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‘Twin Tweens’ Category

  1. Teens in the House!

    July 28, 2011 by Wendy

    In the wee hours of this morning, something a little disturbing happened. At 12:38 a.m., a teenager began occupying our home. And then just 20 minutes later at 12:58 a.m., there was another.

    No, we didn’t not have a spontaneous house party, but our Natalie and Nicole turned 13 today, and I have a feeling our lives are about to change. Not, perhaps, as drastically as they did 13 years ago when these girls came into this world—at least I hope not—but change they will.

    Natalie and Nicole, almost 1 week old.

    Natalie and Nicole, 1 week old.

    Natalie and Nicole, almost 5 years old.

    Natalie and Nicole, 4 years old.

    Natalie and Nicole, almost 13 years old.

    Natalie and Nicole, almost 13 years old.

    Now here’s the cliched question: Where did the time go?

    No, seriously, where did it go? I can close my eyes and instantly bring myself back to the moments they were born, at 12:38 a.m. and 12:58 a.m. Because of pre-term labor, I was in the hospital for two weeks, doped up on all kinds of horrible meds that gave me bad dreams and crazy thoughts. Just about every night during those two weeks, the contractions came on like crazy, and depending on which nurses were on staff, I may or may not have been whisked in a panic to the delivery room and prepped, only to have things slow down and I’d be returned back to my room.

    This went on almost nightly, and as it got closer to July 29th, Mr. BK’s birthday, I decided two babies would be an awesome birthday gift, and set a goal to have them then. Plus, I couldn’t exactly head out to the mall, and there was no back then, so that was all I had for him. But I quickly learned that you don’t really “set goals” when it comes to childbirth, and on the eve of July 28, I began to develop the dangerous condition of pre-eclampsia, meaning I needed to get them out stat—or else. So hooked up to a Pitocin drip and my waters (yes, waters—two bags) broken for me, it was time. But it was only about 5 o’clock in the afternoon on the eve of their father’s birthday. As the painful hours passed, I became more and more determined to hold them in until at least the stroke of midnight.

    “Do you feel the need to push yet?” the nurses would come in and ask. I’d look at the clock—only 10 p.m.

    “Um, no, not really,” I’d grimace, even though I felt like I could go #2 at any second, the hallmark symptom of “feeling the need to push.” These babies were going to be born on their father’s birthday and that was that.

    When midnight finally struck, I breathed a huge sigh of relief, and finally confessed to my need to push. And just 38 minutes later, we heard the sound of Natalie’s tiny cry—and the silence of Nicole’s absent cry. “This one decided not to breathe!” is what I heard instead. But that panic only lasted a minute while the nurses did their thing, and then I heard her loud cry.

    And then from there on, it’s like I’m watching the past 13 years on fast-forward, speeding right through everything: first steps, birthday parties, playdates, illnesses, school years, family trips, and now suddenly, they’re teenagers! Where, oh where, is that pause button?

    Sadly, there isn’t one, but if I could just pretend there is for a moment, I would like to hit it and dedicate this blog to my special girls. One at a time, of course.

    Nicole Helena


    My dear, sweet Nicole. Did you see what I did there? I put YOU first, because for your whole life, it’s always been “Natalie and Nicole.” I don’t know why; it just sounded better that way, plus it was natural, since Natalie was born first.

    Now speaking of that…you were supposed to be born first. All along, you were “Twin A,” and all along, you were poised at the, um, entrance, ready to come out first. But then, fittingly, either because you were being polite or because you were being pokey (both of which are entirely likely, as we now know), you decided to wait. Or, Natalie was being bossy and cruised right past you (also entirely likely, as we now know).

    And then you decided to wait to start breathing, too. You scared me a little there, but only for a minute. Had I known then that you just prefer to take your time doing things, and doing them your own way, I wouldn’t have worried so much.

    Sort of.

    But you have made up for that little scare by being so easy, so pleasant, and so trouble-free just about every single day of your life. Eating, napping, playing…nothing was a struggle even as a toddler. There were never those “Terrible Twos.” Or Threes. Or anything. Well, except for maybe that 3rd-grade year, your self-described “schizophrenic” year. Hey, you said it, not I. And anyway, that wasn’t so bad. You were just trying to figure yourself out. Everyone has years like that. It would be great if we could keep this “easy” pattern going during these upcoming teen years, OK?

    When you were born, you smelled like cookies. I couldn’t stop smelling and kissing your sweet little cheeks. That’s why we called you “Cookie Face” for the longest time. You were pure sweetness. To this day, you are pure sweetness. When I think of you, I think of the color white. You are such a sweet, sweet soul and one of the kindest, most gentle people I know. And not just because you are my daughter—but because that’s just you. Anyone who knows you would wholeheartedly agree.

