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McCaughey septuplets turn 2, quiet party at home planned

Published: Friday, Nov. 19 1999 12:00 a.m. MST

DES MOINES, Iowa -- There will be no big community party this year for Carlisle's most famous toddlers. Instead, their birthday will be celebrated quietly at home.

The McCaughey septuplets -- Kenny, Brandon, Joel, Nathan, Alexis, Kelsey and Natalie -- turn 2 today.And for Kenny and Bobbi McCaughey, the parents of the nation's first living set of septuplets, it's been a year of rewards and challenges.

"Faith has always been a central part of our lives," Bobbi McCaughey says. "But we probably have more reliance on . . . God himself and being able to pray each day for the strength we need. He doesn't give us more than we can bear."

Personalities in each of the towheaded toddlers have begun emerging. For example, Kenny, the first septuplet born, is called the "wild man" by his father due to his naughty streak. Brandon is moody and adventurous, climbing on tables and swinging from the chandelier. Natalie is sensitive. Alexis has a short temper.

They like Legos and playing with 3-year-old sister Mikayla on the playground equipment in the family's backyard. Joel has the scratches on his face to prove it, after recently coming down the slide head-first.

Their favorite food is corn puffs. And they like being pulled in a wagon by their dad and watching music videos.

The children are talking, saying words such as "Mommy," "Daddy," "me" and "bye-bye."

All have taken their first steps, though Alexis and Nathan -- who each suffers from a form of cerebral palsy -- needed the help of a walker.

Alexis has hypotonic quadriplegia, a disorder that causes muscular weakness in all four limbs. Nathan has spastic diplegia, a condition that causes uncontrolled muscle tightening in his legs. Both toddlers wear plastic leg braces, and therapists work with them twice a week.

Alexis and Natalie also suffer from digestive problems. They take some food orally, but they also rely on feedings of high-calorie formula through tubes into their stomachs. And Joel will undergo surgery soon to correct a muscle condition that causes one of his eyes to drift and cross.

The McCaugheys say they believe they have been given an opportunity to tell others of the role God has played in their lives. They say their donated 16-room house, 15-passenger van and supply of diapers are proof that God provided for them.

Now that the novelty of the septuplets has worn off, people in this town of about 3,300 people 10 miles south of Des Moines are taking the birthday in stride.

"They're just like any other family," says florist LaVena Owens.

At home, the McCaugheys say they've planned a simple celebration with cake -- but no candles.

"They'd probably reach for the candles," Mrs. McCaughey says.

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