My name is Nikki and I am living in India and serving at Sarah's Covenant Homes, an orphanage for abandoned children with physical and developmental disabilities. I am a foster mama to 11 sweet children with special needs and they light up my life!

If you feel led, please go HERE and donate to help cover my expenses and keep me here in India with my babies!

*blog names (not their real names) are used online for the kids to protect their privacy

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Charlotte

Miss Charlotte has been a part of our family for over one month now. It seems like so much longer than that! I feel like we are finally getting to know Charlotte. She is quiet and takes time to warm up, and I know that even now we are just seeing bits and pieces of her personality.

In the last post I wrote about her, I shared "I just have this feeling that a few months from now, we will look back on these early weeks with her and laugh about how different she used to be." Later in the post I shared how excited I was that she clapped her hands. Even since then, she has grown so much, and I know another month from now it will be even more so. It is just so beautiful watching her go from a scared, timid, neglected baby to a little girl who feels safe and loved in her family. What a blessing it is to have a role in that!

We took the kids on a trip to the water park and I spent most of my time with Charlotte, as we brought enough volunteers to be 1:1 with each of the kids. I was pleasantly surprised that she really liked the water. She wasn't laughing or smiling much, but she didn't cry at all and was very peaceful, lifting her head up to the sun and letting me drip water all over her back. Now, most mornings when I work with some of the other kids, I put a bucket of water out in the living room beside me for her to play in. At first, she cried and cried, but very quickly she came to love the activity. One day we all stopped what we were doing, shocked, as she splashed her hands and made so many sounds that we had never heard before, including "mamamama"! Now, some days she sits quietly, sometimes she sits and makes sounds, and other days she splashes wildly! This was one of the first activities that she engaged in without me or Tori encouraging or facilitating it!



We made these three goals for her when she first moved in with us:
1) Stand holding on to the railing wearing leg gaiters for 2 minutes
2) Play independently with a musical toy
3) Hold the crawling position for 1 minute

She has made tremendous progress with her standing. She no longer needs leg gaiters ever, and quickly I changed that goal to standing on the railing without leg gaiters for 10 minutes, which she now does easily. Every morning before she plays in the water, she stands holding on to the railing for about 30 minutes to build strength. Sometimes we put her headphones on while she is doing it so she can listen to music (and then she doesn't cry!) When it is her turn for her session, we work on physiotherapy as well as play therapy. I have now changed that first goal (since she has mastered the standing) to taking 5 steps while holding onto my hands. Ramana, her ayah, is really in love with her and usually works with her every morning either before or after my session, which makes me so happy. Sometimes it can be hard to get our ayahs involved in the kids' therapy, but how awesome is it when they love the kids and are so invested in them that they just want to do it without being asked or without any direction at all! She just watches what I do and then duplicates it herself. On October 27th Charlotte took her very first steps, holding on to Ramana's hands!

I also do a lot of hand over hand play with her. I take various toys such as rattles, textured balls, tambourines, crinkly paper, and drums and show her how to play with them. She has never had any exposure to toys before. Ever. So at first, she had no idea what to do with a toy and would refuse to even touch it. Now, she is starting to play with toys all by herself! One day, for example, for thirty minutes she rolled a sound ball between her hands and feet, giggling the whole time. Another day she played with crinkly wrapping paper, scrunching it up in her fingers and rubbing it on her cheeks and head. It is still not consistent, but it has happened enough that I know she is getting there. Usually when it happens, we all stop what we are dong and watch her, because it is just so incredible watching a baby come to life like that. I can't express how sad and scared she was when she first came. It was hard to see. I am so happy that she is starting to come out of her shell!



