Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Fun With Identical Twins: Jan and Torben

This, I just have to share.
I was doing some research recently on identical twins when I stumbled across this Web site, Gundtofte-Brunn. Jan and Torben Gundtofte-Brunn are adult identical twins who have developed a sense of humor about the ways others see and react to them. I hope you enjoy their stories as much as I did.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Tops and Toys

Neither twin is walking yet, but they have each found a new skill to perfect.
Jonathan recently learned that he can take off his shirts.
Matthew discovered that it is a waste of time to take toys out of baskets. Now, he simply clears himself a spot and hops right in.
If he's lucky, Jonathan will toss his shirt in the basket so Matthew can play peek-a-boo.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Assumptions and blessings

As a journalist, one of the first lessons I learned was never to make assumptions.
Don't assume that all siblings share the same last name. Don't assume that beer bottles in a car mean the driver was drinking. Don't assume that you can even begin to comprehend someone else's pain.
It is a lesson I have tried to apply to my personal life as well.
So when a woman I had become casual friends with through my oldest son began to drift away, I assumed nothing. We were not very close. Our children are in different classes now. She had taken a part-time job.
I tried not to assume that it was personal.
I learned yesterday that it was.
Her daughter and mine are in the same class this year and have become friends. They insisted on a playdate and it finally happened yesterday. I noticed that the mom watched the twins play when she dropped her daughter off and seemed interested in them, even drawn to them. But she kept her distance.
Soon after she left, her daughter told me that her older brother was a twin, but that his twin had died before birth.
When the woman returned to retrieve her daughter, I apologized for my ignorance and for any insensitivity I might have displayed during my pregnancy and after. I offered my condolences, unsure whether I was doing or saying the right thing. But relief seemed to wash over her.
And she talked.
She talked about learning that her son had died inside her body at 20 weeks. She talked about the doctors removing the baby and the sac, careful not to touch the surviving baby. She talked about seven long weeks in the hospital on full bed rest and the 1-pound, 12-ounce baby who struggled so hard to survive.
She talked about how blessed and grateful they are that the tiny little baby did survive and that he has no problems resulting from his prematurity. She talked about medical miracles and her familiarty with the NICU.
She did not talk about the pain of her loss or the pain that I now recognize on her face as she watches my boys play.
This time, I decided, it was safe to make an assumption: she is strong in a way that I am not sure I could ever be. I meet people like her around every corner, people who have lost children. And every day, I think of them. I think of them when the frustration mounts. When the twins are crying, the older kids won't do their homework, dinner is burning, the laundry is piling up, I have no time to write and I've barely slept for days.
I am reminded that I have four healthy children, a wonderful husband and a stepdaughter who loves us all. I might have frustrations, but I do not carry that sorrow in my heart that she will have forever. I do not have to be so strong.
Life is good.
I can handle it.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Genetically identical can sometimes mean genetically different

Health issues were a big factor behind our decision to find out whether our boys were identical. If one had allergies, it made sense that his identical twin would have allergies. The same logic applied to genetic diseases, or so we thought.
This recent difference in immunity between the boys, though slight, inspired me to do a little research. What I found was that identical twins are an exciting mystery to the world of genetic disease research: a mystery because it would make sense that shared genes would mean shared genetic diseases. Yet that is not always the case. Sometimes, one identical twin develops a genetically influenced disease when the other does not.
The research is exciting because studies of identical twins can provide the key to cures for such diseases as Rheumatoid arthritis, leukemia and myopia. No laboratory can create specimens as perfect for such research as identical twins.
As for my boys, Matthew is making up for lost calories. He is shoveling food in his mouth faster than I can put it on his tray. The antibiotics have give him the edge on Jonathan, who is recovering from their illness, but not quite as quickly. Jonathan starts throwing food off his tray after the first five minutes.
But even runny noses and hacking coughs cannot slow these two guys down. Yesterday, they learned how to open the laundry chute. They scrape each other with the metal door as they fight over who gets to play with it. So for now, my laundry chute is taped shut and I have to peel the sticky stuff off every time I want to toss a bib into the hamper.

Saturday, February 2, 2008


The differences between the boys are becoming more apparent.
Unfortunately, it doesn't bode well for Matthew.
Both boys caught a stomach virus a few weeks ago. Matthew threw up longer and more often than his brother. At their one-year appointment a week later, Matthew was a pound lighter than Jonathan.
Now, they both have colds. It started with runny noses nine days ago. Then Matthew developed a chesty, mucusy cough. I took him to the doctor's when I noticed that he would sometimes stop playing and scream for a minute.
The doctor checked both boys.
Jonathan is fine. Still no cough. Still just a runny nose.
Matthew has an ear infection and this time, he was a one pound, 10 ounces lighter than his brother. He still has the nasty cough, but his chest is clear.
The antibiotics should kick in tomorrow.
Though Matthew apparently has a lower resistance to illness than Jonathan, he proved last night that he is stronger in other ways: he took his first independent steps.
So Matthew will get better soon, probably just a few days after his brother.
And Jonathan will be walking soon, probably just a few days after his brother.