Thursday, December 22, 2011

Where Are Your Reindeer?

You all know how I tell my kids the truth that there is no Santa right? Well apparently I wasn’t quite so clear about it.

Last night while we were getting ready to take our annual drive through the lights in the park which culminates in a visit with Santa, I reminded the boys that there was no need to tell anybody there that Santa is really mommy. Jade gave me the interrogating eye and said, "Mommy how can you get all around the world with no reindeer?" "Um, I am just your Santa. All children have their own people who bring them gifts. There is no real Santa that has reindeer and delivers presents to everybody." Jade responded, "I don’t believe you."

Who the heck does he believe? The t.v.? The kids at school? The guy dressed up in the park playhouse? Whatever.

So here are the results of our crazy visit with Santa. By the way, I sat on his lap too and told him I have been good, and asked him for a nanny.


Can you tell my Irish twins (Masha and Jade) are a complete and total handful?

Can you guess who wanted nothing to do with Santa?

Merry Christmas to you all!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Wrecker

That is one of Kimani’s nicknames. Two others are The Cobra and Kimzilla. She is our Master of Disaster.


Kimani has grown just tall enough to reach the burners on the stove, and everything on the kitchen counters. Her favorite pastime is throwing things. Bad combination. She is strong enough and agile enough to climb up on the tables, and “wipe” them clean.

She is very picky about the way she will accept food. She wants to hold it, to touch it, put it in her mouth and take it out. Give her anything more than a bite, and it will end up tossed across the room. Not enough and she will ream you out.

She loves to spin. She will twirl around and around and around until I am dizzy watching her. Spin, stomp the foot, spin, stomp the foot. She will twirl on the floor, or spin on the table. Round and round she goes, never falling.


Some days I worry about what might become of The Wrecker...

But everybody is gifted you know, and she is no exception. Here is a list of some cool jobs Kimani might grow up to do.

Penguin Feeder at the Aquarium
She is perfect for this job. She can whip handfuls of food like nobody’s business. And unlike lots of people, she isn’t selfish so she won’t mind giving the penguins their fair share.

Product Tester
Ever see the commercials for the Gyro bowl? Its feature list boasts that it is kid-proof and virtually indestructible. Ha ha, right. They should have had Kimani test it out for them. It took her about two seconds to spill cheerios out of it, and another two seconds to break it. (Granted we could fix it but not until after she made a mess of the contents.) Now, the bright blue shell we put on the back of her iPad? Yeah, that is indestructible, so far anyway.

Artisan Butter & Wine Maker
All that twirling and never getting dizzy? Scrub her up and drop her in a tub of cream or grapes and let her go at it. Soon you will have delicious sweet butter, or plenty of juice for a batch of fine Merlot.

Childproofing Consultant
Worried that you haven’t prepared your house well enough for that new baby? Call Kimani. She will come to your house and locate every single thing that can still be dangerous. She will find the outlet you missed and every single cord you thought was hidden. She will tear down the full-length curtains you forgot were inviting to tiny hands. She will knock over anything not firmly attached. And, for the mere price of a latte, she will help you determine if coffee stains will come off your ceiling.

Demolition Set Grip
Imagine you are filming a movie. There is a mansion with a spacious, immaculate living room and you need to have it look like some bad kids threw a wild party while their parents were away. Kimani to the rescue. She is quick and efficient, and with the proper tools could easily make the place look burglarized if that were your preference.

Personal Boxing Trainer
Think you are ready to get in the ring with one of the Klitschko brothers? You’re not. Not yet. Not until you hire Kimani to hang out with you. She will teach you how to dodge and duck. Take your eye off her for a second and she’ll pop you in the head with her iPad, or grab your drink and whip it, or toss an oversized bucket of pretzels in your face. Turn your back on her and she just might bite you on your bottom.

