One-on-one time is not easy to come by in our house. Over the past couple of months, I have gotten to take each of the kids on a one-on-one outing. They have had individual outings in the past to go to the grocery store or run errands occasionally, but for these, they got to pick something fun that they wanted to do. John, Becca and David all chose to ride the trolley, play at a local splash pad and have lunch at Grimaldi’s Pizza. Ali and Kate chose to eat at Crust Pizza then play at the local Children’s Museum. Mark picked to go to Incredible Pizza to have lunch, play games, bowl and race go carts. They all had a great time getting to have all of Mommy’s attention, and I got to play with them more since I wasn’t counting children!
Their eyes lit up when it was their turn, and they would talk about it for days before and for weeks after! They do almost everything together, and we usually go on outings as a whole group. They fight some, but they are playing together more and more, and I love listening to the conversations they have with each other. While there are many ways that they are similar and that most of life so far has been lived as a group, they each have such distinct personalities, and it was really fun getting to spend extra time with them!
John can be reserved in a group and is excellent at independent play. He learns by observation and tends to wait to try something until he has watched someone else do it for awhile. When he does try new things, he usually masters them very quickly because he has observed. John was the last to potty train but by far the easiest. He waited until he was ready and then did it. He is confident to go into new situations, but he will hold back and isn’t usually the one to answer questions if we are talking as a whole family. When we went to lunch, he talked my ear off. It was great getting to hear everything he wanted to say!
Becca is very confident in what she wants. She is extremely loving and gives lots of hugs and kisses, but she will also tell her siblings exactly what she thinks they should be doing at any given moment. I joke that she is going to be a hoarder someday since she collects everything in a room, makes a big pile of stuff, and claims it as her own. She loves baby dolls and playing with the dollhouse and acts like a mommy, but she is also one of the first to play in the dirt and run around outside. She grinned from ear to ear the entire time we were out, but she was quieter.
Ali is very sweet. She is shy and can be a little overwhelmed with new places and people, but she always tries new things anyway even when she looks terrified. She is determined to master whatever she tries and has the patience to try something over and over until she gets it. We have a letter game on the refrigerator, and she was the first to learn all the letters and sounds. She would stand by the fridge with that game and repeat everything over and over. She liked going to the Children’s Museum for her outing because she got to do so many of the activities we don’t do with a whole group. She loves art, and we sat and colored, played with play dough and did crafts. While we do those things at home, it is hard to do that at the museum when I have all six kids with me.
David is rough and tumble in the way he plays but is a teddy bear at heart. He is so sweet and when siblings are upset, he will often find something that they want or give them a hug to try to cheer them up. David is super cuddly. He thinks (or maybe wishes!) that he is four and tries very hard to hang with Mark and his friends. He is often the first to try something new. He gets very frustrated when he can’t do something but will continue to work at it until he gets it and won’t let anyone help him. His smile can brighten any rough day for me.
Kate is a very contented child. I am not saying that she doesn’t throw any fits, and she can definitely throw good ones! However, she has a very gentle spirit. She loves to play with siblings and friends, but she will also play for a long time by herself. She has very good concentration and will sit and do puzzles or another activity for quite awhile. I think my favorite thing about Kate is that she is often singing. She frequently just bursts into song wherever she is. Kate seems to be very carefree and enjoys life.
Mark has been an amazing big brother. It can be hard for any child to adjust to a new sibling at home, and he had five new siblings when he was 18 months old! He has handled it so well right from the start. He is patient with them, plays with them, helps them and is my special helper. He especially likes getting to teach them new things.
I love how our family has melded together as one unit, and yet I really enjoy seeing how different each individual person is!
Being home with an infant is definitely an adjustment for any family! Bringing home five brought even more changes to our home! The quintuplets were on a three hour feeding schedule when they came home from the hospital. It took us about an hour to change diapers, make bottles, feed them all, and get cleaned up, then two hours later we started again. Within about a week of being home, we stretched to a four hour feeding schedule which helped a lot! We put the babies in boppies in a semi-circle with Bill and me in the middle for feedings. We used blankets to help prop bottles at the beginning then bought bottle proppers to make it easier. Eventually I got to where I could burp three babies at a time putting them tummy down on the boppies and using my foot for one of them! We were fortunate to have friends and people from our church come to help with feedings during the day, and my parents helped with many of the evening feedings. Bill and I did nights by ourselves and were very happy when they started sleeping through the night around 3.5 months.
Schedule was not the only adjustment for us. We lived in a 3-bedroom, 2-story house, and our bedroom was downstairs. Mark had slept in a pack-n-play in our room for the first few months after he was born, but it was too noisy having all the babies in our room. We got rid of our dining room furniture and made it a downstairs nursery so we wouldn’t have to go up and down the stairs so much when they were little. We had 2 pack-n-plays, 3 swings, a changing table, and some storage in the dining room, and it was baby central! At a couple of months old, we moved them upstairs to their room. We were able to fit five cribs in one of the bedrooms, and Mark kept his own room for awhile. Our living room had 5 bouncy seats, several play gyms, and eventually three exersaucers and two jumperoos, and it was gated at all three entrances.
All five of the quintuplets came home on apnea monitors. These had two leads on their chests and monitored their breathing and heart rates and would sound an alarm if either were outside normal range. The alarms were loud! They sounds like smoke detectors blaring! When they were first home, the alarms went off a lot because the leads would come loose. We started taping the leads on, so they wouldn’t come off as frequently. A representative from the company would come out periodically, download the data from each of the monitors and send it to the pediatrician. At two months old, they no longer were connected when they were awake, so we kept the leads attached and tucked them into their clothes and would plug them into the monitors when we put them in bed. Within a few months of that, everyone was off them completely. The monitors gave a lot of peace of mind! I slept soundly knowing that everyone was breathing and doing ok. However, we were very happy to be done with them!
I had a 5-seater vehicle which would no longer hold our family. We bought an old Suburban after the babies were born to accommodate everyone. While the babies’ carseats were rearward facing, I would climb into the back and load three of them from there and then load Mark and two babies into the backseat. Shortly after the quintuplets turned two, we upgraded to a 12-passenger van which is definitely easier to load!
Getting out and about was more of a challenge with five as well. I took Mark everywhere I went when he was a baby, and I rarely used a stroller. He rode in a sling, front pack or back pack until he was old enough to walk. Obviously I couldn’t carry all five of the quintuplets! We had two triplet strollers as well as a six-seater stroller. The 6-seater was great and gave me the freedom to go out by myself! It does not collapse though and rides on a carrier that attaches to the hitch of the vehicle and then is tied down. While I have a cover for it, I usually took the two triplet strollers if it rained since those collapsed and fit in the back of the Suburban. I got used to pushing one stroller while pulling the other.
Because they were preemies born in October during flu / RSV season, we did not allow other kids around them and were very careful to not have anyone who might be sick near them. Our church was incredibly supportive and opened another room in the nursery that was only used for our kids! When the quintuplets were three months old, we were able to go back to church, and I rejoined some of the activities there during the week. Calling someone to babysit wasn’t really an option for us at that point, so it was really nice for me to be able to get out some and have those short breaks!