For Better or Worse, Come Hell or High Water : Eight Years of Marriage

Four years ago I wrote 4 Down 96 to Go…or Happy Anniversary to Us. As yesterday was our 8th anniversary, I thought this post could use a little update. I used to day dream of calmer years and routine. Now I am just begging for a working second toilet

29485_429193835398_686920398_5875683_7633647_nFirst Year: We set up our first home in the townhouse. As the year closed, I think the day before our anniversary in fact, Ryan graduated LSU and I entered the second trimester of my first pregnancy. We planned to bring home baby to the townhouse, but when the complex hiked their prices and things outside our doors started disappearing, we decided it was time to find somewhere else.

 

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Second Year: We lived in the barn until finding a house to rent. Ryan sold Rainbow vacuums (and anything else that would fetch a fair price) to support me and my growing belly until beginning work at Catholic High. We welcomed Evangeline Lily into our family and survived the first school year by the skin of our teeth.

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Third Year: Actually was calmer. Ryan worked his second year at Catholic teaching the same classes. We lived in the same rent house, ignoring the ick factor and enjoying the great location. Just before our anniversary, we brought home sweet Felicity Iris to join our family. Our actual anniversary was spent back in the hospital while I received treatment for postpartum pre-ecclampsia.

 

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Fourth year: This was the year we finally were going to settle down. Instead, we bought our first home and moved in after two and a half months living with my parents. Just weeks before our anniversary we brought home another sweet Carruth bundle of joy, Reuben Benedict (for those of you keeping score at home, yes, I’ve been pregnant every year of our marriage thus far). And Ryan began working on his Master’s degree in Theology, commuting to New Orleans and back each Saturday.

015Fifth Year: You guessed it! Another baby, our fourth was born June 2014 Genevieve Rose. We lived in the same house, making room in a corner of the master bedroom for the new baby. We worried about affording a vehicle to accommodate our growing family, but God took away all doubt when our Tuscon was totaled and we were forced to buy a mini-van. Ryan continued working on his Master’s Degree…

2014-06-10 14.38.49 (1)Sixth Year: We were able to enjoy our house fully. We made a splash park in the backyard, season craft walls in the dining room and made small changes around the house to make it more our own. This was also the year chickens suddenly came into our lives. A bold step into homesteading we all came to enjoy. This was also the first year we got a vacation together as a couple since our honeymoon. Ryan continued working on his Master’s…..

12247096_10105176282789825_7269548078356078359_nSeventh Year: Thus began our first tiptoe into homeschooling. I began Hooked on Phonics with Evangeline and she got her first taste of reading. The years after Genna was born are mostly a blur, or more precisely, four fast moving, loud, hungry blurs. We made some more changes to the house making more and more our own comfortable home. Ryan continued working on his Master’s…….

Eighth Year: This year will forever be remembered as that year from hell. It started off well with Ryan completing all requirements for a Master’s degree in Theology from Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. This felt like a huge accomplishment for all of us. A lot of team work went into that degree. We enjoyed the summer with no classes, no tests and no studying. Then as we prepared for Ryan’s 7th year at Catholic High and Evangeline’s first full year of homeschooling, our house flooded. We have been out of our house since August. In our marriage we’ve lived in a townhouse, barn, rent house and guest room. This year we added game-day condo and FEMA trailer to the list. We’ve survived a summer of unemployment, four kids under 3 and a half, pre-ecclampsia, post-partum depression and still this year takes the cake for most trying year of our marriage.

This next year, though, is bound to look up. It will be the year we get back into our (remodeled) house. The year we have steady homeschooling, holidays and parties in our own home again. Maybe this will be the year Ryan begins work on a PhD…but you didn’t hear that from me.

As trying as times have been over the years, our marriage is truly blessed. We’ve drawn closer together through our adversity and strengthened the foundation of our family. We’ve passed good times and bad, holidays and lazy Sundays with our extended family and watched our friends’ families grew. We’ve seen our children become people of their own and we are guiding them toward happiness the best way we know how. The future looks bright for the Carruths, as long as we are together.

