I realize my blog space has been a bit quite recently. Sometimes I go though periods of tons of blogging and then seasons of quiet. This is a season of quiet and some much needed time spent processing things by myself. This is the season of thanks, the time of the year that we gather together and give thanks for all we have been given, sometimes even when we don’t feel that thankful. My thanksgiving in India was quiet. I arrived back in India after a 2 week break in Myanmar and Thailand early in Thanksgiving morning, spent the afternoon eating a Thanksgiving fest, and spent the evening seeing Cara before her surgery the next day. It was very different from the Thanksgivings of my childhood but yet in this season I’m feeling very thankful for everything I have been given. So in no particular order some thoughts on some things that I’m giving thanks for in this season.
Family. I spent many hours in college classes debating the definition of family and what constitutes your family. Over the years my feelings and views on family have shifted, changed, and been stretched. I’m so thankful for my family back in the States. My parents who raised stubborn little me and shaped me into the person I am today. My sister who has always been my best friend, my brothers who have annoyed me, taught me, and shared a bathroom with me for many years. For my grandma who is my biggest fan and supporter. For aunts, uncles, and cousins who also helped raised me, babysat me, and gave me advice. And I’m thankful for my family in the States who responded graciously when I said I wanted to come to India and has cheered me along, prayed for me, and supported me while I’ve been halfway across the world. It’s not an easy thing to be thousands of miles away from those who know you best and I’m forever grateful that they have handled it all with love and grace. And for this little family, this tribe here in India. For the kids who have allowed me to come alongside them and be their foster mom in this season. For the caregivers who make sure I eat and shove cake in my face for my birthday. For Brittany who is my co-parent and partner in crime. For the community at SCH who have seen me through good and bad days over these past 2.5 years. I will forever be grateful that 7 summers ago Carly told me about her friend who was at this children’s home in India and that seed that was planted has sprouted and grown.
Rest. I’m awful at taking time for myself. I’ll be the first to admit it. But I’m thankful that this past year I’ve learned a bit about how to step back and refill myself so I can continue to pour. I’m thankful for Sunday mornings at my favorite coffee shops and Sunday evening auto rides to church that help remind me why I love India. I’m thankful for little vacations to beach towns and big trips home where I get to hammock in the mountains and sleep in. I’m thankful that I’m finally self aware enough to realize that I need time way by myself to process and recharge. And I’m thankful for the past 2 weeks that I spent traveling solo where I got to rediscover the initiate kindness of people and spend time with myself and my thoughts and feelings.
The kids. I’m so thankful for these kids and how much they have changed and grown in the past 2.5 years. Yesterday we took Caden to the mall and he walked all by himself, ate ice cream, spoke in full sentences, and even “ran” away from me at one point by hiding just around the shopping rack. I never thought that he would do any of that and my heart swells when I see him thriving. I’m thankful that Penny has finally decided to crawl and be on the move, that Valor is straight, and that Julie knows her name and the name of everyone in the house. I look at these kids and all I see is miracles. Miracles that they made it to SCH, that they are thriving, and that they are changing lives daily whether they realize it or not. They are some amazing little people and everyday I’m so thankful that God brought them into my life and that he continues to allow his light to shine through them.
Freedom. I’m thankful for all the freedom I’m afforded. I’m thankful for having a passport that allows me to travel and although the States is not without it’s own set of problems I’m thankful to be from a country that does give me so much freedom. I’m thankful for freedom in Chirst and for freedom to practice my religion. I’m thankful for the freedom to travel by myself and to have the experiences I have. Freedom means something different to every person but I’m thankful for what I’ve been afforded this season.
Bad days. This might seem like a typo but it’s not. I’m grateful for what I learn on bad days. I’m not thankful that they have to happen but I’m thankful for the lessons that come afterwords. The changes we make in ourselves, in policy we have in place, and in the world around us. For the bad days we laugh at later and the bad days we still cry about. As much as they suck bad days teach us so much and for that I’m grateful.
Friends. I’m grateful for friends all around the world. Those I’ve known since I was a child and those I’ve only just met. I’m thankful for friends that stay in touch despite me being a in a completely different time zone. I’m thankful for friends who reach out and I’m thankful for friendships that have fallen away and leave behind memories that reach up and grab me at unexpected times. I’m thankful for friends who I haven’t spoken to in years that send an unexpected donation at the prefect time. I’m grateful for fleeting friendships and deep long lasting friendships. We were built for relationships with other people and I’m thankful for all the people I’m connected to all around the world.
In this season of thankfulness I so often have to remind myself to choose gratitude. To choose to be thankful even when I don’t feel that I have very much to be thankful about. To quiet my mind and choose to see everything that is around me and see that there is so much to be thankful for. And I’m thankful for all my supporters over the years who have chosen to extend their hearts to the kids of SCH. It’s not easy to open our hearts up to others but I’m so thankful that you have.
Recently at Anchor Home we have seen some really great progress in some of the kids! It seems like the kids go in spurts. I will do the same thing over and over again for months and get the same blank stares. And then one day it all clicks and they finally start to make some progress!
