Saturday, August 29, 2009

Direct from the Barrio: Blaine

Many children bring home stray cats and dogs. Mine did not do that although we did have a pet cat, Fluffy, who died from feline leukemia when the kids were very young, and a stray cat that adopted us, who also died from feline leukemia when the kids were a little older. No, why would the Mahlou kids do something normal? Instead of a stray cat, they brought home a stray kid. Welcome, Blaine!

Blaine was the oldest of three sons, born to a drug-addicted mother who had her children by three different men. Blaine's parents lived in the barrio of Salts until his father disappeared, leaving his mother to raise Blaine alone (followed, of course, by the other two children, whose parents did not stay around, either). The news on the street was that Blaine's father (we do not even know his name) had returned to Mexico, from where no one ever heard from him again.

Blaine, it turned out, was a gifted student, and he met my children in the public school's GATE program. He had come to the house a few times with Shane, and we were all comfortable with him as Shane's friend. He seemed comfortable with us, too, and fit in nicely with our children. Still, we were not quite prepared for a children-parent meeting that was requested by our children when Blaine was 13. (We had a habit of holding weekly family meetings to make decisions on finances and other things, e.g., if there was not enough money for both electricity and a normal range of food, a typical dilemma in the days of medical bills in the hundreds of thousands of dollars while I was a mere graduate student, we would vote on what to forego for a few days.)

Lizzie led this specially called meeting. All the children were in attendance and fully united in how they planned to vote. Blaine's mother had just put him out on the street. Now that he was a teenager, she expected him to drop out of school and help her in her drug business. He refused, telling her he wanted to finish school and go to college. That was unheard of and not even understood in the barrio, so his mother assumed that he was just being disobedient out of obnoxiousness. She threw him and his things out into the street, telling him he would have to make his own way if he did not appreciate her support. She was serious. Either he sold drugs, or he stayed on the street.

My kids wanted to take Blaine into our family. They parried every argument quite deftly. Blaine is well behaved. True. The finances would be okay because they would all eat less -- they did not have to; God provides -- and Blaine and Shane could share clothes -- they did not have to; God provides. Blaine could sleep in Doah's lower bunk (Shane had the upper bunk) since Doah always insisted on sleeping in a nest, anyway.

(Detour here re Doah's nest. Doah was a very Mommy-attached little boy, and considering the many times he had stopped breathing, we did not discourage him from wanting to sleep with or near us. As an infant, he had to be in our bed. Born prior to the wide-spread use of home apnea monitors, he would not have survived. Once we were able to get a home apnea monitor, a really new device not distributed within the state of Pennsylvania at the time, through the intercession of Boston Children's Hospital, Doah still slept in our room because the monitor so frequently alarmed. As he grew older, he loved to bring a huge pile of blankets and pillows and stuff them under my desk where I was working, nestling at my feet. If I took him back to his bed, pretty soon he would show up again, asking to sleep in his "nest." I always hoped that he would never tell any of his teachers at school that he slept in a nest! They would have had some doubts about us as parents.)

So, Blaine moved in with us. His mother knew and seemed not to care. She once came to the house not stoned about four years after Blaine had moved in. She needed his signature on a document. At that time, she told me that she was happy he was with us because he would have a better life. It was the only time we ever talked. We did not adopt Blaine because his mother would have fought it, and the demand to join the family drug business would have begun all over again. Therefore, she collected welfare payments for Blaine and used them for drugs. Perhaps it was wrong not to report all of this, but the system would have worked out worse circumstances for Blaine. So, right or wrong, Blaine became a pseudo-Mahlou until 13 years later when he married Lizzie. (We did not see that one coming!)

In the interim, Blaine's mother was killed in a drug deal when he was 19. He took care of the funeral, then moved to San Diego where Lizzie and Noelle were attending college. He, too, enrolled in college there, having completed a year locally. (It should have been two years, but his freshman year his mother stole his scholarship check to use for drug money and he had to spend a year working to replace it.) While there, he got one of his brothers, who is moderately mentally challenged, enrolled in a work program in San Diego, and he and Lizzie watched out for both Noelle and John while there. (The third boy had a father who was almost local, and he took him to live with him after Blaine's mother died.)

