World’s first surviving septuplets – look at them 20 years later

These septuplets were the first ever to survive birth. 20 years later, they graduate and look incredible.

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Imagine being told you’re having a baby… The excitement, the elation, the slight fear, and nervousness. Now imagine being told you’re having twins or triplets? You’re going to feel all of those emotions twice (or three times as) hard. NOW, imagine being told you’re having seven babies. It’s probably impossible to imagine the kind of feelings you’d be going through, finding out that you were soon to have 7 kids! However, this is exactly what happened to one family in Des Moines, Iowa.

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Multiple births definitely aren’t as uncommon as they once were; especially with the rise in things like fertility treatment. However, having more than one baby is not something that happens every day. Twins are definitely the most common, with around 1 in 30 US births being to twins. Triplets are next, with around a 0.1% chance of having three babies (even less of a chance of having three identical children)! As the number of potential babies grows, the odds get smaller. There’s around a 0.0078% chance of having quadruplets (four babies) and a 0.00092% chance of having quintuplets (five babies) or more.


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Multiple births occur when an egg either splits into two or more embryos or when more than one egg is fertilized in the womb. Eggs that split into two or more embryos will share the same genetic material, making the twins, triplets (or more) identical. They’ll share 100% of their genetic material. If more than one egg is fertilized, then this is a fraternal multiple birth. Fraternal fetuses will only share 50% of their genetic material, making them the same as siblings. Just born at the same time! The more babies a woman is carrying, the more likely there are to be complications. It’s very rare to see multiple births end successfully, or for all of the babies to grow up to be healthy young adults. Perhaps that’s why this story is something quite incredible.

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Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey

Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey had their first child on January 3, 1996. Their little girl was named Mikayla Marie and was a little bit of a miracle. Bobbi was born with a malfunctioning pituitary gland which had caused fertility problems over the years. To have Mikayla Marie was a little bit of a dream come true, but still, they wanted to expand their family. They had to consider different ways to help them have another child after Mikayla Marie was born.

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Taking treatment

Kenny and Bobbi decided the best way to have another child was to take hormone therapy, using the fertility medicine Metrodin. This treatment stimulates ovulation and can help those with fertility problems become pregnant. As they were desperate to add another baby to their little family, Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey were more than happy to try anything they could. Little did they know that they were soon to have a much bigger family…

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The big news

When Bobbi went for her regular check up and scan, the doctors found something quite incredible in her womb. Not one, not two, not three, but seven embryos. There were seven children growing inside Bobbi McCaughey. The world couldn’t believe it! However, multiple births is quite common when taking fertility treatment (although 7 was almost unheard of). Kenny and Bobbi declined selective reduction to give their babies a better chance, saying they would put the decision in God’s hands.

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Getting attention

Of course, when news like this breaks, it quickly spreads. The McCaughey family were quickly thrust into the limelight. The parents received plenty of media attention from the press, some positive and some negative. Some people thought they were selfish for not taking the selective reduction route, as it meant that there would be a better chance of all the remaining babies to live healthy lives. Bobbi and Kenny took it all in their stride, however.

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Big donations

After news of the birth spread, and during the first years of the babies’ lives, the McCaughey family would receive an incredible amount of donations from well-wishers. Some of these included a 5,000 square foot house, nanny services, a year’s worth of free mac and cheese from Kraft, diapers, and a van. Bobbi and Kenny couldn’t believe how generous everyone had been, after breaking the news that they were having septuplets.

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A quick birth

Understandably, both Kenny and Bobbi were worried about the upcoming birth. They spent a lot of time with doctors, discussing the best way forward. On November 19, 1997, all seven babies were born 9-weeks early. The birth took place via cesarean, and each baby was delivered within six minutes of each other. They ranged in weight from 2lb 5oz up to 3lb 4oz, but all seemed healthy enough after the C-section. Only time would tell what would happen.

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Meet the babies

All seven babies made it through the birth; four boys and three girls. Luckily, Bobbi and Kenny were armed with a list of names for their new brood. In order we have Kenny (Kenneth) Robert who was the heaviest baby, Alexis May, Natalie Sue, Kelsey Ann (the lightest baby), Nathan Roy, Brandon James, and Joel Steven. Phew! We have a feeling they had to raid a baby name book for all of those!

