Sunday, January 25, 2015

Our Secret To Driving Long Distances With Kids

These kids are stoked to drive 400 miles without stopping

On Saturday morning, Team Sabo featuring a 9-kid lineup piled into our Chevy Express 15-passenger van, minus the back bench seat for additional cargo space, and left Myrtle Beach, S.C. After 400 miles of driving we arrived home here in the sprawling metropolis of Gloucester Point/Hayes/Wicomico in just under 6 hours. We did not stop once.

I posted this trip recap as a status on Facebook and sensed some doubts among some folks. I sensed some people were asking things or responding along the lines of:
--Was he actually serious?
--Did he really drive that far without stopping?
--Did he really have a van full of 9 kids? Or were they photoshopped in?
--What kind of drugs did he use on those kids? Where can I get those for my kids?
--Were they all wearing diapers, including him?

Yes, it's true. Um, not about the diapers part, though. Only Seth, age 2, was reppin the Huggies. What is true is that we had nine kids in the van between the ages of 2 and 16 and drove 400 miles in six hours without stopping. No potty breaks, no stops for fast food, no accidents, no relieving oneself via artificial means such as peeing into an empty milk jug or other device.

So what's our secret? Well, let me ask you something if you are a parent of children and every car trip threatens to leave you, your children and your spouse mentally unhinged and the inside of your car looking like a cross between the scene of a food fight and the gnarly insides of a restaurant dumpster.
How much are you willing to pay for this secret? Because for just $14.99 we have a limited-time offer through where you can get my New York Times-bestselling book, "We Drove Across The U.S. Four Times With 10 Kids -- And Survived." Plus, for just $10.99 more you can get our bestselling DVD called "Driving With Kids 101" with live footage and handy action sequence tips that is a must-have for every parent. Act now and we will throw in for free our special limited edition of "Sabo Silly Songs" CD that makes the miles pass effortlessly.

Just kidding. No book, no DVD, no silly songs. Sorry to disappoint you because I know you had that wallet out and were on frantically searching. In fact, to be completely, totally and perfectly honest with you, we have no secret. I asked MerriGrace, our 16-year-old featured prominently in the photo above about our "secret" to van traveling with kids. She was pretty much stumped and said that basically when she gets in the van she gets calm because it's something we've always done. We've always driven long distances and it's just something they're used to. Yes, she said when she gets in the van she gets calm. That's your experience with your kids, right?

Now don't get me wrong. Portable DVD players have been a game changer. Showing "Frozen" at 77 miles per hour down a North Carolina freeway has some sort of soothing, or maybe embalming, effect on the nature of our wee lads and lasses. Our "Frozen" DVD actually broke just before we left for South Carolina and we made an emergency pit stop at a Wal-Mart on some South Carolina highway to get a new one to take the edge off of our 2-year-old's traveling angst. Or else we were all going to die because he was so out of sorts. Seriously.

We packed coolers and I believe Julie made sandwiches for a stretch of around 23 miles. We disposed of one box of Cheez-Its, a package of cookies, six bananas, a bag or two of Sour Patch Kids (affectionately called "Sour Cratch Kids" by our youngest verbalists), a couple of apples and assorted other edible items. We watched "Frozen" twice and our family has the unique ability of being to quote the movie verbatim from beginning to end. I'm not sure if that's a good thing.

Here's the big thing, though. The one thing that made a difference between us stopping or not.

I had no pop. Or soda. Or Coke, Pepsi, soda pop, whatever you call it.

I confess. The reason we usually stop is because Dad has to go. I'm the weak link in the bunch. On this trip I manned up though.

My next goal is 500 miles without stopping.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The World Record For One Woman Having Babies

Matt & Julie -- Relative minor-leaguers in the `kid' department

There's something I need to clear up. Some accusations, aspersions, and rumors that have come our way over the last several ways. It's been on my mind recently and I just want to clear the air. All those people who say we have a lot of kids? You're wrong. It's just not true. We're not even in the minor leagues when it comes to kids.

How can I say this? Pretty easily. And I'm not even comparing ourselves to the Duggars and however many kids they have at the moment. You see, I've done some research. I've asked the right questions. I've probed, nerded out, googled, whatever you want to say. And I'm here to tell you that the truth of the matter is that we might only have a starter set of kids when you compare us to the legend of baby-making. The woman with the womb in the Birthing Hall of Fame. The one whose maternity dresses we are not worthy to wear. (Especially me.)

Just out of curiosity, what do you think is the world record for one woman giving birth? Is it 24? Would you say 30? Can you imagine, gasp, 40? Let me just say, you're getting warm.

