Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The guineas did it!

This story has a happy ending! Promise!

This is so strange. Everything I've read says guinea hens are notoriously bad mothers. I've read they don't stay around for all their eggs to hatch, they take their babies out and about even though they are too young, and you have to take their babies away if they are going to survive. 

Our story here at The Mother Ranch is a little different:

It begins around September 10, at least that's when I took the first photo of Millie (the light grey one) and Georgette (the dark one) sitting on a clutch of 20ish eggs. 

Brad built a cage around them out of some bendy wire fencing so we could lock them in at night. They would have been coyote food otherwise.

5 weeks (we thought it was 5 weeks but it must have been 4) went by and Brad and I just figured that the eggs weren't going to hatch. It's fall, we've had our first freeze or two and we thought it had been more than 30 days since the hens had started laying on their eggs. Darn. No luck. Bummer, because even though I don't want to raise baby birds of ANY KIND, these moms had done an amazing job. They worked together, which I loved and were so committed! (Don't worry, I have someone who will take any babies that hatch.)

Yesterday evening Brad found the nest without the mamas (which happens, they do go out and eat sometimes), checked the eggs and they were all very cold. 2 dead baby guineas were under the eggs. He took out all the unhatched eggs and saw that one was trying to hatch! He put the eggs in a box and took them into our now empty chicken house (all the chickens were processed a week and a half ago), turned on a heat lamp and left. He was worried that the hatching one would get too cold without the moms laying on it. 

What the heck do we know?!? This was a BIG heating bulb, and unbeknownst to us, 250 watts. Sigh. The poor eggs were screaming hot when we went to check them. :-(

So, we killed all the guinea babies. That was sad and to top it off, Georgette was nowhere to be found when it was time to lock the guineas in their coop for the night. She must have gotten swiped by a coyote. Not a happy day.

However! The story has a happy ending!

This morning, no Georgette.  

Early afternoon and Brad announced that Georgette was back! Hurray! And later he found our flock of 5 guineas (3 girls and 2 boys) wandering around with 5 tiny babies stumbling after them! Georgette must have been keeping them safe and warm somewhere overnight!

Seriously, how did that happen? Where in the world did those babies come from and how did we not see them? When Georgette and Millie left the nest yesterday did their babies jump out after them? It's about a  12" drop to the ground but they must have! Tough little babies. I wonder if the moms would have gone back to sit on the remaining eggs? 

I called my guinea guru to see what we should do. I set up their pen according to her instructions. When I was all ready I found the moms in a sheltered spot with the 5 babies and Millie came out with her feathers ruffled out so she looked about twice her normal size. Okay then. She was being protective. Good.

Later, I noticed they were out with the flock again. This time there were only 4 (we searched by never found number 5). We watched them wandering around after the adults and noticed them shivering. Nothing more pathetic than a 3" tall bird shivering! Brad and I scooped them up and put them in the adult's coop in some straw under a 150 watt heat lamp. The babies immediately burrowed down into the straw and disappeared. Once we left, the whole flock came in to be with them! Millie and Georgette are continuing to keep their babies warm by laying on them! I'm so surprised!

So back to all I've read:

•They don't stay around for all their eggs to hatch--we don't know if this is true or not yet. They did leave and take their hatchlings with them but would they have come back? If they had what would have happened to the hatched out babies? They couldn't reach the nest.

•They take their babies out and about even though they are too young--this is true but they seemed to stop and find a place to warm them up every so often.

•You have to take their babies away if they are going to survive--this remains to be seen but I'm very impressed with their willingness to work together, to protect, and to continue to lay on them to keep them warm!

I think The Mother Ranch guineas have earned pretty good marks in the mothering department. I know I won't question them again! 

I will however, question the wattage of a heat lamp from now on :-/

This evening: Millie and Georgette laying on the babies. Manfred and George look on from the right. Angelica (the white one) has always been a bit scattered since her mate was killed by a coyote.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

We begin again.

August 23, 2016.

My 47th birthday.

“It’s too big. It’s too scary. It’s been too long. No one will understand. No one cares. It’s waaaaay TMI. Just put it behind you. Move on. I wonder what’s on Netflix that I haven’t seen yet…”
My inner critic has been working overtime and she’s really loud and really persuasive. It IS easier to tune out, zone out, disconnect than have to feel ONE MORE FEELING about this situation.

But then…

My Inner Voice (and yes, I capitalize it because it comes from God, Source, the Divine) whispers, “Just tell the truth.”

