Tuesday, July 29, 2014

From Mother to Daughter to Daughter...

This weekend, my parents and my twin sister came in to celebrate a very special birthday. It was so wonderful to have them in town with us!

What is especially a gift, though, is seeing how so much of who I am can be traced back to who they are. And, in turn, so much of who my daughters are can be traced back to who I am and who my own mother and sister are. We're all connected in some way, this web of women. When we were pre-teens, my mom started a "Girls' Club" with us - basically just a special time we would spend together at least once a week (often while watching our favorite show at the time). My sister and I loved having "Girls' Club" time with our mom. It was fun to have time to talk, to laugh together, and to just be in each other's company.

Years later, when I became a mom myself, my mom let me in on her secret - it wasn't a coincidence that Girls' Club time was the way it was. It was something very intentional, on her part, to stay connected to my sister and I in that turbulent pre-teen/teen stage of life. Brilliance, I tell you! Needless to say, my girls are now also a part of our "Girls' Club."

Something that I am deeply grateful for (and something that we are blessed to have with Andrew's side of the family, too) is a shared commitment to our faith. After spending a weekend with my family of origin, I realized yet once again - they truly are where I learned how to cultivate a domestic monastery! In that sense, this blog wouldn't be possible without them.

Something especially beautiful to see, though, is how my sister has lived up to her role as Therese's godmother. The girls are both blessed with two godparents who actually take time to pray with them whenever we see them. I cherish these moments in my heart.



And now, What We Wore Sunday! We took my family to our archdiocese's amazing cathedral...and they loved it!





Saturday, July 26, 2014

Happy Birthday, Little One!!

Celebrated by eating her first french fry, of course!

I just had to pop in and say...Happy Birthday, Maria! What an absolute gift you are!!

#insteadofedel We're partying with family this weekend, but we'll return to our regular (err...irregular) programming next week. ;-)

For the story of her arrival, click here.

Happy birthday, my Love!!!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Raising Your Kids [The Catholic Way] - Patron Saint Days

 Linking up with Like Mother, Like Daughter, of course! Go congratulate them on the latest addition to their beautiful family. :-)

And now for another installment of "Raising Your Kids [The Catholic Way]"! To see our previous installments, click here.

Our family celebrated a special day this week...the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel!!! Not only is Mary (under that title) one of our family patron saints (along with St. Therese, St. Michael, and St. Joseph), but that is also the Marian title we settled on for Maria's patron saint day!! Her very first (ex-utero) one!!!

I grew up in a family that kept track of each other's patron saint days, and I'm happy to pass that tradition on to our children. To read more about celebrating patron saint days, I'd suggest checking out checking out how Jessica's family celebrates feastdays, and also checking out Kendra's phenomenal take on this.

And now for our family's take - what we celebrate, why we celebrate, and how we celebrate.

{pretty}


Walking home from Mass on her patron saint day...

I'm always amazed by people's mistaken notions about Catholics, in particular the notion that being a Catholic means that you're a bit of a buzzkill. No one celebrates as many days of the year as Catholics! We fast, yes, but we celebrate far more than we fast! (Hence why there are only 40 days of Lent, and 50 days of Easter.) 

If you follow the Church year, and if you truly befriend the saints, then the possibilities for celebrating are endless. Most days of the year have a saint's feast day assigned to them, and the more you fall in love with the saints, the more you find yourself getting excited to celebrate the lives of one or the other of them.

But that's just the thing. We aren't just celebrating their lives, we're celebrating their life in Christ. Each saint in heaven is another tally mark on the side of Christ and His Church in the fight of good against evil. Each member of the Church who becomes a member of the Church triumphant is a sign of our hope for victory, too!! One of my favorite verses in the scriptures is, "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" The resurrection makes every death of one in the state of grace a triumph! Yes, in this life, we are deeply saddened when we lose someone we love. But then, you look at the saints who have been canonized, and they give us so much hope. They, too, were mourned by those who loved them, but now their triumph brings the whole Church joy. And we have hope that, one day, we will share the great joy of the saints! 

After all, we are all the baby siblings of the saints!

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Excited  to be at Mass  that Mass is over and she can wiggle and babble to her heart's content!

