The first and last of the Palmer brood start kindergarten Wednesday.

Like any mother facing the start of her child's school years, Julia Aldrich is brimming with emotion."They're not babies anymore," she sighed.

For Aldrich and her husband, Peter Palmer, the first day of school experience is intensified fourfold. Wednesday marks the first day of school for the couple's 5 1/2-year-old quadruplets, Adam, Ben, Emilie and Nathan.

On the other hand, having the kids out of the house means the kitchen floor might stay clean for a two-hour stretch, Aldrich said, laughing.

"It's the excitement of a mother sending her first child to school, and it's the sadness of sending the last child to school when you do it all at the same time," Aldrich said in an interview last week.

Born at University Hospital in April 1993, the siblings captured headlines because they were born at 36 weeks, then considered a record gestation for a quadruplet birth in Utah. Aldrich spent more than three months in the hospital before the siblings' births. The quadruplets are the couple's only children.

At birth, the children ranged in size from 3 pounds 13 ounces to about 5 pounds. None required a stay in the newborn intensive care unit, she said.

At 5 1/2, the quadruplets are a bit small for their age but are otherwise ready for school.

"They are so ready for school and so excited to go to school. If we wait another year, school's not going to have anything to teach them. I have one that is reading and one that is almost," she said.

For the 1998-99 school year, Emilie and Nathan will attend the afternoon session of kindergarten at Valley Elementary School in Huntsville.

Adam and Ben will attend a full-day kindergarten at Canyon View School in Ogden, where they will receive speech therapy.

The first-grade plan is to reunite the children at Valley Elementary School.

For the past few weeks, the household has been abuzz as the children have prepared for school.

Each child sports a new backpack and school clothes. "Now we have to get shoes. After the summer, none of them can wear any of their shoes, so we're going to get new shoes and boots," Aldrich said, adding, "You don't get any hand-me-downs this way."

Although the Palmer quadruplets arrived in the world with a big splash of media attention, life has settled into a routine - if there is such a thing with four small children.

"The attention they've received has always been very positive attention," Aldrich said. "It's only been in the last year they've started to realize that all kids don't come in groups of four. They think it's perfectly normal."