Friends, strangers and even Sabo blog stalkers, there is one woman who stands alone in recorded Western history for the fruitfulness of her womb. She put the `pro' in prolific. Let's just say she's pro-life like no one else.

Between the years of 1725-65 (Which, if my calculations are correct, is 40 years ... that's 40 years of giving birth ladies.) Ludmila, a Russian peasant woman and wife of Feodor Vassilyev,  gave birth to 69 children by 27 births. That is not a typo. That's 69 babies. Sixty-nine. Say it out loud for effect.

Yes, it's true. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, all the women put together reading this blog probably don't have enough kids between them to compare to Ms. Vassilyev. So how did she do it? Uh, let's rephrase that. How did she have so many kids? The key is multiple births. All you young mothers out there start taking notes.

She had four sets of quadruplets, seven sets of triplets and sixteen sets of twins. So there you go. It's all about multiple births. Got it? Not to mention the fact that she had babies over the course of 40 years. Does that mean she started cranking out wee lads and lasses at 14 years of age and finished at 54 years old? I'm not sure. Whatever the case, apparently she seemed to enjoy the whole child-birthing thing. God bless the woman, eh? Here's another thing: All but two of the children survived infancy. In 18th century rural Russia no less.

Take a minute to let this all sink in. Sixty-nine babies. No hospitals. No running water. No disposable diapers. No long, hot showers. No epidurals. No birthing wipes, baby food in jars, formula, or anything else like it.

What a woman.

So I hope this encourages you all to rethink the whole child-rearing thing. Maybe recalibrate what constitutes having kids. And having lots of kids. While you're thinking about that, I'm going to go ask Julie when she's ready to start having kids.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

DIY & Men With Power Tools. Is That A Good Thing?

The cornercinderblock is an essential element to a solid shed.

It started out innocently enough. I identified a need. I wanted to help. I thought I could contribute. So I opened my mouth. Gulp.

Have you ever offered your services out of a sense of compassion and then realized that you might be the least-qualified person to help? Welcome to my world. A few months ago I was talking to a young woman in our fellowship at Calvary Chapel Gloucester and she mentioned how she was building a shed and it wasn't going so well. So I offered to help. Naturally, I don't know the first thing about the proper manufacture of a sturdy shed. I very likely specialize in the manufacture of non-sturdy sheds. But that didn't stop me from offering to help.

I had a good heart. I was sincere in my effort to help ... yet I was very likely in over my head when I said those fateful words: "I can help finish your shed." Still, let's be honest here. I'm not a guy with totally soft hands. I've gotten a little dirt under my nails in the past. I once had calluses. There's been sightings of blisters after an honest day's work. The truth is, I've got some construction in my background. I've worked on houses we've remodeled in the past. I have a Skilsaw. I've pounded nails. I have a 4-foot level. Dude, I've got a Sawzall. Not to mention a manly sledgehammer I've wielded enough times that it's earned the nickname, "Sister Sledge." With that kind of resume I set out to finish this shed.

The first thing I did was recruit help from guys in our church. This was very strategic. I was hoping I'd get some guys who actually had been around the block with a shed, so to speak. I casually mentioned I could use a little help and miraculously came up with some volunteers. Of course, almost half of the "volunteers" happened to be two of my sons who were notified on rather short notice that they were volunteering. But that's beside the point.

So on a recent Saturday six of us showed up to build a shed. It was my sturdy lads Brenton and Ethan, myself, and my friends and volunteers Michael Goodman, Quinn Moulder and Tius Castor. We figured we'd knock this baby out in no more than a few hours. The structure we're working with is a DIY 10-foot-by-10-foot metal shed that's almost finished. Our job was to build a foundation and floor to put it on, secure it, get it square and finish getting the roof on and the sliding door hung.

No problem right? Well, after four hours, 6 donuts and 6 Gatorades, a trip to Lowe's, some digging, voluminous head scratching and general incompetence, we had managed to get 8 cinder blocks in the ground and level. At this rate, somewhere around the year 2021, or maybe 2022, we might get the shed finished. Hey, building the proper shed that meets all state and federal building codes, while maintaining an OSHA-approved safe work site in an atmosphere of brotherly love is no small task.

Still, we had the slight problem of whether we would finish the shed. Ever. Do we just put it on a concrete slab? Stick to the original plan of securing it to 4x4s on cinder blocks? Maybe pool our resources and hire someone to do it?

Praise the Lord for answered prayers. Over the course of the week my friend Matt Owens, a bona fide/for reals contractor, offered his services once he heard my story. I believe Matt was sent by the Lord. I think at least 5 other guys bear witness to that.

