My name is Nikki and I am living in India and serving at Sarah's Covenant Homes, an organization that cares 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! And don't forget to check out our family video (filmed Sept 2014) HERE!

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

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Completing Our Family

I am so excited to announce that our family will be growing (again!). With all of the new kids that we have added, we have never felt a full peace of "this is it", however, with these girls we do. Promise will soon be transitioning to SCH's home for young adults as she is nearing her 18th birthday, and our 2 new babies will complete our family and bring us to having 12 children. 

When we picked Chloe and Charlotte up from the orphanage to bring them home, the Director retreated into room 1, the baby room,  and came back placing a 1 year old blind baby girl into Tori's arms. Just 4 months younger then Charlotte, she had a mohawk of wild hair (which has since been shaved) and the sweetest little face. "Will you take her too?" the Director asked us. Tori melted with the baby in her arms and looked at me, ready to say yes, but I didn't feel a peace about it. We never move forward unless both of us feel the same way, and after talking we agreed that maybe we would come back for her, but that we needed to adjust to our growing family first and then reevaluate.

Months passed and with every week that we went to volunteer at the orphanage, we checked in on "our" baby. We knew that God wanted another child to come to our home, but the need at the orphanage was so overwhelming and we weren't clear on whether it was this baby, or a different child in the special needs room.

Meanwhile, in room 8 (the special needs room where we were volunteering) my heart began falling for a 3 year old girl with cerebral palsy named Selah. When I first met her, she sat with her back against the wall, refusing to meet my eyes with hers. For weeks, every time I arrived I would approach her and try to make her smile or play with me. Her little lip would jut out and fearful tears would stream down her face. She was scared of everything and so timid. God put it on my heart to keep trying, and slowly, the walls were broken down. I wrote this journal entry on December 19th. 

Dear Selah,

I have only known you for one month, but gosh, I love you.

Every Wednesday when I enter your room at the government orphanage I take a look around, searching for your sweet face.

You used to cry when you saw me, or look down at the ground. You are so timid and so scared.

Last week, you looked up at me and smiled. When I pulled out a puzzle and called for you, you scooted right over to me and we sat for ten minutes, playing happily. I have never heard you make a sound before, but that day you used your voice over and over again to get my attention when you needed help with the puzzle piece. It made me so, so happy to see you with a smile on your face! And let me tell you, your smile is so beautiful.

Today, I walked into your room and in an instant you looked up and broke into a huge smile and reached up your arms to be held. It was so beautiful to see, baby. You are starting to know me and starting to trust me. A lot of people don't understand how hard that must be for you, but I know, and I am so deeply blessed by it. I took you outside to let the sun hit your face and I rocked you and sang to you. You soaked every moment of it up. No longer do you stare at the ground, avoiding eye contact, but you gazed into my eyes with such a longing as I sang to you. As much as you long for a mom and for a family, the Lord is giving me a longing for you. Not any other baby. You.

Your ayahs tell me that you don't yet speak. Your physiotherapist says you cry during her sessions with you, but 3 months ago you couldn't bear weight and now you can take steps holding on to her hands.

You just turned 3 on October 29th. I daydream about you going to Gymboree with Theo and Louise, and cuddling with us all in our big bed at night. I daydream about having you call me and Tori your mummies.

I am scared. I am scared because there are already so many children in my house and I worry that I won't have enough time to give them all everything they need. But then why is God giving me a Selah-sized hole in my heart? Why is it that every time I see you, I fall even more in love?

Don't ever feel forgotten or overlooked. You are so special. You are so perfect. And you are so loved.

Love, Nikki

When Tori arrived home from her visa break, we stood in the kitchen talking about the girls. She shared how, back when Brianna was placed in her arms so many months ago, she felt a love for this baby and began feeling like she should join our family. I shared how I knew that Selah was our child, and yet I couldn't say no to Brianna. Something was stopping me from saying yes to Selah, because I couldn't not take Brianna into our home as well. Could we take both? Would that be completely crazy of us? We looked at each other and smiled excited smiles, and both instantly felt a peace about it. Both girls would join and complete our family.

