Thank You, Derrick Coleman

I am no sports fan. I managed to completely forget that the Super Bowl was yesterday until a friend pointed it out when I invited her family over to dinner Sunday night.

I am, however, a fan of Derrick Coleman, player for the Seattle Seahawks (my daughters’ team, by the way, thanks to a Daddy and Grampy who are fans).

Here’s why.


See more US News from ABC|ABC World News

I could probably write a ton about why it’s important for people in the public eye to show compassion and generosity. I could go on and on about how important is it to see people with disabilities in professions unrelated to their disabilities. I could go on forever about why it’s important to acknowledge the challenges faced by those with special needs while at the same time letting them know that they can accomplish great things. But the video says it all.

Thank you, Derrick Coleman.

So, be honest. Did you cry watching this too?

Identical Twins, Separated at Birth by 7000 Miles

I just heard a story on the radio show The World that made me pull over in the nearest parking lot. I wanted to concentrate on the story and wasn’t sure I could trust my driving until I’d gathered my thoughts. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

A young American man, Dan Matthews, was adopted from South Korea when he was an infant. After many years of choosing not to, he decided to see whether the adoption agency involved could help him locate his birth parents. When they responded, he learned that not only were his birth parents still married, he had a sister and a twin brother. Genetic testing eventually found them to be identical twins.

I confess that I’m as fascinated as the next person by stories of twins separated at birth. I often wonder about how many of my identical daughters’ similarities can be chalked up to simply being raised in the same home with the same set of expectations. Looking at twins who never crossed paths between birth and adulthood is a window into what sorts of things genetics can contribute to. That said, I expect those stories to be about older people, from a time before people understood how much a newborn can understand, from a time before people understood that the twin bond starts in utero.

I look at my daughters, M and J. I see the primacy that Sister holds in their lives. As they tell me, frequently, “Sissy is the importantest person in my life.” They get on each other’s nerves more often than I like to admit, but they share a bond that I can only watch and wonder at. I will never experience anything so visceral, intense, and beautiful. The mother-child bond comes close, but the twin bond as something else.

Separating multiples, whether identical or fraternal, seems to me to be a form of abuse. Dan, the American brother, is impressive in his forgiveness. He says that although he’s never asked directly why his birth parents chose to relinquish their rights to raise him, he suspects that they were unable to afford his early medical care.

The two brothers-by-birth-only are both rappers. They share quirks such as the way they eat. It sounds like Dan’s parents are wonderful ones, supportive and accepting. Perhaps he wouldn’t have survived had his birth parents been responsible for his infant medical care. Perhaps separating the brothers was the right call.

What I know is that I, having seen twinship up close and personal, would never in a million years want my daughters or any other multiples to be raised separately unless they so choose. When my ex and I divorced, there was no question that the girls would stay together, whichever parent were to raise them. My sister is adopted. Her biological mother was a child herself, so my sister probably has biological siblings out there in the world. I don’t consider that separation to be abusive. There is something special about multiples. I’m pretty sure I thought that even before I got to join the exclusive club that is the twin universe.

What are your thoughts on separating twins to be raised by different parents? Does it make a difference if they’re fraternal as opposed to identical?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school in order to better protect their privacy and was delighted to have the opportunity to keep a foot in the blogosphere through HDYDI. She also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Twice Upon a Time: A Fairy Tale Weekend in Twinsburg, Ohio

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We just returned home from our family’s 4th annual trip to Twinsburg, OH for the Annual Twins Days Festival. My Twin Boys are three, we went the first time when they were 9 months old. I have written here on HDYDI about Twins Days before, but it is just so much fun I wanted to share it again. Every year the festival is the first full weekend in August in the Ohio town of Twinsburg. (Near Cleveland) Twins (and triplets and more!) come from around the world to celebrate their twinship, meet other twins and partake in the festivities. It is such a fun weekend and we have met so many amazing people. So many adult twins we have met have shared how special the weekend is to them, and one duo we met said how the rest of the people in their family have weddings and birthdays and celebrations, but for them, Twins Days is their best time. 

