Quadruplets ready for kindergarten
ST. LOUIS — Jill Schwartz’s back-to-school dreams would be familiar to any parent, even though her life may be unfathomable to most.
There’s raising the 5-year-old quadruplets, of course.
“I want chips!”
“Molly, look at me,” Schwartz says, while slicing apples for lunch. “You’re not just having chips.”
“I want it!”
“How about some raisins?”
“How about some cereal?”
“No! I want chips!”
Molly gets a bowl of chips. She knows she can get what she wants when a visitor is over.
Schwartz goes back to making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and bologna sandwiches for the remaining five children.
Because in addition to the four 5-year-olds (Meghan, Molly, Kurt and Cole), there are 10- and 8-year-old boys (Jason and Kyle).
“Mom! He’s not giving me my tablet!”
Go ahead and add Louie, the rescued puppy and Smokey and Holiday, the guinea pigs, to the mix.
“Why don’t you go outside for a while? Get your shoes on. Go play baseball outside. Yes! You’re going outside for a while. First one to get their shoes on wins!”
Oh, and Schwartz works an overnight shift as a nurse once a week. And, she coaches her kids’ three soccer teams in her “spare” time.
Her life would wear out most people.
But later this month, four kindergartners will be boarding the school bus from the Schwartz house in southern St. Louis County. As excited and nervous as they might be to join their two older brothers at “the big school,” their mother has wondered about this day for much longer.
Schwartz, 41, remembers the blur of bringing home four babies, conceived through the same low-dose fertility drugs that they used twice before without incident. In January 2009, the Post-Dispatch did a photo essay on the life of Schwartz and her husband, Chris, as they dealt with bringing the babies home.
Teams of people, up to 25 weekly, showed up to help them with feedings and laundry through those rough early months. It’s hard to recall too much from those early years, but Schwartz remembers Tuesdays when she and her mom would give the babies a bath.
The years from 3 to 5 seem as though they may have been the hardest, though. It’s difficult to leave the house with so many young children without it becoming an event. So, they limit the places they all go at once. Her husband, Chris, works as a pharmaceutical rep and takes over the child care once he gets home from work.
Grocery shopping and running errands are her personal, free time. The sacred “adult” hours of 8 to 11 p.m. are devoted to organizing their sports teams and meeting mom friends for a rare night out.
The day revolves around their meals and various activities. To stay caught up, she still does three loads of laundry a day. On a recent camping trip, the family ate 25 eggs and 2 pounds of bacon in one sitting. They go through a loaf of bread a day.
Her plans of what she hopes to do and the parts of her life she wants to reclaim, once they are all in school, are modest: “I’m looking forward to deep-cleaning the house when the kids are in school,” she said.
She wants to be able to volunteer at their school. She’s hoping to have more one-on-one, quality time with them. She’s signed up as a substitute school nurse and is hoping to work more. She wants to have more time for her husband. They are planning on monthly date nights. She wants to start exercising. She plans to cook healthier food and feed her family less junk.
Now she’ll have time to finally lose the weight she’s put on from five years of eating macaroni and cheese and chicken nugget leftovers.
She’s already giving up sodas. It typically takes five or six to get her through the day.
They are the kinds of goals many parents create for themselves when all their children are (finally) in school full time.
“Now I can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.
A small, sweet, demanding voice interrupts her.
“I can’t find my glove!”
“I’ll find it. Quit whining,” she says to him. “I’ll go get his glove before he has a heart attack,” she says to a visitor.
“Can you get my baseball pants?”
“Kurt, you don’t need baseball pants.”
“Where are my baseball shoes?”
“You don’t need baseball shoes.”
“Yes, I do. And I need to get my helmet.”
“Mom, I want a drink of water!”
She tells him to help himself.