When Lizzie moved to Illinois to work on her PhD, Blaine was offered a computer job at the university and so moved with her. John moved, too, but somewhat later, to Illinois where Blaine could continue to help him while working and finishing his degree on line. Noelle came back to Salts, where she still lives.

Lizzie has been teaching in New York but has just moved to South Carolina. Blaine stayed at his job in Illinois, but he has now found a position near Lizzie in South Carolina. As for John, he is still in Illinois and has a girl friend there. He knows where to find his big brother, Blaine, who seems to have learned very early the importance of family.

(more later...)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Next Generation: Nathaniel and Nikolina

Nathaniel and Nikolina, Californians by birth, are the children of our son, Shane, and his wife, Lemony. Nathaniel looks like an inverted version of his father as a child. Shane was a blue-eyed blond with wispy hair. Nathaniel, being the product of an Anglo and Latina union, has the same general features but in the darker tones of the Latino community -- dark brown eyes and black hair. (There is also Native American blood on both sides of the family, even in light-complected Shane, and that comes out in the children, too.) Nikolina, to me, is the spitting image of her mother.


Nathaniel was unexpected, much wanted, and anxiously awaited. With defective genes floating throughout the family, there was a strong possibility that he might have spina bifida or some other x-chromosome related defect. He did not. However, the later sonograms showed that he did have hydronephrosis (swollen kidney), which apparently stemmed from a kink in one of the ureters. As a result, he had to wear a bag, into which the urine from that kidney was drained, for the first year of his life, until he was old enough for surgery. Surgery turned out to be five operations, all of them done at the University of California at San Francisco Hospital. Today, Nathaniel is a normal, active second-grader and inveterate butterfly catcher.


Nikolina is our latest miracle baby. I have posted much about her at the Blest Atheist website, and those posts are listed below. Having OEIS Complex, she was born essentially disassembled -- body open from waist down and organs in the wrong place, missing, or split in two. Her intestines were in an external sac (Shane and Lemony knew about the intestines, but nothing more, before the birth; all the rest was a surprise). Blood tests show her spleen to be functioning, but doctors have not yet been able to locate it. She also has spina bifida, like Noelle and Shura. Her latest checkup (September 2009) shows one more surgery needed (besides the ones already planned): hip dysplasia. On a happy note, the doctors are pretty certain that she will be able to walk; she may have a limp or need a small brace, but considering how much was wrong, including her legs having been attached in the wrong place, the ability to walk is indeed a miracle. At her recent hospital visit, the doctor gave her permission to move however she wants, and she immediately sat up! And now she gets to eat food, instead of modified formula. She really likes that!

See posts about Nathaniel and Nikolina.

Photos of Nathaniel and Nikolina, in order:
1. (top) Nathaniel and Nikolina, after Nikolina came home from the hospital
2. (left) Nathaniel and Nikolina, after Nikolina came from from the hospital
3. (right) Nathaniel and Nikolina in the hospital
4. (fourth row left) Nikolina's baby picture taken at the hospital
5. (fourth row right)Nathaniel in Chinatown, San Francisco
6. (fifth row left) Nathaniel laughing
7. (fifth row right) Nikolina laughing
8. (sixth line) coming home from the hospital the first time
9. (seventh line) Nikolina after spinal surgery, showing her typical indomitable spirit
10. (eighth line) our little Stanford gal
11. (9th line) Nikolina at San Francisco Moon Festival in late August
12. (10th line) Nikolina, a bit exposed (the under-clothing view); another Moon Festival picture of Nikolina
13. (11th line) Nathaniel, September 2009

Nathaniel November 2009

pictures of Nikolina from November 2009

December photos

2009 Ends on a Jolly Note

It was so wonderful that Nikolina was not in the hospital for Christmas. So may times either Doah or Noelle was that just having everyone here, not there, was a blessing. (Unfortunately, I had a cold and could not participate in the Christmas festivities at Shane's house -- we still have to be careful around Nikolina -- but nonetheless I had a great Christmas, nearly an entire day alone with God, something that I can usually only dream about.)

