Una Gran Familia

The Herald | Una Gran Familia

Click on the photo above to experience the story with easy-to-read text and additional photos.

 

Story by Olivia Ingle

Photos by Kaiti Sullivan

“Oh, he’s so cute,” Jaylynn Villarreal says as she and her siblings crowd around their mother’s hospital bed.

Their newest sibling, Roméo Jay, lay swaddled in his mother’s arms.

He’s Maggie (Galvez) Villarreal’s biggest baby yet at 8 pounds, 1 ounce, and was born Nov. 18 at Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center.

Immediately, Mom is hit with questions. Little, inquiring minds want to know everything. How much does he weigh? How old is he? Can he go home today?

Maggie Villarreal of Huntingburg watches from the hospital bed as her husband, Randy, holds their newborn son, Roméo, while the family visits the day after he was born at Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center in Jasper on Nov. 19. Roméo is the youngest of the family’s nine children.

Roméo’s eight siblings take turns holding him, some more interested than others. A mix of English and Spanish fills the room, along with sounds from a SpongeBob cartoon on the TV. A couple of kids watch the show, a couple play with slime, one dances around the room and others are still enthralled by the family’s newest bundle of joy. Maggie’s mother, Elizabeth Galvez, is also there, as she came from Texas to help her daughter and her family around the time of the birth.

Dad, Randy, picks up Roméo and sits down so that Jaylie can get a good look at him. The 1-year-old kisses her brother on his forehead, and soon, Randy picks Jaylie up, too. With both his youngest on his lap, Randy kisses the toddler’s head, as Jaylie again kisses Roméo.

“Where’s the baby?” Maggie asks, and Jaylie points to him.

Family means everything to the Villarreals, and they wanted a big one so that the kids have each other.

“They’ll always look out for each other,” Maggie says. “Help each other out in the best way they can.”

Randy jokes he’d like two more kids, but Maggie says their family is complete. The Villarreal children are Kaylee, 12; Isaac, 11; Khloee, 10; Jaylynn, 8; Jaylahh, 7; RJ, 6; Jazlynn, 4; Jaylie, 1; and Roméo, 2 months.

Randy, 32, and Maggie, 30, both grew up in the Texas border town of Mercedes — Randy was one of four kids, and Maggie was one of five. Both of Maggie’s parents and Randy’s dad are from Mexico, and Randy’s mom is from Texas.

Randy and Maggie met in 2010 because Randy’s cousin was dating one of Maggie’s brothers. “I went to visit my cousin, and occasionally someone there was interested in all of this ugliness here,” Randy jokes.

Randy, left, tends to Jaylie, 1, Jazlynn, 4, and his nephew, Niko Chaires, 2, of Princeton, while Maggie, right, comforts Jaylahh, 7, during an appointment at Huntingburg Family Dentistry on Oct. 16.

The couple married in May 2012 and in February 2015, they and their then-six kids — three aren’t biologically Randy’s — moved to Dubois County because Randy’s mom and sisters already lived here. Maggie was pregnant with Jazlynn at the time.

The Villarreals have found a home in Huntingburg. They have a three-bedroom rental on East First Street that has a big yard for the kids and enough space for Randy, who typically does odd-job mechanic work.

Maggie is a stay-at-home mom and Randy is a mechanic at Styline Diesel. They both admit that providing for a family of 11 isn’t easy, but they make it work.

Randy’s odd jobs supplement their income. The family also doesn’t eat out much; occasionally they may get pizza, but even that is a special occasion.

Date night? “Never,” Randy says.

They do throw small birthday parties for all the kids, but nothing too big. They also have cookouts and exchange food with their neighbors.

Maggie says Randy is the one who stresses about the finances. “And I just stress with the kids, the mess,” she says.

In addition to rent and utilities, one of the family’s biggest expenses is groceries.

The Villarreals pick at a tray of shrimp nachos during RJ's sixth birthday party on Halloween at their home in Huntingburg on Oct. 31. They still try to eat traditional foods on a regular basis.