I used to cuddle and rock her after prayer and then put her to bed. She is so used to sleeping on the floor, that up until tonight she would only sleep at night if she were on the hard ground. Recently I decided it is time to start trying to co-sleep. After Nolan falls asleep (otherwise he gets very jealous, as he and I cuddle before he goes to bed) I bring Charlotte into my bed with me. Yesterday I spent about 30 minutes with her. She stims to lull herself to sleep. She pokes her neck, rubs her head on the ground, and grinds her teeth incessantly. Every time she stimmed, I brought her close to me and rubbed her back, and it seemed to help. After 30 minutes though, she had had enough and wanted back on the ground. Today Tori and I bought her a soother to help with the teeth grinding. She bites it, instead of sucking on it, but she likes it! I am happy to report that for the first time, she is fast asleep in a bed, underneath blankets, and she didn't stim to get to sleep! It is going to be hard, because after a long day all I want to do is curl up in my bed and go to sleep! It is really not easy to teach a child to want to be loved. She pushes me away. She takes my hands and moves them off of her. But I want her to learn to be soothed by me and to be comforted by me, so I really want to make this a priority so that she can fall asleep comfortably and happily.

She is the youngest child that we have ever had in our home. I often wonder what our kids would be like if we had gotten them as babies. I am certain that if they had early intervention, a lot of the challenges they face wouldn't exist. And so it is so exciting to have a baby like Charlotte in our home. She won't have to spend years in a crib, waiting. We have her now. Early intervention is so important for kids with special needs, and it excites me so much to have the opportunity to teach her at such a young age. And most importantly, to rock her to sleep every night and to hold her and sing to her every day. She will learn to feel safe and will know that touch of a mother as a baby, where as most of our kids didn't experience that until they were much older. My prayer for Charlotte is that she will understand the safety and peace in being loved, and will rest in that.

We really need to find a sponsor for Charlotte. Please check out her page, spread the word about her, and help us provide the very best environment for this beautiful baby girl!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Hardest Part About Being A Foster Mother

Being a foster mother makes me remember that I am weak.

I am not going to win any mother of the year award. Let's be honest.... sometimes my kids drive me crazy. Take right now, for example. It is long past bedtime and the usual nighttime culprits (Jasmine, Cedar, Chloe, and Dinah) are still wide awake. Cedar is in Chloe's crib with her, because if we put him in the bed he shares with Tori before she goes to sleep, he will roll all over the other kids and wake them up. So, he waits in the crib with Chloe until his mama is ready for bed. Dinah and Jasmine share a bed. Jasmine is using her bed and Dinah's belly as a trampoline. She will most likely crawl off her bed soon and unplug our internet. Or she might find the door and begin banging incessantly on it. Dinah is humming and hand flapping against her cheek, over and over again. She is rocking as she does it. As hard as I have tried to stop the rocking, she can't fall asleep unless she rocks. Back and forth, back and forth, humming as she does it. At first Cedar is chewing on his hand and playing with his fingers in his mouth, loudly making noises with his tongue. But next, he is wailing. Chloe, our 3 year old, is smacking his chest over and over again screeching with excitement at the noise it makes, and laughing even harder when he begins crying. She loves the sound of her siblings crying!

Many nights I close my eyes and try to sleep, but cannot block the sounds out. Tori and I laugh about it, because it is pretty humourous. Sometimes. And sometimes I am so tired that I think I will go crazy if I have to listen to another child hand flap, or blow spit bubbles, or bang on another child's tummy, or hum and rock back and forth, or bang the door over and over again.

It is those kinds of things that people think of when they contemplate what the hardest part is of fostering 11 children with special needs. Yes, I can be impatient and they certainly drive me nuts sometimes, but whatever. I put a pillow over my ears and drown out the noises.

Seriously though, it isn't the stimming. It's not the drool, or changing my teenager's diaper, or having to do everything for them because they are unable to do it for themselves. None of that bothers me. Really, it doesn't.

The hardest part about being a foster mother is the fear.