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Meeting celebs

After the septuplets were born, they garnered even more media attention. They had a feature in Time magazine in December 1997 (a month after they were born). Bill Clinton, the President of America at the time, also called to wish the family well. They also met President George W. Bush along with making an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey show; something they have done several times since. The McCaughey family were famous, and making headlines all over the world.

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Cerebral palsy

Unfortunately, as often happens with premature babies, not all were 100% healthy. Both Alexis and Nathan were born with cerebral palsy, which is a group of conditions that can affect both movement and coordination. Both Alexis and Nathan found it difficult to walk unaided but were healthy in every other way. Considering seven babies were squeezed into one womb, this could be seen as an absolute miracle. The McCaughey septuplets are therefore the worlds first septuplets to survive through infancy.

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Learning to walk

Both Nathan and Alexis had to use walkers throughout the majority of their life, in order to be able to move around. However, Nathan wanted to teach himself how to walk. Every single day he would push himself to try and get better. He said, “I taught myself how to walk because I really wanted to learn. It’s just been getting better and better.” That’s dedication! Alexis has also not let her disability slow her down, despite still using a walker.

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Beauty pageants

Alexis may suffer from cerebral palsy, but she hasn’t let her ruin her life. She started taking part in beauty pageants specifically for children with special needs. In 2013, she won the Teen Miss Dreams Made True award in Carroll. She also did extremely well in high school, finishing in the top 15% of the class. Alexis is definitely the kind of girl that other young women need to look up to, as a role model.

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Staying out of the public eye

After the initial buzz around the McCaughey septuplets had died down, the family decided to keep out of the public eye. Only around birthdays would Bobbi post an update on how the children were doing, trying to ensure they lived as normal a life as possible. The famous Dionne quintuplets wrote a letter to Bobbi and Kenny when their babies were born, warning them to avoid the pitfalls their parents fell into and keep out of the public eye. It seems as though Bobbi and Kenny were keen to oblige!

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So many diapers

With so many babies comes so much responsibility – and a lot of things to buy! According to Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey, during the earliest months of their lives, the babies were getting through 52 diapers every single day. That’s a full-time job in diaper changing! Not only that, but the septuplets were also drinking 42 bottles every day. We can’t even begin to imagine how expensive that was for the McCaughey family. Luckily, they had a plan.

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Buying in bulk

As the donations started to die down and the freebies ran out, the McCaughey family found life difficult trying to support eight growing children. They resorted to buying everything they could in bulk, in order to become more budget-savvy. One time, Bobbi snapped up 60lb of hamburgers as she saw them reduced in her local grocery store. They can spend on average $300 each month on groceries. That is about normal for a family of 4 in America, so they’re definitely making significant savings.

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Growing their own

Along with buying in bulk (and cheaply), the McCaughey family also try to grow their own as much as possible. Bobbi and Kenny cultivated the garden of their free home – which they still live in – so that they can grow everything they need to keep their family fed. Fresh produce, such as fruit and vegetables, is grown in the garden for the household. This is another way for them to keep their grocery bill down as low as possible.

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Buffet meals

As you can imagine, with 10 people to feed, mealtimes can become a bit hectic. According to the McCaughey family, the only way they can actually feed everyone at once is in a buffet style. Bobbi (usually with help from some of the kids) will dish up plenty of food, that everyone can then help themselves too. The family enjoys all sitting around the table together and talking about their days. We can imagine that gets quite loud!

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Turning 13

When the McCaughey triplets turned 13, in 2010, TLC made a documentary about their lives so far and their thirteenth birthday. Ann Curry, from the Today show, had been following the septuplets’ story for most of their lives. It only made sense then, that she would be the one to put together the documentary which was titled, America’s Septuplets Turn 13. It aired on TLC on December 28, 2010, a month after the septuplets blew out their 91 candles!

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Going to high school

The septuplets attempted to live as normal a life as possible, which meant going to high school – all together! All seven of the siblings attended Carlisle High School in Carlisle, Iowa in 2012. We can only imagine how much attention they all got on their first day of school – and how difficult it was for all of the teachers to remember all of their names! However, the McCaughey septuplets all did well in high school and proved themselves as individuals.