    You amaze me every day with your creativity, and your patience to funnel it in ways I can’t even imagine—making highly detailed sculptures no bigger than an ant, crocheting, knitting, sewing, making stages for Noelle’s Polly Pockets and tiny houses for her critters and creatures, and even fashioning hair ties for me out of seaweed when mine break in the ocean.

    You are wise beyond your years, and have always given Poppy and I questions that make us think. It’s no wonder you’ve always been such an awesome student—not just in school, but in life.

    I can’t wait to see what you are going to do with your life. Your preschool teacher predicted you would be some kind of minister or missionary, or another Mother Teresa. I can see that. But I can also see you doing something in the sciences, something that requires you to use your brain and your hands. (Are you sure you don’t want to be a doctor?) Whatever you become, I can already say that it has been a pleasure watching you get there. From the minute you were born—literally—you have done things your own way. I have always said you were “sweetly stubborn.” I don’t know anyone who can convey the message, “No, I don’t want to do it your way AT ALL, I have my own ideas, please leave me alone” in the sweet way that you do. Although you have never said those words in your life, you have your way of letting me know that’s what you’re thinking. This “sweet stubborness” is and always has been a part of you, and I love it. (Except it does frustrate me when we’re clothes shopping!)

    When you and Natalie were younger and I had my fun at dressing you either exactly alike, or the same but in different colors, I always put you in pink. I thought you were going to be the delicate one, the one who would always want bows in her hair and pretty shoes on her feet.

    I can hear you laughing now. You, the girl who is always up for any outdoor adventure and has skydiving on her bucket list. The girl who, on our recent camping trip, was barely seen nor heard all day, as she was busy hammering geodes open or exploring the forest. I love, love, love your adventuresome spirit, and I hope that stays with you always.

    How long did it take before I finally figured out you shouldn’t be the one in pink? That you didn’t want bows in your sweaty little curls, and that you couldn’t care less what your shoes looked like, as long as you could run fast in them?

    How much money did we give Miss Nadya, and how much hair gel and bobby pins did we go through before we finally realized that you hated your thrice-weekly ballet classes, and only liked the yearly performance? Could that be why you never really did get your left and right feet figured out, and why you fell and lost your Beethoven wig on stage? Yes, you definitely seem more comfortable and confident on the basketball court, and the family so enjoys watching you steal the ball and zipping around the court, always with a huge smile on your face, and always offering a helping hand for fallen opponents and teammates alike.

    In fact, you play basketball the way you do everything in life: with a smile, polite yet determined, and always supportive and encouraging of your teammates. Keep that up both on and off the court, and I promise, it will get you far in many aspects of your life.

    As parents, it’s natural that we recognize certain traits in our children and try to pinpoint from whom they’re came. While you most definitely are your own person, you did get your DNA from us, so If I could be selfish for a moment, I’d like to state that you absolutely represent the best parts of both Poppy and me. And despite what the majority of strangers say, you got your blue eyes from me, and right now with your braces and when you wear your glasses, I see me, in 5th and 6th grade. (But you are much prettier and far less geeky than I was.) I guess because of that, I thought you would be a lot like me, but it turns out that you are a lot more like Poppy in many ways. Both of you, let’s say, aren’t bothered by disorder, you’re both very mechanical and analytical, you both love the outdoors and you’re both extremely loyal and trustworthy. That being said, you’re also sensitive and empathetic. It makes me so proud to see that in you, because before you were even born, I knew that was one of the traits I really wanted to instill in our children.

    We are so lucky and blessed to have you as a daughter, and your sisters are lucky and blessed to have you as a sister. You make a perfect BFF for Natalie, and an excellent role model for Noelle. I hope you have a fun sleepover party tonight with your friends, and I hope your first year of teenage-hood is exactly how you want it to be.

    We love you, Cookie Face!

    Natalie Celestina


    Oh, Natalie. Chatalie, Battalie, Tattalie…so many nicknames over the years, each evolving with your dynamic, vibrant personality. If Nicole is the sweetness in our lives and home, you are the lightness.

    The minute we first looked at you, you really did look like Nonina, your namesake. With your olive skin and long, thin nose, you looked just like a cute little old Italian lady. I swear I wouldn’t have been surprised if you’d have been born with a babushka on your head and a loaf of Italian bread tucked under your arm. Since we didn’t know if you were going to be boys, girls or one of each, we had already decided yours was the girl name, so since you were first, you got it. And even though you weren’t supposed to be first, it couldn’t have worked out or suited you better.

    Like lots of things in life, I suppose you just knew that was the right way to do it.

    You were a crabby baby. Not crabby as in cranky, but just serious and all business.Which is so funny because that’s exactly the opposite of how you turned out to be. But in those early days, I would nurse you and you would either look at me sternly or not look at me at all, and in my post-partum, sleep-deprived state, I would say, “She doesn’t even like me; it’s like she just wants to nurse, then she’s done with not even like a thank you or anything.” That went on until you were old enough to say “itch da,” which meant, “switch sides.”

