There’s one kitten nibbling my calf as I write this–apparently Savannahs are into lovebites, tiny, soft nibbles that aren’t all THAT soft and certainly get your attention–and the other is threatening the bluejays at the back door.

Savannah cats are supposed to be as trainable as dogs, i.e., you can persuade them to obey YOUR taboos, such staying out of the glass display cases. Or refraining from climbing into a 4-foot urn to eat the pussywillows.

I’ve accordingly invested in a small bag of the smelliest dried shrimp in the world, and a book, “Train Your Cat in 10 Minutes.”

It’s day 3 of our training regimen. The 10-minute bit is a lie.

Trust me on this.

My cousin Robyn is in town for the weekend, a last hurrah before she gets too pregnant to travel by plane. She and spouse Jeff are having a little boy in January and for now, she’s calling him “baby bump.” They have other names in mind but I’m sworn to secrecy.

I sent them baby combat booties–Robyn talks suicide bombers out of trees or something for the feds, and Jeff does special forces-type stuff that movie stuntmen only dream about. This kid will probably emerge designing TIE fighters and strangling terrorists with rattlesnakes, so an early start on the combat gear seemed appropriate.

We met up at Portland Farmer’s Market this morning–Robyn’s addicted–and shopped for awhile, picking up harvest apples and cheeses. Then we walked down to the waterfront to meet up with a few of Robyn’s friends. We talked babies, Portland, babies, breast pumps, babies, and babies. A friend with 6-month twin boys arrives, all strollered up, and we walk the waterfront, watching the geese.

There’s a group demonstrating what it’s like to be blind, pairing up and blindfolding each other; a film crew is shooting them as part of a documentary. Their leader wanders up and hands us blindfolds and releases to sign.

“Uhm…don’t you think it’s a little risky to ask a pregnant woman and a lady pushing two babies in a stroller to walk blindfolded?” I ask, and he reconsiders, then hands the blindfold to me.

I shake my head–I experience almost blind every time I remove my glasses, so I’m not eager to go all the way. We follow the pseudoblindfolk for awhile, then move on.

I figure mammas with strollers and women with baby bumps are by nature slow movers, so I prepare to plod…only to be left in the dust. These particular mamas are all “hashers,” i.e., folk who do this weird, masochistic, ironman-style racing thing for fun. Robyn could probably stop a tank with her quads–these ladies don’t know the meaning of slow.

We do a few miles at a brisk pace, generating enough breeze to blow the babies’ pacifiers out of the stroller–and I find that Portland has broken the law of gravity to become entirely UPhill. Robyn glances at my red and puffing face, and suggests we stop at a cafe for juice.

I gratefully suck up fresh lemonade and–having nothing to contribute in the way of baby stories–listen and watch. Robyn’s hand curves protectively around her belly, stroking gently as she talks. I don’t think she even notices. She smiles faintly as she touches her baby bump, looking serene in a Madonna kinda way that isn’t like Robyn at all. It’s like caterpillar to butterfly, strong, decisive woman to strong, decisive woman and mother.

Robyn’s friend is already there. One of her twin babies, the one in back of the tandem stroller, nods off, while the one in front coos and waves his arms furiously, reaching out to us. His mamma plucks him from the stroller, whirls him joyously in the air and nuzzles his cheek, whispering in his ear. He smiles; she hands him to Robyn to be fussed over, and turns to the other twin.

This baby is quiet, inwardly focused, and sleepy; she strokes his cheek softly and adjusts his little tie-on bonnet. She’ll keep him to herself all afternoon. He has Downs Syndrome, and she stands guard over him, daring anyone to comment.

We cuddle the first boy while her eyes never leave the second. Once or twice, I hear her sigh softly, as if she’s afraid he’ll hear.

My friends with Downs Syndrome children say they’re the best part of their families, and they happily thrive. I’m sure this boy will thrive, too…but my heart breaks a little at the inevitable comparisons he’ll face, with his twin. Alike in every respect save one, I wonder what’s in store for them both.

Later, at home, Nikki Tikkimaus jumps into my lap to demand a pet. I obey.

Kittens are easier.