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

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!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Meet Chloe and Charlotte

I have been wanting to share this post for a long, long time, and I am so happy that the girls are finally a part of our family!

On September 27, Chloe and Charlotte finally came home. I admit that I was a little bit nervous about how we would manage so many children, but everything has gone very smoothly. Our ayahs have been incredibly helpful in stepping up their workload and pitching in, and the girls are very loved already. Sometimes I look at them and can't believe they are really here. At times I wondered if it would ever happen, but I should have known that everything is in God's timing, not mine, and He would follow through on His promises. It is so beautiful to me that these two little girls, unwanted by many and neither having ever left the orphanage all their lives, are now so loved and so prayed for. They fill a missing piece in our family that I didn't even know existed.


Let me introduce you to our newest daughters.

CHLOE

Chloe is a happy girl. She has fit in easily and transitioned smoothly to our family. She almost never cries and has the sweetest thin-lipped smile. If you do something to make her mad, she will yell angrily, but will be back to her happy self quickly.

She had little (if any) exposure to toys at her old orphanage, but I am really pleased with her play skills. We have tried several new games and activities with her and she participates with interest. She will pick up musical instruments and shake them and hum and dance. She didn't enjoy playing with shaving cream, but she was also really tired that afternoon as she didn't nap due to a doctor appointment, so I want to try it again when she is in a better mood. She will play with a ball if you engage her with it, otherwise she will just bounce her face on it. She really likes splashing in water too, just like Jasmine and Cedar. She can stand up from the floor all by herself. She will sometimes pull to a stand using the trike and push Jasmine around on it, which is super cute as the two of them are so similar.

We are going to start trying to teach her to feed herself. She is resistant so far, but so were both Jasmine and Cedar and they are very similar in their behaviours. She is a picky eater and doesn't like some bananas and some green vegetables. She also will spit out hard boiled eggs. If she is in a bad mood, it is usually during meal time when we are trying to get her to eat. We want to work on making sure she stays sitting and doesn't lie down all the time. I will sometimes sit her on the trike so she stays in a sitting position. She also stims a lot in very similar ways to Jasmine, which we are working on. She is able to stand and take a few steps, but she is nervous about it, so we hope to have her confidently walking soon. We are adding ice cream to her rice and giving her lots of fruit as she is very skinny.

I took her to the children's museum and had such a good time with her. She did really well and it was nice to spend that quality time getting to know her better. She is just so sweet and smiley. We listened to music and danced, painted, dressed up in chef costumes, walked around pushing the shopping cart, made towers with blocks, and buried our hands in the sensory bins.

Sometimes I just look at Chloe and can't believe she is here. For a year she was just a photo on a computer screen, and even after I met her, it was just short 10 minute visits. I didn't know if she would ever come home. And yet, here she is, snuggled up with her brother right now in bed having a nap. I never wanted 11 kids, but wow... I am just so grateful for each one God sent to our home and understand now that He knows what is right and He knows WHEN it is right, and His timing is perfect.

We made 3 goals that we are going to work on with her:
1) Stay sitting with no stimming for 3 minutes while engaged in an activity
2) Take 10 steps with only the prompt of tickling her feet to move them
3) Feed herself independently


CHARLOTTE

Charlotte is beautiful. She is a sweet, quiet, reserved baby and I think it will take some time before we really get to know her. 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. I just know that she will make huge progress emotionally as we continue to pour all our love into her. She is having a hard time adjusting, and that makes me sad, but she wants to be held and is comforted by us which is a great sign. Everything is just so overwhelming to her.

Charlotte had been in a room of 24 toddlers and both times that we went in, there was 1 ayah for all those children. Needless to say, she got very little attention or stimulation, and I think that is why the transition to our home has been difficult for her. Chloe was in a room with just as many children, but I always saw more ayahs in it (3) and she seemed to be one of the favourites. Charlotte was in the toddler room, one of the few with special needs, and Chloe was in the special needs room where many had needs that are much greater than hers.

Charlotte is harder to get to know than Chloe. She is dainty and quiet. She would be happy being held all the time, although Ramana hung a sari swing for her which she really loves. When we are doing therapy with the other kids, we sometimes swing her in it to keep her calm. Other times we have her sit on the children's trike, as that will keep her in a sitting position so she is working her muscles and doesn't fall asleep. She also is soothed by being bounced or rocked on our big exercise ball, and doesn't yet play with toys at all.

I am pretty sure that Charlotte had never bore weight on her feet before she came to us. I had to put leg immobilizers on her to encourage her to do it. She really doesn't like it, but as I support her in a weight bearing position, I sing to her and try to use the time to get her to trust me. I won't let her fall or hurt herself. She sleeps a lot. Much more than is normal for a 1.5 year old baby. We have to intentionally try to keep her awake for much of the day, although I think it is a coping mechanism as everything is so new and scary. We let her spend time in her sari swing every day where she feels content.

She went to the children's museum for the first time and it was a bit overwhelming for her, as we expected. She enjoyed the soothing motion of hand over hand painting, and also liked having her feet covered in the sensory bin. She didn't like any activities in the toddler room and just wanted to be held. We let her play with shaving cream at home, and surprisingly, she loved it! She had been crying before, but as soon as we put the shaving cream in her hands, she stopped crying right away and just sat and let is squish between her fingers. She loves when I put bit headphones over her ears and let her listen to music while we beat on a tambourine. That was really calming for her (plus, she looks pretty adorable in headphones!)

I am not used to having a baby in the house, and it feels so good to just carry her around and snuggle her. She gets a lot of love, with all of us (Tori, myself, and our ayahs) carrying her and rocking her. She sleeps through the night and is easily soothed if she cries. The other night she sprawled out on my chest and I played worship music and sang to her for about 30 minutes, and I loved it so much. She was so calm and relaxed, it was nice. I have begun to make it part of our bedtime routine and we cuddle and I sing to her every night before kissing her goodnight. I really, really enjoy that time with her.

Just today, for the first time, she really started coming out of her shell. She went all morning without crying. I spent a long time sitting with her and listening to worship music, and for the first time she started hitting the tambourine on her own and clapping her hands. Rather than pushing me away, she was reaching out and finding my fingers and clapping my hands with hers. I gave her a baby massage with lotion and she loved it. She was very relaxed. Ramana gave her a banana to eat and blended watermelon juice to drink this morning, both of which she loved, so she thinks her good mood may have some relation to that. Or maybe she is just starting to get more comfortable. I'm not sure, but it made me so happy!

We made 3 goals that we are going to work on with her:
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


Tomorrow we are taking all 11 kids on our very first family field trip! On top of Tori, Ramana, Anjamma, and I, we have some short-term volunteers coming to help us out as we go to the water park! I will be 1:1 with Charlotte and I am really hoping that she finds she enjoys the feeling of swimming in the water. This shall be interesting!!

Chloe and Charlotte both need sponsors! Please help us spread the word so that we can provide them with the highest possible quality of care!


Chloe and Charlotte : Welcome Home! from SCH INDIA on Vimeo.