    We called you “Owly,” because once when Poppy’s very midwestern friends came to visit you, they said you seemed “a little owly,” which in Wisconsin/Iowa-speak, must mean crabby. The name just stuck. Plus, we thought you seemed wise.

    Because grandparents and aunts were the only ones who ever babysat you (to this day!), we made them all take a CPR course. This proved to come in handy, what with your breath-holding spells that would begin with a cry, followed by a failure to inhale, followed by turning blue, then passing out and even seizing a couple times. It got to the point where everyone around you (especially me) would instantly go into panic mode if you so much as bumped your head or stubbed your toe. (Literally—a door running over your foot once resulted in a call to 911 and an ambulance ride, all while I was suffering a bout of the stomach flu.) Yeah, those were good times, girlie!

    When that first started happening, we took you to all the necessary specialists, only to have the neurologist diagnose you as “precocious,” something he said he saw 20 times a year with his young patients. At that appointment, he gestured at Nicole and said, “This one does it too, doesn’t she?” And actually, yes, she did, but not to the degree you did. She’d stop breathing and turn magenta, while you took it to the blue spectrum. And speaking of colors, that’s about when I started noticing gray hairs.

    Still, despite these episodes, you quickly went from “owly” baby to happy, exuberant toddler. You were a ball of pure energy who had little use for naps. You ran around the house from day to night like a little ant—in fact, Nonno used to call you formica, which is “ant” in Italian. And once you started talking (first word: “April,” our Beagle at the time), I swear, you’ve never stopped. Thus, the nickname, “Chatalie.” And we love it. You bring so much fun and laughter to our house now that it’s hard to imagine you as the “owly,” serious baby that you once were. Well, most of the time, anyway.

    Although at the time, I scoffed at the “precocious” diagnosis and insisted on further tests of your heart and brain, it turns out that old, eccentric doctor was right. You quit with the breath-holding spells at age 3, just like he predicted, and then you were reading chapter books at age 4, and even narrated your preschool play.

    You’ve amazed us and made our hearts swell with pride with your every accomplishment, which seem to come to you with ease. You amaze me with the way you set goals for yourself, and then achieve them one by one, as if you have a checklist. (Wait—you probably do have a checklist, as this is the girl who makes a list of not only what she has to pack for a trip, but another list of what she has to re-pack for the return trip.)

    When you started in ballet, you just “got it” right away, as if you were born with a bun and a leotard. You loved being on stage, and we all loved watching you perform for years. Then you decided you were more interested in gymnastics, and I was too busy with a new baby to see about finding you a class, so you taught yourself by looking up techniques on the internet. When I finally did get you enrolled in a class, your teachers were so impressed with your front and back handsprings, they asked you what gym you’d been training at. “I taught myself on E-how,” you’d say. They were astounded; I’m still amazed. I have always wanted to do a back handspring and never could, and at this point, probably never will, and it makes me happy that you can. (And I’m so happy that you got it back this year after losing it for a year out of fear.)

    I love how you figure out what you want to do, you learn how to do it, and you do it and you do it well. This determination and resourcefulness will get you far in life, and I’m excited to see what you’re going to do. Right now, you say you want to be a graphic artist or in advertising/marketing when you get older. You have so many qualities that would be right for that field, so it will be interesting to see if you choose that path.

    Because you were so serious and analytical as a baby, we all assumed you were taking after Poppy. But we couldn’t have been more wrong about that. As you get older, it’s seeming like you and I are alike in a lot of ways. We both enjoy doing so many of the same things—reading, yoga or exercise DVDs, shopping, writing, and recently, hair and makeup talk—and it’s a new kind of fun for me having a buddy to do these things with. Even better, you seem to be developing my distaste for messiness and lack of order, which means I have a little more help with picking up around the house and nagging the others to pick up after themselves, so yay!

    We are so blessed and lucky to have you in our lives, and we love you more than we can say. You are a truly wonderful daughter and sister, and we are all grateful for your presence every day. I love how you helped out in Noelle’s gymnastics class, and that you work with her at home, and that you have become an expert at the “turbo bath” and sometimes read to her at night. I am so happy that Noelle has you and Nicole for big sisters—she adores you both, and I couldn’t ask for better role models for her.

    Enjoy your party tonight with your friends, enjoy being 13, enjoy your last year of middle school. It will all go way too fast—at least for Poppy and me.


