Our little family FAQ: Privacy

S on SnowdoniaIt’s been a while since I made a post about life with my little family of four. Back in October, I wrote a post about marriage and sisterhood, and why we all choose to live together. Today, I thought I would answer a frequently asked question that I get about our lifestyle.

We are two couples who live together, and when I tell people that I live with my husband, my twin sister, and her boyfriend, there are a few stock responses I get. (That happens so much in life. I get the same joke every time I tell someone my name, too. And I often get stripper jokes when I tell people I’m a dancer. But that’s beside the point.) One of the responses is “Oh, I’ve always wished I had a twin. That must be so nice.” Which is great. It is so nice. Another one is “I would never want to live with my sister. Don’t you need to have your own identity?” People ask us when we’re going to grow up and form our own households, or how that will never work once my husband and I “start a family.” Which is funny, I think, because the four of us together already HAVE started a family with each other.

Anyway, none of those are the questions which I intend to address today. The real question I get is only asked by people I know a little bit. It’s not asked by the dentist or the business contact, but by people who may someday turn into friends. And that is the question of privacy.

We somehow have this idea in our society that if you are a single twenty-something and have a roommate, privacy isn’t a real problem. If you are a couple living together, it’s not a problem. If you’re a couple with kids, the kids probably get in the way of privacy, but of course they do. But why on Earth would a couple want to live with other adults? It’s the same question that couples with another roommate get a lot, I think.

And I’ll be honest, privacy has been a problem for us sometimes. In our last apartment, which was a big factory-conversion loft where the Architect and I lived with K throughout our engagement and first year of marriage, the walls to our bedroom did not go all the way to the ceiling. We had many whispered conversations in those days, since our bedroom was in the living room, acoustically speaking. K’s bedroom walls did go all the way to the ceiling, so at least there was some ability to have walls block sounds in the apartment. Our current apartment is so small that there is nowhere good for the Artist to put his computer, so his desktop screens face the couch and we can all see what he’s doing all the time.

We can’t walk around the house in our underwear. We can’t assume we can’t be heard. But we’re all adults. When the Artist and I are home alone all day, I often pretend I can’t see what’s on his computer screen and purposefully keep my eyes away in the interest of maintaining some privacy. We do sometimes have to build privacy. The Architect sometimes watches sports and the Artist plays videogames while K and I have girl time with our friends who come over. We snuggle in separate parts of the house at the same time, each couple in their own world. We steal kisses around the corner in the kitchen.

But maintaining that privacy isn’t the real issue of privacy when living together in a group. The real issue is realizing that in the grand scheme of things, privacy isn’t that important. Historically speaking, Americans have an insane amount of privacy these days. A hundred years ago it was normal for a family with many children to share a one-room house, and even all share a bed. And it was fine. And we’re so much happier having this big family we see every day and share meals and difficulties with that it doesn’t even matter that we have to sacrifice a small amount of privacy. We still have two bedrooms and two bathrooms. We can get away from each other if we need to. But I would much, much rather have less privacy around the Artist, the Architect, and K than to be lonely.

And then there’s the question of the larger privacy issues in the world these days. Google knows more about me than many of my friends do. And there’s nothing that can be done about that, really. So what does privacy even mean? Who knows. All I know is that having two other adults in my house with my husband doesn’t make me feel like I don’t have privacy in the grand scheme of things.

Two Winter Refashions

S on Snowdonia

 

Last week, K showed you guys the dress from our grandma that I refashioned for you all. Today, I’m going to give you some more details about how I got all that done. Also, I’m going to show you a fun Christmas cocktail dress refashion that I actually did ages ago for another party, but I’ve been holding off on showing you guys so that I could wait around until it would be appropriate to re-refashion it into a Christmas dress. So, without further ado, dresses!

First off, I’ll tell you more detail about Grandma’s dress. For review, here’s the before-before, when she was wearing the dress at our high school graduation.

graduation

 

She used to wear it to all kinds of family events: weddings, birthday parties. Everything. Here’s how it looked when I first put it on:

Grandma dress beforeYikes! A dreary day and a dreary fit! Something obviously had to be done. First step, I took off the sleeves because they obviously weren’t helping. There was this strange fold over the shoulders I decided to keep as little epaulets, so the next step was to finish folding those shoulder folds all the way down the sides. I also took in the side seams some so that the armpits would sit where they should. Then, once I folded those epaulet/dart things toward the sides, I realized that they just folded over each other on the side seam and make the dress fit beautifully! So I stitched them down on the sides, and hemmed it to knee length. And voila! An updated dress with ancestral history. Here’s another picture of K wearing it. She’s got a silly hat, a silly smile, and a silly pose, but you can get a better idea of how it fits than the picture she posted about it last week.

