Friday, December 9, 2011

What Did You Do with All My Free Time?

I haven't had much time to catch up on Raising Hope. You'll see no spoilers here -- we haven't managed to watch an episode all season. We've recorded them, though, and now that Grey's Anatomy and other favorite shows are on hiatus, at least we'll have some TV to watch as winter sets in.

A friend of mine recently quoted Dr. Phil, "Having two children is 120 hours a week of work -- that's 40 hours per kid, plus 40 hours of working or maintaining the home." (She paraphrased.) The joke is that with twins, it's at least 3 times the work of one child (Baby A, Baby B, and logistics between them). I'm figuring it's about 120 hours of childcare alone, plus twice the laundry, cooking, and supplying two kids who wear the same size and eat the same amount.

On Wednesday of last week, Jon flew to Amsterdam, then Korea via Germany. He flew on nice planes, above Coach class all the way. So for the next week my primary responsibility was taking care of Jack and Salem at home, with Nanny Erin's help.

Now, being alone with twins for stretches up to 36 hours is in fact cause for panic, but only in retrospect. I didn't really know what I was getting into, seeing that the last time he took this trip he left for 5 days not 8, and at that time the twinfants stayed put. But this did give me the opportunity to contemplate life as a single parent of twins.

The first thing I noticed is that Jon does a boatload of housework. It took me two days to remember to bring in the mail, or take out the trash. And when both twins need attention, he can competently care for one or both for long stretches. Saturday morning, I desperately needed to restock the fridge, and managed to dash out while Erin kept the boys; I'm extremely glad I didn't have to drag both of them to any stores. Because of his height, he is better able to step over the gate holding a child than I am, so I usually penned one and opened the gate, which unfortunately just gave them more insight into how to open it. (They're working on it. I see them standing there, considering the latch, discussing options in Babel.)

What did I manage to do besides baby care? Not much.
  • I lowered the boys' high chairs
  • I posted to Facebook a couple of times
  • I went to the store while Nanny Erin was here
  • I published a couple of blogs for BOGO Baby
  • I took some videos of the boys playing piano
  • I played with them a lot
  • I ordered necessities on the Internet
This might not sound like much over a week if you have one child, it might sound like a bit more if you have two of varying ages. But if you have twins this is a ton.

What are your options as a single parent of twins? Well, first you need help. Second you need distractions, lots of them, including some for the kids. It's best not to let the laundry pile up, nor the bottles, though being a single parent making all the decisions pushed me to encourage the boys toward sippy cups to stretch the bottles. I did notice that the laundry moved along more quickly, being 25% fewer clothes to wash. Even so, I suspect single parents of twins often sleep in their clothes.

I know I did. I call them single-mommy jammies, and I justified it by showering almost daily. Years ago, a friend told me "There will be many days you do not get a shower." I swore that wouldn't be me. But that was before we had twins, so it seems appropriate while taking care of both alone to let some things slide an extra 12 hours.

Jon's been home two days now, and the experience of taking care of twoddlers is being replaced by "Can you please get Jack/Salem off the table? How are we going to get the to stop climbing up on the table?" And he brought home lots of laundry, and has run a few loads. Thank goodness.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


I wanted to alert readers of this blog that we've started up a somewhat less whimsical blog called "BOGO Baby" at It's going to be (mostly Christina) posting about saving money with twins (although we hope it will be more generally applicable).

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What Do You Do with All Your Free Time?

This post begins a new emphasis for Looking at my hit statistics, I see that readership is close to non-existent for my collection of fun facts about twins. (Unless I mention the twins from "Raising Hope" -- oh look, see what I did there?) So from now on, I'm going to make this blog more about personal stories of life with twins. That way, even if I don't expand this blog's reach, I will connect more directly with its readers.

One of the running jokes Christina and I have is to ask parents with one child, "What do you do with all your free time?" They always laugh, because compared to being kid-free, having one child seems like a lot of work.

On Monday of last week, Salem was admitted to Children's Hospital with a diagnosis of Kawasaki disease. Christina stayed with him in the hospital, so for the next two days my primary responsibility was taking care of Jack at home. (Except for the visits to the hospital.)

Now, Kawasaki disease itself is an excellent reason for panic and will undoubtedly be the topic for future posts. (Spoiler alert: Salem's recovering, and it looks like he'll be fine.) But it also gave me the opportunity to contemplate life with a singleton.