We drive from Chicago for the weekend, leaving early Friday morning, arriving in time for the Welcome Wiener Roast for twins and their families on Friday evening. Waiting in line that evening to pick up our registration packet for our boys, a new mom of twins behind me in line said she couldn’t stop giggling and staring, she said it felt like the Twilight Zone where there was two of everyone. I told her we felt the same way our first year, as non-twins my husband and I actually felt sad at the end of the weekend to not have a twin. We loved how much everyone enjoyed and celebrated being a twin, and we wanted our boys to share in that celebration. We’ve been back every year since then. 

Our boys are young and don’t really understand what it means to be a twin, so for our family, the highlight of the trip is always the Double Take Parade. Any twins who are registered for the festival are invited and encouraged to walk in the parade. Each year the festive has a theme, generally announced a few months in advance of the event. This year’s theme was fairy tales “Twice Upon a Time” so everyone was decked out in their finest fairy tale costumes. There are some that are quite elaborate with costumes and outfits, turning wagons and strollers into mini floats, but some twins just walk the route in matching street clothes. That’s the fun thing about Twins Days, even the adult twins dress alike for the weekend. 

Here are some of my favorite shots from the parade. My boys are in Prince Charming outfits I made for them, and they even had tiny glass slippers they tried to fit on nearly every pair of princesses they could find. It was pretty, well, charming. 

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The parade isn’t like most. There are floats for sure, but the first few waves are just pairs of twins, usually in matching themed costumes, walking down the street. And the street is lined with people, shoulder to shoulder, some twins, others just locals coming to watch the parade or grab some candy.

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After the parade there are plenty of photo opportunities. One set of twins generally asks another for a photo, then more and more join, two by two, until it is a huge group. These Cinderella and Prince Charming pairs were happy to include their tiny doppelgängers for a group photo. (and be sure my kids tried their glass slippers on those princesses too. 

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After the parade the festival opens, there are carnival rides, lots of food vendors, free Twin Pop popsicles, research study opportunities, a craft fair, a beer garden, and contests. My boys were in the theme costume contest. (the didn’t win.) but there are also contests for most-alike and least-alike twins, oldest twins and youngest twins, twins traveled from the furthest distance and more. 

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The youngest twins in Saturday’s contest were 3 weeks old, the oldest are 98 years young!

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 Then in the afternoon there is a break in the contests to take a group photo. We’ve been lucky the past two years to meet some very helpful older twins to wrangle mine for the photo since it takes about 30 minutes to get everyone into place for the group photo. My kids are sitting in the middle on the laps of their new friends. 

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A Charming Weekend indeed.

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If anyone else was in Twinsburg this weekend and wants to share photos or experiences, we’d love to hear them. And mark your calendars for the first weekend in August next year, it’s definitely something every twin family should see at least once!

 

It Can Happen: Spontaneous Quintuplets

Yes, they are “natural”! Although most people don’t realize that asking if a set of multiples is ‘natural,’ most of the time they are just expressing their amazement at our double, triple, or even higher blessings. And while the occurrence of spontaneous twins (particularly fraternal) is not that uncommon, spontaneous quintuplets happen in one in several million pregnancies.

This article about a 23 year old Czech mother awaiting her quintuplets is a must read! She has one son already, and was initially told she was expecting twins–then it was amended to quads–and then last month, a fifth baby was revealed.

Alexandra Kinova, the MoM to be, says she’s had no real complications during the pregnancy, and she looks beautiful and healthy. Her C-section is planned for this weekend, although the article doesn’t mention how far along she is. She hopes to breastfeed her new babies as she did her firstborn child.

These will be the first set of quintuplets in the Czech Republic.

Who’s Older?