My faith is weak. I know that. I can't even think about the future because I am terrified that my kids won't get adopted. Terrified. I imagine Lily 5 years down the road, still here, and it breaks me in half. Not because SCH is a bad place- not at all. But because she is so attached to me and Tori. She will frequently come up to me with a look on her face that I can't place, point to herself and ask "stay?" "Yes, babe, you are staying.". Then she will point to me. "Gikki, stay?" "Yes. I am staying, you are staying, Tori is staying, all the kids are staying." Then she smiles, happy again, and goes on with her playing. How can I ever possibly leave, unless my kids get adopted? How could I do that to them?

Which leads me to my next fear. I fear having to stay here, and I fear having to go back to Canada. I would be very happy living the rest of my life serving SCH and living in India. That doesn't scare me. That excites me. What scares me is doing it alone. I live in India, and I have 11 kids. That is my life; I wake up, I take care of them, and I go to sleep. I love it, but the odds of me meeting someone and getting married here are pretty slim. The thought of not getting married isn't something I can wrap my mind around though. I deeply desire to be married one day, but I'm just not willing right now to give up my life here for that dream. But I'm 25. I always thought by 25 I would be married, or at least close to it. And so there it is.... I fear going back to Canada and leaving my babies, but I fear staying here and being alone.

I know in my heart that I need to trust God. He has a plan for me and He wouldn't bring me to this place if He didn't. I need to rely on Him. I need to trust Him and let Him guide me. What a reassurance that can be!! How scary this life would be without knowing that God is on my side! And yet, sometimes I forget. Or doubt it. Or just plain don't want to believe it.

Today I am choosing to believe. I am choosing to let go of the fear and give it to God. I am choosing to live in the moment, not worrying about the future. I am here today. My kids need me today. And I have so much to be grateful for and so much to be excited about!

And, since you just sat through a rambling of what goes on in my head, a cute (unrelated) photo.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Support Courage Purple!

SCH gives each foster family a name of the building they live in (we are in Courage Home) and an assigned colour (purple!) We are a family of 16 now, with 11 children, 3 ayahs, and 2 house mothers. I would love it if we had committed supporters around the world; people who feel like they are a part of our family and who are invested in the kids like Tori and I are. These are people that I could call on when we have a need, and even if they can't fill the need themselves, they are people that I could count on to spread the word and advocate for my kids with as much love as we do.

We recently had a family video made, and I am so excited to share it with you. These kids mean the world to me and this video so beautifully shows how loved they are and all the things we dream for them.


Courage Home Purple from SCH INDIA on Vimeo.

Below are some of our needs right now. Please help if you can, or share this post with your friends to spread the word about these amazing kids and the work SCH is doing. We can't do it alone and it means so much to us when people step forward to help us out.

1) School Sponsorship: Louise has started school! She joined Nolan at his school, although she is in playgroup and he is in nursery (he is a year above). We are starting her mid-year, but feel this is the right decision for her. She is ready, and because the bus brings her home from school at 12:00, she will still be able to fit in an hour of therapy with Tori in the morning, an hour with me in the afternoon, and 3 days a week of auditory verbal therapy at the hospital! She is already really enjoying the routine of going and is fitting in nicely at school and having lots of fun. We need a total of $100/month to cover her educational fees; school tuition, books, uniform, school bus.

You can sign up to sponsor her HERE!

2) General Sponsorship: Five of our girls are still not fully sponsored. This is a total of $300/month, although most of the 5 are partially sponsored so only a portion of that amount is still needed. It goes towards covering everything needed to care for them; ayah salaries, food, Pediasure, diapers, clean water, medicine, vitamins, etc. Sponsorship is what keeps SCH afloat. It is the money that comes in every month that we can count on to care for our kids' basic needs. Having 5 of 11 of our kids not fully sponsored is not okay. We need to have all our kids' needs completely covered so that the SCH fundraising team can focus on the children who don't have foster parents.

Louise needs a sponsor! http://schindia.com/children/louise/
Chloe needs a sponsor! http://schindia.com/children/chloe/
Charlotte needs a sponsor! http://schindia.com/children/charlotte/

Dinah and Promise's sponsors just had to cancel, so now they need extra support too!