The Wrecker, The Cobra, Kimzilla, call her what you will, but never ever underestimate her talents. Can you think of a great career for Kimani that I left out? Leave it in the comments. The best entry will win an afternoon babysitting her, bwaa ha ha ha!

Monday, December 19, 2011

In Her Eye

I have written about how beautiful, and how elusive Kimani’s eyes are. In the comments, llbarkat wished to see. If only capturing her eyes was as simple as a wish.

I’d settle for getting a close-up shot of just one of them.


Yesterday afternoon, I caught her sitting on the kitchen table, basking in sunlight, munching on dirt from my cactus planter. She was peacefully staring down at the table. I ran for the camera. When I looked through the shots I had taken, I saw the one above. At one hundred percent, I could see the reflection of the table in her eye, and looking closer I thought I saw a miniature her sitting on that table.

Friday, December 16, 2011

What's It to Ya?

Many people find this blog by searching for a mentally retarded baby. If you google that term in images, Kimani comes up near the top of the list. The post you land on is “It Wasn’t Meant that Way.”


I am such a curious woman. I wonder about all the reasons a person might be searching for an image of someone like Kimani. Maybe you are a pregnant mom who just got some scary news. Maybe you are a college student doing a research paper. Maybe you are someone searching for nefarious reasons.

Whatever brought you here, I hope you gain something positive about mentally challenged people.

My daughter Kimani has Down syndrome. She is three years old now. As an infant in the NICU she contracted meningitis and suffered brain damage resulting in cortical sensory impairment. What that means is that while her senses (sight, hearing, feeling, etc.) all work correctly, the cortex in her brain does not always properly process the information it receives. At times she is legally blind, or deaf, or unable to feel things. It also means she processes information quite slowly when she is stressed or tired.


As you can imagine being sometimes blind and deaf and running on less neurons can make learning difficult. It can also make day-to-day living kinda frustrating for her and for us.

There is a huge difference between a person with Down syndrome and a person who has suffered brain damage. Apart from my Kimani’s unique and gorgeous face, which gives a hint of that extra 21st chromosome, she does not represent a typical child with Down syndrome. I have two adopted daughters who both also have Down syndrome and they are similar to each other in development and very much like my two typical children who have just 46 chromosomes.

prek_certAlthough Kimani has difficultly with learning and retaining new things, she can walk and climb. She can say a few words and can sign a few more. She is cooperative with getting dressed and other similar activities. She transitions well from one thing to another, sleeps like an angel, and is doing well with potty training. She loves the pool, her iPad, and dancing around in my arms to 70’s disco music.


If you take some time to read around this blog you will encounter the power Kimani has wielded in my life, and how that power has infused me with renewed creativity, brought me emotionally to my knees, taught me new ways to value individuals, and whispered love secrets into my heart. You will also find lots of other beautiful pictures of Kimani.

I invite you to share with me what it was you were looking for and if you found it. I accept anonymous comments if you wish to remain private.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The French Strangers - Part Two

Here is part one if you missed it.

We stood up together to make a run for it but the stranger caught me from behind. As he swung me around, he punched me in the face. His fist connected with my upper left cheek and for a few seconds everything went black with bright spots flashing. The hit should have sent me crashing to the ground but he still had a firm hold on me. Luckily, my friend was getting away because the other guy was not interested in attacking American women. He just watched.

She came back though. She rescued me. She whacked him in the face with her umbrella and got herself a massive kick to the stomach in return. It was enough to divert his attention and I scrambled backward out of his reach. Before he could decide which of us to come after, I screamed at her to run the other way and I ran out into the road.

I ran right into the path of an oncoming car, the only car on the road. It swerved, screeched to a stop, and two men got out. One of the men was the tram driver. I was hysterical. I told him over and over that a man had hurt me and I asked them “Where is my friend?” I don’t know how those men understood what I was saying in my broken, sob-filled French, but they did.

They wanted to take me to the hospital, the police station, or even home, but I kept asking them about my friend. So they drove up, down, and around the streets near the station until we found her. She (whose French was so much better than mine) explained to them what happened, and then she told them where we each lived.

