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.

Update

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. We have never been busier or have less to show for our efforts.

It’s been a month (again) since I’ve posted, over two months since the flood. I feel like so much has happened but at the same time, there’s not a lot to report. We are still waiting for a FEMA trailer, but we have reason to believe it will really be soon this time.

Thanks to dehumidifiers generously borrowed from friends and family, the house is finally dry!! We’ve spent our time getting paperwork and permits and fixing little things that need to be up to code so that we can pass an inspection to start rebuilding. Hopefully by Thanksgiving week enough ducks will be in a row for us to begin closing up the walls. Finger’s crossed.

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I took the kids to the house for the first time. The debris up and down the street had been cleared up and things look considerably more normal. The kids were so excited; they went around the backyard pointing out all the things that were still there. When we went into the house, Evangeline took careful survey then told me, “Mama, I thought the house was going to be a lot scarier than this!” A flood of relief crashed over me. After that, the kids spent over 30 minutes just racing through the house in, around and through all the open walls and repeatedly yelling “ECHO!” because that never gets old.

As soon as we got out of the van, the girls ran straight to the swings. To see the kids effortlessly happy in our own yard where I’ve heard them laugh and giggle so often before made my heart swell. Before I knew it, I was crying.

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I had been so nervous about the kids responding badly to seeing the house, I didn’t know I needed to be on guard myself. I want to go home. I want to be back in my house, I want my kids to be back in their own space. I am completely depleted by this whole experience.

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We had some great opportunities to get out of the muck and mire of depression though and have some fun.We spent one day in New Orleans, we went to the Fall Festival at the Rural Life Museum and we celebrated Evangeline’s 6th birthday!!

Birthday parties have become quite the event around our house. It was nice to do something “normal” even if we had to tweak our traditions some. We rented a pavilion at the park in my parents’ neighborhood and threw the most awesome dinosaur party that park has ever seen! The food was good and the games were fun, but the best part was getting to see friends and family and just enjoy ourselves!

We’ve done pretty well keeping up with Homeschooling. Most weeks we get 4 solid days of lessons. This week I’ve had more to do for the house, getting ready for Halloween and preparing for Felicity’s tonsillectomy this Friday. Somehow, sit down lessons haven’t been happening as constiantly. C’est la vie. Evangeline got a science text book and illustrated encyclopedia for her birthday, so her thirst for knowledge is still being quenched.

For those who don’t know, Felicity will be having her tonsils out this Friday. For over a year now we’ve been trying to get to the bottom of her sleep apnea. Her ENT believes taking out her very swollen tonsils will make a huge difference. We have a few rough weeks ahead of us, but we think things will be much brighter on the other side.

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Besides pediatric surgery, I have a long house to-do list, then Thanksgiving wants to happen too. Don’t be surprised if it’s another month before I sit down to write again. I’ve been reading like a fiend and have so much I want to write about. My brain says “type” but my energy levels say “sleep”. If you think of us, send up a prayer, then consider if you want to babysit 😉

 

 

 

 

What Has Happened Since

It has been a month and a half since our house flooded and quite a lot has happened since. We are still waiting for FEMA housing; we were assigned a trailer in an existing lot that unfortunately is on the complete opposite side of town and would be at least an hour commute. I am hoping FEMA allows us instead to be placed in a lot nearer to our house. In the meantime we are, again, staying with my eternally generous parents.

Our house is gutted from the waist down and we are waiting (and waiting and waiting and waiting) for the studs to dry out enough for us to put the walls back together. That will be step one in the very long process of fixing the house. The large debris pile outside our house was finally picked up this week; it looks like our house again! The full street hasn’t been picked up yet but the lower and lower the piles get the closer to normal it looks.

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We powered through and started homeschooling Evangeline. She finished her first full month today! It has certainly been an exercise in patience for me. The structure of day and the newness of the lessons go a long way to engage Evie. She is our most sensitive to change; this whole experience has affected her the strongest. I know doing our lessons are beneficial to her but I also know when her attitude changes any further attempts to teach will be futile. I’ve come to embrace the phrase “why don’t we finish this after a 5 minute recess?” Some days we just don’t make it back to the school books.

I am proud to say though, that we have only taken two days “off”. Each week we do math and phonics, handwriting, catechism, science and reading. I actually cut one book we were doing because she just hated it and it wasn’t worth fighting with her every time. That’s a personal achievement for sure! All illusions of picture perfect homeschooling went out the window with the flood water and now I’m trying to find our new normal.

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This month and a half has been a lot of work, personal growth and quite a few tears. We have seen such generosity from family, friends and strangers though — money, lodging, food, mattresses and oh so many diapers! It goes against our nature to admit we do need help, but as soon as we do, the response is incredible. I’m only able to blog (my personal public therapy) because amazing friends gifted me a laptop! We know this is going to be a very long road and we won’t be back in our home soon, but the love and kindness of so many people gives us hope and strength.

We’ve been able to squeeze in some fun too, in between the work, schooling and crying. We always love an afternoon at the library and park, we’ve had some birthdays and Evangeline, and I were invited to a local production of one of my all time favorite musicals

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We have bad days but they seem to be fewer than our good days. Keep us in your prayers if you say them. We have so much on our horizon and the weather has started to turn cool; we are surrounded by reasons to be optimistic. I leave you with some cute pictures of the kids doing cute things.

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