The following morning we went to the orphanage to visit our girls. We told the Director our desire to take both of them at the end of the month and she gave her permission. And then we spent time loving on them. Brianna, so small and scrappy, giggled her funny little smile. I am told the ayahs teasingly call her 'rat' because of the 2 bottom teeth that jut out of her mouth. She is always lying on her stomach on the mat when we come in the room, and I can spot her right away because of that big head of hers! She is a happy and healthy baby, always with a smile on her face. She cannot yet sit independently, even though she is 16 months old. We imagine her and Charlotte being sweet little playmates. Tori and I will go out with our two little girls in their baby carriers. Brianna will be our youngest child and the baby of the family! There is something about her that makes me think she will be a spunky little tomboy!

Selah smiled when she saw me that day and lifted her arms to be hugged. In fact, all she wanted to do was hug! I would put out a game and she would play for a few minutes and then look straight into my eyes and lift her hands for a hug. If I didn't immediately scoop her up, she would crawl into my lap and nestle into my chest. What a different child than the one I met two months ago! It is clear that she is loved, and the ayahs jokingly scolded me when I called her my daughter, and they argued that she was their daughter, not mine! We laughed, and I could see that they were happy for her to go. They try their best, but the way she reaches her arms up with such longing shows me the lack of physical love and affection she receives. I am so, so excited to have both girls join our home and for them to know the love of a mama. A year or two ago I first heard the name Selah and fell in love with it. I decided if I had a daughter one day, I would name her Selah. As I thought about what my new little girl's online name should be, Selah came repeatedly to mind. I was sitting on the plane from Hyderabad to London, reading The Red Tent, and the word appeared again. I first heard it used as a name in a blog I read, My Real Life. Selah Clanton is a little girl who was adopted from Ukraine, and then had a near-drowning accident leaving her with severe cognitive and physical impairments. Her sister, Sarah, was the first child on Reece's Rainbow whom I advocated and fundraised for and then got to watch online as she joined her forever family. Selah's family's faith through the difficulties of Selah's accident blew me away. Selah shows up in the Bible many times, in the Psalms. The meaning is not fully confirmed, but many translate it to mean "pause and reflect" on the importance on what was just shared. Her name is a reminder to me to stop and reflect on all that God is doing for Selah and for our family, and to listen to Him and let Him guide our next steps.

When I return to India, if all goes smoothly, our little girls will join our family right away. Please pray for no problems, for a smooth transition, and for the girls to attach to us and our ayahs and to feel safe and loved in our family.

Welcome Brianna and Selah! 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Charlotte: 21 Months Old

I am not in India right now and I have to admit, I am missing my baby girl (who is turning 21 months old on the 9th) like CRAZY. So, I decided to post an update on her. A lot has has happened in the past month and she continues to grow and change rapidly. She knows my voice now and smiles when she hears me. Every morning she wakes up before me, and it is like she is waiting. I open my eyes and say "good morning Charlotte" and give her a kiss, and she giggles and does the cutest little wiggle dance! I am so happy that she is bonding. It hurts me so much to have to be away from her, even though I know that she is in perfectly loving and capable hands at home. I feel like God has been putting 'attachment' on my heart and trying to teach me what it means to parent my kids in a way that doesn't necessarily come naturally, as it wasn't the norm when I was growing up or the way I was parented, but is necessary for children who have been through trauma. Responding to her every cry, rather than letting her learn to calm herself down and self soothe. Being there with her as often as I can. I can't spoil her, I know that. There is no such thing as spoiling this baby or loving her too much. I was never a baby person before God brought me MY baby and told me to get over my own selfish desires. To put my computer away and to get up in the night and to be there to meet her needs, and all my kids' needs. Some days I am better at it than others but God is stretching me and teaching me, and through that I am seeing this beautiful side of parenting that I didn't know this fully before. That's what a Mom is and God is teaching me how to be a better Mom through Charlotte.

Charlotte celebrated her first Christmas in December. In Christmas 2013 she was only 8 months old, and they don't really celebrate Christmas at the orphanage she was in. This year, she got a new dress and a blow up ball that makes sounds. She came along Christmas caroling with me and her buddy Jaya. She tried pancakes and quiche (surprise, surprise- not a fan!) and "helped" put up Christmas decorations on the tree.

