Allison Barnabe is soooooo tired of people asking her what it's like to be a triplet. It's just like being any other kid, she says.
Fortunately for her, some of the attention has been diffused lately, now that she and her sisters, Nicole and Corinne, attend school with another set of triplets: Kyle, Dylan and Bryan Ruygrok.
The six youngsters, all 12 years old, are seventh-graders at Ellicott Mills Middle School. Last year, said Principal Michael Goins, a third set of triplets, two girls and a boy, also attended the Ellicott City school. Those students, who were in seventh grade last year, have moved away.
And according to school secretary Joan Alagna, at least 10 sets of twins are enrolled at Ellicott Mills.
"It just is," said Goins with a shrug, noting that he has never before been in a school with two sets of triplets, much less three. He added that they are all "very nice" and that, like other students at Ellicott Mills, they are treated as individuals and not compared with their siblings.
It helps that all six look so different.
The Barnabe sisters are brunettes, but that is where the similarities end. Corinne is much smaller than her sisters, and Nicole has wavy hair. The sisters embrace their individuality, making a point of having their own friends, activities and sense of style.
Allison plays lacrosse and basketball, Nicole is into volleyball and Corinne is steadily advancing in karate.
"Our parents gave us our own identity," said Corinne.
"We tend to respect each other's borders," said Allison.
Sometimes, if they see they have dressed somewhat alike by accident, they will change outfits before school, Allison said.
The Ruygroks, though they all have shaggy blond hair, also look nothing alike. Kyle is taller than the other two, and less freckled, while Dylan has sharper features.
Being boys, they care less about fashion, and if all are wearing three-button polo shirts and shorts on a given day, it's no big deal. They don't share clothes, but they have been known to borrow each other's sneakers.
Like the Barnabes, they all pursue their own activities. Kyle plays golf, basketball, tennis and baseball. Bryan is a lacrosse, baseball and basketball guy, and Dylan goes out for soccer, basketball, golf and tennis.
Sitting in a school conference room, the six giggled as they discussed the pros and cons of being a triplet. Mostly, they said, it's no big deal.
They like that their lockers, assigned alphabetically, are near each other, and that they have the same schoolwork. "It's a lot easier because we're basically in the same classes," said Allison.
Because of the middle school schedule, one sibling might take a test the day before another. Nicole said she would never ask her sisters what is on a test, but she will ask which parts were easy and which were difficult.
There are disadvantages, too. Shopping for school supplies can be crazy, they all agreed. And then there are those questions about what it is like to be a triplet.
The two sets of triplets met at orientation before starting sixth grade at Ellicott Mills. Each had heard that there was another set of triplets at school, but when they met they did not realize the others were the ones. Because they are not identical, they can easily be mistaken for siblings who are a year or two apart, or even for friends hanging out together.
Before that, they had never shared the triplet spotlight, they said. The Barnabes went to Bryn Mawr, a private school in Baltimore, then to Ilchester and Waterloo elementary schools in Howard County.
Bryan and Dylan Ruygrok went to Worthington Elementary, and Kyle attended the Friendship School in Eldersburg. Even in the smaller schools, the Ruygroks and Barnabes were usually in separate classes, they said. Last year, the Ruygroks were in a science class together, but that is unusual, they said.
All said they prefer middle school, where they are given more responsibility and seem to have an easier time forging their identities.
"You get a sense of freedom," said Bryan.
Corinne said sharing the triplet spotlight takes some of the pressure off because "we're not the only ones."
"It's good to have other triplets," Nicole agreed.
But when they attend high school, the Ruygroks and Barnabes will go their separate ways - the Ruygroks to Centennial and the Barnabes to Howard.
"We will be the only triplets again," Corinne said.