So last Saturday he showed up and boy howdy, did things get rolling. I do have to give a shout out to Ethan at this point. He couldn't make it to our second day of "work" because he was back at Hampden-Sydney College, but he managed to send this helpful text that really got the ball rolling for us: "Don't forget that the fourth wall is just as important as the third, and they hold together better with nails than wood glue." You can see why Ethan was wearing the tool belt the first Saturday and was basically in charge. You can't pay enough for that kind of advice and expertise.

Anyway, I don't know how to describe the amount of shock my buddy Matt seemed to show when we discovered that all 8 blocks we had put in the ground the previous week were level. He couldn't really hide it. But he laid out the plan for us, got us pointed in the right direction and we went to work. Then this happened ...

Shed building 101: The foundation is key

Things started coming together. Fueled by 6 more donuts and 6 more Gatorades and another trip to Lowe's, our crack crew of contractors started putting it all together. Literally. I mean, you couldn't stop us. We were an unstoppable shed-building force. Until we ran out of plywood.

Within a few minutes matter of four hours, we had nearly knocked out an entire shed foundation and floor. The amazing part of this whole thing is that my buddy Matt had to leave after an hour or so to attend to some family duties leaving the five of us alone with power tools and lumber. Let me just say that when you tick off some major miracles in world history, you can mention the parting of the Red Sea, Gideon and his 300 men taking out an entire army, and the five of us nearly completing a level, solid shed foundation and floor with no loss of digits or limbs. Check this photo out:

This is is what a shed-building team looks like

I am honored to be a part of this crew of shed builders from Calvary Chapel Gloucester. And when we finish this shed up -- and I emphasize when, not if -- we cannot wait -- I emphasize cannot wait -- to tackle another one. You've been warned. God bless you all.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The One Thing To Encouraging Creativity In Your Kids

"The Ballerinas" -- A drawing by MerriGrace

I had this thought this evening that I am enjoying the golden age of Sabo creativity. Over the past four weeks as our older kids who are in college spent time at home our house was cozily full of people, doubled as a 24-hour restaurant, featured a virtual parking lot full of cars and was a hub of creativity. Music, art, stand-up comedy, cooking, you name it. There was simply this amazing confluence of creativity in a variety of expressions.

Evie and MerriGrace were painting and drawing; Taylor and Ethan, both self-taught guitar players, were writing and singing songs; Claire and Madeline were playing instruments such as guitars, keyboards and the cajon and singing and Claire was cooking ... Brenton is an artist with his coffee-making and a gifted Bible teacher. I could go on down the list. Abram's Legos creations are remarkable. Judah makes us laugh with his creative use of language and expressions and so does Seth.

I was thinking about this after MerriGrace showed me one of her pencil drawings. I think it's beautiful and I was wondering what, if anything, has sparked all this originality in various mediums. Are they born with it? Is it something genetic. I like to joke that I was born without the left side of my brain, the part that's for math and science. I'm more the writing type, I guess, so maybe that's where some of this stems from. Julie is a musician; she sings and plays the piano so maybe that's where the kids get their music chops because it certainly isn't me.

Who knows. It's probably a combination of things and it will be interesting if somewhere in the long line of Sabo kids we get an engineer. Or a mathematician. Maybe even a rocket scientist.

As I was kicking around these things the thought struck me that maybe it's just the way they've played together that has led to these creative giftings. I haven't done any research on it and haven't made this a thesis for my Ph.D. But something I know about a large family and how the kids play together is that it's very creative and encourages creativity.

One of their favorite games over the years has been "Town." They all dress up -- even the older kids get in on the action -- and they each have a role in the town. There's doctors, lawyers, cops, bad guys, teachers, storekeepers, bankers and everything else that makes up a town. They make business signs and currency and dress up in the various costumes and come up with laws and regulations that any town has to have to function. It's really pretty amazing and requires a good level of cooperation. They learn to work together and to be a part of a team. They come up with town story lines and elaborate plots ... and they have a blast. The games of "Town" have lasted all day sometimes. Cousins and friends have gotten involved.

Who knows. Maybe it has something to do with it. Maybe more parents should encourage their kids to play together and see what comes out of it. Then again, it's possible our kids are gravitating
to their God-given talents in art, music and cooking. Whatever the case, I know that I love to hear the music, see the art and watch them fully engage in the creative process. Truly, I'm a blessed father.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Why We Homeschool: In Ezra's Words

Ezra enjoyed Christmas break. Now Ezra makes sure no one outsmarts him.