The first thing that I noticed is that, yes, it really is a lot easier. When Jack needed my attention, I could give it to him undivided, without having to keep one eye on Salem to make sure he didn't get into bigger trouble. When I undid the baby gate and picked up Jack, I didn't have to figure out how to close it again immediately while keeping a firm hold on a wiggling child. As a bonus, we have twice as much gear as we need. If one high chair was dirty, there was a chance the other one was still clean.

Want to take Jack out to the swing set in the back yard? Pick him up and go. No struggling with a double stroller or waiting until a second pair of hands was available. Tuesday morning, I desperately needed to re-stock the groceries (even before the hospitalization, taking care of what had been diagnosed as an ear infection in Salem was chewing up a lot of our spare time). So I put Jack in the car and drove to the store.

If you have one kid, that may not seem exceptional to you. If you have two kids of varied ages, you probably do this all the time. If you have twins, here are your options:
A good two-seater. (Photo by Christina)
  • Push a double stroller and shove as many groceries as you can into the basket underneath. (Hope you remember to check out before you get arrested for shoplifting.)
  • Take two adults to the grocery store.
  • Alternate pushing a cart and a double stroller. (I haven't tried this technique; I get a headache just thinking about it.)
  • Find a store with a "two-seater" shopping cart. But not just any "two-seater" -- Christina is now aware of the subtle differences in shopping cart models between ones that will hold two toddlers and ones that are only suitable for older children.
  • I don't know, maybe you have twins you can put in a carrier without inhibiting your ability to shop. Ours are too squirmy to do so.
  • Grocery delivery.
It was also easier to move about this store without shoppers gawking at the twins. Jack did receive some attention -- he is a cutie, after all -- but not nearly the level (or even half that) he would have gotten accompanied by his brother.

So other than grocery shopping, what did I do with my free time? Laundry. Lots of it. Along with moving, the change in seasons and other factors caused clothes to pile up in diverse locations of the house. I finally had time to sort through it and do most of it. I even got to wash the kimono I had picked up in Japan in December 2009.

When I bought the kimono, I thought of it as good "dad" clothing -- something only mildly embarrassing to your kid if you tromp around in it in the morning. I bought it in the handful of days between finding out that we were going to have a kid and finding out that we were going to have two, so it seemed appropriate to wear while taking care of Jack.

Salem's been home almost a week now, and the experience of taking care of one kid at a time is being replaced by, "Why are you taking your brother's food? It's exactly the same as the food in front of you." And the laundry is piling up again. Thank goodness.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Your Twins Are Not Interchangeable

Way to have confidence in your sons, dad.
"It didn't even dawn on me he [Nate] was going to make it," Smith told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
So let's say you've entered one of your twins in a raffle for the chance to take a really difficult hockey shot, and he'll win $50,000 if he actually makes it. Now let's say your son doesn't feel like taking the shot -- what do you do, say, "Now son, you'll never make it if you don't try?" If you're this guy, you say, "We'll have your identical twin impersonate you." Of course, he made the shot. This happened in Minnesota, which means that the dad and twins felt bad about it and 'fessed up the next day. The insurance company refused to pay, because the rules say you can't have somebody else take the shot for you. They generously offered to donate $20,000 to charity in the twins' names. I've seen some Internet commentary criticizing the insurance company, but not enough criticizing the dad.
  •  Not cool to cheat. It's like having your 18-year-old play the slots. Sure, he probably won't win the jackpot, but what's the point, since he won't be able to collect if he does. The chance to win is the whole reason you play.
  • From a parenting standpoint, not cool to treat your identical twins as interchangeable. It might be OK in other sibling situations, but identical twins have enough trouble establishing their own identity without being asked to impersonate each other.
  • Not cool to teach your kids to cheat, or to impersonate each other for pranks. OK, if it was a funny prank, it would be cool, but this doesn't fall into that category.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Rise of the Twins! readers might be interested in the "special issue" on twins published by I was amused that even though they are talking about the increased incidence of twins, which is almost entirely driven by a rise in fraternal twins, they've chosen to illustrate the issue with a cartoon picturing six pairs of identical-looking children.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Talk about a niche market...

While we are grateful for all of the well-wishes on the boys' first birthday (in card and other form), we couldn't help but notice a pattern...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The IRS is not prepared for your twins

We got our federal tax refund earlier this month. Why so late, and what does it have to do with twins?

Well, having an extra social security number into which I could introduce a typo is partly to blame. You'd think twins would get consecutive social security numbers, but in our case, you'd be wrong. Their cards arrived 3 months apart -- even the 3-digit prefix is different.