I always kind of struggle when I hear people say, "Oh, I could never be a saint!" Inside I think, But, you do know that that's what God wants for you, right? And you do know that with His grace it can be a reality? A lot of people have it in their minds that saints are these far-off, distant creatures who are so much better than we could ever hope to be. But honestly? Some of the saints messed up royally and were - for some portion of their lives - way worse than I ever hope to be. And that's just the saints whose lives we know a lot about! The saints (other than Mary) sure as heck weren't perfect. To say you could never be a saint is boxing God in. It's ignoring the fact that some of the greatest saints in the Church were also some of the biggest sinners. The difference? The truly accepted and believed in God's mercy and love. As I've quoted here before, the saints are really just, "...ordinary people...who chose to take their baptism seriously."




We made some special treats post-Mass on her big day and she got to sample them. The smoothie was a win, but the pancakes...not so much.

That's what is so important about patron saints...a patron saint is someone who gets it. He or she has been there, done that, struggled with the effects of sin and suffering and lived to tell the tale. What's more, when your parents (or you!) choose a patron saint for yourself, you gain a close friend and advocate in heaven. On a patron saint day, we not only celebrate the saint but also the person who is under that saint's loving patronage. We celebrate filled with hope that that person, too, will one day be a saint!

Patron saint days are days of hope and joy, because they extend beyond remembering the past good deeds of a saint. On patron saint days we rejoice to know that the saints are our friends and that, by their prayers, they are doing all they can to help us on the road to heaven!!

{funny}




Caramel ice cream (and other flavors!) on the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is THE way to celebrate! Granted, when you're 11 months old, ice cream is a messy business.

I have a deep love for my patron saint (St. Michael the Archangel) and I hope for each of our children to feel the same way toward their patron saints. (Although, I would prefer that they SHARE their patron saints with the rest of us, too...) So how do we celebrate patron saint days in our family?

Mass is always a part of the big day (if possible). Sometimes we make a mini-pilgrimage. But always, always...we celebrate! We eat a special dessert or go out for ice cream. We may have a special dinner. Sometimes there is a present or two. But we make the day special in some way, while also keeping it simple (so that it's realistic). If nothing else, Mass and a special dessert are always a hit. :-)

{real}


 

Loves the taste of ice cream. Hates the cold. She offers it up like a champ ;-)

Does your family celebrate patron saint days? How do you celebrate?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Raising Your Kids [The Catholic Way] - The Church is Universal (Going to Mass on Vacation)

Linking up with the lovely ladies of Fine Linen and Purple.

It's time for another installment in our "Raising Your Kids [The Catholic Way]" series! Click here to read parts 1-4!



Those of you who follow us over on Instagram know that our family just returned from a long trip. We were invited along on a trip to the beach with lots of lovely extended family...how could we refuse!!! (Rule #1 of graduate student life: If someone offers to pay for you to go on vacation with them, say YES!) I'll share some more pictures from our trip later in the week, but for now I wanted to talk about a particular aspect of our trip that I treasured - going to Mass.

Andrew and I both grew up in families that always went to Mass on vacation. I have so many memories of vacation Masses - a random Sunday at a parish in Georgia, another Mass in Ohio, going to countless churches in Michigan, etc. etc. From the get-go our little family has been the same. Unbeknownst to him, the bed and breakfast that Andrew booked for our honeymoon was literally right next door to an absolutely beautiful Catholic church!!! As icing on the cake, it turned out that they had daily Mass every day around lunchtime...and did I mention it was next door to where we were staying?! I was one happy bride. :-)

But there's something so special about visiting other parishes, especially when on vacation. It is a reminder that the Church is, indeed, universal!

(I don't have any pictures from the church we went to for the Saturday Vigil on vacation, so instead I'll share with you some of the pictures of the pretty little church where Maria and I went for a Mass date one morning last week!)

 Being out of town with family is kind of a mixed bag. On the one hand, there is usually time for relaxing...but on the other hand, every moment is just so precious and you want to squeeze in as much time together as possible!! Mass is typically not a convenient activity (the closest daily Mass from the place we were staying at by the beach was about a 40 minute drive) but it is well worth the trip*. It is easy, I think, to get stuck in the world of your parish. It is easy to feel like the parish you go to week after week (or day after day) is the church. But it's not!