We are back to homeschooling in the House of Sabo following the Christmas break. There's a lot of "stuff" out there about homeschooling. Opinions. Negativity. Positivity. Blog posts. Facebook rants. I could go on. There's a ton of reasons why we homeschool. People have a ton of reasons why we shouldn't. The most comical I hear is that people might be concerned about our kids not being properly socialized. I don't think we have to worry about socialization in the Sabo house. With 14 kids, unless one of them hides under his or her bed all day every day, I'm pretty sure they are going to get "socialization." Plus, we actually do this thing where we "leave the house." Yes, it's true. We have been known to take our kids "places" where they have had actual "interaction" with "other people." I'm not making this up. It's for reals. They do other "socialization" activities as well. Our kids play youth soccer. They go to church where they "interact in social settings" with other kids. Some of our kids went ice skating recently. They have even been known to go to birthday parties, play with other kids and go to summer camp. It's like a socialization party around here.

Thankfully, though, our kids who are studying at home aren't subject to Common Core or sex and gender ed curriculum for elementary students that's probably written by Planned Parenthood or other agenda-driven organizations I take issue with. We're the ones responsible for forming their attitudes and opinions and developing their character, not a bunch of peers at school. We don't fear for their safety when they're at school. They don't bring home from school fleets of flu bugs or other illnesses. I could go on but I won't. The main point of this blog post was succinctly captured by our 8-year-old son Ezra last night. I had just finished bedtime prayers with him and his 6-year-old sister Olivia when this conversation went down.

Olivia: "Why do we have to do school?"
Ezra: "Because if you don't learn, everyone will outsmart you."

So there you go. As good of a reason as any on why we homeschool in the Sabo house. We will not be outsmarted.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Saying Goodbye To My Little Girl

Claire at Christmas. She likes chocolate. Go figure.

I said goodbye to Claire today. She heads back to Oregon for another five months to finish out her year at Cornerstone School of Ministry at Calvary Chapel Corvallis. I'm not a big fan of goodbyes, especially today's. Claire is a remarkable young woman. Everything is better here when Claire is home.

She's my first and thereby oldest daughter and I remember clearly the day she arrived, a little bundle of sweetness on a spring day in Prineville, Ore. After three boys there was a certain mystery to this little girl. She was soft and gentle and such a little girlie. I loved it.

She has blossomed into a beautiful, gifted young woman and when she's home and picks up her guitar and sings praise songs it's like the world stops for me and it instantly becomes a peaceful, beautiful place. She's led worship in our church, Calvary Chapel Gloucester, for the three or four Sundays she's been home and what a blessing. I could listen to her all day long. I really could. She and Madeline play and sing praise songs together and their harmonies are wonderful.

One of my favorite things about Claire being home is seeing how much Ezra loves having her around. Ezra is 8 and pretty reserved but with Claire he'll snuggle with her. There's a special bond there and it makes me smile to watch them together.

One thing I noticed when Claire was home for Christmas after being away for four months was how much she has matured in her faith. Not only has her singing and worship become richer and more beautiful, but I can her how close she is to the Lord in her songs, her prayers and really all of her life. As hard as these five months are going to be, I can't wait to see how much more beautiful she will become as she spends the time deepening her walk with Jesus. I love you Claire.

Here's her and Madeline singing: Amazing Grace

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Happy Birthday To You, Julie. I Love You.

A typical photo of Julie: Surrounded by kids

I've lost count of all the places we've lived. The rental on the hill with a view of the courthouse in a little Oregon cowboy town. The houses set back in the woods down quiet streets. The little house near the beach that's so small we have three young boys in a bed. The big house we built together with a porch overlooking a little valley. We've lived in motel rooms and a moldering, drafty dairy barn but we've always been together.

I've lost count of all the miles we've traveled, all the hard things we've endured. I remember watching the life drain from your face in a hospital room and I won't forget seeing a nurse wake you up so you'd keep breathing. I've never been so afraid and I've never prayed so hard that I won't be left alone.

I've lost count of all the laughs we've shared. Our little ones saying their first words that crack us up, the older ones making jokes together over board games and laughing long after we all should be in bed. We've made a million memories together as a family. My favorites are always with you. Like simple things such as around the dinner table at holidays, the kids laughing, babies gabbing and reminisces about crazy stunts the older kids have pulled. I love the memories we share like a perfect summer day peering into the Grand Canyon, a place so breathtaking it takes your words away. I love how we have our own language, a glance and a knowing smile we share that says a thousand words without speaking.

I've lost count of all the times I've let you down. Sometimes angry words. Other times silence. Some bad decisions, some selfish actions. I'm sorry. I'm really sorry.

I want you to feel loved and treasured and honored. You are beautiful in ways I can't describe. Lovely, strong, faithful, determined, loving. I admire you so much. Thank you for choosing to spend your life with me. Thank you for loving me when I'm not worth being loved. Thank you for being the mother of my children who they all adore. Thank you for teaching us how to love selflessly, how to follow Jesus Christ and how to give when it seems there's nothing left to give.

Happy birthday Julie. I love you.