Thursday, December 27, 2007

Surviving Christmas

We were proud of ourselves.
We had pulled out a pack-n-play Christmas Eve and set it up near the television. We had a Wiggles DVD ready to go. We figured the boys could tear through their stockings in the pack-n-play the next morning. When the novelty wore off, they could watch Greg, Murray, Jeff and Anthony do "The Flap." Hopefully, that would keep them entertained and keep everyone else's gifts intact until breakfast.
After breakfast, we could try naps.
I never thought it could be simpler than that.
Jonathan and Matthew awoke around 6 a.m. to a tree surrounded by gifts for them, their grandparents, their older brother, their sister, my husband and me. It was a sea of clashing colors, glitter and patterns. It was the ultimate temptation. It was irresistable even for me.
The older kids were not up yet, so we decided to put the babies down for a bit to see how they reacted. They were off as soon as they touched the floor. On hands and knees, they flew past the gifts, past the tree and over to the opening in the gate that divides the living room from the kitchen.
They left it all behind for the dog door, the air vents and chairs that can be slid back and forth across the tile and the hardwood. And there they stayed most of the morning.
Happy just to be free.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Ranters and Ravers

I was perusing an online bulletin board yesterday for moms of multiples when I came across a thread of rants about people who stop moms and comment on their twins in malls, in grocery stores, in Target and in Wal-Mart.
One woman was furious with people who praise her older daughter for being such a good helper. "Come on people. She's only three," she wrote. Another could not believe that anyone would ask whether her babies were, indeed, twins. A third was insulted by people who ask her how she handles it all.
People can be so rude.
No, no, no.
Not the folks who make the comments: twin moms.
Sure it can be tough sometimes. I've had my share of incidents. One man insisted my twins were not identical. He just wouldn't give up. So I did. A clerk at Dillard's once blocked my way. She just stood there ogling the boys for several minutes. When I tried to get around her, she stepped in my path again. She persisted until another clerk pulled her away. A neighbor's 9-year-old son once grabbed one baby by the face and screamed in another baby's ear (We stay away from them now.).
But that's three incidents in 11 months.
And they were real.
It was not a matter of perception.
Before I had twins, I was not versed in twin etiquette. I had never referred to any twins as "double trouble," but I can't imagine I would find it insulting. Nor would have considered that acknowledging the difficulties of juggling twins or complimenting a three-year-old sibling would be rude.
Many of the comments on that thread were funny and light-hearted. But there were some twin moms who just seemed to get a high off of the opportunity to be haughty in return. Their babies are their power trips.
It's a shame.
Some folks are just a little overwhelmed when they see twins. They want to say something. Anything. And they don't hire speech writers. It just comes out. Sometimes, it comes out beautifully. Other times, the result is awkward.
Who cares? Really?
My boys are a blessing. They are not double trouble. I don't need sympathy. And sometimes I get exasperated when errands take me three times longer than they should. But when I do feel myself becoming exasperated, I think of the smiles and I remember how easily the twins can brighten a day, simply by their existence. How selfish that would be of me to deny someone that moment.
There was one mom on that thread who saw the light. She was shopping with four of her children, including her twins. A woman asked whether they were all hers. She felt that rage, that urge to be rude, rising inside her, but she decided to fight it this time. She smiled and said that yes, they were.
"I almost cried right there," she wrote. "She had two kids like 5 or so years apart and she wished they were closer in age. We had a great conversation for the few seconds my wildness would allow."
Thank goodness she let her wild side rule.

Monday, December 17, 2007


About a year ago, the dog learned to nudge open the kitchen garbage can with his nose and forage through the contents. We remedied that problem by always making sure that we shut the can tightly.
That didn't stop the twins.
At least they shared.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Mixed Up Mom

Mischievous giggles drew me into the nursery this afternoon. Both boys should have been fast asleep. I had put them down for naps more than half an hour before and they were exhausted.
But there, in Jonathan's crib, stood the most irresistible little bundle of a guy, smiling, drooling and shaking his crib with vigor.
I lifted him out and pulled him close to me, letting him rest his cheek against mine. It was something Matthew would normally do. Jonathan is more likely to snuggle into my neck. But things always change with these guys. They pick mannerisms and habits up from each other.
We stayed that way for a few moments and then moved into the living room. For the next 20 minutes, I cuddled him and played with him on the floor. I held him up to the mirror and said, "There's Jonny!" I played, "How big is Jonny? Soooooo big!" I whispered, "Mommy loves you Jonny" over and over again in his ear.
Then came a short cry from the nursery.
The baby I lifted from Matthew's crib snuggled into my neck. I pulled him away and looked at the vein across his nose. Nausea washed through my stomach.
I had mixed them up before.
For a moment.
Maybe two.
But never for this long.
I'm sure that in a few days, maybe even in a few hours, I'll find the humor in this. But, right now, it's lost to me.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Experts

