Day 1. Saturday
Meet her at TYR. Visit one of her friends - this lady has 10 children. Interesting housing situation (I am not trying to denigrate or look down on her, but just something you would see in the hills). Nice visit though short, maybe an hour and we left. Over to Smash Burger and sit there for quite a while snuggling next to each other, eating good hamburgers and talking about whatever. Different stops on the way back to her house and then home. Not quite so shocking to walk into that house this time, I pretty much knew what I was going to see, here and experience from the multitude of kids. Some of this is fuzzy, a lot happened since I was there and day 1 a long time ago. No, picked up the 3 little ones at babysitter's before heading to her place. 15 year old was all over it, the others a bit shy still. 9 pm and drove her truck back to her store, set up camp and went to sleep. No, I am not staying at her house, put aside all appearance of evil and potential accusation.
Day 2. Sunday
Get up, get out of there, stop for a dozen donuts for the kids and a large cup of coffee for me. Umm, there is not a fat kid in the house, btw. They are all VERY skinny. Weight not a problem in that family coming from her side, she is all of 5 and half or so feet tall and 110 pounds. She WAS at 100 pounds until I started encouraging her to start eating more. It was Sunday so we headed off to church. Good service though she was struggling. 12 year old lifted his hands in worship, that was encouraging. 14 year old said he did too, but he was on the other side of m'lady so I didn't see it. Back to her house, load up the 15 passenger van - dead battery. Fired right up with jump start, headed out with 7 kids, her and I to her friends house, about a 3-1/2 hour trip. Kids not used to anyone buying much of anything for them, so I was a shocker to them. I'm on vacation, I bought lunch, snacks, drinks. She doesn't know what to think of me sometimes. She didn't like some of the stuff I do for them at first, but the response is something completely different than what she is used to. I am not buying the kid's love, just doing what comes naturally to me. Arrive sometime later after a trip with a lively exchange between her, me and the boys. 2 boys, actually, sitting on the front bench, talking the entire trip, the rest of the kids behind them, some of them talking among themselves, the rest listening to what's going on.
At the house, I meet her friend and husband. Almost 70 acres of farm/ranch with all kinds of animals out in the country. The man that the kids are so afraid of turns out to be cool. We hit it right off. Talked for hours, then headed down to a huge and very hot bonfire their boys and friends had built to have a party down there with all of us. Cooked hot dogs over the fire and shot the s*** for a couple of hours down there. Back up to the house - it was very cold out there btw - and then sat down and talked with the guy for a couple of more hours and then off to bed.
Day 3 Monday
Woke up late for me, but that was before just about everyone else. Took my computer out to kitchen, sat down with her and read the news and whispered back and forth for about 2 hours before everyone started stirring. I like to read the news even if it's mostly just negative stuff, I want to know what's going on in the world. They all come out almost at once, strange how that happened. Shot the breeze with him about airplanes since he's a United captain for quite a while, he was showing me how he picks and chooses what he wants to do for an entire month. We - him and I - went to a neighbor's pond after that. I pulled out a 4-1/2 large mouth bass - pic posted on my FB wall. Did that for a while and then he said he got a call saying he has to take his daughter's friend home and his daughter to a guitar class.
We drove around that part of Texas for hours. Had a great time. Really, I haven't connected with anyone like that in years. A lot of years. I haven't really tried to be honest, long story, don't need to go into that for this synopsis of events. We got back to their place after having a really good time with him, I mean really, I was amazed at how easily we connected with each other and how we could spend an entire day together without getting bored or otherwise clamming up with each other. But - we are both talkers and we are both rather opinionated and we are both Christians - so that makes it easier. I suppose that could also make it much more difficult, but fortunately didn't work out that way. Home, dinner - good country dinner - bed for me early. My way of doing things, everyone there knew that before I got there, no problems.
Day 4. Tuesday.
Get up, talk, have some breakfast, get in the van with all those kids, head home. She doesn't want to hear them yapping so she wants the 2 in the back. I say no, let's just deal with them instead of banishing them somewhere, better to deal with them than to try and shove it off. Exactly what happened, too. In fact, I pretty much got the upper hand on any crankiness in the van with children that stayed up too late and did not get enough sleep. Quiet - or we will be stopping the van and getting out. Mom, can we get something to eat? NO, we will eat when we get home. Not. Stopped for fuel, bought them Subway. She's gonna have to get used to my way of doing things as much as I am going to have to get used to hers, hence the idea of visiting several times first and coming to that understanding both ways. I intentionally subjected myself to as much as I could with those kids to get an idea of what I am getting myself into.
Get home. Hang out for a few hours talking with her. Boys decide that they are going to go with me to the store, one boy per night. This was NOT my idea and though I did not object to it, I decided that 2 would have to go for the sake of having a "witness". Not good to set yourself up for a fail. At the same time, the store is loaded with security cameras running and recording 24 hours per day, so not too worried, but still. I'm sure you get the gist of what I am saying here. The 15 and 14 year old, of course, decide they are coming the first night.
Day 5. Wednesday. Drawing a complete blank. I cannot for the life of me remember what we did the day after we got back from the trip to her friend's house. Been racking my brain about it, maybe it will come to me eventually. The 17 year old and the 12 year old came to the store with me that night. It was an opportunity to get to know the 17 year old more. He un-clammed himself quite a lot and started talking, when the valve was fully open, he was talking for 2 hours without hardly shutting up. Which was cool, I had been trying to figure out how to get around his barriers.
