Friday, May 28, 2010

You Give Twins a Bad Name

Every year, when the Social Security Administration releases their list of most popular baby names, there's a flurry of coverage.  What flies under the radar, however, is the annual list of most popular twin names.  They confirm my worst suspicions about my fellow Americans.  I may be on shaky ground here...I know that choosing names can be a difficult and personal choice...but I'd like to highlight the two worst sins I see on this list.

#1.  Names that sound too much alike.  Using names that start with the same letter (Jacob and Joshua) is a warning flag.  So is using rhyming names (Gabriella and Isabella).  Those, however, raise the "overly cutesy" warning flag -- people find twins "precious" enough without being given an extra reason.  What seems really problematic is when the names are so close that nobody's ever sure who you're talking to.  "Come over here, Taylor!  No, stay there, Tyler, I said 'Tyler' I mean, Taylor.  Which one are you again?" We were recently looking at the child development section in Raising Twins: What Parents Want to Know (and What Twins Want to Tell Them). Apparently learning to respond to their own name is an important developmental milestone -- why would you want to make that harder for your twins?  Some of the worst offenders:
  • At #42 on the girl/girl names, Haylee and Kaylee.
  • At #20 on the boy/boy names, Christian and Christopher.  "Chris, stop hitting Chris!"
  • The worst ones seem to be the boy/girl names.  Maybe people think there will be less confusion.  The top 3 name pairs are Madison and Mason, Taylor and Tyler, and Addison and Aiden, which all are problematic, but not as much as #36, Landon and London.
#2.  Names that are overly-themed in an obvious way.  I have no problem with more subtle themes -- #19 on the boy/boy list is Gabriel and Michael, which I assume arises from an angel theme.   Themes that only make sense if you know the twins' family tree are also good choices.  But Summer and Autumn?  (From the 2008 list, and thankfully not on the 2009 list.)  You're naming children, not pugs.  And unless you plan on separating them at birth, you open the possibility of a childhood full of teasing as soon as their schoolmates are old enough to get the "joke".  Worst offenders.
  • Here, girl/girl names are the most likely to go wrong.  At #2 is Faith and Hope, and #14 is Faith and Grace.
  • At #7, we have Heaven and Nevaeh.  I was appalled that people would do this just to create palindromes.  I was even more shocked to discover that Nevaeh has been in the top 40 for singletons for the past 3 years!  Also surprising -- Neveah has cracked the top 1000 lately.  I'll give a pass to Aidan and Nadia (#10 on the boy/girl list) because it's slightly more subtle.
  • At #18, London and Paris.  I realize Paris isn't "Adolf", but do you really want to start your daughter down that path?  Also, I missed the memo on when London was no longer a boy's name.

Friday, May 14, 2010

More Dumb Questions than You Can Shake a Stick at

I love hearing stupid questions people ask about twins, and especially possible snappy comebacks.  In a few short months, I'll get to employ these comebacks myself, but until then, I'll have to live vicariously.  This thread on Facebook by TWINS Magazine contains an overflowing number of dumb comments from strangers.  Some are pedestrian, but some are great:
  • How can they be fraternal if they are both girls?
  • Are they both yours?
  • They CANNOT be twins, they are NOT dressed the same.

Saturday, May 8, 2010 Interviews Paul and Rachel

Last Sunday, sat down with Paul and Rachel, parents of newborn identical twin girls.  What follows is a heavily edited and condensed transcript.  In instances where their 18-month-old son, William, was yelling right next to the microphone, I've had to work from memory.

I definitely want to do more interviews with others, but they may be via e-mail, since transcription turns out to be fairly hard work.

Jon: They are how old now?

Paul: Just over three weeks.

Christina: Can you tell them apart?

Rachel: We can right now, because they are different sizes, and one of them has an ear tag, which is a very common piece of skin next to the ear.

Jon: Will it fall off?

Rachel: Hers probably will because it's attached precariously.  But it's useful right now, if you get confused about which baby you're holding.  For instance... [Looks at baby.]


Rachel: This is Cordelia.

Paul: I've been putting on their outfits, so I knew that was Cordelia without checking.

Christina: So are you planning to pierce their ears very young, like Hispanics do?

Rachel: Right now, I think we're going to be able to tell them apart.  If I turn out to be wrong, we'll look more seriously at the ear-piercing option.  But we're going to go with the nail polish.  You can do nail polish on their feet until they can put their feet in their mouth, which I think is around 4-6 months.

Christina: By then, hopefully you can tell them apart.

Paul: And if we can't, then we're just screwed.

Rachel: Teeny-tiny tattoos?

Christina: Rub-on transfer tattoos?

Rachel: I was thinking of just a tattoo of a dot.


Jon: Would you do nail polish on just one of them?

Rachel: Yes.

Christina: And then have the code written down somewhere, like on a clipboard on the wall?

Jon: We also have William here.  How much of a difference have you noticed in terms of bringing them home versus bringing William home?

Rachel: Completely different.

Paul: Oh, yeah.  I think the biggest difference is just that William is here.  It's not that there's two of them, it's that there's a third one.

Rachel: I think for me, the biggest difference is this is harder, because there's two who want to eat, so that stuff is harder.  But I was way more freaked out with him, because it's freaky that there's a baby in your house.  It was freaky when we first got a dog.  But also, every single thing he did, like when he wouldn't sleep, I thought, "He's never going to sleep.  He's never, ever, ever going to sleep."

