Saturday, July 11, 2015

Taxes

When tax time rolled around this year my husband and I debated, briefly, about whether or not we should claim Daisy for 2014. She was with us for 10 months. Legally, and yes...this is for all foster parents, we could claim Daisy. It made a pretty big difference as to our refund size. But we also though of Kori and Daisy and how they might need that money as well.

When Daisy came back in to Care in February, that pretty much sealed the deal. I was late, for me anyway, in filing our taxes. But I knew that now there was no question. We were claiming Daisy.

I finished filling out all the forms online. When I got to the end the tax program informed me that someone had already claimed Miss Daisy for 2014.

That didn't deter me. I printed out our taxes and got a letter from our licensing agency stating the dates that Daisy was legally under our care. I sent that letter along with the paperwork we were given at placement so that there would be no question that we were legally entitled to claim Daisy on our taxes.

Note: if you've got foster care tax questions,
an accountant friend of mine wrote this post about the subject.


I mailed the huge envelope and waiting.

Then I got a huge envelope back in the mail.

Duh. I had forgotten to sign the forms myself. We file joint. I needed to sign too. Ugh!

So we waited some more.

I'm happy to report though that as of yesterday, the entire refund that we were legally entitled to was deposited into our bank account. I have to assume that Kori will be getting a letter in the mail questioning the legality of claiming Daisy. But really, that's not my problem.

This money couldn't have come at a better time too. With Mr. Amazing having surgery in Central Texas in less than 2 weeks, we've got a few extra expenses coming up for sure!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

answers to a reader's questions

Questions from a reader:
OK. Questions: Current children's birth mom has 3 children. An older girl who is with someone else. Russell and Star. Each child has a 'plan' per the court/agency. IS the plan for each child the same? Reunification with Mom? Or with a genetic relative of each child (who could vary due to different fathers)? OR what is each child's official plan re outcome.
Separate from what the official plan is, and assuming safe familial reunification is ideal, what do you ~ based on your incomplete knowledge of mother's situation ~ see as probable outcome for mom and each child?
Clearly Mom has not been able so far to be a strong mother for her children. Do you think this is poor/inadequate knowledge of how to parent/youth, lack of willingness to do the work, terrible life circumstances and partners, or basic inability to learn how to parent successfully? Is she a "horse who is led to water but will not drink" person?
To the best of your incomplete knowledge is mom actively participating in her own court/agency prescribed plan? From what you hear currently can you predict is probable length of stay for the two children in your home? ( a few more months, least 6 months, a year or more). Do you presently see any sign that Mom or her family can learn to be good safe parents for either or both children in your home? If not, currently could you see your family adopting the two children or would they not be permanent good fits for your family as things stand today.
Clearly things do and will change over time but I am wondering if you have guesses on these issues currently.
Sending good wishes and hopes for each and every one of you. 
IS the plan for each child the same? 
There is NO plan for the oldest child, Violet. She is three years old. I have NO IDEA why CPS is not officially involved in her life. I have NO IDEA why Violet isn't allowed to be with her mother. But, nevertheless, Violet is not with her mom. Violet now lives with her biological father. (And yes, all three children have different dads.)

Russell and Star's cases have been officially combined. That means they share the same goal and the same timeline. (Interestingly enough, the same thing happened to Daisy and her sister, Dandelion. And even though Dandelion is only about 6 months old, the goal in their case is now "relative adoption".) The official goal for Russell and Star is still "family reunification". That means officially, CPS is trying to place them back with Mom. I have to assume the secondary goal is relative conservatorship (permanent placement with a relative but rights to Mom are not terminated).

What do you see as the probable outcome for mom and each child?
I have NO CLUE what is going to happen in this case. I do not believe that Russell would be safe going to Mom or any relative! Every single person involved in the first 17 months of his life did not protect him. Everyone should have seen how tiny and starved he was, how he wasn't clean (literal black crust on his body), and how he wasn't developing at all. Maybe he didn't cry when his bones were broken 15 times. But people should have seen how he was being starved.

As far as the probably outcome though? It wouldn't surprise me if the children go back to Mom - if she works her case plan. There are no criminal charges being filed. Mom simply has "reason to believe she committed child abuse" tacked on to her background checks now. Nothing the judge does down here surprises me anymore.

Is Mom actively participating in her case plan?
As of the last court hearing, June 10, no. Mom had missed several visits and hadn't completed some assessment and therapy. CPS gave her another three months to work her plan. I don't know if she is cooperating other than to say she hasn't missed a visit.