“Who’s older?” Is it just me, or does anyone else want to roll their eyes when they hear this question? Or what about, “Oh, she must be older, she’s so much bigger…”

I am a believer in the idea that birth order factors into one’s personality. And I know that being a twin does, too. What I don’t necessarily believe is that birth order among multiples is very telling. To be honest with you, even though I know my daughter is technically older, I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head how many minutes apart they are. I think only two minutes. Could those extra two minutes before the doctor plucked my son from my womb really amount to much?

What about 87 days? Yes, you read that correctly. An Irish mother gave birth to twin girls 87 days apart, possibly setting the Guinness world record! Maria Jones-Elliott’s water broke before she reached 24 weeks, and her first daughter was born. Maria’s contractions stopped, and even after being induced the next day, the second baby wasn’t making any moves to come out. Her second twin was born at 36 weeks!

There was also a case of triplets where the first one was born eight days earlier than her brother and sister.

Can you imagine the suspense of being ‘on hold’ for eight days? Eighty-seven days?

How far apart are your multiples?

A Myriad of Multiples

When I was in elementary school, there were three sets of identical girl twins in my grade. They were even in the newspaper.  I remember the picture that went with the article, with the six girls sitting stacked on a slide at our school’s playground.  (I never imagined that one day I’d have my own set of twins! )  As it turns out, my school’s meager three twin sets pales in comparison to one Tennessee school with fifteen(!) pairs of twins.

Double Take! Twins Explosion Hits School (video via Nbcnews.com)

With only 611 students at Castle Heights Upper Elementary School, thirty twins really seems like a lot.  And of course, where there are multiples, there are urban legends surrounding their conception—maybe it’s something in the water? Of the fifteen twin sets, three have been reported to be a result of fertility treatments, while the rest were ”luck.”  “We were in Vegas when it happened…” joked one mom.

Parenting twins raises all sorts of questions that parents of singletons don’t need to worry about.  One of those questions is whether or not to separate twins when they reach school age. Do you remember Sadia’s  experience with each of her girls in separate classrooms, and then separate grades?  Dr. Nancy Segal, who appears in the news clip, was here yesterday at HDYDI to address the benefits of separating, or not, twins in school and to give her recommendations for school policy on twin placement.

And when it comes to befriending other twin pairs, one of the Castle Heights dads jokes that the kids “don’t have a choice at our school!” What an interesting circumstance!  While juggling my own multiples can certainly “keep my hands full,” it does make me wonder what it would be like for them to have other twins to relate to. (And can you imagine what it would be like as a teacher at that school?!)

Do your multiples enjoy friendships with other multiples?

 

Four Boys=Two Sets of Twins

If you love Valentine’s Day, you’ll love this story.  On Valentine’s Day last week, a Texas couple welcomed the new additions to their family–all four of them.  Tressa Montalvo gave birth to the couple’s second through fifth sons last Thursday at The Woman’s Hospital of Texas after carrying them for 31 weeks.

The couple were originally told they were expecting twins before hearing four heartbeats.  The verdict?  Two sets of identical twins!  Conceived without any fertility treatments, the chances of this happening are one in 70 million. According to the mother, their plans for this pregnancy “succeeded a little too much.”  The boys, named Ace, Blaine, Cash and Dylan (A-B-C-D), are healthy and could be going home in the next four to six weeks.

I can only imagine the comments people must be throwing at them…from “double the double trouble” to the obligatory “you’ve got your hands full,” to the well-intentioned “now you’re done!”  But you might be surprised at Manuel’s reaction to the last one.  He’s still hoping for a girl!

Congratulations to the happy family!  Who knows, maybe soon we’ll be seeing them around HDYDI?

Click Here to see the CBS video clip.

Seeing Double at Twins Days in Twinsburg, OH

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Our family just arrived home from our second trip to the Twins Days Festival in Twinsburg, OH. Last summer we attended a wedding in Philadelphia with our 9-month-old twins. We packed the car for a road trip from Chicago but had to divide our drive into a few days. Looking for a half-way point we saw Twinsburg, OH on the map and thought, “Hey, we should stay there, it’s a town named Twinsburg.” A quick Google search revealed Twins Days Festival, a record-setting gathering of twins from around the world which just happened to be the weekend we were driving through Ohio. We had to go. How could we pass it up?