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Getting jobs

Kenny McCaughey was keen to teach his children about the value of hard work when they attended high school. While the family would provide them with all of the essentials, if they wanted anything else then they had to work for it. Most of the septuplets got part-time jobs while at high school, in order to buy themselves things like cell phones and tablets. “We were taught if we want something, we have to work for it,” Kenny Jr. once told NBC news.

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Turning 16

When the septuplets turned 16, they all hit the headlines again. While they were good at keeping a low profile throughout the majority of their lives, there were some milestones that the rest of the world wanted to celebrate with them. It’s around this time that their father told them all they could get jobs, especially if they wanted driving lessons and cars. Buying 7 cars was probably out of the question for the already financially strained McCaughey family!

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Teenage life

The press caught up with the septuplets again as they were enjoying their teenage life, with many admitting to be going through what most teenagers go through. Some were learning to drive, others had fallen in love and were in relationships. Having seven stroppy teenagers to contend with was probably something Kenny and Bobbi found difficult, but they never let it show in their interviews. In fact, they’ve always come across as a pretty perfect family despite their struggles.

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In the band

The kids were pretty well behaved and kept themselves involved at high school, with all of them joining the school band! With all 7 of them playing together during halftime at football matches, they should have renamed it the McCaughey band… When the septuplets finally graduated high school, Bobbi told Today, “Everything is a last. The last marching band performance.” We have a feeling the mom of 7 was feeling quite nostalgic during that interview.

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Keeping busy

It wasn’t just the school band that kept these kids busy, however. All had their own hobbies and kept themselves busy. Some took part in cross country, others were in the choir, one of them wrestled, another played soccer, and another one entered speech contests. You could say that their lives were always busy, even when the press wasn’t hounding them every moment of the day. Bobbi said of her busy children, “It’s fun to see the work pay off.”

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Turning 18

As the septuplets got older, they started their own journeys into adulthood. The end of school was coming, and each wanted to become their own person. Their parents watched as each of the children started making decisions about what they wanted to do in the future. Some already had their own goals and aspirations, others weren’t so sure. Giving life advice to one child is hard enough, but helping out with 7 must have been difficult for Bobbi and Kenny. The septuplets turned 18 (and blew out 126 candles) on November 19, 2015.

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Graduating high school

And then it happened, the moment that made Bobbi feel all nostalgic. All seven of the children graduated Carlisle High School in May 2016. As they donned their black and red graduation gowns, to take their picture with the school principal, Bobbi and Kenny couldn’t help but feel a little pang of sadness. “It’s sad to see things end,” Bobbi told Today, “but there will be lots of firsts coming.” Their graduation plunged the McCaughey septuplets back into the limelight again, with the press desperate to cover their incredible journey.

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Goals and aspirations

Interestingly, all seven of the septuplets have different goals and aspirations in their lives. For example, Nathan has a strong interest in science and is hoping to pursue a career in that field eventually. Alexis was the top of her high school and wants to become a teacher one day. Kelsey, the smallest of all the babies, has a passion for music and wants to continue to study it in college. Every single child, however, all has a goal for the future.

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Different career paths

As mentioned, each septuplet has a different goal and aspiration. Other than Alexis and Natalie, who both want to become teachers one day. Joel wants to work in a field to do with computer science, and Kenny Jr. has a passion for the construction industry. Each of the seven children have all made their own choices in life, along with the help of their parents and their older sister. And it’s interesting to see how unique each one is.

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Free university places

When they were first born, the septuplets were offered an extraordinary opportunity – scholarships for the Hannibal-LaGrange University in Missouri. In fact, the State of Iowa offered them full scholarships to any state university of their choosing, too! Only four of the septuplets accepted the generous offer from Hannibal-LaGrange, however; Natalie, Nathan, Kelsey, and Joel. Each sibling is now studying to fulfill their aspirations.

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Des Moines college

Both Kenny and Alexis decided that the best place for them was at their local college in Des Moines. Kenny Jr. is attending the college in order to carve out his career in the construction industry. Alexis, on the other hand, is learning all she can to become a teacher. She graduated at the top of her high school, despite battling cerebral palsy, but wanted to stay close to her home for further learning.