Here are a couple pictures from the day that I missed. The pictures alone show how well they are doing, especially Nikolina, our little disassembled baby for whom there was "little hope." Look at her now!



Our little girl has fun.

Nathaniel, March 2010

May 2010

July 2010

November 2010
And they keep growing...
(1) Nikolina at the Monterey Bay Aquarium
(2) Nathaniel and Nikolina at home
(3) Nathaniel as Dr. Who for Halloween
(4) Nikolina at a restaurant

Sunday, August 9, 2009

And Then Along Came Doah, Child Number 4

Doah was a surprise (well, so were the other three) who quite fortuitously was predicted to be born in Pittsburgh, PA around Christmas Day 1977 -- semester break from my studies at near-by Renboro University. However, it was my grandson, Nathaniel, who ended up being born on Christmas day. Doah was born quite early, messing up both my teaching schedule and studies (and creating quite a lot of subsequent havoc due to all his medical issues -- 30 years later, he is still creating havoc, mostly due to his overly inquisitive and highly extroverted nature, coupled with some serious mental challenges).

I don't remember all my labors, but I do remember Doah's. I went into labor while teaching a foreign language class! I managed to make it through the class (my stubborn nature, which does not always serve me well) and asked one of the students in the "college over 60" program to stay after. She had given a report in the foreign language on her five grandchildren, so I assumed she knew something about childbirth. I asked her if a fourth child might be born prematurely if the first three were on time, and she said, "Yes, indeed; in this business, anything is possible." I suggested I might wait a little to see if the labor progressed because I did not want to "bother" my doctor in vain, and she responded, "Trust me; your doctor wants to be bothered" and marched me to a pay phone, waiting until I had talked to the doctor and got the same information from him. (It turns out that my student was a retired obstetrician!)

Told to come in by the doctor, who was ten miles south of where I was at the university, I first drove 30 miles east to our home area to pick up Lizzie from school, Noelle from her nursery school, and Shane from his day care center. With all three kids in the van and no way to reach Donnie, this being days prior to cell phones and he always working at various AV sites at various hotels, never knowing where he would end up on any given day, I called my mother-in-law who agreed to watch them; however, she was at my sister-in-law's, which was ten miles west of the university, and I would need to pick her up and take her to her house, which was ten miles south of the university but fortunately just a few blocks from the doctor. Having done all that driving, I stopped and filled the car with gas enroute to the doctor's office, getting there very near the end of the day. He confirmed that I was indeed in labor and should get to the hospital immediately. Seeing the keys in my hands, he asked if I planned to drive myself, and I said yes, explaining the situation and the reason that it had taken me nearly three hours to get into the office. He was not happy at all about that! So, I was driven to the hospital -- and five days later Doah was born. Not a labor I would want to repeat!

A premature birth is always a difficult one. Doah was not allowed to room in with me -- but I did get a taste of it when the staff brought him in to nurse and we both fell asleep with the blanket covering him completely. With the change in staff an hour later and no Doah in his little incubator, there was quite a panic at the hospital. No one wanted to tell me until they found him. So began a vicious circle, in which, of course, no one learned that he was sound asleep snuggled up against my warm body! I am sure that I am not the only one who remembers that night!

See posts about Doah.

Photos of Doah, in order:
1. Doah, himself
2. Doah on lawn mower at Sue Scott's place
3. Horse riding (or at least, leading)
4. Doah and Sue Scott's son, Taylor


Doah celebrated his 30th birthday party in November 2009, together with friends from church, family, friends from Morocco, and Fr. Ed. Here are some pictures that he took:

Some of the group:
On the left, counterclockwise: Doah, Marie, Mary, Lola, Bennie (all from our church), Hameed (from Morocco)
On the right, from back to front: Donnie, Lemony, Nikolina (in baby carrier, unseen), Susana (wife of Moroccan), Beth, Fr. Ed
Missing: Shane, Nathaniel, Benissa, and Madeleine (believed to have been in the game room)

Benissa and Madeleine, children of our Moroccan friends

Nikolina on left; on right, back-to, Fr. Ed and Beth

Doah, Madeleine, Fr. Ed

Doah and the pizza makers

Search This Blog