My guess is that this story will be somewhat disjointed for awhile. My mind, usually fairly step-by-step and logical in the way I write a story, swirls with PTSD now and my heart jumps between pain so big that I’m scared to let it out more than the tiniest wisps, and relief at being free of the day to day horror. Writing about the past year is excruciating. I'll be writing along and all of a sudden my mind blanks. This has never happened to me before. I know what it is and I know why it is but it's still tough to accept it.

It’s been a bit more than a year since I stopped. I stopped day to day care of Loreli (I've changed both of the kid's names to pseudonyms). It was the end of July 2015 that I gave up. There was nothing more to give her. Every positive interaction she allowed was twisted up and given back to Daniel, the dogs, and me in hate, fury, and abuse. She was ten years old and had been with us for nearly 6 years. I enrolled her in full time daycare. Brad picked her up at 6:00pm. I told Brad that Daniel and I would no longer be in the house alone with her. If she was there, then he was there. Brad didn’t know exactly what was going on but agreed.

(One of the many ways to tell a RAD family is by the family members who do NOT have RAD. The mom is depressed (unexpressed anger), withdrawn, ultra protective of her other children and pets. She treats the child with RAD differently and often insists on structure and line of sight for the RAD child but not her others. The mom, siblings, and pets are targets for the RAD child's abuse and she has to stay on high alert (hypervigilance) in order to keep everyone as safe as possible. The dad, 99.9% of the time, is targeted differently. He is targeted to see the child with RAD in a sunnier way. He almost NEVER sees the abuse, as the child with RAD waits until he is gone before starting in. This is called "triangulation" or sometimes "splitting" and results in the divorce of 80% of marriages with RAD kids.)

Once Loreli was in full time day care, Daniel and I began to have our summer. There was only about a month left of it at that point but we made every moment count. We went swimming a lot, to the museum, zoo, and aquarium. We had fun. It was weird and good and scary, and so needed.

We both let the steam out, one tiny bit at a time. We both were like tightly coiled springs.

As with all holidays with a kid with Reactive Attachment Disorder, Thanksgiving was ruined. Everything was fine until it was time to eat and then the screaming started. I didn’t even try to help her, I knew that as soon as I did and we had a good, bonding moment, she would turn around and hurt Daniel, the dogs, or me. It is the cycle of a child with severe RAD. A tiny part of her wants the love but a bigger part of her is living in the past with the person who hurt her. That part will not allow her to accept love. That’s the part that will insist that harming Daniel, the dogs, or me is crucial for her survival.

After Thanksgiving, a frustrated and defeated Daniel said, “If she’s here for Christmas then I’m going to stay in my bedroom.” So sayeth a child who has no power and no hope.

She was not here for Christmas.

We accepted a spot for Loreli at The Institute for Attachment and Child Development.

The Institute is different from any other program in that they have all of the structure and therapy of a residential treatment center but the children live in an actual home with a real mom and dad (who have both been trained and have their own experience with RAD), their children and several other treatment kids. What this means is that the children with RAD cannot triangulate as easily. In an RTC, which have rotating staff, it is known that the children constantly triangulate (pitting one caregiver against another).

She left on December 9, 2015. Very quickly we were told that Loreli has severe RAD. As with this entire process, I felt relief and grief. What we had been experiencing for 6 years wasn’t “just” RAD (which is bad enough) but severe RAD. I learned that Daniel and I really did have PTSD from living with this abusive child. I learned that they expected to work with her for at least a year.

Daniel and I had a year to heal…from 6 years of abuse.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Door alarm

One of the ways I began to tell something was wrong in my family was when Daniel told me he wanted to sleep in my room by saying in a fearful whisper, "She's right over there!" pointing toward Loreli's room. I was shocked to hear and feel this fear from him. I knew he was worried about her but not to this extent.

So recently I asked Brad to put an alarm on Loreli's door. I've wanted to do this for years but she was younger and couldn't sleep with the door closed. I didn't know what to do and I also didn't yet recognize the trauma of the rest of the family. Now, she doesn't mind the door closed and often asks for it. The alarm is a simple, "bing bong" sound when the door is opened. To appear fair, Brad put one on Daniel's door as well, however we never close Daniel's door so it's for appearances only. It keeps us from having to watch the baby video monitors all evening after they go to bed and banishes the fear of going to sleep with no warnings of her leaving her room. 

This was a good solution for us, for now. So far, so good. I have found part of her alarm half peeled off the door once. It's likely that it will be peeled off and hidden or thrown away at some point but we have others to replace it.

