By Starrla Cray
MAYER, MN Visitors to Zion Lutheran School in Mayer might think they’re seeing double, with three sets of twins in the kindergarten class, and another two sets in the preschool class.
Parents and teachers aren’t sure what caused the incredibly high twin rate, but they’re more than happy to welcome the added doses of joy into their lives.
“We’ve just been doubly blessed,” said Patrick Kiel, the father of preschool twins Logan and Gabriel.
“I think it’s God’s plan,” added Amy Knutson, the mother of Greta and Grace, who are also in Zion’s preschool class. “It’s double the fun, double the trouble.”
Twins in the classroom
Becky Aurich, Zion’s preschool and kindergarten teacher, said she’s amazed by how many twins are in her classes.
The kindergarten class has 14 students, six of which are part of a twin set. Out of the preschool class’s 20 students, four of them are twins.
“Before coming to Zion last year, I had never had twins in my classroom before,” Aurich said.
Kris Thomas, the office assistant for Zion Lutheran Church and school, said she’s never seen anything like it before either.
“It’s very unusual,” Thomas said.
“It makes people a little afraid to drink the water here,” Aurich added jokingly.
Sometimes, it can be a little tricky to tell everyone apart, Aurich said. When they have snowsuits on, it gets even more challenging, she added.
“They always let me know if I call them the wrong names,” Aurich laughed.
Alike, yet different
Breanna and Brooke Vinkemeier, the daughters of Scott and Alysia, are very similar in personality and appearance.
“Breanna likes pink, so she wears that a lot, which helps,” Aurich said.
Not all the twins are identical, however. Kyra and Sophia Ecklund, the daughters of Kelly and Kathy, are quite distinct.
“They’re very different, but they still have the twin bond,” Kathy Ecklund said. “They don’t like to go places without the other one.”
Ecklund said that the girls were walking down to the basement in their house recently, and they were holding hands because they were scared.
“I heard one of them say, ‘It’s OK. We’ll do it together,’” Ecklund said. “It was very sweet.”
When Sophia and Kyra were younger, Ecklund said that if one got hurt, the other would complain of pain in the same location.
Caleb and Connor Olsen, sons of Dave and Heidi, also share a twin bond, often encouraging each other in their schoolwork.
“It’s really been interesting having twins,” Heidi Olsen said. “They’re used to sharing, and taking turns is second nature.”
As babies, Connor and Caleb slept in the same crib, and they still share the same bedroom. They did, however, request their own set of clothing, Olsen said.
“I can’t tell whose clothes are whose, but they know,” she said.
In larger schools, twins are often separated into different classrooms, but because Zion is a small school, the twins are kept together.
“I’m glad that they’re not separated,” Olsen said.
Aurich said that all the twins enjoy being together, but they also aren’t afraid to branch out and become their own person.
“They really just interact as different people,” Thomas added.
New baby times two
For many of the parents of twins at Zion, the news that they were having twins was a total surprise.
“We were laughing and crying all at the same time,” said Olsen, who found out about the twins after an ultrasound. “It was total joy, but unbelievable at the same time.”
When Ecklund was pregnant, she said she had a feeling that she was having twins, sort of a “mother’s intuition.”
“I always seemed to be drawn to twins articles,” Ecklund said.
For Lynette and Patrick Kiel, twins run in the family, but it was still a surprise.
The “twin gene” also seems to be present in Art and Amy Knutson’s family. Amy’s sister, Tara Seltz, had twins in 2003, and Amy had twins in 2005.
“When our boys were born, there seemed to be a lot of twins in our church,” Olsen commented.
Ecklund said it was a common joke that the church should have pews marked as the “twin section.”
Alysia Vinkemeier said people told her that the first six months of having twins is the hardest.
“I found that to be very true,” she said.
“Your mind automatically goes to two of everything two car seats, two cribs, and all those diapers,” Ecklund added.
Now that the twins are older, however, there are definite benefits of having two at once, according to several parents.
“They are so close,” Vinkemeier said.
“It’s almost easier having two at the same time,” Olsen said. “They always have a best friend to play with.”
Older siblings, such as Olsen’s 9-year-old daughter, Amber, also seem to enjoy the twins.
“She had a lot of responsibility right off, and has been mothering them ever since,” Olsen said.
The Knutsons' two older daughters loved helping with the twins when they were babies, Amy said.
“They each could hold one,” she said.
According to parents of twins at Zion, having two children at the same time can sometimes present double the challenges, but it also can bring double the joy.
“I can’t imagine it any other way,” Vinkemeier said.