Day 6. Thursday
Up early, 17 year had to go to work so I had to get him home to get dressed and get in the car and drive. Got back to the house, hung out with m'lady, and then off to the pond.
12 year old and 14 year old wanted to go, 15 year old said he was sick though he came out anyway and showed me how to operate the tractor. He then went inside. I got to concrete pile and then shut it off. Thing wouldn't start. I decided the 15 year old was going to help us regardless. He came back out but he had changed his mind anyway. We spent the day attempting to build a small dam to increase the water level of the pond that supplies water for the cows.
It was a good day. Not because we built a dam, but because I got to spend hours and hours interacting with these boys. I cannot possibly go into all of it. But the tractor got stuck once, the tractor was almost tipped over 3 times, and almost slid completely into the pond once. I was making fun and jokes, it isn't really too hard a thing for kids to be around me for extended periods because I always have something to say about everything. Got back from that, ate dinner, took a shower. Hung out with the lady for quite a while and then drove back to the store. This time, the 15 year old boy and the 10 year old went with me.
Day 7. Friday
Up late. Up and at em. NOT. I was exhausted. I stayed in bed until 11:00 am, a thing unheard of for me. Got up, got the boys up, went to Denny's for breakfast, got some donuts, went to the house, visited with m'lady and then got out into that cold - 30 degree weather which is my version of cold thank you - and got busy. This time with the 10, 12, 14 an 15 year olds in tow. It was fun. It really was. Just a lot of bantering and back and forth and sarcasm type of stuff. Those boys never know if I'm being serious or joking, lol.
Back to the house. I walk in, take off my work boots - shipped some stuff over UPS instead of paying the money for checked baggage and that included an old pair of work boots - walked into the kitchen and then heard this young voice declare loudly: "I love you Ben!". I turned around to see the 12 year old with this big grin on his face, so I gave him a big hug and told him I loved him too. Which I can honestly say - pretty easy to love a person in the Lord regardless of what's going on. Hurting boy. Long story there, just not going into that here. Dinner, shower then sat down alone with m'lady and watched a movie called The Notebook. Love story, I'm not really into those that much but this one was good. Back to the store, this time with 14 and 12 year old. The 15 year was begging mom to let him go with us, but she said no and I wasn't going to interfere with that. Pretty much same scenario, hang out with the boys for a while and then go to bed.
Day 7. Saturday. Dragged myself out of bed - the air mattress was pretty comfortable btw and that store and sleeping in it saved me $300 in hotel costs so I wasn't complaining - got the boys up, got out of there and went to Starbucks for my free Latte. M'lady gave me a big Starbucks cup for Christmas which gives you free lattes every day in January. Taking HUGE advantage of that. $5 drink for free, can't beat that. Stopped at the donut shop - as I did every day we were in town - got the boys some thing called - well I don't remember Kapskies or something, hot dogs baked into a bun with cheese (I call them pigs in a blanket, thanks) and a dozen donuts. We got back and went straight down to the pond. Water had found it's way through and though the level was MUCH higher still some work to do on it.
But save it for a later day. I didn't have much time on Saturday to be with everyone so working on the dam was out of the question. Perhaps a good rain will come and wash a bunch of junk into it and cause it to stop up, otherwise, there are plenty of sand bags down there that I can stack under water where the water is getting through. Back up to the house and hanging out with the lady and the boys. I was dreading Saturday because this time, I definitely did not want to leave. I wouldn't be seeing her or the boys or the little girls again for quite a while and that was a bit much for me to take. So, I relished every moment with all of them and spent the time wisely, just being with them and getting as much in as I could.
I sat there on Craigslist with the 15 year and all the rest watching looking up dirt bikes. Found one. He has been waiting so long. My hotspot was the only working internet in the house. Hers goes in and out of service though I guess she does have it on her phone. I meant for the kids, no internet for quite a while now, she is paying for it but it stopped working and her priorities do not, apparently, include internet for her boys. I will be going into some of the things I don't necessarily agree with in another posting. She had stated to him the last time I was there that he could get a bigger motocross dirt bike (motorcycle) but then this time she started back-tracking. What if he gets hurt, I have all these kids, how am I going to get him to the hospital and deal with the kids at the same time? I have kept quiet on a few issues that I thought probably should wait for a future interaction. But this wasn't one of them. Hon, you told that boy he could have a dirt bike, h has been looking for one for 2 months now. If you tell him now that he can't have one, you are going to lose him. She has been losing these boys for a while. You are going to drive the nail into the coffin and he will be gone. You are going to have a very angry and resentful 15 year old boy on your hands.
My thoughts to her apparently had effect, because we found a bike and he was all over it. Mom, can you take me down there to buy it? Pleeeeeaaaassssseeee mom! She said yes! I let loose a big sigh of relief. He looked at me, should I buy it? Dude, she said yes, YES, get it! I never told him and never will that she had decided to not let him get one. No need to pour gasoline on an already huge bonfire. So, all of the rest of what went on at the house before I left was that stuff going on. Bypassing a lot of stuff, we were alone driving to the airport and just recapped the week and talking and got to the airport and that was it. By the time I got to DFW airport, I was feeling it. She texted me: Ben, come home. Yeah. That did me in.
Well, that was all of my trip in a shortened version, though Wednesday simply eludes me.
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