She had her first sickness since joining our family, and was miserable with a fever and cough. Even days after the fever left, she was quiet and it took about 5 days before she began smiling again. It warms my heart knowing that now, when she is sick, she gets held and cuddled and kissed. That makes her happy.

In the past month, Charlotte got her ears pierced! Ramana has been asking us since she moved in to get them pierced, so we went to the gold shop and she picked out little gold hoops for her. I know it sounds crazy to put your baby in gold earrings, but in India it is the normal thing to do. She didn't cry too much when Prameela pierced them, and she looks so beautiful!

This is the month that Charlotte stopped grinding her teeth (finally!). She came to us with many stims, including incessant teeth grinding. I don't know when it happened, but one day I realized that I couldn't remember the last time I heard her teeth grinding! She still pokes her neck and rubs her head on the ground, but if I say her name in a stern voice, she stops right away. She started making many new sounds, and has begun imitating sounds when we try to ask her to.

Charlotte's receptive language has been growing at a rapid pace. For about a month now on and off some days I would sit and do body parts with her. We would sing "head and shoulders, knees and toes" and then I would ask questions like "Charlotte, where is your hair?" and I would hand over hand help her point to her hair. I didn't think she would grasp it any time soon, but I wanted to start giving her as much language as possible. One day near the end of the month, when I asked where her hair was, she stroked her hair. I was sure it was a fluke, but over the following week as I kept asking, she would stroke her hair every time. Quickly she added "belly button" and "nose" to her understanding, and when I asked her to "clap", she would clap her hands together.

Once I left India to come to Canada for my visa break, Tori and I were a bit worried that she would only respond to my voice asking the questions, but she's a clever baby and responds when Tori asks as well! Only 2 days after me leaving, Tori sent me a video of Charlotte, now with a new word under her belt- "hi!" Tori said she tried to teach her to wave with 1 hand, but Charlotte prefers this very adorable 2-handed wave.

Her learning language so fast has really motivated me to change the way I interact with her. Before I left, I began speaking to her through everything I did, so she will continue to learn more words. Now that I am in Canada, I have purchased a ton of material to begin exposing Charlotte to Braille and working on her pre-Braille skills. Many other parents in a group I am involved in for children who are blind, told me that this is the age to begin exposing her to it in a fun, playful way. More on that later... it's a post of its own!

Recently I watched the documentary The Dark Matter of Love (a must watch!) about attachment in children who grow up in institutions without a family. For some reason, it made me think of Charlotte and all I wanted to do was scoop her up and hug her. When Charlotte first came to us, I could see the way that those first 17 months of her life alone in an orphanage had impacted her. But now, she is so loved. So very, very loved. She has a routine, and several adults and siblings who love on her and kiss her and hug her every day. I have started baby wearing a lot, and try to keep her in the carrier frequently, which she loves. She is consoled when she cries. She is rarely left to sit on her own; she is usually being held and cuddled and played with and sung to and taught. She never wakes up in the night anymore. We have a routine that puts her to sleep. For the past month, I have been enjoying this time with her so much that I have stopped doing my work at night so that I can use that time solely for her. Most nights in December, for at least an hour and sometimes two, we would lie in bed together and just spend special Mama Charlotte time, when everyone else was drifting asleep. It was one of the things I most looked forward to in my day, and one of the reasons I can't wait to get back to India. It physically aches me to have to be away from her right now. But watching that documentary reminded me of where she was, and how far she has come in building attachments within our family and responding to love. It is the most beautiful thing in the world.

I thank God every day for sending Charlotte to our family, and for giving me the immense pleasure and responsibility of being her mom. How amazing is it to be entrusted with a small, beautiful life? I don't take that lightly and I know that it is only God working through Tori and I that we are equipped to parent our kids. How do I put into words how it feels to watch a child change through His love? I don't have the words to explain how it has felt watching her go from a scared baby to a loved, happy, confident girl. I know that God has big plans for her and that every smile and every laugh and every new thing she learns is because of Him.

