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Oh, baby! You just can't beat twins

In the year since my precious little granddaughter was born, during which time she has become smarter and more mature than I am, even though I am constantly telling her stupid jokes and acting more like an infant than she is, I have said that Chloe is twice as beautiful as any other baby in the world.

It turns out I am right. That's because it took two babies to win the Gerber Photo Search, a nationwide contest sponsored by the infant and toddler food company. The latest competition, the fourth annual, drew 156,000 entries, including Chloe's.

The winners are Levi and Paxton Strickland, 1-year-old identical twin brothers from Wernersville, Pa., who are, I must admit, adorable.

In a press release, Bernadette Tortorella, integrated marketing manager at Gerber, said, "There were so many entries that fit our criteria, but the judges were in awe of the Strickland twins," adding: "Every baby is a Gerber baby."

That includes Chloe, who likes to snack on Gerber Graduates Apple-Cinnamon Puffs.

But in the spirit of good sportsmanship, I called Levi and Paxton to congratulate them on winning the contest, which comes with a grand prize of $50,000 and the chance to appear in a Gerber advertisement.

The twins must have been busy playing -- which is, at this point, their job -- because their mother, Amanda, answered the phone.

"Winning the contest is very exciting," Amanda said, "but the boys haven't let it go to their heads."

I found that out when I asked Amanda to put the phone to those two handsome heads, which are topped with light hair and dominated by big blue eyes and wide smiles.

"Here's Levi," said Amanda.

"Congratulations, Levi!" I said. "You're a star."

Levi was too modest to reply, but he must have been doing something funny because I heard giggles in the background.

"Paxton's laughing," Amanda explained. "He's the laid-back one. Levi is our little jokester. He's always making his brother crack up."

"My granddaughter, Chloe, loves to laugh, too," I said. "She has a great sense of humor. And she's really smart. She gets that from her mommy and daddy, not me."

"I bet the boys would like to meet her," Amanda replied.

"Maybe we could set up a play date," I said, adding that with the twins and her husband, Matt, Amanda is surrounded by guys. "It's the opposite with me," I noted. "My wife and I have two daughters and now there's Chloe, so I'm surrounded by women."

"The boys love their daddy," Amanda said. "But I'm with them during the day and we have fun."

Amanda, 24, has started a home-based business selling essential oils; Matt, 26, is the production manager for a technology company.

Amanda and I compared notes on the kids. Levi and Paxton, who were born on Matt's birthday, are about a month older than Chloe, but all three are babbling ("I do that, too," I admitted) and are about to take their first steps.

"Time for the grown-ups to buy track shoes," I said, adding that the prize money could pay for a lot of them.

"That's going into the boys' college fund," said Amanda.

"Save some of it to buy them track shoes, too," I said. "It could lead to college scholarships. The prize money is nice, but it won't cover everything."

As for being in a Gerber ad or doing personal appearances, nothing as been set up yet, said Amanda, adding: "The boys would like it."

"If they can't make it to an appearance, Chloe could fill in," I suggested.

"I'm sure she would be great," said Amanda.

"Congratulations again to Levi and Paxton," I said.

"The twins appreciate your call," Amanda said. "And they send their love to Chloe."

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