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.

 

025

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.

066

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.

 

IMG_2846

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.

 

Advertisements

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.

db9a6a2fd73f27d3bc1e6b7b1b7ec2a7

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.

 

 

Where the books come from

396129_10101552560124095_1020976303_nEvery time we move (which has been more often than expected in our 8 years of marriage), I get stuck packing the books. Ryan has to lift them, but I have to pack them.

Every time we move and I pack the books into dozens of heavy boxes, I wonder if the minimalists aren’t on to something.

But then every time we move and I un-pack the books, I recall warm memories and angry reactions I had reading each of them. I delight in filling our shelves with all the feelings, stories, and knowledge we’ve accumulated. I decorate every room with books and feel grounded by their place in our family.

That is why we aren’t minimalists.

We probably should be though; we have way too many books. They’re everywhere — all over the place in rows and stacks, organized by subject, author and intention to read. Falling stacks of books are a real threat and a great catastrophe. We’ve been in a tiny temporary FEMA trailer while we re-build our house. In our room alone, we have over three shelves of books. That does not include the crate of homeschool books, basket of library books or box of children’s books. I don’t even want to know what Ryan has riding around with him in the car.

IMG_20170406_101826

On the one hand, you could praise our devotion to reading, to continue even in the face of adversity. On the other hand, you could judge us for our lack of self-control and ability to just stop buying books.

I get it.

This all begs the question: where do all the books come from?!

Glad you asked.

We have a few favorite haunts for finding books.

The first is the library. It seems counter intuitive because we own so many books, but we check-out a fair amount of what we read. We just read a lot. We like to use the library like trying on clothes before buying. Check out a book, read a few chapters and feel it out to decide if it’s worth spending money on. More often than not though, we check out a book, read it and decide “that was good, but I’ll never read it again” and thus carry on our merry way saving our book buying money. In the last few years, I’ve also embraced the audiobook. I have yet to spend money on one because I check them out for free from the library. They just take up virtual space.

 

When the book justifies it’s purchase, we prefer the cheapest available copy (with notable exceptions). We have brick and mortar as well as online options.

Cottonwood Books. This local favorite has been around over 30 years. The current owner has invested in a diverse collection of new, used and rare books. It is exactly what you think of when you imagine getting lost in a dusty used book shop. That smell! Stacks to the ceiling and covering all but what is necessary of the floor. It is one of the happiest places on earth to just get lost for a while. Each purchase comes with a bookmark.

 

Amazon. It’s not original but Amazon.com is good at what it does. Especially since we have a Prime account and don’t have to pay shipping, it’s a great go-to to find cheaper copies of new books.

Better World Books. I can’t remember now how I came across this site but I’ve been ordering from them for years. At first I liked that each purchase went to help literacy funds. As the years have gone on, I’ve found so much more to appreciate. In so many ways, Better World Books is trying to help make, well, a better world. In addition to literacy fund raising and programs, they make great strides to keep books from landfills. They sell books discarded from libraries which is a great service; their national reach makes a large impact. Just because the people walking in and out of a local library branch don’t have any interest in the Southeast United States Farmer’s Almanac 1986-1987, doesn’t mean no one does. Better World Books helps match up obscure books with obscure people and keep both out of the trash. If all of that isn’t enough to entice you to check out their website, BWB also offers free shipping and monthly sales. So yeah, we get a lot of books from them.

better-world-books-logo

Where do you like to get books from? Do you spend a lot of time in your library or lost in used book stores?

Quarterly Book Report April 2017 Edition

This is my second post for National Library Week! What is the primary purpose of a library? Is it a capitalist institution satiating the desires of the majority? Is it a social program giving needed information and internet access to the underprivileged? Is it a museum to knowledge for knowledge’s sake?

Well that’s a bit in dispute. As it happens, I am writing this blog at the library because we don’t have internet at our trailer but what we use the library primarily for is … reading! I know, we’re trailblazers. I like each year to track and challenge my reading goals and then write blog posts about it. Thank you for being a part of this.

nationallibraryweek2017

 

As it would happen, we are one quarter the way through the year and I am one quarter through my reading challenge. I think they call that being on track 😉 I have set out this year to read 42 books and complete a 25-point reading challenge.

The tally as of March 31 is 13 books!

  1. Saint Odd (series finale!)
  2. Around the World in Seventy-Two Days and Other Writings by Nellie Bly
  3. The Black Mountain (Nero Wolfe #24)*
  4. Breakfast at Tiffany’s (and other stories)
  5. I Am Malala*
  6. For Whom the Bells Toll
  7. Neverwhere*
  8. Their Eyes Were Watching God
  9. The King’s Speech*
  10. American Gods*
  11. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy*
  12. The Monarch of the Glen
  13. The King in Yellow*

*Audiobooks – while I am proud of my list thus far, I don’t want to mislead you, reader, in thinking I have all this time to sit down and read-read.

