Adam and Lisa Gerol’s daughters are almost exactly the same age, but they were born half a world apart, and one is Asian and the other Caucasian. Still, they’re twins . . . sort of.
Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol prides himself on being able to tell when someone is not telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
He uses that same skill with his daughters, his wife Lisa said.
“He has a real good sniffer,” she said. “He can tell which one is lying. When they’re arguing and one says, ‘She did this,’ and the other says, ‘She did that,’ I say, ‘Tell it to the judge.’”
The couple has two 8-year-old daughters, who were born 11 days apart.
Kayla, whose birthday is Feb. 25, 2002, is their biological child. She likes to brag she is the big sister.
Talia, who was born March 8, spent the first 11 months of her life in an orphanage in China. She arrived at the Gerols’ Town of Cedarburg home on March 29, 2003.
After the couple started the foreign adoption process with an agency in Portland, Ore., Lisa learned she was pregnant.
The Gerols didn’t tell anyone at first, fearful Lisa might have a miscarriage. When they learned they had been chosen to adopt a little girl, they couldn’t turn back.
“We couldn’t abandon her again. She had been abandoned once,” Lisa said.
Adam went to China to bring their second daughter home, while Lisa stayed with Kayla in their Town of Cedarburg home.
“She looked so serious, like ‘Who are you?’ She was wearing this beautiful red and gold Chinese outfit,” Adam said.
“I set her on the floor, and she fell over. She couldn’t roll over or do anything. She must have been left in a crib the entire time. I was freaking out. I didn’t want to call Lisa, so I called my dad, who is a doctor.”
His father asked what she was doing. She was picking up Cheerios, looking at them, then eating them, Adam told his father.
The baby had no gross motor skills, but extremely good fine motor skills, his father said. He said it was important they teach Talia to crawl.
“We were all on the floor crawling, encouraging her to do what we were doing,” Adam said. “Kayla helped the most.”
Six weeks later, Talia walked into the kitchen where her mother was.
From then on, the girls reached key benchmarks about the same time, with Kayla a little ahead of her sister.
Talia was left at a Buddhist monastery shortly after her birth.
“We have very little other information, and what we have we’re not sure is reliable,” Adam said.
Having two daughters seemed a miracle to the parents who two years earlier had mourned the death of their 9-month-old son Alex.
Alex died in 2000 at Children’s Hospital in Wauwatosa before he was able to come home.
Lisa’s water broke at 23 weeks and the baby was born 6-1/2 weeks later with aspiration pneumonia and required a feeding tube. His immune system was getting stronger, but he developed a staph infection he couldn’t fight off.
“We knew he would have problems, but there was no doubt in our minds he would come home,” Lisa said.
About a year later, the Gerols decided to adopt from China. At that time Chinese adoptions took about six months (Talia’s took 11 months) and the government preferred older couples. The Gerols were in their mid-30s at the time.
“We didn’t give up hoping we could have a biological child. We were pursuing it, but not as aggressively as before,” Lisa said.
The pregnancy was confirmed the same day a social worker came for a home visit for the adoption.
Lisa’s water broke three weeks early, but Kayla was born healthy.
“I think everyone who knew Alex at Children’s came into the delivery room to see her. Each one held her to do their personal assessments. She was treated like a queen,” Lisa said.
“I was surrounded by all the people who loved Alex, and they were so happy for us.”
Adam said he was an efficient, expert diaperer, especially after Talia came home. He is also the stricter disciplinarian, saying his wife is a softie.
The girls have been raised as twins, but Lisa said that is changing as their interests and friends differ.
“I was marketing them as a package, but there is nothing worse than three girls together. One is always left out. So now when one has a play date, I take the other one out for something special,” Lisa said.
Lisa’s uncle, who is a child psychiatrist, found them interesting from a clinical standpoint.
“He would talk about them like they’re this child experiment,” Adam said. “He would say, ‘You’re raising them like twins, but they’re not twins. Very interesting.’”
It’s a phenomenon called virtual twins, Lisa said.
The girls are each other’s best friend and worst enemy, their parents said.
“Talia had her own room, but she kept crawling out of her bed to sleep with Kayla,” Lisa said. “We turned her bedroom into a play room. They’re like any siblings. They love each other one minute and want to kill each other the next.”
Adam added, “I think their hobby is fighting. They are so similar in some ways and as a different as night and day in others. They don’t fit stereotypes.
“My Asian daughter has no interest in tae kwon do and my American daughter loves it. Kayla is content to be 8, but Talia is a free spirit who thinks she’s 18.”
Talia has a beautiful singing voice, a poetic way with words and loves art, her parents said.
Kayla is a very good student and likes art, but will drop everything to go fishing with her father.
They are the tallest children in the third grade at the Jewish Community Day School in Brown Deer, where they are in separate classrooms.
The girls will probably attend the private school through eighth grade, then transfer to Cedarburg High School, their parents said.
Kayla (left) and Talia with their parents, Adam and Lisa Gerol. Photo by Sam Arend