What is the probable length of stay for the children?
Again...NO CLUE. CPS could drag a relative out of the woodwork and the kids could both be gone at the next hearing. I hope beyond measure that isn't what they're doing. I believe the maternal side of the family is very large and very dysfunctional. Or, because they rarely do TPR (termination of parental rights) down here, the kids could languish in Care for years until the judge thinks one or both of the kids is old enough to make an outcry. Who knows?!

Do you presently see any sign that Mom or her family can learn to be good safe parents for either or both children in your home?
No. Nobody protected Russell before. I trust no one now. Mom is still incredibly detached from the children during the visits. I don't hear much. I know she is sweet and gentle with them. But she doesn't respond to Russell in a developmentally appropriate way at all. She treats him like a tiny baby holding him on her lap with nothing to do. I have no reason to believe that she would all of the sudden take an interest in his development, therapies or anything else. I fear he would be severely neglected again. Odds are though, she'd probably meet Star's needs. I really believe she doesn't know how to handle the diagnosis of Down syndrome. And there is NOTHING available down here in her case plan to help her understand special needs. ALL parents are pretty much given the exact same case plan from what I can tell. There aren't any special services for parents of kids with special needs.

Could you see your family adopting the two children?
Yes. But the case is NOWHERE near this being an option. If Mom is working her case plan, TPR isn't going to go on the table unless something major happens.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

tomorrow at 10:00am

Tomorrow morning there will be a group of professionals sitting around my kitchen table at 10:00am. I will sign paperwork. They will sign some paperwork. My kids will sign paperwork. Then I'll sign some more paperwork. I'll hang on to some paperwork so my husband can sign it when he gets home from work. Hopefully I'll get a couple bags of clothes and maybe some formula.

In my arms will be a little 2 month old girl getting her third "mommy" since she was born.

Don't tell me congratulations.

No baby should have that many mommies.

So even though our new caseworker is excited for us to be getting another baby. I'm not. (Our new caseworker, Bopper, sent me a text message yesterday saying "Yayyyy, so happy you will have babies Cherub Mamma!")

Well..yes...I am "excited". I like caring for children. I like babies. I really do want to have a little girl around the house.

But foster care breaks me into a million pieces. It's sad. It's tragic. It's not a happy thing that she's coming to me. It's terribly sad. It means something happened serious enough that a perfectly healthy little girl can't live with her mother. Can't be cared for by the person she bonded to for nine months as she grew.

Please NEVER discount those nine months before birth. They are important. They shape a human being. Any time a child is separated from their mother it is tragic. Even if this little girl ends up being reunified with her mother, she will have a hole in her heart because she was separated.

I believe the metaphor I'm about to use is in the book The Primal Wound.

Imagine the bond between a mother and a child is a dinner plate. When the bond is broken, the plate is shattered. Perhaps the pieces are big enough that they can be glued back together. Perhaps the plate gets glued to pieces of a different broken plate (adoption). It will never fit perfectly. Things won't match. It might be functional, but it's definitely not the same!! Even if the original plate gets glued back together, the break will always be visible. You simply can't undo the break.

So please, don't congratulate my family. Wish us well. Pray for us. Take comfort in knowing that Star will be cared for, doted on, and fully loved. But don't congratulate us. The loss she's suffering is so significant. It trumps any fun we might have with the pink and the ruffles. Her needs will be met and we will have a blast with her I'm sure. Celebrate with us as we love on a baby that needs us. But don't congratulate us.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Star is coming

On Friday last week I finally got a text from our new CPS caseworker. I'm pretty sure she's going to need a blog name. Let's go with Bopper. I mean no disrespect. I must be getting old. But when I saw our new worker at court, I honest-to-God thought she was there for her own case. She looks VERY young. Like maybe 14 or 15 years old young. And when she texts me, she uses a very casual tone of speech and tons of emoticons.

Anyway...Bopper sent me a text message. Her supervisor approved placement of Russell's baby sister, Star, with us. She said from there the decision needed to go to the Program Director and the Child Placement Unit.

I sent a text to the placing coordinator at my licensing agency, Rainbow. I told her that we were getting Star and to be on the lookout for the information.

Yesterday, Monday, I got a phone call from Rainbow. The CPU had contacted her. She approved the placement. Now the whole thing bounces back to CPS.

Bopper is coming to the house today for her first home visit. I figure I'll corner her while she's here to see if she's got a transfer date in mind yet.