Second, the IRS is not very good at telling you what is wrong with your return. They only told us that there was a name/number mismatch. When I finally called them, the (very nice) guy on the phone explained that they were unable to give me any information about the person whose social security number is wrong. (At first I thought this was some sort of privacy protection, but they could have said, "Here's what you wrote, and that's wrong," without giving away any information.)

But apparently they can give you information in the form of a riddle. "It's the dependent whose birthday is not..." "Um, that's the birthday for both of my dependents. They're twins." "Oh, then it's the one you listed second." We were eventually able to clear it up, but I thought it was funny that the IRS guy thought I could identify one of my kids if he told me the birthday.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Neonazi Teen Twin Rockers Turn Over a New Leaf

Via the blog Respectful Insolence, we learn about an article in The Daily about the twin sisters who formerly comprised "Prussian Blue", which Wikipedia describes as "a white nationalist pop teen duo".

While (mostly) disavowing their earlier (mom-imposed) Holocaust denialism, the 19-year-old fraternal twins have new plans: "They hope to enroll in college, and intend to dedicate themselves to making medical marijuana legal in all 50 states."

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Ten Excellent Sets of Twin Athletes

I was going to call this "top ten twin athletes", but then I realized it would be confusing about whether I was talking about ten or twenty total athletes (or just ten athletes who had potentially non-athlete twins). Also, I dropped the "top", since this list is inherently subjective.

  • Honorable Mention: Bengt and Björn Zikarsky -- The Zikarskys won bronze medals for Germany in the 4x100m freestyle swimming relay at the 1996 Olympics. Bengt also won a bronze in the same event in 1992. Nice job, but I need to see better than bronze to make the list.
  • Honorable Mention: Pascal and Patrick Barré -- the Barré brothers won bronze medals for France in the 4x100m track and field relay at the 1980 Olympics.
  • Honorable Mention:  Marianne and Mildred Muis -- the Muis sisters won silver for the Netherlands in the 4x100m freestyle swimming relay at the 1988 Olympics.
  • Honorable Mention: Terry and Tom Brands -- Tom won gold in wrestling at the 1996 Olympics; Terry won bronze in 2000. Impressive -- particularly since each won an individual event -- but not the most accomplished set of twin wrestlers.
  • Honorable Mention: Michael and Mark Evans won gold for Canada in the 1984 Olympics on their rowing eights team. Again, impressive -- but there is a more accomplished set of rowing twins.
  • Honorable Mention: Herbert and Wilfred Baddeley won the Wimbledon doubles championship four times in the 1890s. Wilfred won the singles title three times. That makes them world-class athletes, but they are knocked out of the ten by an even more accomplished pair of twin tennis players.
  • Honorable Mention: Alisa and Mirjana Marić. If "sports of the mind" were, you know, actually sports, these two would be a shoo-in. As it is, the only pair of twins to hold the title "woman grandmaster" will have to do as an accomplishment.
  • #10: Marcus and Markieff Morris are basketball players. They make the list on potential more than anything else. After three years at the University of Kansas, they were chosen (consecutively) in the first round of the NBA draft last month.
  • #9: Morgan and Paul Hamm -- Paul Hamm won two silvers and a gold in gymnastics at the 2004 Olympics; Morgan won a team silver the same year.
  • #8: Toomas and Tõnu Tõniste -- Not only did they win one of the last Silver medals for the Soviet Union in sailing in 1988, they won one of the first Bronzes for Estonia in 1992. Toomas is now a member of the Estonian Parliament.
  • #7: Georgina Earl and Caroline Meyer -- The Evers-Swindell sisters (their birth names) rowed to gold for New Zealand in both the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. Twins, double sculls, two gold medals...I sense a pattern here.
  • #6: Phil and Steve Mahre -- Phil is the more famous of the two, pulling down two gold and silver skiing medals in the 1980 and 1984 Winter Olympics. But Steve was no slouch -- the only reason he came home with silver rather than gold in 1984 was the 0.21 seconds that separated him from his brother in the slalom.
Ski heil auf dem Corvatsch
Phil and Steve Mahre, photo by
Chris Schaer

  • #5: Anatoli and Sergei Belaglazov -- Sergei wrestled to gold in 1980 and 1988 for the Soviets, while Anatoli picked up a gold of his own in 1980.
  •  #4: Daniel and Henrik Sedin -- Not only do the Sedin twins share a gold medal for playing on Sweden's 2006 hockey team, but they came close to an NHL championship this year as captain and alternate captain for the Vancouver Canucks. Recognition is due to them not only for being valued individual contributors on a world-class level (c.f. #10), but for bringing their talents together on a team.
The Sedins
The Sedin Brothers, photo by Matt Boulton