    And speaking of Poppy, of course we haven’t forgotten that today is his birthday, too. He was so thrilled when you were born on his birthday (and oddly enough, the same day his twin cousins were born a decade or so earlier), and he has never once minded sharing his day with you. In fact, he’s grateful to share the spotlight, because he thinks the whole birthday thing is kind of blown out of proportion. Still, we always find a way to spread out the celebration. (Now when Noelle was given that due date as well, that was getting a little ridiculous. Thank goodness she decided to wait another four days because we all know she most certainly would not want to share her birthday!)

    On the night that you were born, we did manage to have a small birthday celebration in my hospital room, and when this photo was taken, it marked the beginning of a new tradition:


    The best birthday gifts ever!

    Nearly every year since, sometime during the birthday bonanzas, I try to take the same photo of you girls on Poppy’s lap. I remember many times saying, “We’re gonna do this every year, even when they’re teenagers!” I can’t believe that time is already here.

    First birthdays, 32nd birthday.

    First birthdays; 32nd birthday.

    2nd birthdays; 33rd birthday.

    2nd birthdays; 33rd birthday.

    7th birthdays; 38th birthday.

    7th birthdays; 38th birthday.

    8th birthdays; 39th birthday.

    8th birthdays; 39th birthday.

    9th birthdays; 40th birthday.

    9th birthdays; 40th birthday.

    10th birthdays (first Cokes!); 41st birthday.

    10th birthdays (first Cokes!); 41st birthday.

    11th birthdays; 42nd birthday.

    11th birthdays; 42nd birthday.

    12th birthdays; 43rd birthday.

    12th birthdays; 43rd birthday.

    And we will continue to do so, even when you’re in college or have husbands and children of your own.

    So I hope you have a happy birthday, too, Mr. BK. I hope you enjoy your day that will end with 10 squealing teenage (!) girls taking over the house. I know you would not want it any other way, and I love you for that.

    That, and about a million other things.

  2. Can We Ban Halloween?

    November 16, 2010 by Wendy

    I hate Halloween.

    There. I said it.

    Isn’t that bad, coming from a mother of three children? Shouldn’t I be reveling in this kid-centric holiday, planning and making their costumes weeks in advance, like a good mom does?

    But no, I kind of dread Halloween beginning Oct. 1.  Maybe it’s because it’s the first sudden flurry of activity after the long summer and stressful start of the school year. Suddenly, the calendar becomes packed with school parties, fall festival and volunteering, plus trying to decide on three costumes and then gathering the supplies for them all. I’m just never quite ready for it when it hits.

    But the main reason I’m so anti-Halloween is because the traditions that go along with it (eating ridiculous amounts of sugar and celebrating all things evil and gory) are the opposite of everything we try to instill in our children all year long. Trick-or-treating is the WORST. Think about it: We are forever warning our children about Stranger Danger, and yet, we take them out in the dark of night (and sometimes on a school night!) and goad them into knocking on strangers’ doors and taking candy from these strangers. And even though we’ve all had it drilled into our heads since we were little that strangers put razor blades and drugs in the candy, we’re all, “Go on, sweetie, go knock on that door and hold your bucket out, and remember to say thank you!”

    Every year, while the girls and their cousins are knocking on some random door, there I am at the end of the driveway, going “Who came up with this tradition? This is terrible. We’re making our kids go knock on some pervert’s door and letting them take candy from them! It’s so dumb! Halloween should be banned!”

    And every year, there’s my Halloween-loving sister, going, “Oh, get over it, ya Scrooge, it’s tradition!”

    That’s not to say we don’t get into it or celebrate it. The twins have always chosen their own costumes, and they’re almost always homemade, which is saying a lot, as I am not a lover of crafting. In past years, they’ve been sushi, an ant-infested picnic table, cotton candy, an ice-cream cone and a bubble bath, winning prizes in the costume contests almost every time. (Score for the non-crafty mom!)




    This year, because they were too indecisive (Twin A), or procrastinated too much (Twin B), we kept it simple. Twin A was a “spa girl” and Twin B was a gypsy, both of which were easy to put together with stuff we already had around the house. Little Miss decided months ago that she wanted to be Snow White, which was even easier, since we already had the costume from previous years, and only had to buy a new wig:




    I do have a lot of fun helping the girls dress up, but I admit it’s probably one of very few things I won’t be too sad to see them outgrow. The tween twins are almost there, but not quite yet. They still had fun dressing up and trick-or-treating this year—especially when we hit the house where the nice old man always hands out money instead of candy. (They know his house—it’s the one with the Bentley parked out in front.)

    Every year, I get into Halloween less and less, putting up fewer decorations and barely glancing at those little booklets for fun ideas. In fact, this year, I didn’t put up a single decoration, other than the tiny pumpkin Little Miss brought home from her field trip to a farm. Thankfully, Little Miss is afraid of anything remotely creepy, therefore I get a reprieve from getting the boxes of decorations down (I only have two) and stretching those pesky cobwebs all over the house. The scariest decoration we have is a pumpkin with a sensor on it that says, “Boo! Did I scare you?” when you walk by. She has nightmares about that thing so there is no way it’s coming inside.