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Joining the military

The only person we didn’t mention before was Brandon. Why didn’t he take the full scholarship? Brandon had always been passionate about the military. In fact, from the young age of three, he had been obsessed by all things Army. He decided that instead of going to college, he would enlist in the United States Army, where he is now in training. Definitely a very different career path to the rest of his siblings!

Growing up

The McCaughey septuplets are now 20-years old and realizing their dreams in their colleges and universities. Each has said they’ll probably not talk about their bizarre upbringing unless people ask so that they can pave their own lives without being a ‘talking point.’ Over the next two years, most of the septuplets will have graduated college and will be carving at their own adult life. The world’s first, surviving septuplets are doing more than just surviving – they’re thriving!

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Real empty nesters

Now that all eight of their children are out of the house, the loving parents of the septuplets are still adjusting to the fact that they do not have seven to eight mouths to feed every day. In an interview given to NBC about the kids leaving the home, the parents say that while it may be easier now that the children have left in terms of groceries and toiletries, it is in some ways more difficult, as they worry for each of their children.

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Against selective reduction

There is a movement in the United States which aims to get people to have less children. No, this does not mean they advocate for a one child policy like in China, but that they advocate for people having more than triplets to terminate a few of the fetuses. However, despite the complexities of the arguments, the McCaughey family is against selective reduction, saying “Well, come to our house, and tell me which four I shouldn’t have had!”

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Not worried

When asked whether or not the septuplets would be sad to see each other go, they said they would miss each other, but all in all, they are not too worried. After all, they were around each other all day every day, and they are all ready to go out into the world and pursue their own careers and to write their own life’s stories. Additionally, they all have cell phones, and we are sure the family group chat will still be exploding.

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Enjoyed growing up

The eight McCaughey kids never really felt as if they were closed in or that they never had enough space. Instead, they think it was awesome to be able to grow up with so many people in the house. They said that they really enjoyed the fact that there was always someone to hang out and play with. It sounds like a pretty fun childhood to us to be quite honest.

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Mikayla

Something that we wanted to know was what ever happened to the oldest McCaughey child, Mikayla? Well, as it turns out, she seems to be doing really well for herself. She is married and has had her first child. According to her social media accounts, she studied at both the Des Moines Area Community College as well as Arizona State University. She also seems to still have a very close relationship with all of her brothers and sisters. In fact…

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Kenny Jr. the Carpenter

Nowadays, Kenny is deep into the carpentry business, learning how to do a lot more with tools than we ever could (do Ikea tools count as tools?). In fact, he has set about and built an entire kitchen table and benches for his older sister and her new addition. To be honest, it does not look bad at all. We would totally buy Kenny’s table if we saw it at Pottery Barn. He’s going to go far.

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Kenny Sr. is keeping busy

Now, what is a man to do once he becomes an empty nester? He has finished rearing his children, they are all out of the house, and now he has all of this free time on his hands. Well, you can be like Kenny McCaughey, buy a motorcycle, and ride around the United States. According to his social media profile, it appears that Kenny has been going around everywhere. Most recently it appears he was at Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota.

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Ranger Brandon

When Brandon said that he wanted to join the United States Military, he did not make the decision lightly. He knew what he wanted. In the end, all of the hard work really paid off. Brandon is now a United States Army Ranger, and he is an expert in pistol shooting as well as carbine shooting. We must say, he’s looking quite slick in his uniform. We are all proud of you Brandon!

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Kickin it with Kelsey

Kelsey seems to be enjoying her time at Hannibal – LaGrange University, doing everything from pumpkin picking and hanging out with friends – at least according to her social media page. It even seems as if she has a new beau. What’s college without at least a little bit of romance, right? Well, all we know is that she is definitely, absolutely finding time to study, so don’t worry Kenny and Bobbi!

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Selling the house

Despite receiving their huge house as a gift, the McCaughey family is intending on selling their abode. The house was not on the market for a long time yet offers are already starting to flow in from everywhere. He may be wanting to sell his house since, due to its enormous square footage, he may have to pay a lot of taxes on it. But where will his (invariably) dozens of grandchildren stay?