I'm as ready as I'm going to be for Baby #2. I've purchased all the essentials. I've also kept all the receipts and I haven't opened anything. This is foster care after all. Anything could happen. I'm definitely waiting a bit on some of the big ticket items. Over the next month or so I'm planning on purchasing:
  • a real crib for Russell (I sold mine after Daisy left, remember? Because we were D.O.N.E. with babies. Boy does God have a sense of humor.)
  • a baby bouncer (I believe a friend of mine is bringing one to me when she comes to visit. But I've got a big house and I know I'll probably want two of them.)
  • a second high chair
  • a double stroller
I'm sure I'll end up getting more things. Babies tend to be easier to care for when you've got special baby things. But I also know that babies don't NEED a lot of things. So I'm trying to be reasonable and not spend money when it's not necessary.

TT and Bart are SUPER excited about a baby coming. They are both convinced that she's going to be a cuddler. Mr. Russell is not a cuddler. Russell is all about the moving and grooving 100% of the time he's awake. TT and Bart are sure that because Star is still so little that she will let them hold her and cuddle with her. They're also pretty excited that Star is a girl.

There isn't much more to say. I spent the weekend filling my freezer with more meals and side dishes. I've literally got enough food in the house to feed our family for almost two months without having to go to the grocery store. Now, we like produce, milk, and I'm not going to make all our bread from scratch so I'll still have to shop. But meals are prepped and waiting. Also, Herman finally got his driver's license last week so I've got another human I can send out on errands. Until he's gainfully employed, he's mine to order around. bwahahahahaha

I'll keep y'all posted on Star's arrival and I'm sure when she gets here I'll flood the internet with entirely too many identity-hidden photos.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

It's been a DAY (court recap)

Alright...as is common for me on court days...here's the entirely too long recap in crappy bullet-point writing. Most of this is for me. I'm going to give all the details. This is where I keep track of the good stuff so 2 years from now I can type up a letter for a lawyer or somebody when they finally get around to DOING things in a case.

Yeah. I'm jaded.

I woke up this morning and felt just fine. I got Mr. Amazing ready for work and even ate breakfast without feeling nervous.

Well...I sat down at my desk with my breakfast and started looking at stuff on my computer. As I was halfway through my fried egg the court docket for today loaded on my screen. Then I got crazy nervous!

We were case Number 5 on the docket. There were three cases listed for 9:00am and one other at 9:30am in front of us. Case Number 4 is what got to me though. Russell's baby sister was listed as a separate hearing.

That meant the scary boyfriend (bio dad of Baby Star) would likely be there.

I'm not usually easily scared. And bio families don't usually freak me out. But there is something about the boyfriend that literally scares me bad.

The rest of my morning consisted of me trying to keep my nerves under control while I got ready to leave with Russell and I got things situated for Herman, TT, and Bart at home.

I was back to the waiting area around 8:50am or so with Russell. I was the first person there. It wasn't long though and Bio Mom, lets call her Sylvia, arrived. She was alone (except for the person that brought her to court - I don't think Sylvia has a car). I unhooked Russell in the stroller and she scooped him up.

Around 9:10am a whole slew of other people walked up. Violet, Russell's 3yo sister, was in the group. This just happened to be the first time she'd seen her brother since he was removed in February. (Unique to watch. She wanted NOTHING to do with him. She would NOT interact with Russell at all!!) I think the aunt that Violet is currently staying with brought her. Violet's bio dad and his wife also came. Another aunt had her daughter and Baby Star. (There may have been other people. I tried not to stare.)

The scary boyfriend wasn't there.

CPS came to talk to me around 9:30am. Things were running behind (like always). We went through pleasantries. I asked about the placements of the sisters. That's when she told me they are with different aunts. (Up until today I thought the sisters were placed together.) Then somehow it came up that the boyfriend wouldn't be coming. He's in federal prison.

Cue the sigh of huge relief!!

My fears can't be too far out of line if he's locked up in a federal prison.

CPS also shared that we were getting a new caseworker.

Cue the sigh of frustration. New worker. New supervisor. Possible new focus or goals as a result.

Russell's lawyer popped over to say high as well. I asked her about the sisters and their placement. She kind of rolled her eyes but said they were fine...all things considered. I told her that Russell is doing very well. The lawyer sort of muttered under her breath, "Mom isn't."