  • #3: Tiki and Ronde Barber -- Although Tiki has gotten recognition here for his evil twinness, there's no denying his athletic ability -- 3-time Pro Bowl selection and New York Giants all-time leading rusher. But while Tiki tries to make his NFL comeback, Ronde has stayed in the NFL and collected 5 Pro Bowl appearances and one Super Bowl ring. All the while staying married to his wife, Claudia.
  • #2: Kaokor and Khaosai Galaxy -- Khaosai Galaxy defended his WBA super flyweight boxing championship 19 times, 16 by knockout. Kaokor, while not as great as his brother, won the bantamweight title two separate times. Two world champions? Pretty impressive.
    • #1: Bob and Mike Bryan -- While I reserve most of my awe for twins with individual honors (where it's clear one twin is not just riding the coattails of the others), the Bryan twins take things to a whole 'nother level. As mirror twins, they are able to split the tennis court effectively -- Bob plays left-handed, Mike right-handed. Twinness seems to give them a unique advantage and has powered them to 11 tennis Grand Slam men's doubles titles -- most recently this weekend at Wimbledon. But lest you think they only have twin power, think again -- Bob has two Grand Slam mixed doubles titles, and Mike has seven.  Probably the best doubles tennis team of all time, and definitely #1 on this list.
usopen2008 038
The Bryan Twins, photo by Revanta Banerji

Monday, June 27, 2011

Now I Get the Purpose of the Term "Co-Twin"...

So here's my plan for winning a bar bet. I'll say to someone, "do you want to see a picture of some identical twins?" They'll say, "sure," and I'll show them the above picture. They'll say, "those two look nothing like each other! One's a girl, and the other's a boy."

I'll offer to bet them $100 that they are, in fact, identical twins. They'll say, OK, but how can you prove it? I'll say, "Here's a picture of their identical twins."

Friday, June 24, 2011

Raising Hope

Sorry that posting has been so slow lately. You know, life.
In the mean time, please enjoy this blog by (about?) two of the twins who play "Hope" on the TV show Raising Hope.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

JC Penney Captioning Fail

As Christina says, "The world is not set up for twins." Happy Mothers Day, everyone!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Adventures in bad stroller naming

I was checking out double strollers at Amazon and came across Chicco Cortina Together Double Stroller Romantic - Chicco 00079043430070"Chicco Cortina Together Double Stroller Romantic". Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I believe using the word "romantic" with double strollers is really, really creepy. I mean, maybe if it were common to take two unrelated babies and push them around in a double stroller, that would be only as creepy as an arranged marriage between infants, but this goes beyond that.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Twin Exchange

I called one of those online baby sites to clarify some ordering issues, and the woman I spoke with understood how hard it was to raise twins. "We adopted twins who were 13 at the time, but the boy was drinking, smoking, we just couldn't handle him. So we had to send him back."

This is a horrible story all around, but the one most at risk is the twin boy, who, having lost out on the first of 14 homes that might have actually kept him, instead went back into foster care. The girl twin, however, is getting good grades and just had a sweet 16 party.

It's a microcosm that illuminates the issues of foster children, and, sadly, an experiment on twins raised apart.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Twins in Popular Culture: Rugrats

Twins' PiqueI had actually never seen "Rugrats", but when an episode called Twins' Pique popped up on the TiVo, I decided to give it a watch. Two of the main characters of the show are the boy/girl twins Phil and Lil DeVille. As usual, someone writing for Wikipedia has gone into way more depth than I could possibly want to, so I'll quote from there for their biographies:
They were both one year and three months old. Phil and Lil were twins who were alike in every possible way, and were even dressed to match: both wore pink with black-pinstripe shirts and turquoise outfits (Phil's being a shirt and Lil's being a dress) with a handkerchief on the left side and a duck on the right, and both had a small amount of brown hair on top of their oddly-shaped heads. Phil wore blue shoes and shorts and was drawn (for the most part) without ear lobes (episodes from 1996 to early 1999 and The Rugrats Movie show Phil with ear lobes). Lil wore pink shoes, a pink bow on her hair and no shorts (exposing her diaper like Tommy Pickles), and was always drawn with ear lobes.

They also shared the same interest: consuming worms (which they have often called "Chocolate Spaghetti") and toilet water. They often used their "full" names, Phillip and Lillian, against one another when arguing. Their parents, Betty and Howard, often confused the two despite permanent differences, like the ears, as well as (of course) their genders.
 I don't know why, but I find the detailed cataloging of the ear lobe timeline particularly creepy.

