They called their twin boys 'the bros.' Then one broke the news: She was actually a girl.

There is a lot of noise coming from the other room, but it’s happy noise.

It's the sound of children playing, laughing, and talking in broken conversations that only make sense to 3-year-olds. I peek around the corner to see what my twins are up to and watch Ryan tackle Ben. I wait for Ben’s reaction, and walk away when he starts to giggle. They’re fine.

Ben was quiet in utero, in terms of movement. His twin was not. Ryan was restless, seemingly fighting for space, or perhaps looking for it. When my partner’s water broke at 36 weeks, it was Ben who entered our world first.


Ryan would have been right behind, but for about 30 seconds his heartbeat could not be found. The monitor had been bumped off during the commotion of Ben’s birth, so once the room started to breathe again, the doctor broke the second sac so that Ryan could be born.

All photos via Amber Leventry, used with permission.

For nearly three years, Ben and Ryan were our sons.

They were the baby bros to their big sister, our first child. Two boys born into a house with two moms and a sister, they balanced the hormone levels a bit. We were relieved they would have each other to lean on in a house filled with women.

We quickly realized our boys were very different babies with very distinct personalities. Ben was, and is, the easier twin and our easiest child. He has always been more content and quicker to smile.

Ryan, on the other hand, has been the child who has challenged us the most. His restlessness in utero translated into a baby who was not easily comforted, who always seemed to need something we weren’t providing. Our love was strong, but our previous experience as parents seemed weak.

In the early stages of getting to know our twins, we noticed the unmistakable bond they already had with each other. They didn't know themselves without the other. And in some cases, when I or my partner (or both of us) were busy taking care of their then-toddler sister, all they had was each other.

They would babble to each other from their cribs when we couldn’t rush in to get them after they woke. They would stare and giggle at the other when seated on a blanket full of toys, entertained more by each other than the toys at their feet. They would feed each other food from their trays, sitting side-by-side, heart-by-heart.

When Ryan was an infant, there were many times we didn’t know what to do or how to make him feel better.

As he got older, the independence of crawling and walking eased some frustration. Words helped, too. Ryan just wanted to be understood, and we were doing our best to understand.

His gravitation toward his big sister’s clothing at 18 months told us he liked dresses, pink, and purple. His desire for long hair made us regret cutting all of his long curls off before he turned 2.

A few months later, Ryan’s declaration that he was a girl made us question his motivation for saying so.

Perhaps he loved his big sister so much he wanted to be just like her. Maybe he thought he had to be a girl to wear dresses, to play with princesses, and to grow long hair. We didn’t care that he was a boy who liked "girl" things and told him so. But he cared. He was not a boy who liked dresses — he was a girl who liked dresses.

We skirted around gender by no longer referring to Ryan as a boy. We called him our kid, not boy or girl, and we lived a few months in a land of neutrality. His moodiness, anxiety, and sadness told us we needed to do more. We were loving our child, but not validating who he really was and who she needed to be.

After a lot of research and consultations with our pediatrician, and with Ryan’s unwavering wishes, we began the process of socially transitioning him from a boy to a girl. A month before Ryan turned 3, we once again broke the sac that contained her and celebrated her birth.

This new Ryan was happier than the first. She became easier to please and more relaxed. Our new understanding came with acceptance and support, and our internal struggles with saying goodbye to what we thought was going to be, were overshadowed by the confidence and joy radiating from our daughter.

Our twins are now a boy/girl set, and we have two daughters instead of one.

Our family’s dynamics have changed, and sometimes I miss having "the bros," but I worry more about the impact Ryan’s transition will have on Ben.

Ben is not just the only boy in the house, he is now the twin brother to a transgender sister. His identity was changed too, and when Ryan pulls away to stand alone as a girl, or to search for more ways to solidify her identity as a girl, I worry about their bond.

Ryan was home sick from school one day, and when my partner picked up Ben, the teachers said he had a good day, but missed Ryan. “She’s my best friend,” he told the teacher.

I realized their bond has always been there and always will be. Ryan has been pushing and pulling to get where she needs to be from the beginning. And Ben has always been next to her, seemingly not bothered by her restlessness or aware of her differences.

This love they have for each other is there, waiting behind doors, peeking around corners, hidden in simple gestures, and shared in conversations only they can understand.

I have been waiting for Ben’s reaction, but I now know it’s okay to walk away. They are fine.

This story was originally published on Motherly and is reprinted here with permission.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less
via Wikimedia Commons and Goalsetter

America's ethnic wealth gap is a multi-faceted problem that would take dramatic action, on multiple fronts, to overcome. One of the ways to help communities improve their economic well-being is through financial literacy.

Investopedia says there are five primary sources of financial education—families, high school, college, employers, and the military — and that education and household income are two of the biggest factors in predicting whether someone has a high level of financial literacy.

New Orleans Saints safety, two-time Super Bowl Champion, and social justice activist Malcolm Jenkins and The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation hope to help bridge the wealth gap by teaching students about investing at a young age.

Keep Reading Show less
True

2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.