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We enjoyed our first Twins Days experience so much, we decided before we even left Ohio we would try to go back every year. It is an experience unlike anything I have seen. The sense of community and camaraderie among twins from all over really is amazing. Among the many activities, our favorite has been the Double Take Parade, which encourages any and all twins to join in the themed parade. This year’s theme was Circus, a truly fitting theme for a gathering of twins. My boys were dressed as Human Cannonballs, with their wagon outfitted as a cannon. There are also lots of research studies for twin participation, and mingling with twins young and old. The youngest set there was 8 weeks, the oldest was 96 years old! There are lots of contests, carnival rides, food, and fun. Friday night is a Wiener Roast for twins and their families, Saturday night there are fireworks and Sunday morning is a pancake breakfast. For older twins there is a golf tournament, a 5K and lots more.

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So much I have read and heard since we were expecting twins focuses on the challenges: the high-risk pregnancy, the bleary-eyed, soul-crushing sleep deprivation, the expense, every-rough-patch-times-two. Dress them alike. Don’t dress them alike. Separate them in school. Keep them together. Everything I read seems to threaten all the ways I am destined to mess my kids up. Plus, as much as strangers are fascinated with and willing to offer up comments about twins, they are almost always negative. “You’ve got your hands full!” or “Double Trouble!” or “Better you than me!”

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It is easy to lose sight of how wonderful it can be raising twins. We have twice the giggles, twice the hugs. My boys are growing up spending every day with a best friend. I get to watch my two tiny infants as they grow into little boys. My boys are 21 months old, racing from milestone to milestone, growing noticeably each day. I wonder every single day how they can possibly be cuter than they were yesterday and how did I get so lucky to be here for the ride. The truth is that while my boys are fraternal and are very different, they were born a pair. Twins Days is such a unique celebration of twinship, I want my boys to grow up appreciating how truly special it is to be a twin. In Twinsburg for that one weekend a year, they can be among people who know what it’s like to go through life with a doppelganger, with a relationship unlike any other. They can be part of the community and celebrate being twins.

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My boys are often subject to lots of attention when we are out and about, and sometimes I feel like they are a spectacle. (I imagine it is nothing compared to identical twins or even triplets or quads!) I want them to feel proud that there are two of them, and love that they came into this world as a set. Twins Days Weekend is always the first weekend in August in Twinsburg, OH. For more photos and information about our trip, you can check out our rundown of our weekend as well as photos form this year and last. You can read more about the adventures of our family at goteamwood.com

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the crazy twin vs. the smart twin

At bedtime one night, P was being wild and I asked him to settle down. He replied, “Sometimes it is fun being the crazy twin, because you can do stuff you’re not supposed to.”

I was puzzled.

“So, are you the crazy twin?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said. “And G is the smart twin.”

He said all of this with a big smile on his face.

Immediately I knew he must have caught an episode of “The Suite Life with Zack and Cody,” although this is a theme in plenty of shows and movies featuring twins. Ugh.

I gave both boys the obligatory pep talk about how neither one of them is the smart twin or the crazy twin or the anything twin. I told them I didn’t want to hear anything like that again.

The boys have started to get interested in seeing twins on tv and in movies. It’s only been in the last year or so that we’ve met other sets of multiples that look alike — it’s still new to them. Unfortunately I haven’t found shows where the twins are just normal — a little bit alike, a little bit different, and doing their thing without their twin-ness being the main point of their presence.

Any recommendations?

Jen is a work-from-home mom of 6-year-old twin boys, and two girls ages 4 and 8. She also blogs at Minivan MacGyver, where she chronicles the many disasters narrowly averted using only her pluck and the assortment of household objects found in her 2001 Pontiac Montana.