Anyway, in the episode in question, Phil and Lil get sick of everyone confusing them and decide to develop their own personalities. Being babies, the only way they have of making that distinction is by mimicking other characters on the show. Then they go off on some adventure that involves the potential destruction of someone's father's calculator (maybe it was their father, but I was distracted by the fact that they pronounced it "quackulator" the whole time). In the climactic action of the episode, they finally decide that they don't want to be like other people, or rather, that the other people they want to be like are each other.

First of all, I hated the show in general (the "cutesy talk" like "quackulator" made me ill). This episode in particular was interesting -- the dilemmas about finding their own identity and refusing to be addressed collectively hewed closely to what I've read about twin developmental patterns. The irony that young twins looking to develop their own identity could only find it in others was a nice touch, and added a bit of realism. But then at the end, of course, all of this was thrown out the window at the end of the episode when they decided to go back to being near carbon copies of each other.

A more charitable viewer might view this as a subtle commentary on how twin 1-year-olds are not ready to break away from their co-twins. But it reminded me of nothing so much as a 1950s romantic comedy about an independent career woman which ends with her finding happiness in a traditional role as a wife. In other words, the writers acknowledge the need to question stereotypes, but in the end, the audience gets what it presumably wants -- in this case, twins who are nearly indistinguishable.

I found out from the Wikipedia article that there is some sort of Rugrats sequel called All Grown Up in which the twins get their own distinct personalities. I'm glad to hear it, but it counts as too little, too late. My criterion for reviewing kids shows about twins is this -- how do they prepare other kids to interact with my twins? In the case of Rugrats, the show prepares them to treat twins as a single entity with nearly indistinguishable personalities. Boo.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Twins on "Raising Hope"

One of the favorite shows at Twinpanic HQ is "Raising Hope". Since I've complained before about singletons taking jobs away from twins, I suppose I should mention that singleton baby Hope is actually played by two sets of twins.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Twins in Popular Culture: Sesame Street

Sesame Street recently had a "Twins Day" episode. We at watched the episode to evaluate its portrayal of twins.

All in all, the verdict is mixed. While the word of the day was "identical" which was explained to mean exactly the same, Sesame Street did try to include the lesson that twins are individuals with their own likes.

I suppose it would have been two much to ask Sesame Street to explain the biological basis of twinning (for that, I'll have to wait for the Twins Day episode of 3-2-1 Contact). I imagine the motivation for this show (aside from, "Shoot, we need a theme for a show") was to teach children about twins, since the kids will no doubt encounter them in preschool or beyond.

There's a fine line between celebrating the coolness that is twindom without indulging in twin mysticism (a line this site knows a little something about treading). Unfortunately, Sesame Street stepped over the line a little bit with having regular cast member Chris (and the actor's real-life twin, Christy) talk about how they often are thinking exactly the same thing, and having them proclaim their "twin power".

On the other hand, the "important lesson" was taught by a segment where Abby and Zoe attempt to be twins to get into the Twins Day party, only to find out that having Abby cast a spell to make them both look alike doesn't truly make them the same. Also, real-life identical twins Micah and Aria explain how one of them likes knitting and the other likes tae kwon do.

All in all, a B-grade effort for introducing the concept of twins to young children. I'm pretty much resigned to the fact that my boys are going to confuse the heck out of their peers, but maybe educational efforts like this will mean they'll be confusing for other reason, not for their twinness.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Book Review: Emotionally Healthy Twins