    The twins weren’t quite that skittish, and we got into the holiday more with them. Every year since they were toddlers, we would drive more than an hour away to a farm with a pumpkin patch, where we’d let them pick their pumpkins, and I’d take a million adorable pictures of all things fall. Then we’d come home, let them dig the gunk out, and I’d make roasted pumpkin seeds. But for some reason (usually due to poor planning and lack of time) we haven’t gone, nor have we even carved pumpkins for the last two years. I know, lame.

    Lucky for us, my sister is the complete opposite. She lives for Halloween, and is one of those who decks out her house both inside and out as much as most people do for Christmas: skeleton-bone streamers, bleeding pictures, ghosts, monster footprints, spider webs, rats, life-size hanging ghouls, rattling skeletons, creepy snakes, screeching cats. Come October, her house looks like one of those Halloween superstores.

    And she carries the theme into her menu for the evening. This year she made “feet of meet” (foot-shaped mini meatloaves, complete with mangy toenails made from Brazil nuts), pizza that looked like candy corn, some kind of bloody punch, mashed potatoes with green-olive eyeballs, witch-finger cookies and rolls with finger hot dogs sticking out. You get the picture:



    Clearly, that’s why we go there every year, plus she has a better neighborhood for trick-or-treating.We don’t get a lot of trick-or-treaters in our neighborhood and never stay home on Halloween night.

    Especially not since the time two years ago, when just as we were getting ready to leave, our doorbell rang. “Don’t answer it, I don’t have anything!” I said. But it was too late. The girls opened the door and there was a hayride-load of about 15 kids holding their pillowcases and buckets open expectantly. The girls and Hubby ran to the pantry in a panic and came back with handfuls of stale Easter candy and—wait for it—conversation hearts. I’m still mortified.

    That night, we came home to find our pumpkins all smashed up all over the yard. We got the message: Our “treats” sucked and we’d been “tricked.”

    I guess that’s what happens when the kids find out who the neighborhood Scrooge is.

  3. Sixth Grade. Ugh.

    May 26, 2010 by Wendy

    For the better part of the school year, Some Boy has had a crush on my Twin B. I don’t like  it, but it is sixth grade, the hormones are starting to emerge, it happens. And thankfully, she’s just not that into him. She’s not into any boys yet. (Yay, us!)

    It started with a rumor that he “like liked” her. She kind of laughed it off and said, “He’s nice, though.”

    (Note the though, though.)

    She lent him her copy of Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I told her that might send the wrong message, that she liked him back, but whatever.  It really didn’t faze her in the least that he liked her. She was just being her usual nice self.

    I marveled at that, because when I was in sixth grade and a boy liked me, I hated it. Hated it. It made me all uncomfortable, I did everything I could to avoid him and I just wanted it to go away and leave me to my horse models and Nancy Drew books. But she just treated him like she’d treat anybody else.

    At first, it was cute hearing the stories of how he’d stumble and clatter over a bunch of desks just to score the seat next to her. Or how the rumors swirled the day before a field trip that he was going to sit by her on the bus. (He didn’t, thanks to her group of protective friends, who surrounded her that day so he couldn’t.) Or how his friends would tell her that he wants to tell her he loves her. (Did you get that? I know that was a lot of pronouns to digest.)

    It was even kind of cute when Twin A (sister of the crushee) coincidentally got put into a group with Some Boy’s sister at her gymnastics competition. Throughout the course of the day, they figured out who each other was. “My brother is in love with your sister and my parents tease him about it all the time,” Some Boy’s sister said. On the way home from the meet, we learned that Twin B was the object of much discussion at their dinner table. That was kind of funny.

    But yesterday, cute and funny turned to annoying and kind of creepy.

    Apparently, Some Boy told one of Twin B’s friends this about her:

    “I can’t wait until she has her growth spurt.”

    In the words of kids today:




    And in the words of ME today: ”Listen, Prepubescence, get your eyes off my daughter’s chest! There’s nothin’ to see here, folks.” Not yet, anyway.

    “By growth spurt, I hope he means my height…but I doubt that,” said Twin B, now wise to the world and the ways of perverted prepubescent sixth-grade boys.

    Yeah, I doubt too that it’s her vertical stature he’s interested in. But I have to say, Some Boy does have good taste. She is lovely. And sweet. And innocent. And I plan on her staying that way for a long, long time, “growth spurt” or not.

    I just picture him, sitting there staring at her, waiting for her to “develop.” (Insert annoying air quotes here.)

    Eeewwww. Gross. Disturbing.

    And completely normal for this age.


    I’m so glad sixth grade is over in about a week.

    Oh, wait. No I’m not. I heard seventh grade is even worse.