Staying true to their family’s roots, they often make traditional Hispanic.

“We do it all,” Randy says. “We still do tamales, still make tacos, rice and beans, tortillas. It’s all pretty good.”

They also make tamales on Christmas Eve — Maggie has dozens in the freezer yet — and buñuelos — which the Villarreals describe as Spanish elephant ears — on New Year’s.

There’s also an Easter tradition involving confetti eggs — cascaróns — which are hollowed-out eggs filled with confetti. Maggie’s mom saves the egg shells and sends them from Texas.

While the Hispanic traditions are important to the Villarreals, so is the language. Both Randy and Maggie’s first language is Spanish, and it’s what they spoke at home as kids. However, their kids’ first language is English.

“We do both, bilingual,” Maggie says of what’s spoken at their house.

The Villarreals have met some challenges since their move to Indiana.

Maggie misses her family, much of which still lives in Texas. Two and a half years ago, the household also dealt with truancy issues, and the legal repercussions.

 

Jaylahh, 7, left, hangs on Maggie's back while they play outside their home in Huntingburg on Sept. 25.

One of the biggest challenges, though, has been racism, which Randy says he encounters every day and has his entire life. But it’s different here. In Texas, Randy says most people were transplants or immigrants, so everyone was the same. That’s not the case here.

Randy’s better now about not letting it bother him, but he realizes his kids have to deal with it, too, which does bother him.

“But there’s really nothing I can do,” he says, adding that it will make his kids better, stronger people in the long run.

He adds that “a lot of people don’t understand how hard it is for a Mexican, Hispanic to come from down south and to come here.”

He’s just trying to provide a better life for his family.

On a quiet Tuesday afternoon in January, Maggie holds Roméo in her lap. Jaylie wanders about the living room and Jazlynn sits in a chair near Maggie.

Quiet isn’t something often heard in the Villarreal household, but Maggie gets a little bit of it when the oldest kids are at school. That’s also when she tries to catch up on appointments, shopping and house work. “I clean the house like 10 times a day, trying to pick up what [the kids] just destroyed,” she says.

Randy returns home from work and immediately picks up Jaylie and loves on her. He then heads into the kitchen to make himself something to eat.

“What’s wrong with our refrigerator? Why’s it empty on one side?” he asks lightheartedly.

“Because there’s no food,” Maggie says, laughing. Keeping the refrigerator and pantry stocked for a family of 11 is no easy feat.

Soon, Maggie hears the school bus pull up. Seconds later, the two boys walk in the door, followed by their four sisters.

Khloee, 10, center, throws her head back in frustration while while Maggie, left, and Isaac, 11, help her complete her homework and RJ, 6, right, packs his backpack before the school bus comes at their home in Huntingburg on Aug. 28.

Maggie’s quiet is over. Everyone wants to tell Mom about their day. She hears about upcoming dress-up days, and the Raider Bucks each kid did or did not earn that day.

“Mom, I was so close on my test.” Jaylynn says, holding up a sheet of paper. “I only missed one.”

“It’s good. It’s still real good,” Maggie says. Jaylynn runs to show Dad.

The next hour and a half is dedicated to homework. This time includes Maggie repeatedly asking each of the kids if they have homework, and her reminding them that they need to finish it.

She helps several of the girls with various assignments as Jaylahh reads aloud a story about space from her reader. Isaac and RJ can be heard screaming and roughhousing in an adjacent room. Jaylie wanders around to each of her siblings.

Maggie soon learns that Isaac hasn’t even started his homework. That’s typical. Sometimes the kids are still finishing their homework before the bus pulls up in the morning.

After schoolwork, the evening will include a little bit of TV and play, a salisbury steak dinner, showers and bed.

Then, the chaos will start all over again tomorrow.

“It’s hard, but it’s worth it,” Maggie says.

Randy, right, leans in to kiss Maggie on the cheek during RJ's sixth birthday party on Halloween at their home in Huntingburg on Oct. 31.



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