Guest Post: Review and Giveaway – One and the Same

Hello, dear HDYDI readers!  We have a special treat for you today.  A guest post from the super-awesome twin mom and blogger, Sadia, of Double the Fun.  Sadia has given us a very thoughtful review of One and the Same, by Abigail Pogrebin.  Even better still, the author is letting us give away a signed copy of the book!  Don’t forget to leave a comment that includes a valid email address in the form (email is never made public, never passed out or sold to anyone) so that we can contact you if you win. One entry per person, please.  Comments will close this Friday, July 9, at 5PM EDT and a winner will be chosen at random.

And now, here’s Sadia!

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The other day my husband said, “You’ve been reading a lot of parenting books. Don’t you think you’re a good mom?”

“It’s not that,” I told him. “I think I’m a pretty good mother to Jessica and Melody. I read these books because I want to stay ten steps ahead of them. I want to be challenged by other people’s ideas. They’ll either help me recommit to the parenting philosophies and practices I already subscribe to, or they’ll make me rethink how I parent.”

Abigail Pogrebin’s One and the Same is a book that has challenged me as a mother of twins, causing me to change my parenting in some ways and dig in my heels in others. I hadn’t yet heard of the book when Abby asked me to review it several months ago, but I’m sure I would have bought and devoured it by now even if she hadn’t.

Abby is a journalist and an identical twin herself. She set out to write about twinship, and explores the myriad experiences of twinhood in depth. One and the Same balances intimate stories of individual sets of twins with patterns identified by researchers who study twins. Much of the writing is intensely personal, but it speaks to the mystery, joy and challenges of the universal twin experience.

I was particularly intrigued by the way that twinship can impact marriage. Abby describes it beautifully. She says that being Robin’s twin has given her, “a congenital clarity of what it is to be wholly close to another human being.” Some of the twins Abby interviewed drew parallels between the twin relationship and marriage. I hope that the compromise skills that my daughters are learning to survive life with one another serve them well should they choose to marry. On the flip-side, Abby points out that during her time at the Twinsburg convention, she notices a high number of twins, mostly male, who have never been married. Might women be put off by the intimacy and affection that twin brothers share?

I wept my way through the chapter on twin death. Abby interviewed a man who lost his twin in the Twin Towers on 9/11. She also found a number of people who thought they were singletons and developed an inexplicable fascination with twins, only to discover that they were the sole survivors of twin pregnancies. I look at my daughters and can’t imagine how one could navigate her life without the other.

The only part of the book that I didn’t like was, ironically enough, the one that dealt with parenting twins. Whereas Abby spent the rest of the book showing us how different and unique each experience of twinship is, this chapter spoke in generalities, many of which failed to resonate with my experience as a mother of twins. Like Abby, I take exception to the experts’ assertion that every mother of multiples has a favourite child. From time to time, each of my kids drives me nuts, and from time to time, one needs more of my attention. The love, though, is equally infinite. The takeaway of the chapter was that the challenges of raising twins, especially in the early years, outweigh the joys. I disagree. Yes, it’s often hard, but good parenting is hard, no matter how many kids you have.

The parenting lesson I took away from One and the Same is that twinship does not have to compromise individuality. Twins don’t have to choose between their twin identity and their personal identity. A singleton myself, I recently realized that I had assumed that emphasizing my daughters’ twinship would cripple them as they developed their individual identities and interests. Abbie shows us that does not have to be the case. Being a twin is part of what make my daughters, Jessica and Melody, unique. However, One and the Same doesn’t shy away from the reality that there are pairs of twins out there for whom their twinship defines them. For instance, it quotes Debbie Ganz, who, with her sister Lisa used to run a restaurant in which all the waiters were pairs of identical twins. “A guy once said to me, ‘I don’t want to know about your twin thing: what are you like?’ I froze and started to feel upset. Because I couldn’t answer him.”

One and the Same is the most astute book I’ve come across that discusses the twin experience. I would have enjoyed it equally, although differently, if I’d never met a twin in my life.