 Emotionally Healthy Twins: A New Philosophy for Parenting Two Unique Children

Emotionally Healthy Twins: A New Philosophy for Parenting Two Unique Children has a definite point of view, so reading it can be thought-provoking, even if you don't agree -- sort of like listening to Ron Paul, or to a vegan. Friedman throws down the gauntlet early in the book, with this suggestion of how to announce the impending arrival of twins.
PARENT-TO-BE: I have wonderful news! Brad and I are going to be the parents of two babies!
MOTHER-IN-LAW: What do you mean? Are you saying you're having twins?
PARENT-TO-BE: Yes, but we're already thinking about them as two separate children, because that's what they are: two separate babies born at the same time.
MOTHER-IN-LAW: What's wrong with calling them twins?
PARENT-TO-BE: Nothing's wrong with it. It's just that Brad and I feel strongly about relating to our babies as two distinct children rather than as a pair. And we hope that our friends and family will treat them as individuals as well.
MOTHER-IN-LAW: Hmmmm. Okay, well congratulations, anyhow!
"Two separate babies born at the same time" -- if only there were a more succinct way of saying that. Oh, wait, there is --- throughout much of the book Friedman uses the term "same-age siblings". The term would probably be less grating if she said something like, "I'm using this term interchangeably with the term 'twin' to drive home the point that they don't need to be treated like a pair anymore than non-twin siblings." But instead we're left to guess at the reasoning behind her goofy coinage. Other than language weirdness, here are my other problems with this book:
  • She gives no consideration to a cost/benefit analysis of her favorite prescription: alone time between a parent and one twin. I agree, it's great when I get to spend one-on-one time with one of my sons, but I can't imagine hiring a babysitter for one of them to provide this alone time with the other. Besides, don't you get this time naturally over the course of the day -- or do everybody else's twins synchronize their sleep schedule much better than ours do?
  • She places such emphasis on the potential problems that she fails to discuss the nature of an "emotionally healthy" twin relationship. Maybe as a psychotherapist, it's natural for her to dwell on problems created by too little individuation, but it would be good to find examples of how twins relate to each other in a healthy way.
  • Here's an example she gives about emotionally unhealthy twin behavior: "David's friends would often call him to get together -- to go to the park or movies or a party -- and at times David didn't go out with them because he felt badly that Jonny wasn't included." But wait -- that example is of her own children, whom she raised with this allegedly wonderful "new philosophy". So either the philosophy doesn't work, or some amount of twin drama is inevitable and parents need to focus more on managing it than on preventing it by treating their children as if they aren't twins. Possibly both.
  • She makes almost no distinction between different types of twins -- identical versus fraternal, boy/girl versus same-sex. Perhaps she feels that the distinctions don't matter in terms of how you should treat your twins. But certainly they matter in terms of how twins are perceived -- identical twins are more likely to be perceived as "one and the same", and I suspect conflict among twins is discouraged more in girl/girl twins than in other configurations.
This list of complaints shouldn't indicate that I found the book useless -- her passionate advocacy for the "two unique children" was, at times, eye-opening. When she talks about the need to learn each child's individual personality, she warns against the common pitfall of defining a twin's personality only in terms of his sibling. So you'd have "the active one" and "the quiet one", when what you really mean is "more active/quiet than the other one" -- not really a way of treating someone as an individual. That hadn't occurred to me before, and it's something I'll keep in mind.

Ultimately, though, this book left me lacking a clear picture of what raising emotionally healthy twins is like. Perhaps, as Christina suggested, the next book should be a more generic one rather than one solely about twins. Perhaps Friedman is right that the "twin mystique" is a source of a lot of twin problems -- a viewpoint that would argue against running a website devoted to twinness.

Twinometer: 6/10.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Famous Twins: The Ryan Brothers

Jets @ Browns 45Rex Ryan as Jets HC

Well, neither is involved in this year's Super Bowl, but the sunset of football season gives me an opportunity to talk about the Ryan twins. Rob and Rex Ryan are twin sons of former Philadelphia Eagles coach Buddy Ryan. That fact alone makes them both candidates for the "evil twin" moniker. Rob's recent hiring as a Dallas Cowboys assistant coach probably pushes him over the edge.

Are the twins identical? This Jets Insider article says yes; this article says no.

According to the New York Times,
Growing up in Toronto, the Ryan brothers played backyard football, with Jim, older by six years, pitted against the twins. Their games had one rule: if you did not dispense cheap shots, you were penalized.
What a charming family.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Your Twins Are Not Semi-Identical

Mary-Kate and Ashley OlsenWikipedia's twin page contains a section about "half-identical" or "semi-identical" twins. These are twins, who instead of sharing half their DNA (like fraternal twins or other siblings) or all the DNA (like identical twins), share three-quarters of their DNA.

There are two popular explanations for this.  The first involves "polar bodies" which are produced during cell division in human eggs and generally discarded during the body.  In this scenario, the polar body ends up being fertilized by a different sperm and producing one of the twins -- identical on the mother's side, but different on the father's side.

The other explanation involves two sperm fertilizing one egg, which then divides in such a way that both resulting embryos are "normal".  Again, you would get the same genes on the mother's side, but different ones from the father.

Some twin books treat the existence of such twins credulously.  For example, Double Duty hedges, "There's growing speculation surrounding a third twin type called semi-identical or half-identical twins, as well."  The Everything Twins, Triplets, And More Book says, "it can provide a tidy explanation for fraternal twins with a strong resemblance." Both books use the Olsen Twins as an example.