The experts at e-mailed me a newsletter the other day. The weekly newsletters are generated according to the babies' ages. They are intended to enlighten parents about developmental milestones while also offering tips for coping, feeding, sleeping--you name it. This particular issue focused on interaction with peers.
"For the most part," the experts write, "babies this age parallel play, staying happily engrossed in their own activities alongside one another, but without really interacting. This is normal — focusing on their own abilities and needs is how they develop. Over time, though, you'll notice your baby stealing glances at fellow babies, and she may crawl over to try to use the same toy."
Clearly, they have not studied twins.
Soon after I read this, I watched Matthew chase Jonathan on hands and knees from the living room, through the gate and into the kitchen. Once they reached the tile floor, Jonathan sat, turned in Matthew's direction and started laughing. Matthew stopped, looked at his brother and laughed in return.
And they were not just giggling.
These were deep, honest, belly laughs.
A moment later, they were at it again, heading toward the dining room at full speed. This chase-sit-laugh-and-repeat game continued for about 10 minutes. It ended when they reached the bookshelf. Unfortunately, for them, my husband and I had removed the books that they had so enjoy taking off the shelves and shredding.
As I have mentioned in previous posts, Matthew and Jonathan have interacted with growls, grunts and other noises since they were four months old. Now, each nap or bedtime begins with the two of them standing up, hanging onto their crib rails and shaking them with all their might while exchanging laughter.
Toys have been a problem since the boys began to scoot at about 6 months. The rattle, ball or block in the other baby's hand is always much more fun. Tug-of-wars erupt about every 10 or 15 minutes. Several of the most controversial toys have gotten time-outs atop the entertainment center.
And let's not forget empathy.
Matthew has developed a habit of pushing food out between what few teeth he has and letting it slide out of his mouth. He seems to like the sensation of applesauce flooding his chin and neck. I decided I had to nip this habit. So, the other day, I issued a scolding "no" as soon as I saw the food beginning to emerge.
Matthew seemed startled. Then his eyes scrunched, his lips quivered and the tears began. Jonathan looked over at his brother. They locked eyes for an instant and suddenly the same sorrowful expression washed over him. Within seconds, both boys were sobbing uncontrollably in their highchairs.
I find it hard to believe their level of interaction is unique. I'm guessing that it is common for twins, whether identical or fraternal, to begin interacting at earlier ages. It requires different parenting strategies than those recommended by the experts.
For instance, I probably would have kept scolding Matthew if he were a singleton until the stream from his mouth dried up. But he won. I'm tough enough to handle one set of quivering lips, but not two.
Dribble away.

Friday, December 7, 2007


Matthew and Jonathan have learned to work as a team.
Just two days ago, they simultaneously grabbed the top of the gate that divides the living room from the foyer, keeping them safe from all the dangers that lurk beyond. They pulled themselves up and started shaking it with huge grins on their faces.
I glanced.
I grinned in returned.
I walked away.
Moments later, I heard a crash.
They had torn the gate down.
I am so naive.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Trouble Times Two

Earlier this morning, I decided to give the boys a bath. I got everything ready and carried Matthew upstairs to the pack-n-play, leaving Jonathan penned in the childproofed living room. At least I thought it was childproofed. In the 45 seconds or so that it took me to go up the stairs and back down again, Jonathan had used the VCR guard to pull the machine down from the shelf. I found him sitting on the floor in front of the TV with the VCR in his lap, playing with the cords that snaked out of the back.
I was surprised.
That was something Matthew would do.
In the past few weeks, their curiosity has equalized. Matthew had always been the lone troublemaker. He flips on the changing table, desperate to see what might be behind him. He races to the bathroom every time we open the door, hoping to get his hands on the toilet paper. He lunges for the opening when we step through the kitchen gate, determined to slip through before we notice.
Through all that, Jonathan would sit and watch.
No more.
Now, it's a competition.
Jonathan can flip with every bit as much muscle as Matthew on that changing table. They have learned that they can both squeeze through the bathroom door together. Whomever makes it through the kitchen gate first usually turns quickly around and slams the gate shut on the other.
We're in trouble.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Observations From the Changing Table