Paul: She's not kidding.

Rachel:  So I was like, "He's going to be forty, and he's never going to sleep."  And with these, you've seen it all work out once, so there's a kind of, "Eh, they're not sleeping that well tonight, but they probably will tomorrow."  It's harder because there's two, and there's twice as much stuff, but I'm less crazy.  I think.

Paul: We also know better how to get stuff done, like wash a bunch of bottles.  It's not like it's a secret or something, but when you're really tired because you haven't slept and you've got one baby at home, you may not figure it out quite as fast as you could.  At least I didn't.

Christina: So they're preemies, and you were saying you don't have a lot of clothes for them.  Are you expecting to be able to put them in bigger clothes soon?

Rachel: The day after we had the babies, Paul's sister came and she had preemie clothes, newborn clothes, and 0-3 month clothes, 'cause she likes to buy things for the babies.  I looked at the preemie clothes, and I was like, wow, they're already too big for these, aren't they?

Paul: She's not very good at that sort of thing.

Rachel: They looked so small.  I was going into the NICU, and after a few days they started putting the babies in clothes, not just in the little hospital kimono things.  I kept saying, "What sort of clothes are you using?" and they said, "Preemie."  So we have some preemie clothes, and we've been using them, but we're able to start putting them in some newborn clothes now.

Jon: The people who decide on sizing for baby clothes...

Rachel: They're the same people who do sizing for women's clothes...  We've gotten a lot of hand-me-down clothes.  When you say you're having twins, people are like, "You need things.  I'm going to give you things."  We've gotten a lot of hand-me-downs from people who've had girls.  Lots of pink clothes and purple clothes, and it's really very cute.  I separated them by size and put them in 50,000 Pampers boxes.

Paul: 'Cause you have 50,000 Pampers boxes.

Rachel: Right.  So we had to fudge it a little bit, because I know some of the 3-month stuff will fit them before they're 3 months, and some of the 3-6 month stuff won't fit them until they're 6-9 months.

Paul: I don't understand the sizing at all.  It's really stupid.

Christina: So how many diapers do you go through a day, since you were mentioning the 50,000 diaper boxes?

Rachel: We're doing exactly what they were doing in the NICU.

Paul: Eight feedings a day.

Rachel: They fed them every three hours and changed them every time they fed them.

Paul: We go through sixteen diapers, sometimes more.

Rachel: Interesting thing about diaper sizing -- 'cause you don't have any kids yet, so you don't know this -- first of all, Pampers and Huggies, I think they both do this -- they keep changing the name of the diapers, so in different sizes they also sometimes have different names.  So there's Pampers Swaddlers and Pampers This...  So you can't tell whether it's a different level of quality... is it because it's an older child so it's shaped different?  Very difficult to figure out what's going on.  But there's a newborn size that's up to 10 pounds.  Then there's Size 1 that's 8-14 pounds.  This took me like two weeks to figure out with William what was going on and what I was supposed to be buying.  And of course, the two main brands of diapers...

Paul: ...use different sizing.

Rachel: They use different sizing, and one of them that tops out at 15 pounds, your 12 pound kid will be too big for.  And the other one works the other way.

Paul: Yeah, the pound thing is just sort of a suggestion.

Rachel:  They don't know if your kid is short and fat or long and skinny.

Paul: As far as I can tell, the only difference between the newborn and the size 1 diapers is that the newborn diapers usually have a little cutout for the umbilical cord.

Christina: But you could just fold that it down.

Paul: Exactly.

Rachel: All of our babies have been small enough that we needed to fold it down anyway.

Christina: Do they make preemie diapers?

Rachel: They do make preemie diapers, but most places don't sell them.   The NICU doesn't even use the preemie diapers, they just use newborn size and fold them down.  It's important to remember when your hospital that everything in your little bassinet with the baby...or babies in the room with you...

Paul: yours.

Rachel: They won't re-use any of it, so take it all.

Paul: Yes.

Rachel: Take the little blue squeegie thing for sucking stuff out of their noses.  Take the diapers.  Take it all.

Christina: They won't re-use it?  They'll throw it out?

Paul: Yeah, they'll throw it out.  Unless you take it.

Rachel: 'Cause it's outside of its sealed packaging.

Christina: It's no longer sterile.

Rachel: Right.

Jon: And, most importantly, they've already charged you for it.

Paul: The hospitals also get lots of free samples of things, because the formula companies want to get you hooked on them.  Take everything.

Rachel: Breastfeed, don't breastfeed, no judgment from me, but take everything.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Another for my proposed TV show on twin crime...

The St. Petersburg Times reports on the case of a twin brother who stood in for the other in court, and the lawyer who eventually turned them in:
"It put me in a really tough spot," Thomas said later.

Matthew Mauceri was scheduled to begin trial Tuesday on one count of scheming to defraud. The 2007 case involved $160,000 in checks that didn't clear and auto parts that allegedly never got paid for.

On Tuesday morning, when Thomas started having doubts about his purported client, he asked the man if he really was Matthew Mauceri. The man said he was. Thomas doubted it but hadn't seen his client since December.

"The bottom line was, I wasn't 100 percent," he said.

But he was in a dilemma. On the one hand, he is required to defend his client's rights. On the other hand, ethical guidelines prevent him from allowing a "fraud upon the court."

Also, if it was the wrong brother, Thomas was concerned that he would be discussing information meant only for the brother who was actually supposed to be on trial.