I mean...it is the Church, but not in her entirety. It's not until you start visiting other parishes that you realize just how connected we all are in the body of Christ. I personally struggle sometimes with the differences in liturgical style at different parishes (and I know I'm not alone in that) but despite those differences - it's still the Church. Jesus is still there in the tabernacle, every time. And I am still united to everyone else in the assembly when I receive the Eucharist.


I love this statue so much. Any parent of an older baby knows this gesture all too well. "No, Jesus, we are NOT going to grab the world right now. Mkay?"

I think it's easy to get into the "Do I have to go to Mass?" mentality while out of town and forget that going to Mass in different parts of the country/world is a unique opportunity. You can talk to your children about the beauty and the bigness of the Church until you're blue in the face...or you can just take them to a random church in a random city in northern North Carolina for a Saturday Vigil Mass and let them experience how similar it is to their own parish! 



That lesson - the lesson of the universality of the Church - is not one that I remember my parents lecturing me about. Rather, we visited churches and monasteries around the country on our trips...and I was able to experience it. (Which, in turn, naturally brought up questions and stirred conversation.) Those memories are ones that are deeply imprinted for me, along with the realization that the Church is so much bigger than myself and my liturgical preferences and favorite pew on the middle left-hand side of church. After all, Christ did ask His Apostles to preach the Gospel to all the ends of the earth...and it's amazing how much a Mass on vacation can drive home the reality of that call.


And now for what we wore yesterday!!! We got home late Saturday night after an entire day of driving, so we just walked to the church up the road from us. The girls look as dazed as they probably feel. What little troopers!!!


*I'm taking it for granted that you're all smarties, well-versed in your catechism, and you know that we're obligated to attend Mass every Sunday barring serious illness or some other actually physical impossibility (not inconvenience). As a favorite priest of mine used to tease, "Don't make the baby Jesus cry!"

Thursday, July 10, 2014

{phfr} Another Pleasantly [odd] Sunday

Linking up with the lovely ladies over at Like Mother, Like Daughter. 

Just a quicker post today, sharing another one of our restful Sunday afternoons. :-)

{pretty}


Recently, we went to a sculpture park near us. It was equal parts lovely and disturbing, as these things go. (Okay, disclaimer: I am not an art expert. So this is a layman's take on these sculptures and what I like and what I didn't. So, if you are an art expert, no trolling, okay?) This was one of my favorite "sculptures"...a triangle shaped bridge that went over a creek in the woods. One of the sides of the triangle was this glass wall, and we were able to get a family selfie in it. :-)

{happy}



(If you get that reference, we can most certainly be friends!)

Andrew had taken our big girl to this park not long after the baby girl was born, and he had told me all about this sculpture. But since then, I saw the Dr. Who episode and when I saw this, I geeked out a bit. (Maria, on the other hand, freaked out a little bit. I kind of don't blame her. But! Dr. Who! You can also click here.)

{funny}

This sculpture was done by a Russian artist. It's supposed to be cannons aimed in different directions to defend the park. From what?! Brown recluse spiders, maybe? (Those little things are the #1 reason why I will not shed too many tears when leaving Missouri. They creep me out, and I'm thankfully we haven't seen too many. Keep up the prayers, whoever the patron saint against spiders is.)

I also handed over my camera to Andrew for a bit and turned my back. I found these pictures later.


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When our oldest was a baby, we called her our "Stinkzilla" when she wound up (since her daddy-bestowed nickname is "Stinky"). This little one's daddy-given nickname is "Plumpy," so she is our "Plumpzilla." This picture documents Plumpzilla terrorizing the town. "Ohhhh...no! There goes Tokyo! Go, go, Plumpzilla!!"

I always love reading the nicknames that Lindsay's family comes up with for their babies. I think she's the one that says that a child who has been nicknames is a child who's loved and it's true...our girls are swimming in nicknames and we love them both to pieces!!!


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Most Important Lessons My Parents Taught Me (and that I'll be teaching my daughters, too!)


Linking up to the amazing Heather for Five Favorites!!

When I was editing the throwback pictures from last week's post and they inspired this post. My parents have taught me so many things and it's true what they say...being a parent yourself makes you appreciate those lessons so much more. Every day that I'm a parent, I find myself saying, "Wow. They must have dealt with this, too. How did they do it?!"