Here's the thing.  Returning to the Wikipedia page, it only cites two known examples of half-identical twinning --- one of each type referenced above.  In one case, one twin didn't survive, in the other, one twin was a hermaphrodite.  So chalk these up to "theoretically possible, but not something you wish for your own twins."

I have another tidy explanation for fraternal twins with a strong resemblance -- they're siblings!  Haven't you ever seen siblings who are the spitting image of each other when adjusting for age?  (E.g., you have to check the date on the photograph to figure out which kid it is.)  Well, with twins, you don't have to adjust for age!

I think another reason for the popularity of the semi-identical meme is parents of identical twins who are looking for explanations for their twins' differences.  The National Geographic DVD In the Womb: Identical Twins gives an extreme example, but environmental differences as well as different expression of the same genes will produce differences in any pair of twins.

So instead of indulging parents' belief that their twins are some super-rare third type of twin, twin parenting books should level with people.  Unless you have a medical journal proving your point, your twins are "just" fraternal or identical.  But cheer up --- they could still turn out to be worth $100 million.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Twins: Another Reason for Insurers to Mess up Your Claims

When reading Twins! Pregnancy, Birth and the First Year of Life, I was surprised at the following exchange (in one of the "parent discussion" sections):
JOAN: Our insurance company stopped paying on one of the babies because they kept asking, "Why are you sending one baby to the doctor twice in one day?"
LAURA: Our insurance company kept complaining that we were submitting duplicate charges.
NICK: It is mass confusion since the boys were born five months ago. It is amazing that insurance companies don't comprehend twins.
At the time, I found it hard to believe -- twins are not exactly a rare phenomenon.  How could insurance companies be taken aback?

Fortunately, we have not had any denied claims yet; in fact, the insurance company just forked over a large chunk of cash to pay for the boys' NICU stays.  For that I am grateful.  However...

If I go to my insurer's web site and search pharmacy claims for either boy, I get results for both of them.  Clearly, they have programmed their search function to key solely on date of birth.  Of course that doesn't happen for medical claims...

For that, I only get extra results when I search for myself or the boy I share a name with.  For medical claims, the genius programmers set things up to search by name and ignore date of birth (even though both are displayed as the result of the search).

So, yeah, now I can believe an insurance company wouldn't comprehend twins.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Book Review: Raising Twins

Raising Twins: What Parents Want to Know (And What Twins Want to Tell Them)

I haven't done any book reviews for since the twins were born -- mainly because I haven't had a lot of time for reading. I kept thinking about one book that I had read after I had tired of the reviews and decided to go back and look at it again.  Of course, I had read so many books, it was difficult to remember which one it was!

After much searching, I discovered that it was Raising Twins: What Parents Want to Know (And What Twins Want to Tell Them).  Upon re-reading, I see that this book has several things going for it, and one major strike against it.

  • The "What Twins Want to Tell Them" subtitle refers to the numerous interviews with twins sprinkled throughout the book.  I am reminded of a one-credit course I took on the politics of East Asia when I was in college.  The course had a succession of guest speakers, and midway through the class, my classmates pointed out that we finally got one who was Asian.  In other words, it's all well and good to hear from the "experts", but interviews with actual twins give a much-needed perspective.
  • The book takes a developmental approach.  For various ages, it first explains what a child can normally be expected to do at that particular age, then it revisits the topic to tell you how twins may differ.  It sounds obvious, but I found this approach to be unique among the books I've read, and it was a really good way to understand what to expect.
  • Tied in with the previous point, the book goes into a lot of detail to explain why twins need certain things.  In my review of Double Duty, I questioned the advice not to refer to your kids as "the twins" and suggested it was not that different from referring to any set of siblings as "the kids".  Raising Twins, on the other hand, explained that twins in particular struggle with differentiating themselves from their "co-twin", so it can be particularly important to use their individual names, in a way it might not for singleton siblings.
  • The book addresses twin development all the way through high school, which is somewhat unusual for a book about twins.  Most such books handle the first year, or the first few years, and, I suppose, assume that parents who survive that long can handle things for themselves.  I was interested to read how the twin relationship continues to play a role, even for teenagers.
Alas, the last positive point is also a negative point.  Because the book describes development spanning a period of eighteen years, there is very little about each specific age.  If I wanted to know a lot about six-month-old twins (I do!  I do!), there was just one tidbit, although a very interesting one.  (Children at this age may start to use transitional objects to comfort themselves when separated from their mother.  For a twin, this object may actually be his or her sibling.)  I can't imagine lugging this book around for eighteen years, only to pull it out every six months and remember what advice it has at this point.  For this reason, I cannot give the book my fullest endorsement.