    Post post script:

    When I picked the girls up from school today, the first thing I heard when they got into the car was that Some Boy has now told someone that Twin B  had “sexy eyes.”


    Well, at least his eyes are traveling upward. It’ll give him something to look at while he waits for the “growth spurt.”


    Another post post script:

    I kind of dreaded telling the husband/father about this little incident. So I chickened out and told him to read my blog tonight. He did, and while normally I hear him laughing, tonight I heard no laughter. Instead, I heard a low rumble that sounded something like this:

    “Oh, this boy’s gotta go. He’s gotta gooooooo.”

    I’m afraid this is only the beginning.

  4. Tweedle-Duh!

    April 13, 2010 by Wendy

    The other day, the girls were invited to an Alice in Wonderland-themed birthday party. The invitation read, “Please come dressed as your favorite character from Alice in Wonderland or wear a crazy hat.” What will they wear, I wondered, thinking they can’t be Alice because where in the world am I going to find a Size 10-12 blue pinafore dress? Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter required way too much makeup, the Cheshire cat required too much thought and creativity. What to do, what to do, I thought for days. I happened to mention it to one of my girlfriends, and just like that, she came up with the brilliant-but-no-brainer idea of Tweedledee and Tweedledum. Well, duh! Why didn’t I think of that? Was there a more perfect idea for twins? (Even though Tweedle-One-of-Them told me that Tweedledee and Tweedledum aren’t really even twins at all. Hmm, that’s curious.)

    I threw the idea out to them and they loved it, so we hastily (as in, the night before) gathered whatever we could find around the house to assemble a somewhat presentable costume: striped shirts, pillows for stuffing, old suspenders borrowed from my dad, baseball hats and homemade bowties. There was no time to make that propeller thing for the hats, and at the last minute, I slapped Post-its on them labeled “Tweedledee” and “Tweedledum.” In case no one knew who they were:

    tweedleWhen we learned they’d be going to the theater to see the movie, we made the outfits “convertible” in case no one else dressed up. (These are pre-teen girls were talking about, after all.) All they had to do was remove the pillows (which would actually be comfy in the theater), take off the suspenders and hat and they’d look pretty normal. Well, normal kids wearing their parents’ T-shirts, but whatever.

    As it turned out, most of the other girls did either dress up or wear a crazy hat, but on the way to the theater, Tweedledum said her collar was itching or choking her so she unstuffed herself in the car . So Tweedledee followed suit, saying, “It would have been silly for me to walk into the movie just being Tweedledee with no Tweedledum.”

    I heard they had a great time. And they weren’t even late.

  5. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!

    December 3, 2009 by Wendy

    Yesterday, Twin A and Twin B found out they both placed in their school’s science fair. This was big news in our house, because as anyone whose kids have participated in a science fair knows, science fair takes over your whole life. Grandparents, aunts and uncles anxiously awaited the results along with us, probably because they were all sick of hearing us talk about it.

    red hot

    Twin A's project on heat absorption.


    Twin B's project on springs.

    Science fair has always been a big part of our lives since the girls were in second grade. I guess this is what happens when there’s a rocket scientist in the house. And it ain’t me. The science gene certainly didn’t come from my pool—I like biology, but that’s it, and only sort of. But the twins get into it, and have actually won and gone on to compete in the district science fair three years in a row, twice even winning gold medals.

    Last year was the first time they didn’t place at all for their project on paper-towel absorbency, which was hard to believe after watching them meticulously soak and weigh a Costco pack of paper towels over the course of an entire weekend. Really, an entire weekend. And really, an entire Costco pack.

    To be fair, Twin A was preoccupied with studying for the regional spelling bee, which happened to be on the same day as the science fair, so it was a pretty stressful week for all, to say the least.

    They were totally fine with their first-time science fair loss, but Mr. BK, well, that was a different story. He felt that he let them down. I found myself consoling him with platitudes like, ”It’s OK, they can’t win every time; you did the best you could and that’s what matters.” (Of course, secretly thinking, “Well maybe if you guys had listened to one of my ideas,” but whatever.) Meanwhile, the girls were over it about 30 seconds after seeing their ribbon-free board.

    In middle school, the rules of the science fair change: no group projects (they had always shared their project), and best of all (for us!), it had to be done entirely at school. Parent involvement was limited to financing the projects, providing the necessary supplies, and allowing for Internet time. We were even given specific guidelines on what was and was not “appropriate” to discuss at home.

    Well, OK, we get the point. Parents, pony up the cash and mind your own beeswax.