As for the Better World Book Reading Challenge, I’ve fulfilled the following:

1794402

  • Fantasy Novel (Odd Thomas)
  • Short Stories (Breakfast at Tiffany’s)
  • Color in Title (Black Mountain)
  • 100+ Years Old (Around the World in 72 Days)
  • Set in a Place You Want to Visit (Monarch of the Glen ((Scotland)))
  • Over 400 Pages (For Whom the Bell Tolls)
  • Colored Author (Their Eyes Were Watching God)
  • Female Author (I Am Malala)
  • About A Historical Event (The King’s Speech)
  • Adapted Into A Movie (Hitchhiker’s Guide)

 

Nellie Bly is kick ass and there’s just no other way to give her justice. I’ve written on her before and I won’t belabor the point. Her newspaper career began after she submitted a response to a gentleman’s bitter letter-to-the-Editor of what is to be done with daughters who will not marry. Bly’s response, support a society in which it is safe for women to work and make a living wage, ruffled a few 1880’s New England feathers. The newspaper hired her on the spot.  Of her works, I enjoyed the undercover jaunts, Ten Days in a Madhouse and The Girls Who Make Boxes, best. In both stories, she brings to light the real conditions in which turn of the century women were living and exposes injustice therein.

Speaking of turn of the century, The King in Yellow was a surprise! I downloaded the audiobook one evening having forgotten what it was about or why I was interested in it. Written by Robert Chambers, The King in Yellow is a collection of short stories all centering around a fictitious devil-book of the same name. These memorable stories are in the delightful spooky gothic style of Shirley Jackson and make me smile even now to think of.

And speaking of ruffling feathers, Truman Capote.  As a persona, he puts a bad taste in my mouth but I freely admit Capote is a fantastic writer. I enjoyed each of the stories in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the title story being my favorite. I like Audrey Hepburn as much as the next person, provided the next person thinks she’s all right but no Julie Andrews. I have never liked the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s however (sorry Selene). I found it dark and long and confusing. I just remember the cat and the rain and not knowing what was going on. Isn’t that the one where she does that weird snapping dance thing in a club? I digress. The short-story, by comparison, is richer than I remember the movie. Holly Golightly, in text, is vibrant, exciting and a little frightening. In just 100 short pages you come to love, hate and love-to-hate her in the most delightful way.

I did not enjoy all my early year reads however. The King’s Speech by Mark Logue was a huge disappointment. I didn’t realize until starting it that this book was written after the movie was made. Apparently, the makers of the movie sparked Logue’s interest in his own family and he wrote this johnny-come-lately book from stuff that didn’t make it into the movie. It’s like the most boring “special features” on a DVD.

I am Malala as a book was a bit dull. Her story and life are fascinating and I’m glad to have read it; it broadened my world-view. However, the book itself reads a bit like a report for school. While learning Pakistan’s history helped explain the state of the country the day Malala was shot, it got hard to read after a while. I do not mean for my critique to detract from her story or her history, both are rich and important for modern Westerners to understand. I recommend it highly, just with that small caveat.

As always with these reading reports, I must stop before I ramble too long. If you want my opinion on the others, don’t hesitate to ask and I won’t hesitate to answer profusely.

I’ve enjoyed most of the books I’ve read so far and I’ve got another stack ready to go. Let’s see if I remember to update again in June!

Remember the best place to try a new book is at the Library! You aren’t out any money on duds and any gems you find are easy to share! What have you checked out lately?

17799131_10107173148764405_6258832820091689893_n

 

 

Interviews with Young Readers

The week of April 9- April 15 is National Library Week! If you’ve followed the blog for any amount of time, you’ve no doubt noticed how much we all love to read. Naturally, we spend a lot of time at our local libraries. In fact, we visit libraries on vacations too. The kids are at the library at least twice a week, more often during the summer and our Sunday afternoons are spent at our “fancy” library – the Main Library on Goodwood. Ryan and I take turns watching the kids so the other can roam the adult stacks. It’s become a part of the week we all look forward to.

This week I’ve planned posts celebrating both our love of reading and our favorite place to get new books – the library! Today, I interviewed the kids about their favorite aspects of reading and the library. Enjoy!

IMG_20170406_090417——Evangeline age 6—–

What is your favorite thing to do at the library? Read books!

When do you like going to the library? Tuesday for story-time

What books do you like to read? Dr. Suess and The Belly Book at the Bluebonnet Library

What books do you like taking home from the library? Fancy Nancy and Pinkalicious. Why don’t you let me take home Pinkalicious anymore?

What is your favorite story? Tom Thumb, The Fairies and Charlotte’s Web

Why? It’s a fun story and there is a movie with real people, how did they get the animals to talk??

When is your favorite time to read? Pretty much any time that I can

Who is your favorite librarian? The two on the children’s sections, I don’t know their names, but they’re my favorites, they help me on the computer

Which is your favorite library to go to? Jones Creek, they have a lot of Fancy Nancy and Pinkalicious. Maybe I could take home a Pinkalicious just like once a week, mamma?

