Noe Valley Voice February 1998

More Mouths to Feed:
Lily Elizabeth Margaret Stevens and Tom James Ralph Stevens

Though now several pounds lighter and a tiny bit shorter, Lily Elizabeth Margaret Stevens will always be "big sister" to Tom James Ralph Stevens. After all, her arrival -- at 2:36 p.m. on March 8, 1996 -- preceded her brother's by a full 15 minutes.

The twins' father, Mark Stevens, was on hand at Stanford Hospital (dressed in scrubs and "looking a bit like George Clooney," claims Dad) to welcome both Lily, who tipped the scales at 6 pounds, 11 ounces, and Tom, who followed at 2:51 p.m., weighing 6 pounds, 13 ounces.

Though mom Lesley Stevens gasped when the doctor said, "There isn't a third one in there, is there?", she now says she is delighted "to have twins, especially a boy and a girl.

"Everyone's covered by all the names, so you can please everybody all at once," Lesley points out. (Tom is named after his great-grandfather, and the middle names of both siblings come from family members on each side.) "And we like the sound of the initials. 'TJR' sounds like he could play cricket for England."

Sports is a distinct possibility for Tom. At 21 months, he is already adept at dribbling and kicking around the soccer ball with Dad. "Tom's very happy and smiley, and fairly energetic," says Mark. "Lily's a bit more sensitive. They do tend to follow gender stereotypes."

"Lily used to be a real drama queen when she was younger," agrees Lesley. "We'd say, 'She's going to be an actress when she grows older.' But she's calmed down a bit. She loves soft toys and dolls, and she loves to dress up. She's mad for shoes, and she clomps around in mine.

"Tom loves trucks and cars, he's more active," she continues. "And he has tantrums that come and go, whereas Lily's more of a constant. But they both have quiet spells, where they're just sitting looking at the books very quietly, and then you think, Oh, they are angels."

Lesley, a self-described "stay-at-home" mom, and Mark, who works as a business strategy consultant, are both 28 and citizens of Great Britain. They met while attending Cambridge University in 1988. The couple got married in 1994, just one week before they moved to the States so Mark could pursue an MBA at Stanford University.

The Stevens took up residence on 26th Street a year and a half ago. And folks in Noe Valley have been doing double-takes ever since.

"When we first moved to Noe Valley, the twins were 5 or 6 months old and real-ly tiny," Lesley says. "One day I was about to cross the street with them, and I heard this woman shout from a car, 'Twins!!'"

The family also discovered that a simple stroll down 24th Street could be an all-day excursion. Mark recalls, "We had a big double stroller and we'd be walking down the street, and it would take us half an hour to get 20 yards because we'd get stopped by people asking things like, 'Are they twins?' and 'How heavy are they?' We almost had a newsletter printed up with the salient details!"

The barrage of questions brings out Lesley's wit, too. "People sometimes ask, 'Are they identical?' and I'll say, 'No, they're a boy and a girl.' But people will still say, 'Yes, I know they are.' And I'll say, 'No, they're a boy and a girl, there's a crucial difference.'"

Strangers often hear Lesley's accent and presume she is the English nanny. "A lot of people ask if they are both mine," she laughs.

Although she doesn't dress them alike, there's no mistaking that Tom and Lily are brother and sister. Both have blond hair and blue eyes. One minor distinction: Tom sports a sprinkling of freckles across his nose.

"But when one's in the stroller and one's in the backpack, it's not always so easy to tell they're twins," Lesley admits. "People will say, 'Gosh, they're awfully close in age, aren't they?', and I'll say 'Yes, minutes.' I don't know what people do who have triplets and quads. They must never go out!" she says with mock exasperation.

Lily and Tom attend a music class at Natural Resources, where, says Mom, "they like to make music and bang things and sing." And both children are regulars at the Kids' Gym at Upper Noe Recreation Center. Lesley points out that the twins get along well with others, although their personalities differ somewhat.

"In some ways, although Tom is more boisterous, Lily is more sociable," she says. "When we go to the park, she'll go up to people and make friends, whereas Tom will stick close to me."

Every evening, the twins have their "mad half-hour" at home, running up and down the hallway with their push-along toys. "They make a terrible racket, but it tires them out before bed and I don't complain," Lesley says. "They're affectionate with each other, and I think they appreciate each other more now that they're older and can play together. On the whole, they get along really well. They make each other laugh."

Mark treasures the greeting he receives at the end of the day. "There's nothing quite like the welcome I get," he says. "If I've had a really bad day at work, I'll open the front door and they come down the hall saying, 'Daddy! Daddy!' It puts things in perspective."

"Sometimes it's the little things that make it all worthwhile," Lesley reflects, noting that impromptu family games can be the most fun. "We always manage to have one good belly laugh during the day," she says. "The other day we were having a bit of a wrestle, all three of us. And Tom suddenly put his mouth on my arm and blew a raspberry. It was just so funny, and once he got a huge reaction from me, he did it again and again. Sometimes they'll sit on a blanket, and I'll pull them up and down the hall. They think that's hilarious!"

You Voice readers are no doubt eager to catch a glimpse of these antics on the sidewalks of Noe Valley. But unfortunately for the neighborhood, the Stevens family moved back to London on Dec. 28. "We wanted to do it before they started school," Lesley explained. "They are the first grandchildren on both sides, so they're rather popular there."

"We'll miss Noe Valley," Mark said, "but you can only take so much nice weather, good food, and nice people."

He and Lesley said they planned to stay abreast of all the neighborhood happenings, however, with a subscription to the Noe Valley Voice. And a return visit will definitely be in their future.

"When they're quite a bit older," Lesley said, "we'd like to come back and do the grand tour -- show Tom and Lily where they were born."