I heard Violet's bio dad tell CPS that he wants custody of Violet.
Side note...in case I haven't been clear...
All three kids have different dads. Violet's bio dad seems very nice. Russell's bio dad isn't in the picture at all. CPS has been unable to contact anyone on the paternal side of the family. CPS is supposed to work on this. Star's bio dad is the scary boyfriend that was suspected to be the person that injured Russell. However NO criminal charges have been filed as a result of Russell's injuries.
About 45 minutes went by with us all waiting on the benches in the outside covered waiting area. Sylvia NEVER once tried to have contact with Baby Star. She brought Violet to sit next to her. She never really talked to Violet at all though either. Sylvia is a very interesting young woman. She is beautiful, well dressed, polite, demure, and incredibly quiet. She held Russell on her lap. She stood with Russell and swayed back and forth. She stroked his hair. But she didn't really interact at all with any of her kids. She looks like she's there. But she's so incredibly detached! It seems very strange to me that she didn't even bring Star in the baby carrier over by her feet or something. She didn't speak to the aunt that brought Star either. It was weird!

We got called into the courtroom around 10:15am. Everything went very quickly. 15 minutes later we were done and back outside in the waiting area.

Russell's case and Star's case are to be formally consolidated.  The judge just hasn't done it yet.

There is NO CPS case for Violet. I honestly don't know what that means. I know she's not living with Sylvia. Maybe there's a safety plan in place or something and Mom can't have custody yet. But Sylvia isn't answering to the judge about Violet at all!

Sylvia has completed her parenting classes.

However, she has not completed some assessment (for therapy maybe) nor has she started her individual therapy. Mom went to her assessment meeting. It was supposed to be for two hours. Mom left halfway through though and never rescheduled.

The judge didn't like this.

CPS made a huge deal about Sylvia missing visits too. I was very disappointed here though. They tried to say that Mom had missed six visits.

She hasn't. It's only been five. And one of those five was because she had just given birth. So really, it's only been four visits.

I hate it when I hear CPS lie.

They corrected themselves though as the conversation went on. They did put it on the record that Sylvia only missed four visits.

It was formally determined that as of right now, Mom is non-compliant. However, the goal is still family reunification. She gets three more months to work her case plan. The judge seemed upset. He went ahead and scheduled the next permanency hearing for August AND a trial for September...just in case she's still non-compliant.
Side note...
This whole "trial" thing seems relatively new to me. The judge is throwing out the word trial more than I heard when we first started fostering down here. Dude and Dolly were in Care for 27 months. I don't think there ever was a trial. Pumpkin is still technically in Care. But lately the judge makes a big deal out of the trial and the dismissal date. Maybe he is trying to get things to move faster than they used to.
According to a CPS guide that I found online, the Final Hearing (Trial) is one that:
  1. Requires that the child be returned to the parents;
  2. Names a relative of the child or another person as the child's managing conservator;
  3. Without terminating the parent-child relationship, appoints CPS as the managing conservator of the child; (which IS what happened in Dude and Dolly's case and with Pumpkin) OR
  4. Terminates the parent-child relationship and appoints a relative of the child another suitable person, or CPS as the managing conservator
I can guarantee that no one is thinking about TPR yet for Russell. But the judge sure did want to get his point across about the trial being next and that he wasn't going to drag this out forever.

The only thing, other than CPS trying to misrepresent the quantity of missed visits, was when the judge was asking about how Russell is. CPS did a good job of briefly explaining how he's growing now and eating so well. She mentioned that he's doubled his weight since coming in to Care in February. The judge then made a comment, "So...he's meeting his milestones. No delays or anything?"

CPS answered affirmatively. She nodded and said he's meeting milestones.

The judge flipped through paperwork. He said something about Down syndrome. CPS said, "Yes, Judge, he has the diagnoses of Down syndrome and failure to thrive."

CPS never did correct things though to make mention of Russell's special needs. I'm quite sure that the judge knows that a child with Down syndrome has needs. But I felt it needed to be on the record that Russell functions like a 9-10 month old baby...NOT the 22 month old toddler that he is.

It all went very quickly though. Before I knew it we were back outside. Sylvia was surrounded on one of the benches by family. She was visibly VERY upset. She was discussing the case with her lawyer. Sadly for me, the conversation was entirely in Spanish. She was holding a sleeping Russell though so I couldn't go anywhere.

CPS came out. Violet's bio dad wanted to talk to someone. CPS explained that since there is no case for Violet, they can't grant him custody. He's going to have to take Mom to family court and file for it.

