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Rare Leap Day siblings in Vinton celebrating big this year

Owen Birker, 4 (1 in leap years) smashes a building with his older sister Avia, 6, at their family home in Vinton, Iowa,
Owen Birker, 4 (1 in leap years) smashes a building with his older sister Avia, 6, at their family home in Vinton, Iowa, on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. Owen and another older sister Gia were born on Feb. 29 four years apart. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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VINTON — The Birker family will celebrate birthdays of not one, but two of their children born on separate Leap Days.

Gia Birker, 8, and her brother Owen Birker, 4, were both born on Leap Day, Feb. 29, four years apart, to parents Jeff and Leah.

“I will never turn 80, and I will never get super old,” said Gia, who tells everyone she is turning two this year.

Leap Day, Feb. 29, occurs every four years, adding an extra day to February. This day is added to the calendar because Earth does not orbit the sun in exactly 365 days.

The chances of being born on leap day is one in about 1,500, and there is only an estimated 187,000 leaplings in the United States.

Siblings born on Leap Day is rare. A family in Norway, however, hold the Guinness record for three siblings born on Leap Day in 1960, 1964 and 1968.

It isn’t that strange the Birker’s have two children born on Leap Day, Jeff said.

“His birthday is nine months before that,” Leah said.

Jeff is looking forward to “cashing in on” family discounts like kids 12-and-under get in free.

“You’re good until you’re 24,” Jeff said to Owen.

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Gia is celebrating her birthday Saturday with an American Girl themed party and her first slumber party, which she said she begged her mom for.

Since the kids were born in February, Jeff reasons when it is not a Leap Year, they should celebrate on Feb. 28. Regardless, when anyone has a birthday in the Birker household, it is a weeklong affair.

Owen spent his fourth birthday at the PlayStation with his family on Thursday.

Gia said she doesn’t like sharing a birthday with her brother Owen, who tries to open her presents.

This year, she asked for a violin and a baby sister, the latter of which her parents say is not going to happen.

“It’s best with four,” Leah said.

Leah said Gia’s due date was Feb. 29. That day, Leah went to the hospital and walked the halls, and walked and walked and walked, waiting for the arrival of her second child.

With Owen, Leah was scheduled to get labor induced on Feb. 29. The night before, though, she broke out in shingles.

Her options were to give birth naturally and expose him to the chickenpox or have a C-section. She chose C-section.

“After having all-natural births, that was not pleasant at all.”

Jeff said that they both knew within 24 hours after Owen was born, he would be their last child.

Having a second child on Feb. 29, Jeff joked they should have gotten free diapers — or something — to mark the occasion.

Jeff and Leah have two other children: Amelia, 17, and Avia, 6.

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Jeff said when he thought about having kids, he “always thought I was going to have a basketball team.” As a fourth-generation cattle farmer, he enjoys having a big family.

Jeff and Leah met on a blind date at a local bar in Vinton in 2008. They were married two years later.

The children go to school at the Vinton Shellsburg Community School District.

Gia’s favorite subject is computer, where she gets to learn how to type and play math games online. After school, she reads, dances and on Wednesday’s, goes to church at Blessed Hope where she gets to sing.

Gia recently wrote her first song, called “Take Me Home on a Tractor.”

Comments: (319) 368-8664; grace.king@thegazette.com

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