It makes sense if you think about it.
Identical twins share the same biology and it is easier for me to feed both babies the same foods at the same time. So Matthew and Jonathan dine together, eat identical foods and digest at similar rates thanks to their shared DNA.
And so comes the answer to a question I have not seen addressed in any book or on any Web site about identical twins: yes, they do have bowel movements at about the same time.
At least mine do.
And if it takes half a container of wipes to clean up one twin, I can be sure that I will need the other half for the second. If one needs a little applesauce to get things moving, so does the other. I thought it best not to attach photos to this post.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Bonding With Two

When our oldest was a baby, I nursed him back to sleep each time he awoke. Later, when he switched to formula, I gave him a bottle and rocked him. Finally, our pediatrician said that he would sleep through the night if we'd just kick the bottle habit. We did and he slept and I learned that for occasional wakings, all he needed was soft caresses on his back.
Our daughter didn't like to be cuddled. She still doesn't unless it's on her own terms. But we figured her out too. She needed to be changed and to know that we were there. With the simple comfort of our presence, she could dream again.
But those memories were at least five years old when the twins were born and I was filled with fear. What if they didn't sleep well? What if I was up all night every night, first with one and then with the other? I harbored no sentimentality about getting these little guys to sleep. I was militant. I'd feed them once during the night and only after 3 a.m. After that, they were on their own.
And it worked.
Until they started teething.
On a typical night, the boys will fall asleep between 7 and 8 p.m. and then wake around 5:30 a.m. I'll feed them each a bottle and leave them in their cribs to play. Sometimes, they will go back to sleep until 7. Other times, they'll get up with my husband about 6 a.m. But they've always been good natured about it.
Teething has changed everything.
They had been so good about going back to sleep on their own, that I had never bother to figure them out. So when Jonathan woke at 10 p.m. the other night and cried and cried and cried despite a bottle and a diaper change and medicine and attempts at rocking, my husband and I were at a loss. We were up with him for two hours before he could stand it no longer and he crashed.
It happened again a few nights later.
I panicked.
What if this became a habit? Our oldest son has trouble falling asleep, so he keeps us up later than we'd like. He'll lie there for an hour or two pondering important things like whether a spider who lost a leg would grow it back exactly as it was and how strong that leg would be when he first started walking on it. He is very good about staying in bed, but I just can't fall asleep when he's awake. So I wait.
Our daughter has her own issues. She is very intelligent and a perfectionist. With that comes high anxiety and vivid nightmares most every night. So she usually wakes up once, cuddles with us until she feels better, and then we bring her back to bed. Her pediatrician believes she will get better with age and she is improving, but it's going to be a long road.
That is hard enough.
I couldn't bear the thought of being up with the twins as well. On those two nights when Jonathan woke up, I barely got three hours of sleep and what I did get was interrupted. So last night when Matthew woke up shoving his fist in his mouth, I tried a different approach. I didn't even change him. He was wearing a night diaper and had only been in bed for an hour.
Instead, I gave him a little Tylenol and started rubbing his back. About ten minutes later, he was asleep.
Jonathan woke an hour after that and I tried the same method.
It worked again.
It was then that I realized how much I'd been missing out on with the twins. I sing to them while they sit in front of me on the living room floor, but I don't sing to them while I rock them in my arms like I did with the other two. I can't. When I try, the other twin crawls up to the chair and tries to pull his way into my lap. Then he cries.
I don't carry them around the house on my hip while I do chores, talking them through each step to help improve their vocabulary. Instead, I let them wander more and explore every nook of the house. I show them flashcards with animals on them and make funny noises. I let them crawl all over me while I lie on the floor.
I don't cuddle them on my lap while I read them book after book after book. I can't do that either. They are too wild. They grab the books out of my hands even if I give them other books as distractions. So I read to them after meals while they sit in their highchairs.
It got me thinking.
It got me thinking that I am not as in tune with them as individuals and worrying that the lack of intimacy will somehow hurt their emotional development. Maybe I should try harder. Maybe I'm being too selfish.
Then I caught myself doing it. I razzed Jonathan's belly and kissed him all over his head and neck after I changed him on the changing table. I do that almost every time I change him because he loves it.
I scooped up Matthew and saw that look on his face that said he was about to plant a kiss on my cheek, so I held him close and whispered, "Kisses, kisses, kisses" while he soaked my cheek with his love. Then I swung him around. He loves to be flipped, swung and bounced.
And sometimes, I mix the boys up for just a second. Then one of them does something. He moves a certain way. He makes a particular sound. He lunges for one toy instead of another. And I know instantly who it is.
The thing is, I am not bonding with one baby. This is different. I am bonding with two individuals and with the twins as a unit. At the same time, they are bonding with each other. I am not missing out. They are not missing out. It's just a whole new adventure for all of us.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