Dinah needs a sponsor! http://schindia.com/children/dinah/
Promise needs a sponsor! http://schindia.com/children/promise/

3) Amazon Wish List: We have an Amazon India Wish List going where we have selected various toys, clothes, and home items that we could use in our house. This site offers free shipping within India, so the prices are good. Any of these items are really needed and greatly appreciated, so you can just select whatever one(s) you want and then they will get shipped for free directly to our house!
Click HERE to view our wishlist! Send me an email at ncochrane3@hotmail.com and I will give you our address and phone number for delivery.

4) Power Generator and Security Cameras: We are still looking for funds to be donated towards our general needs link for our home. First on the list that we still need is a power generator. Right now the power goes out for 4 hours every day. It makes it really hard to do school with the kids in the dark room with no lighting, and it also causes problems when we go to mix Nolan's g-tube feeds and there is no power to mix it. A generator would allow us to power our home even during normal daily power outages. Next is security cameras. This is really important to protect our children from potential harm, to deter theft, etc.
You can give towards our home needs HERE: http://schindia.com/Special-Projects/courage-home/

5) Birthday Party Fund: We have several birthdays coming up. Louise turns 3 in November, Molly turns 8 in December, Chloe turns 4 in January, and in February, Dinah turns 7 and Nolan turns 8! For each of these birthdays, we will need a cake (600 rupees), as well as other things like new outfits, balloons, and a gift. For Louise and Molly's birthdays we plan on taking them to go get mehndi done (700 rupees) and I would love to give our girls gold earrings, as this is common for young girls in India.
You can donate to this need HERE.
You could also select an outfit or gift from our Amazon Wishlist for a particular child for their birthday. Just send me a message and I can give you some ideas on what might be appropriate!


Thank you so much for loving our family! 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Louise's CI One Month Post-Activation

Louise is hilarious. Really, she is just a very, very funny child. She is quirky and has a sense of humour. She is a performer. Our ayahs adore her. She keeps our home laughing. It wasn't always like that, and she was a different child when she first came to us. She used to look at us only out of the corner of her eyes, and she would cry all the time. All the time. I don't remember exactly when she started to change, but she is so different now. She is probably the funniest, sassiest, naughtiest child I know. I am so grateful we have her!


Louise is really doing fantastically. Her best friend is Theo. She loves to learn and runs over to us excitedly when it is time for school. She can also be a little stinker. She threw her speech processor off the 2nd floor balcony... twice. One day recently she went into our bathroom, locked herself in (and us out) and turned the water on beside the toilet. We banged on the door, panicked, and tried hard to find a way to get her out. Finally, we broke down the bathroom door and found her snoozing in the bathtub! Naughty girl!

It has now been one month since her CI activation (September 14th) and she has begun auditory verbal therapy. I share the responsibility of taking her with our ayah, Ramana, as Tori and Chinna Anjamma split going with Theo. I really like her therapist and she is good at teaching me and including me in the sessions, so that I can use what I learn there to work with her at home. I take her on Tuesdays, Ramana takes her on Thursdays, and then on Saturdays Ramana takes her to group therapy along with Theo and a few other children. She really enjoys going and we have her next mapping session soon, so then the volume of her implant will be turned up to a higher level, as it is still very quiet right now.

We also enrolled her in school! This was an unexpected decision. We were going to wait until next school year so that we could use this time to really focus on her hearing, preparing her more fully. However, we realized that if we had her join Nolan's school, he gets home from school at 12. She could STILL do her hour session with Tori in the morning and her hour session with me in the afternoon, could STILL go to auditory verbal therapy 3x/week and on top of all that, would get every morning of education and social interaction at school! Once we talked to the Director about some of our hesitations, she was great and really encouraged us to enroll her. Our other concern was potty training. Ramana, Louise's ayah, is working on potty training her right now and has been working really hard on it. Louise is now fully out of diapers, but still has a lot of accidents. However, she is getting really close and we worried this would harm that. The Director ensured us that they potty train children all the time, so they would work with us and Ramana and will help us keep her out of diapers in school. Perfect. She is really enjoying it and already knows the morning routine of getting her shoes and school bag to catch the bus.