Having more than one working toilet would be great too.

Just saying.

 

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60 % From Home

There is no place like home

There is no place like home

Especially when you’re living in a government issued trailer during spring storm season

We are so ready to be back in our house, back to our home and our space. Of course right now the house is unlivable, at least for the kids. Ryan and I would be there in a tent if we could. We need money to finish the house, but we have to finish the house to get money from the mortgage company.

Yesterday a mortgage company inspector came by our house. This was our first inspection since beginning work on the house last summer. We hoped to be marked officially 50% done so that the mortgage company would eek out some of our insurance payout.

We have gutted, cleaned and disinfected the house, insulated the walls and hung drywall throughout, had the drywall taped, floated and textured and had the tile floor cleaned.

Alas, that only brings us to 40% done.

We are in a difficult spot being at the end of the school year and having to meet numerous requirements from the mortgage company to get materials or work done. There is a huge toss up between doing work ourselves — in stolen hours here and there — and jumping through hoops to hire more expensive workers our mortgage company approves and will pay for. Neither is going to get us home this week.

We preparing to install doors ourselves, order flooring to DIY install and find someone to install our trim work. Once those things are done (with exceptions in the kitchen/dining room), we can have the walls and ceilings painted. All of this work should put us comfortably over 50%. Once we are there, we should get half of the remaining money from our insurance settlement which can be used to finish the kitchen and bathrooms.

While this is a major priority, we also have hopes of getting back into the house as soon as we can and live there while work continues. The trailer shrinks one square foot a day. For this to happen, our priority switches to bathroom cabinets and sinks to make the house livable. We need money from our insurance settlement to start work there.

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You can see the catch 22. If we were independently wealthy this would be easier. Then, I imagine many things would be easier with self-sufficient funds (affording a house not in a flood zone, for instance)

So, once again we find ourselves at a cross roads trying to decide which way will get us home quickest. If the heavens align and the clouds part in just the right way, we can make some real progress this month. I won’t speculate about a move-in date; I’ll just say if I’m still in that tin can during the heat of the summer, it may be best for everyone to just leave me alone.

 

 

Little Changes, Big Differences

It would seem when your house has been flooded and you’ve been living in a too small FEMA trailer for months, everything else life throws at you feels like a personal insult. Like your van – the only vehicle that the whole family can fit in – needing to spend a week in the shop for multiple, expensive repairs. Or a medical bill you thought you paid off last year now being represented by a debt collecting law firm and charging interest and attorney fees on top of the original amount. Come on, rain! Stop pouring!

It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Our mortgage company has graciously agreed to disperse our insurance money in dirty, little poots after we file hella paperwork for each vendor. While this adds work on top of work to finish the house, we hope it ultimately means we can get back into the house faster.

My dad and Ryan have been off this past week and put in some more hours at the house. We have finished hanging the dry wall and we’re starting to look for someone to tape\float\texture so we can get ready to paint. We had a guy lined up but we apparently lost him to Mardi Gras and haven’t heard from him in a while. Oh well, I guess. We’ve also nearly finished with the electrical needs.

We’ve made a few small changes that are making big differences already. First, we moved the light switches in the kitchen from the right side of the door way to the left. This is just the first step to installing a pantry to the right, but it feels more natural. In the four years we’ve been in that house, my muscle memory hasn’t reset, and I still reach to the left first. So, woo hoo for that!

We also installed a light and outdoor light switch at the back door. It may seem small but I’m thrilled not to have to walk up to a dark door anymore! We’re also getting ready for new doors. Birthday party guests will be sad to see the large doggie\kiddie door go, but I’m not.

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The biggest little changes we’ve made are in the kitchen. We widened the door way from the kitchen to the dining room and added a wall to cut the dining room in half.

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New Changes in Red

 

Now, the kitchen opens up more to the dining room making it more of one large space. It also allows light from the dining room to reach more of the kitchen. I plan to lay the same tile floor throughout and use the same paint color on the wall. It’s a perfect compromise for my tastes. I don’t like fully open floor plans; I like for each room of the house to be sectioned out. At the same time, however, I like for the house to feel open, airy and bright. Compromise achieved!