Summer break is coming up, which book(s) do you look forward to reading? I want to read chapter books like you!

Is there one in particular you want to read first? The Magic Treehouse

IMG_20170406_091314——-Felicity age 4 ——

What is your favorite thing to do at the library? Color pictures! Once I saw a Mother Goose [color sheet] it was like a copy of what we have in our book

When do you like going to the library? On Sunday because maybe I can find books about church and just like about stuff angels or God

What books do you like to read? Mother Goose! She’s funny She rides on the back of a goose!

What books do you like taking home from the library? Books that you tell me I can bring home, like primers and whatever you tell me I can

What is your favorite story? Let me thinking about it. Dinosaurs! I like the book about dinosaurs

Why? Because it has drawings of real life dinosaurs and a little man and he was playing with real life dinosaurs. He must have been scared!

When is your favorite time to read? When we get home before we go to bed.

Who is your favorite librarian? The one with the bob [hair] like mine!

Which is your favorite library to go to? The one close to our house [Jones Creek branch]

——Reuben age 3 ——

What is your favorite thing to do at the library? Look at books

When do you like going to the library? Sunday cus I like to

What books do you like to read? Truck books

What books do you like taking home from the library? Batman books!

What is your favorite story? Duklings

When is your favorite time to read? In the morning

Who is your favorite librarian? LuLu!

Which is your favorite library to go to? The Main Library cus I like to

——Genevieve age 2 ——-

What do you like to do at the library? Look at books

What books do you like? Green ones!

What is your favorite book? Dis one!

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.

img_20170303_145101

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.

img_20170304_193316
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?

img_20170303_144443
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.

img_20170303_144559
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.

The Patron Saints of Evacuation Academy

It is fair to say our first formal year of homeschooling began under adverse circumstances. Our house flooded in a bizarre, historical monsoon. We evacuated our home and bounced around landed at my parents for a few months before squeezing into the too small FEMA trailer we are in now.

Shortly after the rain stopped, we began Kindergarten.

To say those days were saturated with prayers would be an understatement. So much was uncertain and I spent many nights awake worrying about the kids. We had two opportunities to send Evangeline to traditional school and we deliberated a long time about what would be best. We had planned to home-school and had most of the materials, but would going to a structured new place be better for our anxious blonde little ball of nerves?

Ultimately, we kept Evangeline home and started home-school a month earlier than planned. There seemed to be a consensus among child psychologists and my own mommy-intuition of the benefit of resuming structure and schedule in our day. Even though we were living in unfamiliar places and moving often, at least the kids would know we do math after breakfast and reading before nap time and science in the afternoon.

I took comfort from two stories during this period: The Holy family’s flight to Egypt and Sts. Ursula and Angelia Medici.

Maybe comparing our flood evacuation to the plight of the Holy family from Harod’s sword is hyperbole but it brought me great comfort to think of the fear Mary must have felt and the grace she was granted nonetheless.

Saint Ursula’s story is pious fiction; what is known is that sometime in the 4th century in Cologne the Huns killed a group of Christian virgins. The story has evolved to include Saint Ursula as their leader. She a Christian princess sent to marry a pagan prince, killed in her travels along with her exorbitant number of ladies-in-waiting. For her position as protector of young Christian women, Ursula has been named the patron saint of school girls. Her name was used by Saint Angela Merici in the 1500’s who established the Ursuline monastic order dedicated to educating young girls and women.

This is the same order which sent nuns over perilous seas to the recently settled new world to educate women. Their involvement in establishing cities and clinics in unsettled lands cannot be over stated. Without their aid and support many areas, including New Orleans, would have succumbed completely to disease. Schools in the Ursuline order continue today.

It was with these examples in mind that I set out to start Kindergarten during the most tumultuous time of our kids’ lives. Evangeline has such a sensitive spirit and is so easily put out of sorts. Living somewhere new in uncertain times, she didn’t know what to do with herself. I prayed for the same grace God gave to Mary, to St. Ursula and St. Angelia Merici to educate my whole child: my daughter, my 5 year old, and my refugee.

img_20170215_120350
Saint Ursula Icon

I’ve kept Saint Ursula as our patron saint of Evacuation Academy. Each time I find myself frustrated I try to call to mind the importance and sensitivity needed to educate my young girl. I was given a most beautiful painted icon of St. Ursula by a friend and I cherish it most dearly. It is so precious I won’t let the kids touch it. Once we are settled back in our house, I plan to set it up in a place of prominence.

Our months of homeschooling have gone well. At least we haven’t given up completely. Few things have given me as much joy as teaching my daughter to read. She has an encyclopedia she carries with her everywhere to look up all the things that pop into hear head. She’s desperate to know every addition fact known to mathematicians the world over.

I am glad of our decision to keep her home. I of course don’t know what would have happened if she went to school each day, but I do know that I have been given opportunities time and time again to calm her anxious spirit and inspire her wonder about the world. For that, I am grateful to homeschooling.