You wouldn’t blame me if I packed up and flew home, especially if I told you I saw him again a couple days later on the tram, on my way to school, and he flicked his tongue at me like a snake. But as scared as I was to go out to class, I stuck it out. Eventually, I made friends and found out I was living in a French ghetto highly populated with Algerians. I learned that (back then anyway) the French and the French Algerians hated each other.

Oddly enough, it was a friendship I made with an Algerian shop keeper that kept me in France. His tiny grocery store was located on the roof plaza of the building just across from mine, accessible by a pedestrian bridge that was attached to our building a few floors below me. There was a butcher shop and a bakery over there as well, and that plaza was just about the only place I wasn’t afraid to go because I didn’t even have to go down out to the street.

The stranger who owned the grocery store was tall, well-built, with dark hair, dark eyes, and a beautiful smile. He made such an effort to befriend me, tolerating my immature French, asking me about myself in between explaining as best he could the difference between the zillion types of milk. He wanted to know if I was enjoying his country, and so I told him my tram station story.

It made him visibly angry. He brought his sister out from the back room to tell me in her broken English that he would take care of this problem for me and that I should not be afraid to go out. She said that her brother was my friend and that this meant that I would be safe anywhere in the neighborhood. She was right. I stayed in France until the following July and I never saw tram man again.

I’ve never stopped traveling, but tram man taught me quite a bit about how to do it. I’ve also never been able to kick the innate fear of strangers that most of us have but I do recognize it for what it is and find my way around it.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Is Kimani a Real Girl?

Dr. Logan Levkoff wrote a post, “The True Meaning of Womanhood.” Daring soul. She took a good stab at it, but her conclusion that Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin represent the “wrong” definition of woman, which seemed to be the real reason for the article, annoyed me and thus sparked my brain cells, forcing me to consider what really makes a woman, a woman.

I have to question some of Dr. Levkoff’s points. She asks, “Is womanhood measured in degrees? Are there some women who are ‘more woman’ than others?” and then answers herself with a firm, “No, of course not.” Immediately following she defines being a woman as “a state of mind and a commitment to social action.”

If that were the actual definition of womanhood, the true meaning of womanhood, then either we all have the same state of mind and are all equally committed to social action, or womanhood can be measured in degrees. Oops Dr. Levkoff.

One reason she needs to define it that way (“I think I am, therefore I am” and “I agree with Dr. Levkoff’s political views, therefore I am”) is to open the door to transgendered women. (A transgendered person is someone whose gender identity is different from their assigned sex at birth.)

She correctly makes clear that a woman is not simply the sum of her physical parts. She points out that a woman who has a mastectomy is no less a woman after, and I agree. Seeing how we have objectified and sexualized women based on a body image, I get why she wants to toss boobs to the wind, but I can’t let her.

Because according to Dr. Levkoff, Kimani might not qualify as a girl. After all, Kimani may never even understand that she is a “woman,” as her state of mind is limited. Kimani will doubtfully be committed to any social action. Rather than losing her girl parts to cancer, Kimani has lost her mind parts to meningitis, but this makes her no less a girl who will grow up to be a woman.

Dr. Levkoff’s true meaning of womanhood is flawed because the scope is too narrow, her political mission too obvious. When defining womanhood, you cannot separate the physical and the metaphysical and exclude either one or the other. The true meaning of womanhood is complex and vast, but I promise you there is a place for Kimani within it.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The French Strangers - Part One

Ever since I spent six weeks one summer partying in Montreal, I have felt that I should go everywhere I can, whenever I can, for as long as I can.

(Did I say partying? No Dad, I was learning French, studying every day, behaving myself, I pinkie swear it.)

