Gilliland 'twins' share perfect love, blend of diverse cultures
A year ago, the Gilliland "twins," born a world apart, were still babies.
But now, at 2, the toddlers are drawn to adventure, seemingly dedicated to mischief and filled with love for one-another.
"They are always together," grandmother Mary Elenitsas, of Monessen said. "They have their own bedrooms, so if one awakens before the other, she goes immediately to find her sister."
Elenitsas' daughter, Dr. Rosalie Gilliland, was married to John Gilliland for 10 years before Mary Rose was born. Prior to that birth, they worked to adopt a Chinese baby. Ironically, the adoption came through about the same time Mary Rose was born.
Undaunted, they traveled to Beijing and returned with Nicole DeJin.
Frequent visitors to the home of YiaYia - Greek grandmother - in Monessen, the girls love Elenitsas' traditional dishes, including spanakopeta (spinach in filo), galatobouriko (custard in filo), rice pilaf and giouvetsi (pasta).
"They are inseparable," Elenitsas said. "They are so devoted to one another ... always wanting the other to be in view."
Still, the girls have different personalities. Mary Rose is concrete, sequential and cherishes order. She often lines up her pasta on her plate. The little girl loves egg rolls.
Nicole is more outgoing.
The Gillilands are a multicultural family. With the mother's Greek background, the father's southern heritage and their Spanish-speaking nanny, the girls are being exposed to diverse languages.
Nicole and Mary Rose attend a weekly art class for 2-year-olds titled, "Let's Make a Mess." They recently gave YiaYia some artwork to hang on her refrigerator.
Now, they are participating in the "Kids in Motion" exercise class.
Nicole's Chinese heritage is not being neglected.
The family participated in an adoption party. Three babies adopted from the same Chinese orphanage as Nicole traveled to the Philadelphia County Court House to become citizens. Afterwards, they enjoyed lunch with their families at the Gilliland residence. Nicole actually became a U.S. citizen when she entered the United States.
They also participated in a one-year reunion. Thirty-five families from across the United States - all of whom traveled together to China to adopt children - met at the Gilliland home for a get-together. The families have since decided to make it an annual event.
The LaVida Adoption Agency conducted a Chinese New Year party for all the families who have adopted children through their agency. The participants experienced Chinese customs, food and games.