Charlotte still needs $160/month in sponsorship. I would LOVE to return to India with her being fully sponsored. I have shared this need so much and still no takers. One person doesn't have to sponsor the full $160/month. If you are able to sponsor her at any amount ($20 or $40 or $60), please let me know! Click HERE to go to her page on the website and sign up to sponsor her!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

And A Happy New Year!

That time has come again... I am in Canada to get a new visa and if all goes as planned I will be gone only 3 weeks and will head back to my babies on January 22nd.

This time leaving felt a bit different. I felt more at peace about it than I have before. Due to my visa restrictions, unlike the Americans serving alongside me here, I have to return to Canada every 6 months and get a new visa. Many of you know this is a huge source of fear and stress for me, and it really puts a damper on the short time I get to see my family every year as I associate going to Canada with the fear involved in not getting a visa. I remember last time I left, waiting at the airport in Hyderabad to board my flight to London, feeling overcome with sudden and overwhelming anxiety that something would happen and I wouldn't be able to come back to India, my home, with my babies.

I know that if God can work miracles, certainly He can get me a visa. And so this time around I am focusing on that. On my last night, I kissed the kids goodnight and said my goodbyes. Because my flight left in the middle of the night, I said goodbye and waited until they fell asleep to then go finish packing and have a quick nap before going to the airport, rather than having to wake them all up to say goodbye. There were tears, but not the despairing, fearful tears of the past. The kids understand now that we go and come back, and that makes leaving so much easier. Nolan, especially, did so well this time which was a weight off my shoulders. I know they will be fine, but I was most worried about him, Lily, and Charlotte. Knowing that he wasn't sobbing as I left this time made the goodbye much less stressful.

Even so, I sat in the kitchen waiting for the kids to fall asleep and my mind went to negative places, letting all the doubts of this life creep in. Ramana came and sat with me and we perched on the kitchen counter waiting for the kids to quiet down, and she shared her testimony with me of how God was calling her to work at SCH even before she became a Christian and knew that it was all Jesus. Of course, there are so many similarities with the way God brought me to this work, and her willingness to share was such an encouragement and it was a sweet moment that put me back in a good place and reminded me of God's plan for our family and also God's plan for me. He brought me here and He has given me many confirmations that this is where He wants me. I boarded the plane this time missing my kids, but with a peace in my heart and a trust that I will be back quickly.

Even with this peace, returning to Canada is hard. This article, I Am A Triangle resonates with me the longer I live away from Canada. I will never fully understand India or fit in there, and yet the longer I am away from "home" the less "home" it feels.

I would appreciate your prayers for my visa and for a relaxing, restful 3 weeks with my family. I want to return to my kids refreshed and full of new ideas and ready to start a new year!

2014 was incredible. Four new children joined our family, four children learned how to walk, five of our kids began attending school for the first time. We moved from Ongole to Hyderabad and started a new life with our kids here. We really found a groove and routine and although life is surely exhausting sometimes, I feel like our home is so blessed and that we are in a really good, happy place.

2015 has many more surprises and blessings in store. Promise will be transitioning to SCH's home for young adults and- surprise! - two new beautiful little girls will be joining and completing our family (more on that in a future post- I can't wait to introduce them to you!).

Thank you to all who have supported me, Tori, our ayahs and our kids this year. We are forever grateful.

If you are interested in making a year- end gift, we would so welcome that gift to be directed towards our family. We still have many needs and our dreams for our kids' lives are forever growing and expanding.

-We are still looking for sponsors for Promise, Dinah, Charlotte, and Chloe (and soon our 2 little additions will need sponsors as well!) This is our most pressing need.
-We would love one-time donations to keep our littles in Gymboree class. Donations of any amount are graciously welcome. Message me if you are interested in this!
-Finally there are still some items on our Amazon Wishlist that would be so appreciated. Message me for our address. Here is the link!

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Mummy Dates

With Tori being gone for the month of December, I figured this would be a good time to go on some dates with my kids and get in some quality time with them. I decided to make it my goal to go on a date with all of my 5 school kids this month, and I am so glad that I did! Because we have so many kids, it can sometimes be hard to spend 1:1 time with them all. We spend a lot of 1:1 time with them in therapy, which is often fun and really important for our relationships with them, but it can be harder to fit in 1:1 time outside of therapy; just cuddling, playing, talking, etc. I so value having that time to just sit and watch them and really enjoy them without having to rush or without being pulled away by someone else.