If you think you know Loreli and are shocked about this story, let me say this:

Daniel has not had one nightmare, nor one time that he has crawled into bed with us since that alarm was placed on her door.

The first night the alarm was on her door, I slept like the dead. 

When Ike hears the alarm go off in the morning, he runs and hides.

Brad still has a video camera in Daniel's room that records. It shows the bed and Daniel's door, looking out into the hall. Ike often goes in there in the middle of the night, turns around, and lays down, facing Loreli's room. Head up, ears up, eyes open. I had no idea he did that. I knew that Onya went in there to check on him but I didn't know about Ike's behavior until recently. I wanted to burst into tears when I saw that piece of video.

He knows.

A traumatized family

Toward the middle of this summer I was just feeling...abused. It was the only word I could come up with. I felt like an idiot for even thinking it.

Abused? By a child? Really? What kind of parent could be abused by a child?

I started, the way I often start new feelings or thoughts, by wandering the web. I just typed in my feelings, watched what came up and chose something that sounded about right. You know how it goes, right? Clicking through page after page of stuff, hitting on something that was spot on, consuming that site and moving on to something that's linked there. Suddenly my life was becoming more clear. There are parents out there who are being abused by their children.

And that's how I started figuring out what was happening in my house.

I know RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) because my daughter has it. I live with it every day. But I'm still learning about the toll it takes on the family. The severe triangulation and what that really means. The abuse certain members (mom, siblings, pets) of the family suffer, the confusion of the father (because of the triangulation, Dad rarely sees the abuse). None of it is Loreli's fault, it's not like she can help being this's what trauma does to her brain.

Here's what I learned this summer:

RAD is a mental illness. I never thought of it that way. I knew it was a “disorder” and I knew that trauma caused it, why, and what the symptoms were--I just thought it was something we could eventually work through. I looked up RAD and DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.) The description had me wondering what was the difference between "disorder" and "mental illness" and I found there really wasn't one. I asked a psychologist friend of mine and she concurred. 

Finding that RAD was a mental illness helped me so much. It's not that my daughter was a horrible person or that she has this weird “disorder” that for some reason we weren't able to help her with yet, she's mentally ill. Her brain isn't working right because of the trauma she suffered.

That led me to looking at mental illness. Lots of sites for that but I came across one called Out of the Fog for families with loved ones with mental illness. A huge amount of pertinent information. Explanations of various types of mental illnesses, forums, types of treatments. Nothing about RAD unfortunately and when I posted on one of the forums I found great people, but the moderator nicely said that it was a forum for families with children that have a diagnosed mental illness.

Sigh. I have a child with a diagnosed mental illness. And this is a huge trigger for me: Because it's a child, because so few have ever heard of it, because it's aimed at the adoptive mom, siblings, pets and so rarely the father--therefore it must be rare or possibly untrue. A figment of imagination of an adoptive mom who isn't able to parent, because something is wrong with her. I've seen the confused looks when I try to explain Loreli's behaviors. Her behaviors sound normal to other parents, "Oh Jamie did just that the other day." Believe me fellow Mommy, he really...Did. Not.

Does your previously happy dog suddenly start running, skittering across the wood floor, peeing, fleeing, and hiding when he sees your child?

No? Good. I'm happy for you.

Is your younger son afraid to go to sleep because his sister's room is across the hall?

No? Yay. I'm happy for you.

When you connect with your daughter and have a great time together (even something as simple as reaching out to hold her hand or having a close conversation)--within 24 hours does she turn around and start verbally and psychologically abusing you? Or, worse yet, verbally, psychologically, and physically abusing your youngest child and your pets?

No? Seriously. I'm happy for you. I wish I could say the same.

Do you have to keep your daughter in line-of-sight at all times to make sure your other children are safe? Has your daughter ever pushed your son down the stairs and when questioned, look you dead in the eyes, with an expressionless face and deny that it even happened?

This kind of stuff seems crazy and unbeliLorelible, even to me, and it’s happening in my home. After 6 years of this the mom of a RAD child starts doubting her own sanity. Standing at the top of the stairs, looking down into the faces of my children: Loreli two steps down, looking at me with zero emotion and Daniel huddled on the middle landing (thank God our stairs are split in half) crying and looking up at me with his big brown eyes, hurt (and not just physically) and confused why his sister (who he obviously loves) would want to hurt him. Looking into Loreli’s eyes (the only time she locks eye contact like that is when she is lying) and have her say in a flat, dead, monotone, “I don’t know. I didn’t do it.” As that mom, I know what I feel: hurt, confused, angry, betrayed. The center of my chest literally aches…all the time now. I hear her words, I see her looking at me, I know she’s lying. But the liar and the lie is so strong, so in-your-face, so resolute, so certain, so angry that she might not be believed that a part of me questions what I just witnessed first hand.

