Tag Archives: twins

MY PICTURE PERFECT FAMILY by Marguerite Elisofon

5146laoj58l-_sx331_bo1204203200_Marguerite Elisofon and her husband Howard had boy-girl twins named Samantha and Matthew in 1990. The twins were premature, but Matthew developed normally while Samantha started lagging behind from an early age. After many rounds of testing, Samantha was diagnosed on the autism spectrum, which changed the Elisofons’ lives in every possible way.

My Picture Perfect Family is a painstaking account of how the Elisofons – and particularly Marguerite – learned to accept that Samantha would never be the “picture perfect” daughter they had hoped for, and how they worked tirelessly to enroll her in programs and schools that would allow her to learn and even thrive. Marguerite’s patience and persistence saw Samantha through several New York City schools until she finally ended up at one that was committed to her intellectual growth. There are many ups and downs along the way: schools that decided that Samantha was too much for them, endless tantrums and disastrous family vacations, punctuated by small steps forward, unexpected breakthroughs and some surprisingly positive playdates. Through it all, Elisofon never gave up hope that her daughter would find a place that would encourage her and allow her to pursue the activities she loved – acting and singing.

As a mother of twins myself, I was particularly interested in how Samantha and Matthew related to each other over the years, and how Elisofon navigated balancing of attention between the two, even when one twin needed so much more intervention and involvement. She includes family photographs along the way, along with the backstory of what was happening that the camera didn’t capture.

My Picture Perfect Family is a dense, engrossing read. While it is quite detailed, it is never tedious. Elisofon is a skilled writer, laying out the complications in Samantha’s condition and treatment. And it ends on a hopeful note. Samantha graduates from high school and, like her brother, goes on to college. The book ends as she leaves for college, with only a brief epilogue talking about the years that followed.

I am glad I read My Picture Perfect Family. It’s a very poignant and powerful look at the challenges of raising an autistic child and the power of a stubborn, persistent parent who wants nothing more than her daughter to be happy and challenged.


JAKE AND LILY by Jerry Spinelli

I am not on track for a record year of reading. Life just keeps getting in the way. Oh well!

I am almost done with the audio of Fates and Furies, which I have been listening to for several weeks. I  am in the home stretch and while I am tempted to just read the rest, I like the narrator of the second half and I want to hear it out. I have very mixed feelings about the book, and I’ve read a bunch of reviews and can’t seem to find anyone who sees it like I do. Review soon…

I am reading In The Language of Miracles too, which I think I would enjoy more if I didn’t read it for the 5 minutes before sleep every night. It’s very well-written and I want to get far enough in that I can’t put it down.

I did manage to finish a middle grade book for our mother-daughter book club last weekend. We read Jake and Lily by Jerry Spinelli. It’s about eleven year-old twins, Jake and Lily, who are going into sixth grade. They’ve always been very close, and have a special bond that lets them know what’s going on with each other even when they’re not together. But now they’re in middle school, and Jake is starting to want to spend time apart from Lily. He wants to hang out with other boys and do things that Lily doesn’t like to do. Jake goes along with a neighborhood bully who assembles a group of 4 to ride around on their bikes and find “goobers” (a.k.a dorks).

Lily, meanwhile, is devastated by Jake’s defection. She is left facing the summer without her best – or any – friend. She spends her days moping around and lamenting her brother’s decision to her grandfather, who finally urges her to move on make new friends.

I thought Jake and Lily was OK, but not great. There isn’t a whole lot to the story beyond what I summed up above. Lily does nothing but whine about Jake until the book is almost done. Jake’s story is more interesting, as he takes the blame for something his friend does and has to confront him about it. But in the end it isn’t a very memorable or deep book. I also thought it was a little young for 6th grade. Also – I didn’t buy the twin superpowers that Jake and Lily had, or their birthday tradition of sleepwalking to the train station.

None of the girls loved Jake and Lily (including my own eleven year-old twins), but it did prompt a robust conversation. There ended up being more to discuss than I expected. (Sometimes that’s the case with books we don’t like.)

So that’s where I am. I hope to pick up the pace going into the end of the year.

Recent Blog Posts

Please allow a few non-book related links today. They are on topics that are equally important to me!

The first is a post I wrote for Parentables today called "7 Things Not To Say To A Twin Mom". If you have twins, some of this might sound familiar…

And the second is a post I wrote for my corporate blog about Petfinder's 15th birthday and a HUGE pet adoption event that it is holding across the country this weekend. Please help spread the word!


I usually read fiction – hence this blog – but every now and again I sneak in some non-fiction on a topic I either need to learn more about or am particularly interested in. When a review copy of Emotionally Healthy Twins: A New Philosophy for Parenting Two Unique Individuals, by Joan Friedman, came my way, I jumped at the chance to read it.  I really haven’t delved much into the parenting book genre. I read What to Expect… for the infant and toddler stages, but I just haven’t brought myself to expand beyond them. Since raising twins has its own set of challenges, though, I figured it was worth learning what the experts say.

(I know this isn’t the type of book I usually review on EDIWTB, but there are some parents of twins who read this blog, and I figured some of you might know people with twins who might be interested in the review.)

Friedman is a twin herself and raised a set of twin boys (kids #4 and #5). She’s also a therapist specializing in the treatment of twin-related issues. So she has some experience in this area.

Friedman’s theme is: treat twins uniquely. Spend one-on-one time with each one. Don’t assume that twins always want to be together and share everything. Don’t expect twins to parent each other – they each need you as a parent. Don’t compare them.

While I think some of her recommendations are a bit extreme, such as separate birthday parties for pre-schoolers, there is a lot of good advice in here. I know that one area I haven’t been good on as a mom is spending time alone with each of my daughters. This book has reinforced for me the importance of taking the time needed to do that. Friedman says:

When parents assume that their twins are happy simply being with each other and don’t need one-on-one time with mom or dad, the result can be a reneging on the parental role and subsequent feelings of abandonment in each child. The twins may then gradually shut their parents out and attempt to meet each other’s needs. Rather than the parent’s having the all-important individual connection with each child, the twinship becomes the core relationship. Creating a close threesome – parent and two children – likewise cannot substitute for the one-on-one relationship between one parent and one child. Parents must be more influential in the lives of each twin than the other twin.

This book will serve as a reminder to me not to let the convenience of doing things as a family unit override the importance of developing strong independent relationships with each girl and cultivating and  supporting their separate activities and friendships.

I also found the chapter on parenting twin infants to be almost therapeutic. Friedman is quite sympathetic to the feelings many new twin moms have: inadequacy, being overwhelmed, and feeling blessed and resentful at the same time. I wish I had read it when my girls were infants – it would have been even more helpful back then.

Emotionally Healthy Twins covers infancy to young adulthood. I recommend it as a resource for any parent of twins, regardless of their age.