On the 27th of September many years ago, I landed in Lyon, France with a bunch of college students from all over the US. We arrived by van in Grenoble after midnight and I was handed off to a tiny blond lady who had agreed to host me and another girl. As Madame explained the house rules to us, I realized that all those years of French class didn’t add up to much and my brain hurt terribly.

(Uh, guess I should have studied French during my immersion program in Montreal.)

On the night of October 3rd, not even a whole week into the great adventure, I was at the deserted end-of-the-line tram station, our stop, waiting for my housemate who was supposed to be on the last tram of the night. I was with another female student who lived near us and had agreed to show me how to get there and to keep me company.

On the far side of the station parking lot was a Superman kind of phone booth with a metal bench by it. I had a new fancy phone card, so I stepped inside to call my mom and wish her a happy birthday. We talked for a few minutes until the clicks cut in and a pretty French robot voice said something like “you are out of time”.

I hung up the phone and turned to exit the booth, and there he was... pinning the door shut. Medium height, slim, dark hair and eyes... the stranger I never saw approaching. His companion sat next to my friend on the bench. She looked frightened.

After a moment of grinning at me through the glass, he opened the doors, pulled me out of the booth and pushed me down on the bench. I could not understand much of what he was saying but he would not let go of my arm. His powerful grip transcended the language barrier.

My friend and I talked over them, trying to come up with a plan. There was no one else around. The last tram had come and gone, and my housemate had not been on it. The station lights had gone out and there were no cars left in the lot. The adjacent road was dark and quiet.

I remember being glad that I had just said “I love you” to my mother.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I Don’t Wanna Be an Independent

Really, I don’t. I want an issue, something I can glom onto and vote with no matter what else is at stake. I want to be so prolife that I have to vote Republican no matter what, or so pro-LGBT that I vote Democrat no matter what. I want to not have to think about who is running for President and what his or her ideas are.

Because when I think too long about various issues, I am a flip-flopper. After a couple debates, I am a Newt supporter. He just sounds so fair, so smart, so experienced, so full of good ideas to get this country back on track (were we ever on track?) But then, Obama goes to Kansas and delivers one of his first real campaign speeches, and boom, I remember why I voted for him last time.

Obama has such good speech writers, such good spinners, and he is such a good storyteller. I was goo-goo eyed watching him as he talked up his “American values” and “middle class fair-playing field” vision. My husband saw me transfixed and said, “Oh no, you’re not going to vote for him again, are you?” I might.

Imagine that “truth is not about getting it right or representing reality, but is part of a social practice and language that serves our purposes during a particular time period” (David Donaldson) or that “knowledge is produced through operations of power and therefore changes fundamentally during different time periods.” (Michel Foucault) Imagine that the truth, the reality of your time period, is not absolute, not based on empirical evidence or facts, but is rather determined by the narratives that are created to record it. The story becomes the “truth”. And right now there are a lot of ways to tell the story of our country.

(All you postmodern philosophers and critical theorists, hush... I know I simplified it. How could I not?)

When the gay, high-profile, nationally syndicated, sex columnist Dan Savage categorized my daughter as a “tard,” I felt angry at him and his readers who didn’t call him out on it, and thought “Who cares if you can’t marry your boyfriend? Why should I use my vote to help you out when you don’t give equal respect to people with Down syndrome?” But then I remembered that I do want equal rights for everybody, which includes even certain hypocritical gay men.

When a presidential candidate starts talking about overturning Roe vs. Wade, my “no way” buzzer goes off and I want to cross him or her off my list. But ending mid to late term abortions for any reason other than to save the mother’s life is worth my vote.

Really though, social issues can’t compete for my vote when we’re facing 15 trillion in national debt; we borrow 40 cents of every dollar we spend; we bail out banks and the auto industry, home owners, and possibly student loan holders; we refuse to get off the Arab oil tit... when the cost of living is rising and the paycheck and benefits are shrinking... then I have to think, think, think.

Whose version of the story is closest to the “truth”? Whose vision for the future will get us back on prosperous ground? I just don’t know. Do you?