In a previous post, I wrote that we were not worried about Jonathan catching up with his brother.
He has and it's payback time.
In the old days, when Matthew was mobile and Jonathan refused to wander beyond a two-foot radius, Jonathan would watch with dread as Matthew crawled up to him, grabbed his shirt and started climbing. I knew the cry. I would look over and find Jonathan with his head crushed to his knees and his brother standing triumphantly over him.
A few days ago, I heard that familiar wail and ran over to pull them apart once again. I was surprised to find that Jonathan was not the crier. He was the victor and his brother had trained him well. He is persistant and stubborn.
And I get nothing done.
I can see it coming. Jonathan gets a gleeful look on his face and then he takes off. I separate them and he goes after Matthew again. I place them on opposite sides of the room and he's grabbing Matthew's shirt before I can climb over the gate to get back to the dishes I was washing. He has his eyes fixed on Matthew and he will not give up until he has succeeded.
At first, Matthew was so surprised by it all, he seemed unable to protect himself. Even that has changed. Yesterday, I found them wrestling. Each was trying to pull up on the other. They were grabbing heads and ears and shirts and noses. Then they both fell onto their backs and cried.
But while Matthew rubbed his eyes and comforted himself, Jonathan saw an opportunity.
He recovered instantly and was back on his hands and knees, heading for his brother with the grin in place once again. Yes, Matthew has trained him. Matthew has trained him well.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Race to the Gum Line

The boys' shirts are dripping wet. They are shoving wooden puzzle pieces in their mouths like they haven't eaten in weeks. They are waking up in the middle of the night. They are biting my shoulders, knees and even my cheeks.
They are teething again.
With the appearance of their first teeth at eight months old came the answer to one of the questions about identical twins that had nagged me. Identical twins, I learned, do not cut teeth at the same time. Well, not really. They kind do, but really they don't. Sort of.
Here's what I mean:
Jonathan got his first tooth ten days before Matthew, but they both got the same two teeth within the same amount of time. Now it's a race for the next set of teeth. Both have started drooling and biting again. Both are waking once during the night, though it seems Jonathan is having a harder time falling back to sleep than Matthew. Both are chewing on their bottle nipples.
I am guessing Jonathan will be first, since his teeth emerged before Matthew's during the last round. But I can't be sure. These guys like to mess with me. They pull me in by differentiating--developing their own ways of doing things, their own gestures, their own preferences. Then, just when I start bragging about how well I can tell my identical twins apart, they pull a switch on me. One starts behaving like the other.
Jonathan will probably cut his teeth first. Or maybe Matthew will surprise me. The important thing is that they both reach the finish line. And fast. For my sake as much as theirs.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Jonny's Fall

I find myself watching Jonathan's every move these days. I watch his expressions, his hand movements, his eyes. I worry when he cries too much, when he seems too tired or too irritable. I look for anything that might indicate he has a brain injury. So far, he seems fine. More than fine. He has caught up to his brother and he is pulling up on everything. He is trying to let go and stand on his own. He is crawling fast. So fast, that he crawled to the basement door and fell down 12 stairs two days ago.
It was my fault.
I was distracted.
I had just torn down a book display at the school and unloaded the books into the basement. I was rushing to get the older kids a snack before I had to get my daughter off to dance. I remembered something I had to tell my husband. I got on the phone. A minute or two later, I heard a thud. I had forgotten to either close the basement door or put up the gate. I threw the phone and found Jonathan at the bottom, sprawled on his tummy. That is an image I will never forget. He was crying when I got to him. That was a good sign. I craddled him and cuddled him, but after five minutes he wanted nothing more to do with that. He had spotted a toy he wanted and Matthew was after it too. He wriggled out of my lap and played. I called the doctor. Her nurse gave me the symptoms to watch for over the next 24 hours. It has been two days and I am still watching.
It was a wake up call for me.
I had started selling children's books because I felt guilty that I was not making any money. We were finally getting somewhere with our debts when the twins came along. Now we spend $75 a week on formula and another $30 to $40 on diapers. I order pizza more often because I don't have time to cook. I've had to buy new clothes because I still haven't lost the baby weight.
But Jonny's accident changed my perspective.
In less than three months, the babies will be drinking milk. In two years, they will be out of diapers. I'll lose the weight in time. I can make almost the same amount of money writing articles on my own deadlines, querying them and freelancing them. I've started working on a nonfiction book project that I had abandoned long ago. It involves lots of interviews that I can do at night. I love to interview people. I love to write. Writing relieves my stress. Selling only added to it.
I can't blame Jonny's accident on my job. There will always be distractions. It was one of many. But I can try to lessen the stress. I can try to take care of myself so that I can take care of them. The children's books I sold were great. I love them. I don't mind pushing them on people even though I generally dislike doing any kind of sales. But success involves a lot of marketing, a lot of lugging boxes around and a lot of coordination with other people. It was always on my mind.
With infant twins and two older children whose world has recently been turned upside down, I have other priorities. I can't afford that kind of distraction. I can't afford to leave the basement door open again.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