I work with Louise for an hour every afternoon and really enjoy this time with her. Tori spends an hour with her every morning when she gets home from school. I taught her how to draw circles, when we were working on holding a marker and writing. Now, she draws circles obsessively whenever she can get her hands on a writing utensil! She is mastering almost every iPad app that we throw her way. We are really focusing on her speech and hearing right now, as well as her numbers. She has picked up most things school-related very fast, but isn't yet grasping the concept of counting. We are working on teaching her numbers 1-3; recognizing them, drawing them, and then counting objects. She is now able to manipulate her fingers to do the number signs, and throughout the day we will sometimes see her just sitting there doing "3", then "5", then "2" with her fingers.

The level of her implant is still very, very quiet. We are talking to her a lot, so that she will slowly learn the meanings of words. We are singing a lot of songs and reading books with her. She selects Mr Brown Can Moo by Dr. Seuss a lot, and I try to get her to make the noises with me. We are also working on body parts. We just started recently, and her implant is still so quiet, that she doesn't know any yet, but we are introducing the idea. We play with animals, make their sounds, and then find body parts ("dog's eyes, Louise's eyes!) and point them out. We sing Head and Shoulders Knees and Toes and she is copies me pointing to different body parts. We play Mr. Potato Head and talk about the different body parts we select. We are doing other game as well, all that encourage her to make sounds and use her voice to get our attention and to vocalize her needs and desires. We are hearing her making noise more frequently and she has begun making new noises and making some noises on command at times.

Louise is still unsponsored. Our priority right now is finding school sponsors; people to come together to pay the $100/month that it costs us to send her to school. We also still need $125/month for her general needs fees (food, medicine, Pediasure, diapers, etc). Please help us spread the word about this amazing little girl. Click HERE to support Louise! 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Nolan's CI Seven Months Post-Activation

A lot has happened since my last post in August (Nolan's CI Five Months Post-Activation).

For starters, we made the decision to pull Nolan from auditory verbal therapy at the hospital. We didn't make this decision lightly and it came after a lot of thought and prayer. First, we went to the head of the department with our issues and asked them to make improvements. They did. The head of the department began attending Nolan's sessions and monitoring his progress. They bought several new toys and supplies to keep him interested. But in the end, it wasn't enough. He wasn't engaged and was bored in therapy and learning nothing. With the time and money it was taking us to bring him 3x/week, we knew we had to stop. We pulled him from therapy at the beginning of September and then I was able to devote more time to him at home, without most of his afternoons being away from the house.

We were also connected with Lyndsey Allen from The Ear Foundation in the UK. She has very generously given her time to skyping with our three deaf children and helping us to find better ways of teaching them how to hear. The first time I skyped with her, when she met Nolan, it was incredibly encouraging. I went away feeling motivated and full of new ideas. After watching him for a little while, she pointed out that he is turning to sound! We had just been testing it so often in his old therapy, and there was no reward when he would turn to us calling him or making a noise, that he was bored and was training himself to tune us out. She reminded me that we should never test him... all communication should have a purpose to it. So, when we call his name, when he looks up we should have a toy or something to present to him- a reason for looking to the sound.

She also asked me what his favourite game is to play. My boy loves baby dolls! She gave me some ideas of how I can use that game to help him learn to hear. We play with the baby doll, but we add sounds to everything, repeating "mmm" when we feed the baby, or "eww" when we change his diaper and it smells. Nolan loves this and extended the game on his own. He wanted to kiss the baby ("mwah!") and scold the baby for being naughty (no!") and put the baby to sleep ("shh!"). He is getting really good at making a noise when he is trying to communicate something, and although his mouth can't form many sounds, I am happy that he is using his voice more.