Of the many lessons my parents taught me, these are my five favorites. :-)

-1-
You are beautiful.


There has been a lot of debate on the internet these days about whether or not we should tell our daughters that they're beautiful. But do you know what? I have friends whose parents told them they were beautiful and friends whose parents didn't and...the ones whose parents didn't are not more confident because of it! Quite the contrary! I went through my fair share of awkward stages growing up, like any kid, but I always knew that my parents thought I was beautiful. And when I wasn't sure if I believed it myself, knowing that they believed it so strongly kept me going.

-2-
You are wanted and loved.



My parents didn't have an easy time getting pregnant, and it took them many, many years of suffering from infertility before they were blessed with twins. You better believe that we were told that, often, when we were growing up. We were constantly reminded that we were the answer to prayer.

Now, as a parent, I know that there are some days when you feel taxed to the max and it's easy to forget how much you do want your children. But, it helps to take a deep breath and remember what a gift they are. Watching my parents taught me that. I don't know how they did it, but they had a way of making us feel so wanted even though I'm sure there were days that we probably tested the outer bounds of their patience. They chose to love us, even on those hard days.

I think what made the biggest difference was their ongoing effort to say those magic words, "I love you." Those words were heard very frequently around our house. And they weren't empty words. They were an underlying chorus to our days. They were a reminder. They reminded me that, no matter how annoying/stubborn/awkward/needy/difficult I was at times...I was loved. And my parents weren't going to give up on me. 

My parents weren't perfectly patient with me, and we certainly argued. But I knew that I was loved. And that confidence helped me to make it through a lot of challenges that I faced in life. I want the same for my girls. I want to smother them with tenderness and affection, so they know how treasured they are. 

-3-
Seek God, and you will find Him everywhere.


Okay, major disclaimer? My dad went to a Franciscan minor seminary in high school (when he was discerning a possible vocation to the priesthood). He became a third order Franciscan while there. He loves St. Francis so much that he gave him as a patron to one of his daughters. So, I imagine that some of this is an off-shoot of his Franciscan spirituality.

My parents, as I've shared before, really did a good job of making our Catholic faith a natural part of our lives. Part of that was helping us to see the fingerprints of God wherever we looked. My parents are both appreciative of beauty, and they instilled that in us as well. They helped us to see beauty in grand things - beautiful churches and monasteries, the ocean and the Great Lakes, the Rocky mountains, etc. But they also helped us to see beauty in the little things. They were quick to note and acknowledge when they saw God at work in their lives. I hope to instill the same sense of God's closeness in my daughters' lives, too.

-4-

You belong right here.



Life is full of ups and downs, isn't it? There are some amazingly kind people in the world, some amazingly unkind people and everyone in between. Encountering hurt and rejection is unavoidable, and I experienced my fair share growing up. But my parents instilled something in both my sister and I - we had a place where we would always belong. We belonged in our family! We had a strong family culture, which included inside jokes and happy memories. 

Thankfully, Andrew had the same experience growing up, and our own strong family cultures has reinforced for us the importance of establishing our own family culture. We want our daughters to know that, when the world overwhelms them they can always come home! We want home to be a place where they can feel they belong, just as we did in our own homes when we were growing up.

-5-
Talk. I'm listening.


Something that I underestimated about having daughters is how chatty they are. Even before they can talk, they have so much to tell you. (Maybe this is just my daughters?) At any rate, I remember the many time that my mom was cooking dinner, or my dad was working on something at his desk, or I was driving in the car with them...and I just needed to talk about something. When I was little, it was often a barrage of questions (can't imagine where my oldest gets that from!) and when I was older it became discussions about more serious things. But my parents both made one thing clear - they were there for us to talk to. And they wanted to hear what we had to say.

Now, as a parent, I know that you can't always do that perfectly. I certainly don't and I know my parents didn't either. But the overarching theme of my childhood was that they were there and they did want to hear what I had to say. And I hope to help my daughters to know that, too.

Thanks, Mom and Dad. I hope I can do as good a job as you both did!!!


Thursday, July 3, 2014

How Having A Twin Saved Me from Myself (and why your twins will be fine)


So, last week, I celebrated a birthday. I went from this...