Grandma dress after

 

And now for the second refashion: A cocktail dress out of an 80’s prom dress. I picked up this frightfully outdated dress at my local thrift store, and decided I could give it some love.

Christmas dress beforeOh, yeah. Check out that sexy slit and the weird ribbon design thingy on top. Sexy sexy. First thing I did, obviously, was to remove the applique on the bustline, take it in to fit on the sides, and change the hem to a more modern cocktail length, thus losing the slit. But it still lacked something, so enter this (terribly photographed) plaid shirt:

Christmas dress part 2 beforeI don’t like strapless dresses. I hate wearing them, I’m always worried that they will fall off. So this dress obviously needed at least one strap. The Architect and I came up with this crazy idea to make a strap for the dress out of this plaid. And then we went even further and decided to keep it going. Add in a wide white belt, and you have the perfect outfit to go to a fancy schmoozing event trying to get rich people to donate to the arts. The Architect’s firm was involved in decorating, so we got to go for free. Here are a couple of afters from that event. First up: Forking the Architect in a photobooth.

Christmas dress after 1Second round: posing in front of a car we could never hope to afford: The Architect and I, for what it’s worth, got many, many compliments from strangers on how well-dressed of a couple we are that night.

Christmas dress after 2

 

Ever since I refashioned that dress, though, I’ve been thinking it would make a great Christmas dress, if only it had a bow. It would be like the adorable Christmas package dress. So, when I found out this week that I get to go to the company party of the place I worked before we moved and surprised everyone, I knew this would be the perfect chance to dress like a Christmas present. I made a bow for the belt, and here it is:

photo (4)Now that I finished, I think the bow might look better if I attach it to the buckle on the belt and just wear the belt a little sideways so it lines up. I think it might look too busy with the buckle and the bow. What do you guys think?

Before and After

Before and After

 

 

 

 

 

Twinversary!

K on treeThis weekend, S and I celebrated our Twinversary!

I know, I know, you weirdo singletons don’t know what a Twinversary is. I’ll let you in on the secret. It’s our birthday. Otherwise known as the anniversary of our lives as twins officially beginning. The day we became soul mates instead of a single soul. When we turned 25, we called it our Sipperversary and gave each other silver gifts.

I’ll let you guys in on another secret. The nickname S and I call each other is “Sipper” which derived somehow or another from sister. So for our “Silver Sipperversary” I gave S a “silver sipper” which was in reality a sterling silver drinking straw, which I had engraved with “sipper.” Oh yeah. I was clever that year.

But THIS YEAR, S totally beat me out on gifts. Like, completely and utterly.

You know how she’s been doing the clothing refashioning lately? She did the most epic refashion ever for my birthday.

Backstory: Our wonderful grandmother passed away in January of this year. She was a very frugal woman, having reached adulthood during the depression. (She was born in 1919). As long as I can remember, she has had the same dress that she wore to all fancy occasions. I remember her wearing it to weddings, baby showers and birthday parties. She even wore it to our high school graduation. Here’s a picture of her, S and I at our high school graduation. graduation

When Grandma passed away, I inherited her dress. Unfortunately, it was too big for me to wear. So my birthday present for S was for her to refashion the dress into something I could wear. In the spirit of our grandmother’s taste for keeping things and keeping them useful, I can only expect she would have been happy for her dress to be used.

And now, I know you all want to see what I look like in the dress. Here’s a pic S snapped on our birthday.

Birthday dress

 

Enjoy the holidays! And let us know how you’re making gifts and remembering your family during the holidays.

An Egg Reunited!

S on Snowdonia The Architect and I arrived at our new apartment on Sunday night! We live with K and the Artist again! Hooray!

Except, in case you can’t tell from the photo, I’m sick. The Architect has been sick, too. We spent Thanksgiving with a sick baby, so of course we both have colds now. But he was cute even though he wouldn’t stop screaming! It was my first Thanksgiving with my in-laws, and I think it was really nice.

photo (1)

I’m so happy about getting back together with my other half. But I’m sick, and, to be honest, we’ve been much too busy to really enjoy or appreciate the soulmate reunification. We’ve got unpacking to do! The movers dropped off all of our stuff yesterday, and since then, our house has seen a veritable explosion of things with no home yet, empty cardboard boxes, and crumpled paper. I think we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, though.