Louise and Theo: I combined these two, because they are best friends and have never been on an outing before just the two of them. We went to the mall with another foster mom, Natalie and Joel, who is 5 years old. We started in the food court and headed to Papa Johns. Theo, Louise, and I split a veggie pizza. Theo devoured 2 pieces while Louise licked all the toppings off her first slice before finally dipping the bread in ketchup and finishing it off! From there, we headed upstairs to the movie theater. Even though we went to buy tickets an hour early, the show was almost sold out and we got the very last 2 tickets available! Only 2 tickets meant that Joel sat on Natalie's lap and both Theo and Louise sat on my lap! We went to see Penguins of Madagascar and both kids did great. They were attentive and sat through the entire movie with big eyes watching. They were so well behaved and sweet. It was like they had been to pizza and a movie a million times before- they took it all in stride and we all really enjoyed the night!

Molly: December 8th was Molly's 8th birthday. That day I took her to get mehndi done in the afternoon, and then after her birthday party we went out for dinner just the 2 of us. I don't think I have ever been on an outing with just me and Mol before, and I enjoyed it so much. Usually at home, Mol is our sweet child. Certainly, she has her moments of being naughty, but I would never say that Mol is a child that demands attention or who is a diva (unlike some of the other princesses in our family!) At the restaurant though, she was a D-I-V-A and it was hilarious! If the waiters weren't within our close vicinity, she was screaming "ANNA! ANNA" (brother) to get their attention. We ordered ratatouille, cheese bread, and french fries. Every time I gave her a bite of the fries or bread she let out a (very loud) "mmmm!" and every time I fed her a bite of the ratatouille she made gagging noises, and then giggled. I would feed her a french fry, and then feed myself one as she chewed. If I took too long, she would yell "more! MORE!" until I gave her a bite! She is such a little nut! It was so fun to do something special with her, and she was scissor-kicking all day (what Molly does when she gets excited!)

Lily: Lily loves spending 1:1 time with me or Tori and she was screeching with excitement when I told her we were going out. She didn't even know where or what we were doing, all she knew was that it was just her and me. On the morning of Christmas Eve Lily and I headed down to Heart Cup Cafe for some brunch. We ordered oatmeal and vanilla ice cream (she was adamant on the ice cream!) and sat and chatted about Christmas. Lily loves knowing what to expect, so over and over again we went over what would happen on Christmas Eve and then we role played what would happen on Christmas. We talked about how it is Jesus' birthday, and of course we talked about Christmas gifts too, which she has been eagerly awaiting for over a month now! I know it means a lot to Lily to get this quality time together, and I always enjoy it whenever I am able to make it happen. It was such a nice way to start Christmas!

Nolan: Nolan has been craving my attention lately and has been starting to act out more. I have been trying hard to spend quality time with him, but it never seems like it's enough. Recently our home went through a rough few days where we were all dropping down with fevers. I got it first and of course my boy got it right after me! As soon as we were both feeling back to ourselves, I took him on our date. The first Starbucks in the city just opened, and we ended up going there. I never go to Starbucks in Canada, and had planned on taking Nolan somewhere fun like the museum on our date, but I am really glad we ended up doing this. He felt special and important. He walked in and looked at all the options, selecting the red velvet and orange cheesecake. He asked if we could go to the top level to sit, and as I waited for my hot chocolate, he waved bye and headed upstairs alone, the big boy! He waved and blew kisses to everyone and tried to feed himself the cake with the fork. He didn't cry when it was finished (which he sometimes does) he just signed "finished, let's go", and then blew kisses to everyone at the tables surrounding us!