...to this.


And it only took 28 years for the makeover to be complete! I'm happy to announce that I have a full head of hair and unclenched fists these days. ;-)

(Cake made by Andrew. He's the baker in the family!!!)

But it wasn't just my birthday...it was my twin sister's birthday, too!!

When going to storytimes, lactation support groups, etc. I occasionally run in to a mom of twins. Whenever I do, I can't help but gush over her littles and tell her that I, too, am a twin. Immediately, she'll follow with a flurry of questions, "Are you still close to your twin? Does your twin live nearby?" They look at their little twins and listen to me, and you can see the wheels turning in their heads, Will my twins turn out okay? Will being a twin turn out to be a good thing for them, or will it cause them problems? Will they be deprived because they have to share parents -and everything else - from the start?

So, parents of twins, I'm here to tell you - your twins are going to be just fine. In fact, they may be better people because they are twins. Here are just a few ways that my twin sister has saved me from the less nice parts of myself and helped me to be the person that I am today.

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She taught me, from the beginning, how to love someone else. 


I've never known life as an only child. You'd think that I would have grown up feeling starved for attention and terribly deprived. But I didn't. I think having a twin is a bit akin to the kind of love you have for your children. It is instinctual. Yes, you argue and often have to choose to love the other person (especially when she borrows your clothes and gets a stain on them - sorry for the times I did that, Francesca!). But deep down, in a way that makes up who you are because it began in the womb - you love your twin. There is a part of you that knows them, and a part of them that knows you, that is unlike any relationship. And this relationship causes your heart to expand. Instead of feeling entitled to your own space - you don't want to be alone. Twins typically sleep easier as babies when they're side by side. The well-known family lore says that when we were close to being born, I grabbed on to my sister. I wrapped my arms around her, afraid and not wanting to lose her. (This caused my mom's water to break and her to have to have an emergency c-section. Whoops. Sorry, Mom!) But that kind of loving need to reach out to another person - it's stuck with me. The same is true for my sister, too. Both of us have grown up with a sense of compassion that I think stems directly from being twins. We've always been aware of someone other than ourselves. We've always loved someone other than ourselves. 

{happy}
She taught me what it is to have a friend and be a friend.



At some point (before or shortly after my second daughter was born) I was talking to my mom about my firstborn and the fact that she wishes that we'd had more chances for one-on-one time like I had with my daughter (since my girl was an only child for almost three years). I was quick to reassure her that I often worried about Therese being alone, and that I didn't feel at all deprived as a child! I remember from the time she was a newborn, looking at her and thinking, She's all alone. I mean, she has Andrew and me but she doesn't have another baby to lie beside her. She doesn't have someone to keep her company. When she was little, I would often try to play with her, take her to the park, take her to playdates, trying to make sure she wasn't lonely. I don't ever remember being lonely when I was a young child. I was born with a best friend, a friend that I've now had for almost 29 years.

But our friendship hasn't always been all sunshine and roses. It's been a real friendship, with all the ups and downs that go with that. We've been friends for almost three decades, and have literally known each other since the beginning of our lives. We've been through a lot together - through growing pains, boyfriends come and gone, college woes and triumphs, first jobs, and a marriage and children added in to the mix. We've shared our first steps, our first words, our first books...everything. And you better believe that we didn't always see eye-to-eye, didn't always want to share our space with another person, didn't always want our sister to have the boyfriend/friend that she had in her life. But my twin sister is the person who taught me how important it is to resolve arguments. She taught how important it is to keep loving, even in the face of discord. And that pattern of disagreement and resolution is one that I've carried with me throughout life, even in to my marriage! She's taught me that real love - choosing to love - can stand the test of time.

{funny}
She taught me that it's okay to stand out and to stand together.




(Can you hear it now, "Excuse me, sir...you have your hands full!!")

When you are a twin, you stick out from the get-go. People can't help noticing a double stroller with two tiny babies in it, and cooing over them. My mom actually used to be nervous taking us out for strolls in Chicago (where we lived as babies) because so many people would stop her to look at us! 