I noticed that some of our things are magic at making it seem like we live here. Those purple doors we’re standing in front of were like that. As soon as they were unpacked, K, the Architect, and I all kind of breathed and said it suddenly felt like our real house. And today, we accomplished our very first everyone-FINALLY-living-in-the-same-house DIY.

We had this mail sorter thingy in our old apartment, but never really found a good way to use it. Junk mail doesn’t even make it into the house. And I don’t understand why bills don’t go in the IN box? It’s not like we get a lot of real mail that isn’t junk or bills.

photo 1Also, p.s., see how much of a mess it’s been in here?

photo 2Anyway, I suggested that we assign each person their own box, since there are four of us. The Architect suggested putting letters on them in chalk pen, and the Artist took care of the rest. He’s fancy. First, he picked out pretty fonts to use. Then he printed out stencils using his fancy vinyl cutter. While it’s cutting, it totally sounds like a 1980s robot toy. Here he is working hard.

photo 3He used his fancy stencils to trace and then he filled them in by hand. We decided to use chalk pens so that the whole thing would be reversible in case we decided we don’t like it. Turns out we do like it, though. So we probably won’t wash it off.

IMG_20131203_144553And the final product! So pretty.

photoWe have named it Sbills Duh-junk Kin Dout.

First wedding anniversary

S on Snowdonia

Just over a month ago, the Architect and I had our tenth anniversary of when we started dating in high school.  And now this weekend was our first wedding anniversary. It was a lovely day. We went mini golfing and rode a carousel and cooked a delicious dinner and ate our surprisingly not-that-freezer-burned year old cake. (I was expecting it to be horrible. It was actually pretty tasty.)

Anyway, I thought I would take this opportunity to talk about what marriage means to me, especially as it relates to living with my sister and our expectations to live together forever. Plus, bonus wedding pictures mixed in!

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There is a story in Plato’s Symposium on the origins of soul mates. The story goes like this: Originally, people were these round blobs with four arms and four legs and two heads. Some had a boy part and a girl part, some had two girl parts, and some had two boy parts (because the Ancient Greeks loved them some homosexuality!). These people were very powerful, and Zeus was afraid, so he cleaved them in half to weaken them. After that, people went around looking for their other half in an attempt to once again be whole.

K is my soul mate.

D&S-772

Many people worry that it is cruel of me to tell my husband that he is not my soul mate, and when we were children our mother warned us that any men we dated would be jealous of our bond. But it is not cruel and doesn’t mean I love my husband any less. It is simply the fact that K and I were originally a round blob that was cleaved in two by the forces of our mother’s womb which left us two people who need one another to be whole.

D&S-119

The Architect and I spent five years of our time together in a long distance relationship, and K and I have been apart from one another for a total of about ten months of our lives. I can say with complete honesty that without both of them, I am lost, and I am incomplete.

D&S-134

K and I have planned to live together for as long as I can remember. Now that we’re adults, I can see all kinds of logistical benefits to the situation like shared living costs, increased resilience for the entire family in case anyone loses their job, shared childcare, and companionship. But the truth is that those reasons are not why I intend to live with K in my house as long as I live. I remember telling the Architect early in our relationship – probably three years in, which was long enough to know we intended to marry one another–that if he married me, it would mean living with K. That she and I were going to live together with our husbands and our children because we are family and that is what family means to us. He was opposed to the idea until later that day when I got heat stroke and I lay crying and shaking on the floor of my parents’ living room. K walked in and put ice on my wrists and I shortly felt better. He saw then that I needed her and that I would be happy with her and, by extension, so would he. That day he agreed to our bargain.

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It is not uncommon for people to be completely shocked at this arrangement. When K recently told a coworker that she lived with her sister and brother-in-law, he said, “Yeah, you live with your sister until one of you gets married.” And she laughed and told him I already was married and there were no plans for us to maintain separate households. Even twins who live states away from their sisters sometimes tell us that we will have to cut the cord eventually. But why should we cut a cord that makes our lives richer and more joyous, that weaves the web of our family stronger and makes us into stronger people by virtue of providing a strong support system?