In general, Nolan's communication is coming along really nicely. He is going back and forth and using different signs and gestures more often, rather than repeating the same sign over and over again. He is developing a sense of humour and is joking around in his communication. This is a story I shared on my facebook that shows how he is communicating:

"Nolan has learned the fine art of manipulation (and back talking his mother in sign!)
This morning I was taking some time to myself as the ayahs were getting the kids ready for the day. Nolan crawled into my room and asked if he could get into bed with me to snuggle. I obliged, snuggled for a bit, and then put him back on the floor and told him to go play so I could read.
His face turned into a massive pout and when I saw the tears in his eyes, I put my book away and opened my arms for him to come back to bed. 
He looked up, glared at me, and signed no. I tried again, opening my arms and pointing to the spot beside me on the bed.
He crawled to the other side of the room, signed no, and turned his back to me.
When he looked over his shoulder, I signed, "I'm sorry, come."
He laughed, then signed "no, be quiet, go away."
I signed, "yes, come"
He signed, "no"
I signed, "yes". 
He signed, "no". 
I shrugged and closed my eyes and pretended to sleep. When I opened my eyes again, my boy was perched at my lap with a smile on his face. He opened his arms and fell into my lap and we had a good mummy son cuddle. It made me laugh so hard and I was so pleased with the way he was communicating that I didn't have the heart to scold him for being such a stinker to his mama!" 

I am also doing an activity with him where I sing certain songs and see if he can hear the song and fill in the action. We are doing the Johnny, Johnny nursery rhyme and he is doing very well with consistently doing the actions when I sing the song. Sometimes I will do it when he is engaged in a different activity and he will usually notice and do the actions. This is a great sign if he is doing it from auditory input; hearing me singing the song and then doing the actions. He may be lip reading, and I am trying to test that at various times throughout the day now; doing it with his implant turned off vs. on, doing it during school time vs. a random time throughout the day.

He is really doing great. He continues to love school and I was so pleased after a parent teacher meeting and a visit to his school to watch him perform a song with his class. Everyone is very sweet with him and tries hard to include him in all activities. He sobbed when school went on holiday recently. Tori and I realized that his behaviour at home has been better since starting school. He is learning how to unscramble the letters of his name to put them in the correct order. He gets this correct now almost all of the time. I am beginning to teach him how to type. His finger accuracy on the iPad isn't the best, but he is getting better and really enjoys typing. He claps for himself after each letter. I am eyeing an adaptive keyboard for him that I could attach to my iPad to make it easier for him to type.

He is becoming quite clingy with me, so I have been trying to spend extra time with him. Last week we went on a mama son date to the water park. Another night, after the other kids went to sleep, I took him up on the roof and we cuddled and played games. He was very pleased that all the other kids were sleeping and he got to stay awake with me! He follows me around everywhere and cries if I am busy doing something else. I think it may be connected to all the new kids coming and him being a bit jealous. I was sick the other day, and when I signed to him that I was sick he started crying and then put his hand on my head and did the prayer sign. It was so cute!

What I need to figure out next is what my goals and expectations are for his hearing, and how to track his progress. Right now I am having a bit of trouble understanding what an appropriate goal to work towards is, as Louise and Theo will speak and so the way we work with them is so different and their progress much faster.

I would love for anyone reading to keep my boy lifted up in prayer. Pray that he will be matched with an amazing adoptive family. Pray that he will continue to feel loved and included with his peers and teachers at school. Pray for energy and patience for me to continue giving him the extra attention that he is craving lately. Pray for progress with his hearing and with his understanding of his ABCs.

I wish you all could fly here and meet him, and I know you would fall as hard in love with him as I am. Maybe I am a gushing mama, but he is just so sweet and so loving and so smart and so special. I am incredibly grateful that he is my baby!