Throughout childhood, we were often stopped or given extra (sometimes unwanted) attention because we were twins. I'm not going to lie - sometimes that was really hard. Sometimes we just wanted to blend in with everyone else, not be treated differently because we had a twin. (And we weren't even identical twins!!) But, I think that ultimately, it helped us to realize something - life isn't about fitting in. Yes, it was hard to not always have a niche, to not be able to slip under the radar as easily as everyone else - but it also meant that we knew, from the get-go that there was something special about us. We didn't have to fit in to be special. And honestly? I have yet to meet a kid who doesn't know what it feels like to not fit in. It pains me when my social preschooler tries to make friends on the playground and will occasionally come up against a very anti-social little kid who isn't nice to her. I get it. I know what that feels like. But do you know what helps you when you have a twin? You know that, ultimately, there is one friend you have who knows you through and through - and thinks that you're pretty special. And that makes you less afraid to stand out.

On the flipside, having a twin has also made me learn the importance of sticking together. We had some rough patches growing up, where kids would automatically exclude us because we were twins. They weren't trying to be mean, but they just assumed that we would be content to go off on our own, as our own neat little package. It was so frustrating for both of us! Of course, this doesn't mean that we never had friends, but it meant that some kids didn't choose us as friends simply because they figured we were satisfied with our twin. (For the records, twins may be best friends, but that doesn't mean that they don't like having any other friends in their lives! They do!) When we were older, we talked about those experiences and learned a valuable lesson...we should have just stuck together! Those people in elementary school who made us feel left out...we're not friends with them anymore. But each other? You better believe that we're still friends with each other!! And we should have sweated those petty relationships less and stood together more!!! We've kept this in mind now, as adult sisters. Our relationship is irreplaceable.

(Side note: high school was a different ball game. Instead of being treated as "other" for being twins, we were treated as being automatically "cool" for being twins. So don't assume that your twins will have the same ups and downs we did! We had some lovely friends growing up!)

(Also side note: if you haven't heard of it yet...please consider taking your twins to The Twins Festival! We went when we were thirteen and it really strengthened our relationship and helped us to "own" being twins. As thirteen year olds it was amazing to feel like we fit in with so many other people!)


{real}
She taught me that life is not just about you, and you cannot go through life alone.


Let's be honest...Francesca started teaching me this lesson and then she handed off the baton to Andrew and the girls...so I have all four of them to thank!

Twins learn, pretty early on, what it is to share. That doesn't mean that they're always good at it...but it does mean that they need to accept it as part of life from the get go. Poor things, you may say. But, I think that it would be much harder to not have sharing be a part of your life from the get go and then have to learn it. I've watched my daughters undergo that process...and it looks much more painful that what I remember experiencing. I'm sure my mom has stories aplenty of us not wanting to share with each other, but I don't remember feeling the need to claim my own space as much as my daughters do at times. Having a twin - a fellow little person who you love more than anyone else in the world - is probably the gentlest way to learn the lesson that the world does not revolve around you. You know that. From the start. And you aren't traumatized by it. In fact, you feel kind of bad for the people who don't learn that from the start. 

Take birthdays, for example. I cannot fathom having my own birthday. But I don't mean that in the, "Woe is me! I have to share a birthday!" sense. I mean that in the, "How sad to have to experience that day all by yourself. Glad I don't have to!" I'm happy to share that special day with someone else. And I'm happy to share that day with Francesca!!

Growing up, I had heard of other kids going through phases when they wanted to be a twin. Recently, I encountered it firsthand, when I had this conversation with Therese,

Me: Guess whose birthday is coming up!
T: Mommy!
Me: And Auntie! Because Mommy and Auntie were born on the exact same day! We share a birthday!
T: Who was born on the same day as me? 
Me: Um, no one. Just you! But Mommy and Daddy were there with you.
T: But...but who shares my birthday?
Me: Um, probably other people have the same birthday as you. But you were the only baby who came out of Mommy's tummy on that day.
T: But I don't want to be the only one! I want to have the exact same birthday as someone else!

I didn't know how to tell her that that ship already sailed...

So, happy birthday to one of my best friends in the whole entire world! You are more precious to me than you'll ever know! Thank you for teaching me to be less selfish, more compassionate and forgiving, and more willing to love than I would have been without you. :-)


Moms (and dads) of twins...take a deep breath. Your twins will be fine. In fact they'll be more than fine. :-)


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