Q and A with Abigail Pogrebin

Abigail Pogrebin was kind enough to answer a few questions that occurred to me while I was reading One and the Same. This is what she had to say.

Sadia: You share intimate and sometimes heart-breaking details about how you feel about your changing relationship with Robin. Has she read your book? What was her reaction? What about your parents’?

Abby: I didn’t feel I could write this book without Robin’s blessing (and her editing – she’s a formidable journalist) and so I showed her a draft as soon as I finished it. I admit that it wasn’t an easy read for her at times, and she even challenged me in some places, which I think made me revisit certain sections and rethink them. But the truth is that Robin was incredibly supportive of the book, both privately and publicly. I was grateful that she agreed to go on the Today Show with me and that she worked so hard to prepare for a special event we did together last fall in New York in which she interviewed me about the book before an audience of 200-plus; she made it a wonderful evening. Most importantly, this book made us closer in ways I can’t quite explain. It’s like the truth finally was on the table and we could get on with this phase of our relationship.

As for my parents, they were also tremendous boosters, but feel somewhat baffled by why twinship can end up being complicated when it felt so simple to them during our childhoods.

Sadia: You’ve described twin romance beautifully, and have been able to convey how normal and natural that intense relationship is, even if much of society is unable to comprehend it and sometimes views it as pathological. My husband and I see that romance growing in our own daughters. Do you have any advice to parents like us on how to prepare our kids for resistance they may get from others regarding their twin relationship?

Abby: My only advice is to talk about it ahead of time, to discuss the fact that their twin romance can be intimidating, excluding, or off-putting to other people and sometimes they may want to keep their intimacy to themselves, if that makes sense.

Sadia: Many parents of young multiples are careful not to refer to their children as “the twins” or “the boys”, because they want to help the world see their children as individuals, and not just members of a set. If your children had been twins, would you object to them being referred to as “the twins”?

Abby: Yes, if I had twins, I would object to people calling them “the twins,” because I do think it has a cumulative negative effect over time; it  underlines their two-ness as opposed to their singularity. It may seem unimportant, especially when the twins are young, but I know I hated the term growing up. It felt lazy to me when someone called us that; is it really so taxing for them to say our names when they’re talking about us?

Sadia: If you could give parents three pieces of advice on nurturing both their twin’s closeness and their independence, what would they be?

Abby:

  1. Spend separate time with your twins. Even if they resist doing things apart.
  2. Encourage different activities, lessons, playdates, pursuits.
  3. Let their insularity be. It has its own magic, and at the end of the day, the intimacy wins.

Sadia: We have a set of triplets in our extended family. I can’t help wondering how having more than one same-age sibling would affect relationships between multiples. Do you know any higher order multiples? How would you compare their relationships to those of the twins you interviewed?

Abby: I don’t know any triplets myself, but I did interview one in my book and her story is worth reading – it appears in the chapter on competition. It amazed me that a triplet can feel like the third wheel when the other two triplets are twins.

Sadia: You quote Joan Friedman’s distinction between being known and being noticed, as it pertains to twinship. Could you please explain this distinction to HDYDI’s readers? You acknowledge that her distinction resonated with your sister’s experience of being a twin. Do you ever feel less “known” because you were a twin

Abby: As twins, you’re often “noticed” because you stand out – especially if you’re identical. It’s an oddity, a novelty, people notice you, look at you longer, compare you. People are curious, they confer all sorts of ideas about what your bond and relationship must be like. But most of the time, they don’t really get to know you; even the people who see you regularly –relatives, friends, teachers. They don’t necessarily make the effort to get to know who you really separately (and yes, it may take more effort to ascertain those differences.) They seem content with the superficiality of your twinship. So they notice you, yes, but they don’t know you.

* Disclaimer – Although Ms Pogrebin did contact Sadia to ask her to review the book, Sadia purchased her own copy. This review was not influenced in any way by the author.