Mom-Dad Cry

When we were children, we used to talk about how we have matching genes, and so, genetically speaking, our children would be half-siblings. We have always intended to love each other’s children as our own. And besides that, we are a family. Not just K and I or the Architect and I or the Artist and K. The four of us together are a family. We are a family when we wake up on Saturday mornings, the Architect and I make breakfast while K and the Artist sleep. And then we wake them up and they laugh and snuggle and act silly and it injects such joy into our lives. K understands me on a level that no one else ever could because for literally every experience of my life, she has been there. She has heard my stories day in and day out for nearly twenty-seven years. I have held her as she sobbed with heartbreak and she has told me I can handle things I didn’t think I could. The Architect makes me feel loved and he holds me in my sleep and he laughs at me when I dance like an idiot in the living room and he is my home. I said that in my wedding vows.

But there is an extent to which it isn’t home right now, with K living several states away. Yes, I have my husband who is my home and whose home I am. But home is where the heart is and my home is equally with K. And so I am lost in having too many homes that aren’t together.

yarn universe

On our wedding day, K was my maid of honor (of course). She was the one who asked the Architect if he took me to be his lawfully wedded wife because as my twin she is the one who will watch as he holds me in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad. She will watch over our arguments and help translate them for us. On our wedding day, after I kissed the Architect and we walked out of the circle our ceremony was held in, I turned to look back at the circle of my family and friends, and K was sobbing. I immediately left the Architect’s side to rush to hug her. I needed her then, and I needed her to know that I would always love her. She is almost as much a part of my memories of my wedding day as the Architect is.

twiny embrace

But still, it was my wedding to him, not to her. So I will finish this post with a copy of the vows that I said to him. Vows that brought on the winds and a stamp of approval from the forest itself. The Architect nourishes me spiritually. I love him. I love her. I love my family.

D&S-628

My wedding vows:

I will never forget the first time I told you I love you. Ever since the first day I met you, and you asked me for a smile, I had always known you were different from everyone else. But that day, I saw your home. I saw the way that you and your family treasure your belongings and your house that’s practically a museum and your fireside dinner conversations. You walked me around those forty acres, showed me the history there. You showed me the trees you used to climb and the branches where you did your homework. You tried to teach me to climb a tree, but a branch broke out from under me. You caught me.

That day, I learned to understand you. I knew why you are so different from everyone else, why you care so deeply for everyone you know even slightly, Why I want you to be in my life always. That day, the words “I love you” slipped out of my mouth the way I slipped off the broken branch: suddenly and by accident.

But the fact that I love you is no accident. I have loved you since even before I knew it, since 9th grade gym class when I told all my friends that I somehow wanted to take care of you, and how silly I felt about that because you were so much stronger than me. And you are strong, both physically and emotionally. But I will be there for you in your moments of weakness. I will tell you I love you on sad nights when you reveal to me your deepest insecurities, and when we deal with our lives’ greatest tragedies. I will hold your hand on life’s long journeys and when the branches beneath your feet fall suddenly away.

Then, when those same branches are strong, I will hold you as tightly as I can and smile. I will tell you all about the wonderful new things I am learning, and I will push you to learn the things you want to learn. I will dance and make silly faces to make you laugh in the living room, and I will laugh at the quiet asides you murmur to me during group dinners. We will make things together, and discover things together, and I will rediscover myself every two days, and you will discover things and annoy me by showing them to me every two minutes, and we will be home together.

I want to finish these vows with a poem that has always made me think of our long, fruitful and beautiful future together. As you hear these words, remember: as your wife, I will help you to harvest the comfort, joy, and passion that life can hold.

I was wrapped in black
fur and white fur and
you undid me and then
you placed me in gold light
and then you crowned me,
while snow fell outside
the door in diagonal darts.
While a ten-inch snow
came down like stars
in small calcium fragments,
we were in our bodies
(that room that will bury us)
and you were in my body
(that room that will outlive us)
and at first I rubbed your
feet dry with a towel
because I was your slave
and then you called me princess.
Princess!
Oh then
I stood up in my gold skin
and I beat down the psalms
and I beat down the clothes
and you undid the bridle
and you undid the reins
and I undid the buttons,
the bones, the confusions,
the New England postcards,
the January ten o’clock night,
and we rose up like wheat,
acre after acre of gold,
and we harvested,
we harvested.
D&S-1040
*Poem by Anne Sexton and Entitled Us. All photographs courtesy of Meghan Hayes of Meggi Leigh Photo