By the time we got about 2 weeks into March, we had realized sleeping in the car was going to be a lot more difficult than we thought. We had 3 older kids (who are horrible sleepers lol) spread out as comfortably as they could in the backseat and 1 who laid across my chest in the front seat. My husband (whose 6'2) was in the front seat pressed against the window. We slept in different intervals it seemed and most nights insomnia was the only thing that kept me awake.
Our schedule was pretty set based on where we could go to clean up, eat, and spend the most time at. We would wake out of discomfort at around 6 a.m. (no matter what time we had finally fallen asleep). We slept outside of WalMart as far away from people seeing us as possible. The kids would go to the bathroom (this was usually the only time the bathroom was clean enough). I would pick some type of cheap but filling breakfast (granola, cereal bars and yogurt or bowls of cereal w/ a small container of milk). Once everyone ate, we would head to Mueller Park. There was always lots of people at this park so this was perfect for a while.
After spending about 2 hours at the park, we would head to different libraries. The library was a great place to go daily because that meant I could still keep them into their books and writing. Marie became a lover of Junie B. Jones and all things Beverly Cleary books. Mark found a love for graphic novels about anyone from Iron Man to the Super Saiyans in Dragon Ball Z. Mathyus graphic novels love fixated on Spider Man and Bat Man. Miraquel being the youngest chose to read whatever she could find. She read with her brothers and sister but this was also like an adventure for her. We would stay at the library until about 11:30.
There was a soup kitchen that my husband had found out about called The Angel House. They opened at 11:00 and the line would be wrapped around the side of this small building with people that wanted to eat. I was so nervous about being at this place with our children because most of these people had been hardened by the street life. I remember walking into this place for the first time had me full of anxiety. Our children stared and asked questions about the smells and why the peoples' clothes were so dirty. They wondered why they all seemed so mad at the world. So many people would come by and offer their food to us so that the kids could have extras through out the day.
I was overcome with happiness at the fact that there were volunteers who would help shield our kids from the nonsense that went on at that time. We started going to this place on a daily basis. We would come in and there wouldn't a line because they would bring the trays to our table so we didn't have problems getting a seat. They had conversations with the kids full laughs and talking about the books they had been reading. I will never forget the day that we met 2 guys that were homeless but volunteered their services to help. CT and Javier were completely different personalities but they had good intentions. CT began bringing trays to us about 2 weeks after we got there. He always told people to stop cursing and yelling while our children were there. He defended us and our kids when people were too ignorant to understand we just needed to be able to eat and leave. Javier walked around singing church hymns.. Whether it was raining or the sun was shining he was singing praises to God. He would sit and sing songs to the kids when they were sad or overwhelmed. He would Marie flowers that he had found to bring her spirits up. They never asked for anything from us, they just made sure we were able to have a moment of peace while dealing with uncertainty. We interacted with my volunteers but those are the 2 that impacted us the most.
After the soup kitchen, we were off to Bartholomew Park. We would park our car and take a nap by the pool. The AC would run and everybody would either read book until they fell asleep or crash because we had gotten up so early. The kids were allowed about 2 hours of sleeping time. They would awaken to chips or a piece of fruit for a snack before they ran off to play at the park. My husband and I would use that time to get all the particulars in order. We talked about things that had happened at Angel House, how much gas money we had and how we were going to keep extending the stamps from that day to the next. We couldn't wallow in our frustration or dwell on the stress of the situation because it would become a burden for the kids.
The kids spent anywhere from 2 to 4 hours at the park. They would run around and play or come back to the car so we could take them to the bathroom or run to grab bottles of water a few times within that 4 hours. We had to hold out so we could keep up with the gas money. Around 6 or so, we would head to a store named Al's, this store was a God-send. They allowed us to buy hot food with food stamps. Anything from chicken to pizza and the prices were low enough for us to only spend about 20 bucks for dinner. All 6 of us would get our fill after a long day of running around before we headed to WalMart to start our nightly routine.
We would try to go to a different WalMart at night to walk around. The kids and hubby played with toys and ran through the store like they were having the time of their lives. All of this, to ensure that at least they could smile in spite of it all. We would spend about an hour doing just about any crazy, loud out of control activity that we could to tire the kids out. They had to be so tired that when we went back to the car, they would want to crash. After everyone made a trip to the bathroom one last time before the night was over, we would head to our resting place. Most nights were easier than others, but our children slept soundly to classical music.
There were many nights where I said I didn't know how much more I could take but when I woke the next morning after I gained another piece of hope.
God watched over us in that car every single day and night. All the things that I didn't want to believe would work out began to come through. I cried tears of joy and sadness day in and day out but the smiles on our children faces was what mattered. I had to realize that I had taken so many things for granted in my life. There was something new for us to gain through this struggle, we just need to stay strong and keep moving forward to our goal.