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Ms. Lexi

Lexi is following her dream of learning and working in early childhood education. She seems to be having the time of her life doing it as well. At least, that is how it seems when one looks at her social media profile. It also helps that her sisters all get together decently often, so, at first glance, everything appears to be going really well for the young McCaughey. We wish her the best of luck as she continues her education!

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Natalie

Natalie seems to also be thoroughly enjoying her time in Missouri at Hannibal – LaGrange University. She seems to be doing a lot of work with her sister at their local child care center and having a great time with her friends. On top of all of this, it appears as if Natalie is an avid hiker, appearing in multiple photos with her father and her family on hikes around the State of Iowa and other places in the mid-west.

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No reality television show

Many big families have decided to go the route to reality show stardom in order to show off their sometimes dozens of children off to the rest of the world. Sometimes, it is just to show off a few children (Kardashians anyone?). But the McCaughey family decided to forego that route. When asked why there has never been a reality television show about the septuplets (despite all the offers), Kenny Sr. replied that he wanted his kids to grow up normally.

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Twins for the septs?

A lot of people want to know – with so many brothers and sisters, will the septuplets be more likely to have twins then a single child birth? Well, the answer to that is probably no. The septuplets were not born due to a crazy genetic coincidence between Bobbi and Kenny Sr. They did in vitro fertilization, fertilizing multiple eggs in the hope that at least one of them would become a child. Incredibly, every single egg fertilized became a child.

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How much is their house worth?

The McCaughey home which is currently on the market is worth approximately $370,000, and if you are a big family, this house will definitely suit your needs. This 4800 square foot home has six bedrooms, several bathrooms, a finished basement, and a giant three car garage. And if you are more environmentally conscious, this house has a great solar rating, being rated a 71 out of 100. This house would be perfect for you and your eight kids.

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On Octomom

Another woman named Nadya Suleman is a single mother who now has 14 children – eight of whom were born at the same time. However, as opposed to the praise and help which was heaped upon the McCaughey family, Suleman has gotten death threats and derision in the media. Many people ask why, especially given the fact that both families are so similar. It turns out one of the reasons for this discrepancy is because Octomom is a single mom.

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Personality types

When the septuplets were younger they were asked about each other. They were asked which one of them was the “class clown,” who was the most bookish, who was the most sporty, etc. While Kenny Jr. has maintained his role as the comedic relief of the family, the well read title has passed from Natalie to Joel. Unsurprisingly, current United States Army Ranger Brandon was voted as the most stubborn and fearless.

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Irish names

Irish names are notoriously difficult to spell, let alone pronounce. For instance, many times when you see the letter “m” followed by the letter “h”, the sound that is supposed to be made is similar to that of the letter “v.” It turns out that the way that we have all been pronouncing the name McCaughey in our heads is different than what we would think the spelling would be. It turns out the name McCaughey should be pronounced as “McCoy.”

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Keeping private

In addition to refusing to be put on television as reality tv stars, the McCaughey family also decided that they would not let international newspapers follow the family throughout their lives. The family wanted to remain as normal and as humble as possible. It was because of this that the family really stopped doing television or newspaper interviews for the kids at around the age of 14. The last time a big media fuss occurred was on their 18th birthday.

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Volunteers

The McCaugheys had a giant web of support. They had people from all over the community coming in to help take care of all of the children. All in all, there were 35 people volunteering their time to help take care of the kids, all of whom would work on rotating shifts of four to five hours. We can guarantee that Octomom certainly never had this kind of help. The McCaugheys sure are lucky!

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Septs by the numbers

There are a few issues with being able to tell how much the McCaughey family used to spend a month raising their kids. They have a good amount of land, and since produce is expensive, they have to grow a lot of it themselves. But, we do know that they have two of nearly every appliance – two sinks, two washers, two dryers, etc. In fact, when the kids were at home, the family was doing 17 loads a week.

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Tube fed

When the children were first born, two of them had to be tube fed – Natalie and Lexi. Lexi has a muscular disorder which made it difficult to eat, while Natalie had a form of severe acid reflux which caused her enormous pain any time she ate. However, 20 years later, both of the girls are just doing fine, and they are able to eat anything they want.

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