Right now our main time for school based activities is in the mornings. We start off with circle time at 10 where every child gets the chance to choose their picture, put it on the board, and then we sing to them. Our song goes a bit like this “Look who came to school today, school today, school today, look who came to school today, (child’s name) did!” At first it was just me singing it but after so many months of repetition some of the kids and the caregivers will sing along to! For our kids with visual impairments there is a texture on their picture card that signals to them which one belongs to them and for Cara, Julie, and Caden they now have to choose which letter their name starts with out of three felt letters and then choose their photo. When I first introduced this activity in July all the kids needed hand over hand assistance but now they are much better at identifying themselves and really enjoy seeing everyones photos!
After everyone is welcomed we sing preschool songs! We have a bank of songs that the kids know and I usually give them a choice between 2 songs. The favorites come and go in waves but right now our favorites are wheels on the bus, slippery fish, itsy bitsy spider, where is thumbkin, and row row row your boat. Cara, Caden, and Julie know all the hand motions to the songs and Abe, Josie, and Emerald are working on learning them! I’m not exactly known for my singing voice but after each and every song the kids clap which is a good self esteem boaster! Typically after singing several songs we read a book. All of the kids really enjoy books and like to touch the pages of the book as we read them. Sometimes Abe gets a bit of of control and knocks the book out of my hand with his enthusiastic touching!
After reading we typically do a big group activity. I try to switch it up so its a bit different everyday but we rotate through several of the same activities. A crowd favorite is parachute games! The kids love playing with the parachute and we work in counting to three, identifying colors, and listening while we play. We’ve also recently introduced hot potato which gets intense not so much with the kids but with the caregivers. They want the child they are helping to win and they get cutthroat sometimes! We also will get out of box of instruments and play them to music, each take a turn putting on a part of Mr. Potato Head’s body parts, and identifying different toy animals and their sounds. We try to get a bit creative during this time while also trying to accommodate everyone’s different needs! We finish our circle time every day with calendar time where we put up the date, sing our day of the week song, and talk about the weather.
After circle time wraps up the kids start their various activities. Thomas, Valor, Katherine, Sarita, Emerald, and Shiloh all have a giant tummy time party while Julie goes to her preschool class with our teacher Hanna. Josie, Cara, Caden, and Abe all have free play time where they choose between activities such as blocks, sensory play with rice or water beads, book, or another activity. Penny usually works with me during this time on her communication and other skills. At around 11:15 we take a break for snack time!
After snack Caden and Cara go to their preschool class and then at 12 Thomas, Valar, Katherine, Penny, and Sarita go outside to attend class with their special education teacher. I usually take Shiloh and Emerald during this time and work on some baby play skills such as reaching, sitting up, reading books, and singing songs. Then at 12:15 Josie and Abe go to class and I usually set up an activity for Caden, Cara, and Julie to do at the table. At around 12:45 we start transitioning to cleaning everything up and eating lunch! Our mornings are very busy but with this current schedule we have seen some great gains in the kids.
- Emerald has learned to sit up and is starting to clap her hands and babble more!
- Julie can identify what letter her name starts with and knows everyone names. She used to call everyone “Amma” but recently she has started calling the kids and staff by their names
- Cara is counting up to 5, knows her animal sounds, can identify what letter her name starts with, and is starting to work more on her shapes and colors
- Josie is starting to talk more and is starting to learn her animal noises. She also loves to do the motions to songs during circle time.
- Caden is counting up to 3 and knows some of his colors. He’s also able to identify the letter his name starts with and singing along with most of our circle time songs.
- Penny finally mastered the ring stacker and is working hard on using her picture communication. We’ve seen her become more consistent with her communication over the past couple of months!
- Valor is working on using his two sided switch during his classes with good success. Right now he’s still working on “more” and “stop”.
- Abe is sitting and attending to activities for several minutes at a time which is huge for our little busy body! He’s also counting up to 3.
Here at SCH we believe in the power of education. Education is such a privilege and we are blessed to have access to some really great resources but here and abroad. For the 12 kids in my house they are only able to be served by education in the home for several reasons. First off its hard to find schools that will accept our children with more severe needs. There is no law that mandates equal access to education for children with disabilities. Second many of the kids from a medical standpoint that can’t attend school at the moment. With their unique set of needs its hard for many of them to attend school even if they could serve their special needs. Also it makes more sense for our budget if we just hire one teacher that can come to us as opposed to having to pay school fees separately for all the kids! I’m currently spread too thin to meet all the needs of the kids so we were able to find a new teacher who will start tomorrow! We’re excited about the chance to get to train her and teach her how to work with our kids. But we need to bring in the funds to help pay her salary. The incoming teacher’s salary will be $140/month or $2,000 for the whole year. We are searching for monthly sponsors or one time donations to help us provide for this need. Education is one of the most powerful tools we can give these kids, can you join us and help give the kids at Anchor a better education? Use the link below to help us educate our kids!
Also we are looking to partner with schools and teachers. If you or someone you know might be interested please let me know and we can chat. We would love to communicate with other classrooms all around the world and teach each other!