The wall broke our dining room into two small rooms. One side will connect to the kitchen as the dining area. The other side opens up to our foyer and will become a small study. Ryan was not on board with the changes in the kitchen until I mentioned we could also make a study for mostly his use. Marriage, amIright?

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Now there’s a Wall! On the other side of the wall is now a study!

This change will make a huge difference for us. Before we used this side of the dining room as a play area for the kids, but what we really needed was a space that could be closed off to set up the computer and paperwork associated with Ryan’s job, schooling and overall adulting. Previously, that was in our bedroom. We both hated it, but had no alternative. Until now. We plan to set up the desk, computer, and file cabinet as well as some bookcases and a chair with lamp in the new study. Our kneeler and icons may move here as well.  I fully expect to lose Ryan into this room until the children are grown.

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Now the study!

Fine by me because I’ll get full use of my bedroom back. Without the desk and bookshelves in our room I can resume my plans to make our room a bit of an oasis, complete with reading nook, pretty curtains, and house plants.

In the meantime we’re lining up contractors and making lots of lists. First list we made was “what is the bare-minimum that has to be done before we can move back in?” Our Mardi Gras break has been delightfully productive, hopefully this side of Easter break we will have more to show!

Current prayer requests are as follows: continued cooperation from the mortgage company, honest sub-contractors and no more large unexpected expenses.

FEMA Ain’t No Homestead

When we bought our house we had the intention of lessening our carbon footprint, establishing a sustainable homestead and all that responsible stuff. Four years later, we have failed to keep any vegetation alive. We are nowhere close to self sufficient or even as hipster as we thought we would be.  I hadn’t realized how much we had done, however, until we evacuated.

We hardly ever threw out food trash. What fell on the floor or didn’t get eaten at supper, the dog ate. What scraps were left over from preparing dinner, the chickens ate and what wasn’t suitable for the chickens went into compost. The only thing we threw out was leftover meat that went bad in the fridge. Sadly this happened a lot.

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Seriously not even three days worth of cardboard. It just keeps appearing. 

The kids usually play with any cardboard boxes and tubes that come from grocery shopping. When they are finished, what can’t be used for craft projects would get recycled. In fact, we were at the point where we recycled twice as much as we threw out. At least three times a year I’d actually remember to bring plastic grocery bags back to the store. This, is a great source of pride for be because without fail, I ride around with bags in the car for at least three months before remembering to bring them *in*.

We haven’t yet been successful ingrowing any food bearing plants but we have kept the established satsuma tree in our back yard from dying. Of this, we are quite proud. In the fall, we usually live off those satsumas. Recently we discovered succulents. We’ve had great success neglecting uh, maintaining succulents. These are still alive in the window sil of the flooded house. Faith, hope and love are still alive. Family took a big hit. Read into that what you will 😉

Being in the FEMA trailer, we do not have our dog, we do not have compost, we don’t even have recycling. Without the dog, we have to sweep up *a lot*. We’ve gone from taking the trash out every other day to twice a day. It’s absurd how much cardboard a family of 6 generates.

So what are we to do? We aren’t allowed pets, so dogs and chickens are out. Recycling doesn’t run through our trailer park and the closest recycling center takes only glass. That leaves us with compost.

What at one time seemed like such an overwhelming project and huge step into homesteading has now become our quick fix.  We got a large rubber tub and Ryan drilled holes into it all around. This weekend we filled it with dirt and start composting. I doubt it will make a huge dent in our trash can, but at least we’ll be doing *something*, a salve to our smug pride.

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I also bought seed starter packs from the dollar store for the kids to have fun with. If they don’t destroy them within a week, maybe we’ll have to see about some window box gardening.

As for the mountain of cardboard and glass, we are going to start making weekly trips to our flooded house and use the recycle bin there.  We also bought a token houseplant. It’s been in the trailer two days and so far hasn’t been dumped out, so there’s hope for that!