    So that’s what we did. And they won. Twin A in first place, Twin B in fourth. We couldn’t be prouder of them. But…

    Along with the coolness of having and being twins—especially same-gender twins—comes a little thing called competition. I’ve always said a little competition is good, and it has proved to be so for them. But…

    You know how Jan Brady was always feeling in the shadow of the ever-popular, ever-successful older sister Marcia? (Note: You’ll find many of my posts reference The Brady Bunch. The Bradys are and always have been a huge part of our daily lives. The Brady Bunch theme song is my ringtone, and “Sunshine Day” is my sister’s special ringtone when she calls me.) So anyway, it’s not that Twin B is the underdog; not at all. Both girls have consistently gotten the exact same grades on their report cards since kindergarten, both tested into the gifted program in elementary school, and both are equally outgoing and ambitious. But somehow, some way, Twin A always seems to squeak ahead in every competition and contest, while Twin B always finds herself in third place, no matter what, whether it’s a Halloween costume contest (twice), the spelling bee (three times) and a storytelling contest at Barnes & Noble. It really is uncanny.

    Jan, I mean Twin B, handles all this surprisingly well, although last year in exasperation, she did tell me, “I’m beginning to really dislike the number three.” (Although she didn’t say it in the breathy, whiny tone that Jan would.)

    A few days after she said that, the jerseys for her basketball team were handed out, and you can guess what number she got. Yep, three. Two seasons in a row. Luckily, Marcia, I mean Twin A, does not like basketball. She’s too busy winning her blue ribbons in gymnastics. (Remember all those trophies on Marcia’s dresser?)

    So it should be understandable why, for days after the projects were judged, there was much anticipation between them over not only if they’d place, but who would place where if they did. Both really just wanted to place, because that would mean they  would be exempt from the major research project in the spring. That was a huge incentive for them.

    They discussed at length every scenario, and both agreed that it would be best if neither of them placed at all than if one did and one didn’t. Talk of places never even came up. Honestly, I wasn’t even sure if they’d place at all, as we had seen a lot of awesome projects on the day parents were invited to the fair.

    So yesterday when I picked them up from school, Twin B got in the car with the biggest smile on her face and blurted out,  ”I don’t have to do the research project next semester!”

    “Did you place?” I nearly screamed.

    “I got fourth place!” she said, just as excited as I was.

    There, in the pickup line, I got a huge lump in my throat and tried not to cry. I would’ve turned around to hug her, but I didn’t want to crash into the car in front of me. After much congratulations, I said, “Hey! You didn’t get third place!”

    “I know! I’m so happy!” she exclaimed.

    And then came the inevitable out of my mouth, and with a slight wince: “How did A do?”

    “Better, but I think she’d want to tell you.” Uh-oh, I admit I thought.

    Just then, I saw Twin A come bounding toward the car, big smile on her face.

    “I got first place!” she shouted, barely closing the door behind her.

    The lump in my throat came back, but this time, I had to try not laugh, not cry.

    “Are you serious?” was all I could muster. Of course, I was thrilled for her and congratulated her, but I was a little surprised since both BK and I said many times over the past few weeks that we thought B’s project was more complicated and thought she put a bit more effort into it. Not that A didn’t deserve it, I was just surprised. Happy, but surprised.

    I gave them my phone so they could share the news with their father, whom I knew would have the exact same reaction as I did. Twin B broke her news first, then handed the phone over to A so that she could tell hers. A glance in the rear-view mirror assured me that she really was OK with it. No fighting back tears, just a genuine shiny smile. Phew!

    And then as soon as we got home, and this is going to sound really bad unless you understand the dynamics of our unique situation, I texted my sisters and sister-in-law the following: “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia. That’s all I’m saying. Call later for details.”

    Immediately, I got a text back from one of my sisters. All it said was, “NO!”

    Next came the text from my sister-in-law: “So I take it A won again?”

    This is just the way it is. It’s not that no one is happy for and extremely proud of Twin A, and it’s not to take anything away from her; she certainly deserves every one of her wins. It’s just that, well, “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!”

    Later when I got a moment alone with Twin B, I again told her how proud of her I was, and asked if it bothered her that her sister placed first.

    “Not at all,” she said. “I’m just glad I placed. I would’ve been happy with an Honorable Mention, just as long as I didn’t have to that research project next semester.” And I believed her, especially when I heard them sharing the news over the phone throughout the evening with family members. She was just as excited saying “fourth place” as she would’ve been saying “first.” In fact, my mom thought she did say “first”  and had to be corrected. (Yikes.)

    Later, Twin A told me that when the winners were announced over the loudspeaker that morning, she didn’t think she heard right. And then her very next thought was that she wanted to hear her sister’s name.

    So, yes, they’re competitive, but they’re sweet about it, and they truly do want the best for each other. But it would be nice for Jan to capture a first place sometime.

    There’s always that upcoming essay contest…

    Wait a minute. I just remembered: Didn’t Marcia win that “Father of the Year” essay contest?

