Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sondra and Larry Arnold’s quadruplets ó Moe, Bev, Mandy and Chucky ó have just turned a year old.
And talk about birthdays!
They had such a happy birthday that Aunt Traci Fitzgerald had to slip us a note since we talked so frequently a year ago when the babies were born and their mother was seriously ill and prayer and help from a large number of people was the order of their days.
But that time is over now.
Sondra is well. And she and Larry are so happy with those beautiful children that Traci wanted to let us know.
“Not much time to write,” she said, “but here are some of the highlights.
“Moe loves balloons, but not getting cake on her fingers. She’s much too busy for that.
“Bev loved all the attention, liked the cake and was a very clean eater.
Mandy decided balloons were cool and loved the cake. She was a little messy, but not too much.
“And Chucky ó oh! my goodness! ó he loved the cake and loved trashing it even more, and it was a sight to see. He tore into his cake, made a huge mess and ate enough for everyone and flirted with every woman at the party.”
And Sondra, who’s Mommy now, enjoyed letting everyone else change the diapers and feed the quads.
“And there were huge hugs from all over North Carolina as always, and lots of love from The Quad Squad!”
And what a year it’s been!
If you dial the quads’ parents’ telephone number, you’ll get a recorded message.
Not because Mommy and Daddy aren’t home. They probably are. But when you have four children under a year old ….
“It was crazy here for months,” Sondra says. “It’s getting easier now,” but she admits quickly that they’re not ready to change that recorded message yet.
“Be patient,” her voice on the phone says clearly. “It takes a long time to feed four babies.”
It took a very long time in the beginning, and it isn’t quick yet.
“I went into the hospital in February to correct a couple of gall bladder problems.”
And then the babies came ó and nobody could have convinced her then that by their first birthday, she’d be taking them to a friend’s house in the mountains to go swimming. But that’s exactly what she did last week.
“My sister, Traci, went with me.”
And that’s not unusual. She’s an important person around the Arnold house and has been since the quads were born.
They’ve just switched from formula to regular milk.
“And they’re starting on finger food now, things like fruit puffs,” Sondra says, “and they like that, and Beverly and Amanda are crawling, and every time I look at them crawling, I get amazed.
“Chucky does an army crawl. He lays flat on his belly and moves himself around with his forearms, and in one minute he’s somewhere else.
“Traci has to talk to me every day or we feel like we haven’t seen each other and the truth is all the members of the family feel like those quads are theirs.”
Sondra went to Alabama to be with her dad when he was in the hospital with double pneumonia and bronchitis, and her brother, Jimmy, and his wife, Patricia, stayed with the babies while Sondra stayed in the hospital with their dad.
And in the meantime, Traci has graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and she and their brother, Steve, are sharing an apartment in China Grove, which means they’re close if Sondra needs help.
“And I have volunteers here during the week who belong to Mothers of Multiples,” Sondra says. “They have been absolute sanity-savers. I couldn’t say enough good about them. Some of them are here at least four days a week.”
Larry works for Randall Metals from 6 a.m. until 2 in the afternoon.
“And then he’s home, and the babies crawl all over him,” Sondra says.
“I’ve got them all in one room ó four cribs in the bedroom. They go down for naps at 10 a.m. and sleep about an hour and a half,” she says, and then they have another nap about 2 in the afternoon. And they’re in bed for the night by 8 o’clock.
“People are amazed that they all go to bed at the same time. It had to be that or I’d go crazy.
“I had no doubts that they’d be healthy, happy babies. But Larry says if I have to run an errand, one of them wakes up 10 minutes after I pull out of the driveway, and that starts an avalanche effect. They start crying. They know Mommy’s gone.”
When the babies were born, they made local history as the third set of quadruplets born in Rowan County ó and raised all the same questions the parents of the first two sets faced.
Post files show that Andy and Dale Rea Middleton were the first in Rowan to have quads. They were born in 1995, and the second set of quads ó all boys ó came in 1997 to JoAnn Palumbo and her husband, Brian Cameron, and they wondered what the odds were for a couple to have quads of the same sex.
Very low, they learned.
And they quickly learned a lot of other things.
How do you get four car seats and a mother and father and maybe an aunt in the car to get them home from the hospital?
Matter of fact, how do you get car seats and cribs and all the other things you have to have multiplied by four when you have quads?
They don’t know how you do it, but ó with the help of many generous people óthey did it.
And they’re still learning about life with four babies.
“I put them down on the floor,” Sondra says, “and it looks like a day care center with the toys in the living room.”
“We call Mandy the brute. She’s a hair puller, and the others try to pull her hair, but she doesn’t have a whole lot of hair. She has four teeth and real plain fuzz, but almost no hair and weighs about 17-5, I think. She weighed two pounds 10 ounces at birth.
“Maureen is the smallest. She looks like a kewpie doll. She has two teeth on bottom, and she’s going to have dark hair. She weighs about 16 pounds. She was born at 1 pound, 10 ounces.
“Beverly has all the hair and no teeth. She weighed 2 pounds 6 ounces at birth, and now she’s 17 pounds, 6 ounces.
“Chuckie? He’s easy. You can definitely tell he’s a boy. He’s got that boy look, and he flirts with all the ladies. He weighed 1 pound 12 ounces at birth. Now he weighs 16 pounds, 8 ounces.
“Mandy and Beverly are real good at crawling. You look at them one minute and the next they’re in the other room.
“Maureen is content to sit and play with her toys, and Chuckie kind of rolls all over the place.
“And we put Mandy and Beverly in walkers in the kitchen, and they go at it like bumper cars.
“I can’t imagine what it would be like with one of them not here. It’s got to be all of them.
“I hear people saying how much trouble a baby is and how tired they are, and I say, ‘Hmmm! Try four.’
“They each and every one of them has something that makes my heart bump. They all have blue eyes, but Maureen has eyes that get to me.
“Beverly has a toothless smile, and you want to laugh.
“Mandy is a cuddle bug. You pick her up, and she just lays her head on your shoulder.
“Chuckie has dimples on both sides of his face when he laughs.”
And she laughs, thinking of all the differences in her houseful of babies.
“It’s definitely a job. I’m 44, and Larry’s almost 37, and neither of us will ever forget the day they were born.”
But truth is they can’t spend too much time remembering it and talking about it because all the days after that momentous day have been too full of today to spend much time thinking about yesterday or wondering about tomorrow.Contact Rose Post at 704-797-4251 or