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Parents raising quadruplets plus two

by ANNE STANTON Traverse City Record-Eagle on June 24, 2013 11:00 AM

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Since her quadruplets grew out of diapers, life smoothed out for Tonya Lewandowski.

“I did cloth diapers, so to say life got easier is such an understatement,” Lewan-dowski said. “I love babies, I love my children, but I do not love diapers.”

Eastfield Laundry washed the diapers at a “very affordable price” the first year. Countless other people donated time and energy to watch Lewandowski’s two older sons while she nursed the quadruplets.

“My mom quit her job in St. Clair and moved in with us for two and a half years. She said, ‘You’re going to need help and I want to be the one,’” she said.

The lives of Tonya and Jeremy Lewandowski, of Traverse City, shifted into high gear four years ago when their quadruplets were born at Munson Medical Center.

The diapers are gone, but it’s still no small feat to feed, bathe and clothe the quadruplets: Summer, Brock, Cameron and Dane, along with older brothers, Caleb, 7, and Aiden, 9. Each day, the kids chew through two boxes of cereal for breakfast and a loaf of bread at lunch. They gulp a daily gallon of milk.

“People talk about their mortgage,” said Tonya Lewandowski. “I say mortgage, shmortgage. We spend about $2,000 a month on food.”

Clean clothes also are a major chore, involving three loads a day with all kids on deck for folding.

Tonya, 36, and Jeremy, 38, met as college lab partners at Michigan Tech, where they earned engineering degrees. They had two young sons when Tonya underwent ovulation stimulation with hopes for twins. When an ultrasound showed quadruplets, Jeremy was ice fishing in the Upper Peninsula.

“I waited until he got home to tell him,” she said. “He went mute for a couple of days, and then realized God chose us for the journey.”

The couple was given a one in five chance that all four quads would lead healthy lives. Fortunately, Tonya had no complications with her pregnancy, but it was still touch-and-go after the quads were born at nearly 32 weeks and weighed in around 2 1/2 pounds. Three struggled with respiratory problems, a hole in a heart (Dane), a staph infection — “We almost lost little Summer” — and two growths on Cameron’s brain that have since disappeared.

Since birth, the quads have been constantly assessed, and all are normal.

“I truly mean it when I say I wake up every morning and feel completely grateful for six healthy children,” Tonya said.

The Lewandowskis are a bit of throwback when it comes to parenting. They choose Cheerios over Dunkin’ Donuts, and dinner is what’s on the plate. TV and video games aren’t an option.

That doesn’t mean life is dull. The backyard is kid paradise with a plastic pool, a mini trampoline, and a platform tree fort, the home base for the day’s Ninja game. A fleet of tiny bikes fill the garage. The kids on Thursday jumped and leaped and parried, and took a break only to ask for popsicles. Tonya said God blessed her with six children and the energy to raise them. She rises at 4:15 a.m. to get ready for an hour at the gym and then spends another hour running or swimming. She even rides an outdoor trainer bike while they nap.

“I ride my bike and read my book and decompress for half an hour,” she said. “If we sat in front of the TV, I think I’d be a lot more tired. I just never stop moving.”

At night, Jeremy coaches baseball. On weekends, the family sometimes competes in foot and mountain bike races. Unbelievably, all six kids biked three miles Thursday from their modest, suburban house on Traverse City’s west side to the library — and back, mostly uphill.

“Our family is our whole life and we’re so grateful for it. We really feel like, ‘How could it be so good?’” Tonya said.

PHOTO: Brock Lewandowski, from top left, 4, Dane Lewandowski, 4 and Cameron Lewandowski, 4, all of Traverse City, along with their siblings, Caleb Lewandowski, from bottom left, 7, Aiden Lewandowski, 9 and Summer Lewandowski, 4, play in their backyard Friday, June 14, 2013 in Traverse City, Mich. as their parents, Jeremy and Tonya Lewandowski (not pictured), stand near.  The lives of Tonya and Jeremy Lewandowski  shifted into high gear four years ago when their quadruplets were born at Munson Medical Center.  The diapers are gone, but it's still no small feat to feed, bathe and clothe the quadruplets: Summer, Brock, Cameron, and Dane, along with older brothers, Caleb, 7, and Aiden, 9.   (AP Photo/ Traverse City Record-Eagle, Keith King)

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