many family members, friends and supporters of ours in our mission work with TEN3 ( that were most often all too brief. We made new friends and acquaintances all across the country, often of people staggered by the amount of booths we took up at restaurants, or who we encountered during a picnic on the road, or at some other family excursion. Sometimes we spied them giggling as we spilled out of the van as they watched a seemingly endless supply of Sabo lads and lasses.

                                          On a farm near McMinnville, Ore.

Our great adventure has come to a close, but I am so thankful to God that He allowed us to enjoy this time as a family. We're at a point where our older kids are forging their own paths. We managed to enjoy parts of this trip with almost all of our kids and I'm very thankful for that. We'll tell the stories of our cross-country trip for years to come, sharing laughs about what happened when Seth hopped on the teeter-totter in Weatherford, Okla. Or how Gabe and Abram and their little brothers tried to catch steelhead salmon with their hands in a small tributary of the Clackamas River. We'll relive Judah's hurling incident in Dickson, Tenn., or chasing a bull down country roads in VanLeer, Tenn., or scrambling over the rocks atop the Grand Canyon cliffs. I can still picture the vineyards cascading down the cliffs of the Columbia River Gorge, the blueberries bigger than quarters in Grandma and Grandpa Young's back yard, and the sight of the range fire in the arid Eastern Oregon hills above Interstate 84 that had ranchers on ATVs herding their cattle to safe ground. And I'll always remember the countless smiles and laughter from a family having the time of its life.