Warring inside my heart every moment of every day is what I know to be true and a child who will do anything to survive what she perceives as ongoing trauma.

I wondered if there was a term for the way I was feeling about Loreli's behaviors. Confused, hurt, feeling like I am crazy, feeling like I'm going to die, wondering why certain things looked so innocuous but felt horrible or looked horrible, felt horrible, but I was being told that what I was seeing wasn’t true...I started typing in those phrases and came up with an uncanny description of what was happening. It's called "gaslighting." It wasn't in the context of RAD but in adult relationships. It was under narcissistic personality disorder. As she gets older and smarter, her behaviors become more and more covert. She's a bright and clever girl. 

"Another common tactic of emotional abuse employed by individuals with narcissistic issues is “gaslighting.” This term was coined after a movie titled Gaslight (1944) in which a form of psychological abuse resulting in cognitive dissonance occurred for the main character, played by Ingrid Bergman. The result of gaslighting is that the target of abuse doubts his or her own reality of the situation because the abuser is trying to confuse and disorient the target in order to maintain power and control, all at the cost of the emotional well-being of the target."

In order to keep my son, dogs, and myself safe, I put Loreli in 9-5 daycare for the remainder of the summer. It looked so odd to others. I didn't care. As the full realization began to hit me, safety was my number one goal.

I remember thinking, "I can't deal with her abuse anymore. No...I won't deal with her abuse anymore and now that I know for sure what’s going on, I won’t let her hurt anyone else in the family either."

Kids with RAD fight against connection. I've talked about this before. Their trauma was so severe that they can't trust anyone anymore. This plays out on the adoptive mom, often siblings and pets, but not dad. The experts guess it's because of the bond we have with our mom. Losing bio mom, or being damaged by bio mom, or being abandoned by bio mom traumatizes the child to the extreme. They felt like they would die when it happened and eventually it becomes clear to them: love, bonding, connection, attention from mom, is certain death. How would you act if you thought that a relationship would kill you?  

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Feels like none of us can escape the abuse

As usual when things go haywire here, I go off the grid. Depression and anxiety have hit hard and I'm doing everything I can to stay afloat. Here's where we are today:

I was thinking about how Daniel, the dogs, and I are living with the person who traumatized/is traumatizing us and how we can't get away from our abuser.

Then I thought about how children with RAD look at their adoptive moms--subconsciously they can't differentiate between their adoptive mom and bio mom. In Loreli's mind, she is living with the person who traumatized her/is traumatizing her and she can't get away from her abuser either.

I've recently read that the RAD child's mind keeps purposely triggering the trauma in order to work through it/heal it but it doesn't work. It just keeps making the trauma groove deeper in the brain.

What a sad situation.


Me, sending Daniel on his bike to go get Jase: So, what do you say if someone stops you and says, "Hey, your Mom sent me over so you could help me. My puppy is missing. Could you help me find him?"
Daniel: I'd say, "Sure!"
Me, blanching: No! I would never send a stranger to pick you up. You would scream and yell and ride your bike home as fast as you could!

I can't tell you how many times we've talked about this through the years. I really thought he had it! Then I thought back to the last time we all talked about it...we were driving down 9th and I was giving them scenarios and they would yell back, "NO! Stay away! Help!" etc. But the more I thought of that moment in time...I can hear Loreli yelling and carrying on, but I see Daniel in my mind's eye...zoning out, staring into space, overwhelmed by the noise, his sister's intensity and the small space we were in.

The brain of a traumatized child is an interesting thing, no? Thinking of all the things that I need to re-teach.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Getting to live a tiny bit of "normal"

I had forgotten what it was like. It's been so long (6 years) since Daniel experienced "normal"--he probably doesn't even remember what it's like. He and a friend in school just found out that they live about a quarter mile away from each other and they've been lobbying to get together. It finally worked out today. Loreli is gone to therapy and the boys get to be together without the distraction of a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder. Jase's* dad dropped him off, the boys rode off back to his house to check everything out and are now back here, checking everything out. I've never been able to let Daniel so loose before because with Loreli around, he is always at risk--physically and psychologically.

To have Daniel be able to have this tiny bit of normal brings joy and happy (but hidden) tears to this Mommy :-)

*Name changed :-)