I wanted to hear more but CPS saw that I was there waiting for Russell, so his worker leaned in, took Russell from Sylvia and handed him to me. I buckled Russell into the stroller and knew I had to leave whether I wanted to or not.

I breathed a sigh of relief as Russell and I made our way back out to the car. I called Mr. Amazing on the way home and let him know the details.

When I got home though I decided I had to do something about the "meeting milestones" comment. I sent a text message to Russell's lawyer:
You asked me in court if I needed anything. And no, I don't at this time. But I do want to pass along a concern (for lack of a better word). When the judge asked CPS if Russell was meeting all his milestones, CPS answered yes. That is a gross misrepresentation of reality. Russell is doing great. But he still barely functions at the level of a 10 month old child. He is going to need special care for the rest of his life. I'm sure the judge understands fully the needs of a special needs child with Down syndrome. But if I didn't say something, this would bother me for weeks! Let me know if you need anything from me at all.
She responded right back with, "Thank you. I'll pass it on."

Again, I breathed a sigh of relief. I figured the worst of my day was over.

Twenty minutes later I got a text from the lawyer, "Does your agency allow another child? The baby needs placement too."

I nearly choked. I replied, "What happened to the baby. I thought she was OK with the aunt. Placement today?"

The lawyer responded, "Nope. She doesn't want her. I told CPS. They're working on it."

And from there, the rest of my day when down the crapper. I could barely think straight. I knew I needed to at least think about what I'd need to take in a 2 month old baby. But aaccckkkk!! It certainly wasn't on my agenda.

Two hours later the new CPS caseworker sent me a text. She was simply confirming a visit schedule change so I can travel with Russell when Bart goes to science camp at the beach. I took it as an opportunity to ask CPS what was going on.

I said, "I caught wind from the lawyer that you guys are having to place Star today. Any more news on that?"

She said that she was trying to get ahold of the aunt but the aunt wasn't responding. CPS told me she'd keep me in the loop. I told this new worker that I had let the first worker know I was a resource and that I had also said the same to the lawyer. She said she'd keep me posted.

Three hours later I sent her another text, "I hate to bother you. But I'm making plans for this evening. Do you know if you're going to need me yet today or not?"

The CPS worker indicated that she told her supervisor but that he didn't want to discuss it until morning. Again, she assured me that she'd keep me posted.

So...I may or may not get another baby this week. Court just about did me in for the day. I'm going to get the cherubs in bed for the night and then I'm going to crash out early. I might not get to sleep through the night again for a few months.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

my biggest pet peeve

When it comes to foster care, a lot of people tire of hearing phrases like, "I could never give them back." Or, "You're such a saint."

And while those phrases grate on me something fierce, I've decided that my least favorite phrase to hear from anyone surrounding my kids is:
I want to take him home with me.
Or the close cousin:
Do you want to come home with me?
Those phrases are hurtful. They undermine everything I'm doing. And if the child is old enough to understand what they're hearing, they're scary as Hell to the child!!

Think about it...

This child just lost EVERYTHING they knew! They were moved to a strange home. They're being cared for by new people. EVERYTHING looks different. Feels different. Smells different. Sounds different. Tastes different.

They have a new bed. They have new clothes. They're using different body care products. The people around them talk differently. The food they're eating is new and very different.

This is true in EVERY single foster child's life!!!!

Have I emphasized how EVERYTHING is different for this child enough yet?!

Yes. They should be safe from further abuse now. But that is not enough to offset how incredibly upside-down their world is. These kids, in most cases, WANT their family back. Of course they want their family and they want a life without neglect and abuse. But ultimately...they want their family back. They want their normal back.

The LAST THING they want to do is go to ANOTHER HOME!!

So Miss Lady at the Hair Cutting Salon...I know you meant well. I know you didn't mean to say that you'd love to become a foster parent and you're ready to take all the trainings, undergo the background checks, and open your entire life to the scrutiny of a licensing agency and/or the State. You just wanted to express how cute my kid is.

You're guilty too Miss Social Worker at the licensing agency. And Miss Check Out Clerk at the grocery store. And Miss Nurse at the doctor's office. (Different kids. Same story. My kids were cute and strangers offered to take them home with them.)

I've heard this phrase tooooooo many times!

Dear reader, if you are guilty of saying this to anyone else's child, please consider dropping it from your vocabulary. Even the most secure of children could be frightened of the thought of being sent to a stranger's home.

Tell me my child is cute. Tell me he looks like a fun child to care for. Tell me how lucky I am. But please, please, please, don't tell me you want to take my child home with you!