A language of their own

It was just before 6 this morning when the boys awoke. I was tired. I fed them each a bottle and crawled back into bed, hoping my husband and I could steal just a little more sleep before getting the older kids off to school. Then the growling began, a deep, low, intense guttural growling. It rose from the study that we had converted into a nursery and over the railing of the loft, seeping through our bedroom door. It grew louder and stronger and soon was followed by screeching and peels of laughter. Matthew and Jonathan were chatting and nobody was going to sleep through it. My husband gave up. He rose from bed and went downstairs to free them from their cribs. I knew what he would find. Matthew would be standing where the cribs meet in an L-shape. Jonathan would be sitting, looking up at him. They would burst into fits of laughter and giggles when he walked through the door, just as they have done for the past several months. We have heard this same conversation with different inflections since they were about four months old. Jonathan and Matthew regularly exchange grins and giggles after sips from their sippy cups. They crawl to each other and position themselves almost head-to-head, growling, laughing and squealing while they try not to fall. They once chatted for 30 minutes while one bounced in the exersaucer and the other sat on the floor. Part of me is jealous of the secret language they share, but most of me is simply in awe.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The same, but different

Physically, Matthew and Jonathan are almost indistinguishable. They are the same height, they have the same head circumference and their weights are always within a few ounces of each other. The only way we can tell them apart in photos is by a vein across their noses: Matthew's is narrow and Jonathan's is thick. Their personalities, however, couldn't be more different. It started ten days after birth, when they finally caught on to the whole concept of nursing. Matthew would latch instantly, suck furiously for five minutes and then quit. Jonathan could take up to ten minutes to latch. But I'd have to pull him off 40 minutes later. The differences only grew from there. Now, at nine months, Matthew easily pulls himself up on the coffee table, bridges the gap to the sofa, edges quickly along and grabs a stuffed animal he'd been eying. Then he drops his butt to the floor with the animal in his hands (and in his mouth). Jonathan sits in the center of the living room watching. In the stroller, as we go for walks or hurry through the grocery store, Matthew leans forward, yanking on the bar in front of him and trying to lift his body out. Jonathan leans back and rests his feet on the bar. He looks around with a quiet grin on his face. But don't underestimate Jonathan. He watched for months as Matthew struggled to roll to his side, then to his tummy and then back again. He was still not rolling at nearly seven months old and we were concerned. He was barely lifting his head off the floor. So we called the pediatrician. That day, he started rolling everywhere. He applied the same technique to crawling. He watched Matthew perfect the combat crawl, then the hands-and-knees crawl and then work his way from crawling to sitting. Once Matthew got it all figured out, Jonathan dove in. It took him about two days to accomplish what had taken Matthew several weeks. So, as I watch Matthew pull up once more with his eyes on a cup that his older sister had left on the table, I am not concerned. I know Jonathan is watching with me and that, one day soon, he will surprise his brother by beating to the object of his quest.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Boys: Raising Identical Twins

Why I Created This Blog

Throughout my pregnancy, we were told that our twins were definitely fraternal. Their placentas were on opposite sides of the uterus. Though identical twins can have their own placentas, they generally implant close together, my OB said. Then, On January 18, Matthew and Jonathan were born and the pediatrician congratulated us on our identical boys. Tests confirmed it as did our own confusion over who was who. Ever since, I have searched for information on the things that make identicals different from fraternal twins. I found plenty of scientific information, but not the stuff I craved. I wanted to know whether they would walk and talk at the same time, whether they would like the same foods, whether they would cut teeth together. I wanted to know how to raise them so that they each had their own identities, but also cherished and appreciated the bond between them. So I created this blog. This blog is for fellow parents or parents-to-be of identical twins looking for the same kind of information I am. My hope is that other parents will post their own experiences and observations, and that parents-to-be will find reassurance in our experiences and will enter identical-twin parenthood with some idea of the challenges and joys that might just be specific to identical twins.