    Uh, buoy. Stay tuned…

  6. The magic of Christmas lies…on the roof?

    December 2, 2009 by Wendy

    Last Christmas was the last year the twins believed in Santa Claus. At 10 years old, they were probably among the last of their peer group to do so—or at least to admit to us they’d done so. The questions started coming about two years before that, after hearing some “there is no Santa!” rumors being spread by some of their savvier third-grade peers.

    The first year, I denied such rumors, always with a shocked, “Why would they say that? Of course there’s a Santa Claus! Do you think I have time to wrap all those gifts in the stockings and under the tree?” They continued to believe, always making sure on Christmas Eve to leave a plate of cookies, a note and a glass of milk for Santa, along with an extra plate of carrots for the reindeer. Santa would always write back in scrawly handwriting, solidifying their belief.

    But when they became skeptical of the other lies we parents perpetuate, namely the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny, I couldn’t lie. The tooth fairy idea is cute, and I didn’t mind them believing that each tooth she took from under their pillows in the night served as a building block for her giant castle in the sky. (Is it in the sky?) Plus, she stimulates the economy with her cash gifts. But the Easter bunny? That’s just downright creepy! I mean, come on, why do we let our children believe that a person-size rabbit walking on two legs creeps around their house at night hiding the eggs they painstakingly colored, leaving behind a basket of candy and junk?

    When they kept believing in that nonsense, I would say to BK, “Come on, how could these two gifted, straight-A students really believe that a giant rabbit comes into our house at night? That’s just weird!”

    Therefore, when they did finally become the least bit skeptical, I had no hesitation admitting that it was made up. I’m pretty sure they knew that, but didn’t want to admit it for fear of not finding money under their pillow with each lost tooth or not getting those Easter baskets full of candy and junk every Easter morning. (I did the same thing to my parents.)

    But Santa was a different story. I didn’t want that belief to go away. When the questions really started coming during the past year, I would always borrow a line from The Polar Express: “Remember, the magic of Christmas lies in your heart.” That vague line saved me so many times, and hey, it wasn’t a lie. If the magic of Christmas lies in our hearts, then I still believe in Santa! (I must admit, last year at the mall, Santa walked past us on his way to break and my sister and I both teared up and stared at him like he were, well, Santa Claus!)

    So last Christmas, sensing their ever-deepening skepticism and knowing this was probably the last year of Santa for them, I came up with the idea that we leave the scooters “Santa” was getting them up on the roof. We’d leave a note on the fireplace saying that their gifts were too large to fit down the chimney, so they had to be left on the roof.

    BK loved the idea. (Yes, sometimes he likes my ideas.) So on Christmas Eve, after we returned home from midnight Mass and tucked the excited kiddies into bed, he gamely set up the ladder at 2 a.m. and climbed up, wrapped scooters in tow. But even BK couldn’t have predicted that for the first time in forever, it would rain on Christmas Eve and continue to pour all night long. Luckily, we had the forethought to put the scooters in plastic bags, so we figured they’d be OK.

    The next morning, we did the traditional stocking opening. Sometimes they’d slip up with an excited, “Thank you!” to us when they opened one of their little gifts, whether it was packaged underwear or toothpaste. (Santa has always been practical when it comes to stockings in our house.) “Don’t thank us, it’s from Santa!” we’d say, not wanting to confuse Little Miss, who was busy tearing the paper from her stocking gifts into tiny shreds and sprinkling them like confetti all over the house.

    When they found the note, they exchanged that “twin look” they give each other and then couldn’t contain their excitement: not for what was potentially on the roof, but just the idea of going up on the roof. They love to do that, and for obvious reasons, the opportunity doesn’t come up too often. So there we were, in the pouring rain, BK leading the girls up the slippery ladder. I’m pretty sure our neighbors never saw us because Child Protective Services never came to our door that day.


    Doesn't everybody climb the roof on Christmas morning to open gifts?


    Finding their soaking wet gifts.

    scooters 2

    "Is it what I think it is???"

    scooters 3

    "It is! Can we try them up here?"

    There in the pouring rain, 12 feet above the ground, they opened their gifts. Then they asked if they could scooter on the roof. The very slippery roof. Thankfully, BK had the sense to say no, and eventually they came down, although the ever-cautious Twin A always takes about an hour of coaxing before she’ll set foot on the ladder for the descent.

    And yet, after all that, they later admitted that they knew the scooters were really from us.

    Santa had left the building.

    The good news is, he’s still here in the mind of Little Miss, and now we have two extra co-conspirators to help us perpetuate that belief for a few more years.

    At least I think so. Yesterday, she asked how a baby gets in a mommy’s tummy. She’s only 4.

    When did you break the news about Santa to your kids, or if you haven’t yet, when do you think is the right age to shatter their illusions? You can add your comments by clicking on the little caption bubble by the headline of each post.