Twinometer: 8/10.

    Sunday, January 16, 2011


    I like to make the point that identical twins are not really "identical" -- hopefully most people realize that every individual has traits that are not determined by genetics.  But did you know that some identical twins have differences that are determined by genetics?

    According to the McGraw Hill Encyclopedia of Science & Technology,
    For example, the random “shutting down” of one X chromosome in every female cell soon after conception (a process called lyonization) can cause monozygotic female twins to differ in X-linked traits, such as color blindness.

    Friday, January 14, 2011

    Missed it by that much...

    At the suggestion of a twin parent quoted in one of the books we read while awaiting the arrival of the twins, we are thinking of not telling the boys which one of them is the first-born twin until they're older.  People tend to attach an almost supernatural importance to birth order, and the difference of a minute doesn't seem that important in the grand scheme of things.

    Some twins, however, don't have that luxury.  Princess Mary of Denmark just gave birth to twins.  Because of a difference of twenty-six minutes, the boy is one rung ahead of the girl in the line of succession to the Danish throne.

    Based on the twenty-six minute difference, I'm guessing Princess Mary didn't have a C-section.  But if she did, that could have changed the birth order.  Hopefully this succession never becomes important (the twins have two older siblings), but if it did, it would be one instance where birth order really did mean something for twins.

    Monday, January 10, 2011

    Twins in Popular Culture: The Social Network

    OK, so I haven't seen The Social Network, but I think that's no reason to avoid commenting on it.  The New York Times recently ran an article about the Winklevoss twins' ongoing lawsuit against Facebook.  What jumped out at me was this sentence:
    They are as physically striking and imposing as they appeared in the film, “The Social Network, where they were portrayed by one actor, Armie Hammer.
    One actor?  Isn't this offensive to twins?  In addition to perpetuating the myth (that this blog fights tirelessly against) that identical twins are the "same person", doesn't it take away jobs from hardworking twins to have Mr. Hammer act in "twinface" in this movie?

    Or am I taking this too far?

    Saturday, January 8, 2011

    Popular Excuses

    (Crossposted from Christina's blog)

    It's hard to be a lone pamphleteer with a house full of babies. Because I spent all of 2010 either pregnant or mothering twins, I have slacked off on my blogging. If ever there was a good excuse for abandoning a fun but fruitless activity like blogging, it's twins.

    Having twins, in fact, are a good excuse for many human failings.

    "Oh, yes, you need to get me into the OR right now. I'm having twins."

    "Excuse me, can I slip by you? I know this stroller's huge but I have twins."

    "Sorry we're so late. Twins!"

    In the future I see them being blamed for lots more failings ("Who has time for makeup with twins?") but I'd like to keep the scapegoating to a minimum. After all, I wouldn't want them to get a complex or something. Twins are complex enough. Though I am likely to continue using my favorite line on parents of singletons:

    "So what do you do with all your free time?"

    Sunday, January 2, 2011

    Four of Me

    I recently saw an ad for an upcoming series on Lifetime, "Four of Me". The announcer informs us that the chance of getting struck by lightning is 1 in 6,000, while the chance of having identical quadruplets is 1 in 100,000,000. Then the words, "Which Would You Choose?" flash on the screen.

    Now, the name of the website is, so I try to keep things triplet- and quad-free around here (mostly).  So let me share my reaction, as a parent of identical twins, to this ad.  First of all, you mean I could have two more like the ones we already have?  Yes, please!  Secondly, wait, they're offering injury and possibly death as an alternative?  Isn't that a bit offensive/drastic?

    The show follows the lives of the 17-year-old Durst quadruplets.  The web is not exactly awash with information on the show, though you can find out that they shot an episode in Las Vegas recently.  If you're looking for earlier video, you're more in luck.  Here you can see them in 1998 on "Maury"Here they are in 2000 and again in 2007 on the "Today Show"Here's a "Tonight Show" clip from around 1999.  Hopefully they've developed more interesting schtick than all talking at the same time.

    Of course, I'm going to watch the show, but I don't have high hopes.  Reality TV isn't known for bringing out the best in its subjects, and the show's title speaks to a common problem of taking "identical" too literally.  But, c'mon, identical quadruplets -- who doesn't want to see how that turns out?