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Token Houseplant

We accept (through gritted teeth) that this trailer is going to be our home for longer than we hoped. Establishing some of our old habits, however, help us feel as though we are reclaiming our identity a bit. Even if we aren’t in the home where we have worked so hard to make our own, we are still the Carruths, and the Carruths compost.

Dark Side of the Trailer

I’ve been putting off writing this post because every time I sit down, I realize how cranky I am and worry that maybe I’m not in the best head-space to voice fair opinions. Then today I realized I’m always cranky these days so waiting until a different day isn’t going to make much difference.

If you’ve been following along since August, you know that our house flooded. Since Thanksgiving we’ve been living in a FEMA trailer. The trailer is admittedly too small for our family of six. We were put in a two bedroom and have been assured that a three bedroom trailer is “on rush order” for us. That was over a month ago. I don’t think I’m a snob, maybe I am, but living in a too-small trailer wears on your spirit.

In the last week Ryan, myself and Evangeline have all sighed and said “I wish our house hadn’t flooded. Then we wouldn’t have to live in a trailer.” We go through the list of things to be grateful about : Our family is safe, we are all together, we have a place all to ourselves. But still the daily frustrations of living in a trailer win out over our better angels.

Know how when you have small kids your house is never clean, how with a larger family you’re always in someone’s way, how it’s always loud and someone’s always fussing at someone else? Cut your living space in half, take out all sound barriers but still keep all your kids. That approximates trailer living.

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The furniture is second-hand, low-quality and easily destroyed. This of course means, all of our furniture is destroyed. The floor is always grimy and starting to separate from the sub-floor. The mattresses are all spring and no mat. The whole lot is sunken in and does not drain. Every excursion from the front door involves mud. The kids have little room to play inside and limited freedom outside — even when we let them play in the mud. Three of them are sharing one bed. Everything is too small, we can’t all fit and we all just want to go home.

More than once, driving to the house to get the mail, I cried turning into the neighborhood. I wish wish wish I was driving home and not stopping by. I wish we had our house back with all of our things. I wish we could decorate and make our space our own again. Damn, I just wish we had enough chairs for everyone to sit at the dinner table.

Carruth Registries

I work hard not to be tacky, I don’t often succeed, but I do try. That being said, this may be very tacky. I’m not sure how else to go about it.

People are so generous. We have had a lot of questions for what we need and want. With Christmas coming people have asked what the kids want. There are so many thing we do need and quite a few that we want  😉

I started making registries in general to keep track of what things will need to be replaced. Since we’ve had so many people asking, I decided to post links here to our registries and Amazon lists for any who are interested. Please be kind, my brain is still quite scattered, so there may be some obvious things missing or completely random things too.

Household Registry

Pampered Chef Registry

Amazon Lists

This is intended just for those people who are interested, this is not mean to be a grab for attention or begging for stuff. I’m just mass communicating!

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Before the Dawn

The last few days have been particularly tough. With Ryan and my parents being off this week for the holiday, we had great plans of sheet-rocking. Alas, things do not always go according to plan and here we are on Thanksgiving-eve with very little work done at the house.

I began to despair and gave in to depression this week. It’s been so hard to keep going day after day and finally I just let the sorrow wash over me. I want to go home.

But just when things seemed darkest, the light broke through almost all at once. Our inspection finally came through for the house; we passed and can now start work. Insulators were able to work us in on their schedule and now our walls are all insulated.

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And greatest, shiniest beam of all, we got a FEMA trailer!! We will be able to live here while we work on the house and quit burdening my parents’ generosity. The kids will have their own room on the far other side of the trailer from our room! We are in the back of a quiet trailer park where the kids can be out side a bit. Unfortunately, our beloved Jackie-Dog won’t be able to join us just yet.

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Even if we aren’t as far along as I had hoped, we are still baby-stepping forward. We will be able to go into Thanksgiving with happiness in our hearts and packing tape in our hands! Our heads are above water again and we are ready for this next baby step.