I also took Charlotte on her first trip to the mall, but she loved the baby carrier a little too much and slept through the whole thing. We did select the cutest little Christmas onesie for her though! I chose it with this daydream of one day giving it to her parents when she gets adopted; a memento from the first Christmas that Charlotte will celebrate!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Getting To Know Chloe

When Chloe and Charlotte joined our family, I became primary caregiver for Charlotte and Tori for Chloe. We wanted the kids to attach to someone and due to the number of kids we have and their needs, it is sometimes necessary to split care in that way. That said, when Tori left for the US for her visa break I decided that I would use that time to really get to know Chloe better.

Chloe is the only one of my kids that was love at first sight. Perhaps only adoptive parents will understand the process that some parents go through in coming to love your child, but with all my kids aside from Chloe I experienced that to some degree or another. With Chloe, from the moment I saw her face in a photo I loved her beyond words, and when I met her the first time I knew without a single doubt that she needed to be a part of our family.

Chloe isn't one of the kids who needs us as much as some of the others. I mean, all the kids need a family, that is obvious, but many of them came with emotional scars. Chloe is extremely resilient. Even at the government orphanage, she was a happy child. She was a favourite of the staff there and while she certainly didn't thrive, she wasn't miserable either. I think it was clear though how much she benefited from the atmosphere of a family when she taught herself how to walk within only a week of moving in. With all our other kids who have learned how to walk in our care, it has taken months of tears and sweat and prayer to get them to that point. Not with Chloe! She was ready at the government orphanage, she just didn't have the space or encouragement. We started PT with her when she moved in, and within a week she was up and walking as if it was no big deal. She often twirls around in circles like she is dancing!

Chloe enjoys engaging with the other kids. She is social, even though she can't communicate with them or see them. She and Jasmine are two peas in a pod, and they giggle when they are together, pulling on each other's clothes and play wrestling. Chloe can be rough (just like Jasmine) so they get along great, but some of the other kids are scared of her. In particular, she really likes to play with Cedar but he cries when she touches him!

We have not seen her develop any attachments yet to either Tori or I, or to our ayahs, but we pray that it is coming. Our blind children are typically the hardest kids to build attachments with, although Cedar has a strong attachment to Tori and Charlotte has a strong attachment to both Ramana and I. Chloe's ayah is Prameela, and as the weeks go on she is developing a love for Chloe that is really sweet to see. She calls Chloe her small daughter and during Chloe's downtime, when Tori or I are with the other kids, Prameela pulls Chloe into her lap and rubs her back or talks to her. It is really sweet. Two nights in a row Chloe woke up in her crib screaming. I couldn't figure out what the problem was, but Prameela took the time and realized that she was cold. Now she reminds me before bed to give Chloe two blankets and to wrap her up tight!

There are lots of things we are working on with Chloe right now. She can walk, but struggles with following sound and walking straight and purposefully. Our PT is doing stairs with her. At first, she was terrified of going up and down stairs and screamed loudly with tears pouring down her cheeks. Now she is getting much better and although she occasionally still cries, she is getting stronger and is able to go up and down with prompts. Chloe is learning to use the water sign and say "aaah" to request a drink of water. I sit with her every meal and do hand over hand feeding, to teach her how to feed herself. She is now able to bring the food up to her mouth and eat it by herself, which took the past 2 months for her to learn. Now, the only support I give is helping her scoop the rice into her hand. I really think it won't be long until she gets that and can do it all by herself! We are also working on her play skills, teaching her how to play with different toys and exposing her to toys with different sounds and different textures.

Chloe is the most ticklish child I have ever met and she has such a great laugh! For a week this month though, that laugh was rarely heard! I learned that, similar to Jasmine and Cedar, when Chloe gets sick she gets really down and just not herself. Chloe had her first sickness since coming to our home. She got a fever that was on and off for 2 days and then a lingering cough. Even long after it was gone, Chloe was miserable and crying. I was pleased that she was comforted by being held, as to be honest, I didn't expect that to help. I spent a lot of time pacing the room and rocking her, and Prameela did as well.

Chloe is sweet, quirky, and funny. She has been a joy to welcome to our home and puts a smile on my face every day. I am so grateful that God used her photo to bring us not one, but two beautiful blind little girls. The story of how she came to us is so filled with His confirmation and it warms my heart knowing so clearly how God intertwined our stories together. So grateful for our silly Chloe!

Chloe still needs sponsors!