Friday, May 22, 2015

more reader questions answered

Russell is still asleep. TT and Bart are frying their brains watching TV. The house is reasonably clean and I don't have any freelancing that has to be done.

So I'll answer some more questions.  :)
Thank you for finding time to post so frequently and for answering questions and sharing your knowledge. To keep you going: what is Ricky planning for the next year? What new skills is Russell learning and working on. (This hopefully helps you see the HUGE progress he has made since his arrival at your home.) What are the major themes you plan on for the next 4 months of homeschool...... or activities TT&Bart will focus on for summer. How do you manage living in your climate in the summer. (I particularly wonder as just prior to WWII my parents lived there and there was no a/c and there were LOTS of .... insects with no controls. My mother, from the Pacific NW, was not entranced.)
What is Ricky planning for the next year?
Ricky was held back in 1st grade so even though he's 18 years old, Ricky has to finish high school. He'll be a senior next year. His time will be spent working at his job, competing with the swim team as a diver, and going to school. He'll come over to the house every now and then and I anticipate that he and Herman will remain friends. Basically, he'll get to be a normal kid and he won't have CPS breathing down his neck. He still lives with his godmother, Rebecca, and everything is going great there.

What new skills is Russell working on?
Russell has learned out to sit up with incredible ease. He goes from prone to sitting and the physical therapist said his transitions are excellent!! (She was surprised at how "normal" his transitions are!) We will continue working with everything we can to help Russell catch up to what his normal should be. (As a child with Down syndrome it is expected that he will be delayed.) We will continue to do exercises that strengthen his trunk and core muscles. We will help him learn to pull up and cruise. I'm looking forward to some progress with fine motor skills so he can do things like feed himself toddler foods.

What are we doing for homeschool this summer?
I've mentioned how my boys are going to go back to brick and mortar school next fall. To make a long story short, it's largely due to football. TT wants to play football and homeschooled kids aren't allowed to do any public school extracurriculars. And, there is no city-run football program after the 5th grade. TT starts 6th grade in the fall so if he wants to play sports, he has to go to public school. (And no, there is no homeschool program down here that offers football either.)
Bart doesn't "need" homeschool as much as TT does. It doesn't make sense to keep him home if I'm sending TT to middle school. Bart will go back to the elementary he attended for kindergarten and 1st grade. He'll be in 5th grade there.

This summer the boys are going to keep working on math and spelling. When we pulled TT out of the online charter school he was attending, I knew we needed to do math differently than how public school had been teaching it. I bought Math-U-See and started both boys with the level Gamma (multiplication). Last year they did both Gamma and Delta (division). This year the boys did Epsilon (fractions). Over the summer we will do Zeta (decimals and percents). That will give both boys a very solid base in math and neither should struggle with how the public schools present things to them when they go back. Bart will be well ahead of most students and TT should be right on target. They'll be missing a little bit of elementary geometry - but not enough where they'll struggle.

As for spelling...yikes! Bart has ADHD and can't spell to save his life. He reads several grade levels ahead of where he's at though so I'm not too worried. It will come. I couldn't spell either when I was a kid. Spell check is my very best friend and a synonym is a word you use when you can't spell the one you want.

TT has made improvements with his reading. He still has dyslexia - and he always will. I'm not sure how he's going to fare in public school long term. He needs help incredible help with spelling, writing and reading for comprehension. We'll keep reading all summer and I'm hoping by continuing on with spelling curriculum, he won't lose any of the progress we've made.

Overall though, we're a family that values learning. I actually have more of an "unschooling" attitude than I'd like to admit. The boys will invent games this summer. They'll build with their Legos. Bart is going to a science camp on South Padre Island again this year (TT is going on a B.A.C.A. camp-out with Mr. Amazing that same weekend.) We'll read books out loud. I'll encourage both boys to read on their own (Bart is a book worm - I have to push TT a bit). They'll learn a lot this summer just because that's how we do things.

How do I manage living in my climate during the summer?
This question made me laugh!!!!

It's easy to answer. Two words. Air conditioning!!

I praise God daily this time of year that our home has two A/C units and I can afford to pay our electric bill. We've got window darkening screens that help. And I don't run the A/C as cold as some of the others do down here. But I don't go outside much in the summer and I look forward to fall and winter a lot! (We're already up in the low 90s most of the time with nighttime lows in the mid to upper 70s. Won't be long til we're over 100 most days. It's hot down here!!)