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updated 11/18/2002 8:16:31 AM ET 2002-11-18T13:16:31

The last time we saw them a year ago, the McCaughey septuplets were still in highchairs — though even then it was rare to see them all sitting down. They were energetic, mischevious 4-year-olds. This is their fifth birthday, and it’s time for Dateline’s annual visit. This year, the four boys and three girls even sit down long enough for their first-ever interviews. It’s a child’s-eye perspective on an extraordinary way of life. Ann Curry reports.

From the moment they wake up these days, they are in basic training. Kenny, Alexis, Natalie, Kelsey, Nathan, Brandon, and Joel. The not-so-few, the proud, the McCaughey septuplets — three girls and four boys strong, now capable of reporting for duty.

Increasingly independent, they still manage to get tangled in their own enthusiasm. But with a little maneuvering, eventually they pull their dress blues, pinks and greens straight. For their drill sergeants — parents Bobbi and Kenny — it means significantly less physical labor.

Bobbi: “You can tell them to do things and they actually understand what you mean and can follow the instructions that are given. I think we are finally getting to the easier stages.”

Easier, of course, is a relative term. The challenges that all parents face are at least seven times more complicated for the McCaugheys, who are also caring for two children with cerebral palsy.

At age five, the septuplets have become more than a high-spirited pack. They are seven individuals with remarkably different personalities.

Life here is a far cry from the routine four years ago, when the family lived just down the street in a three-room, doll-sized house. That’s when the septuplets kicked off a round-the-clock “bootie camp” with a battalion of 70 volunteers.

Every day, the assigned troops — plus an occasional recruit — were armed with more than 30 bottles and 40 diapers. There was a ton of heavy-lifting during those “zero-to-twelve” months.

But, even after the intensity of caring for seven babies at once, like most parents, Bobbi says she is sad that the silky-soft stages of babyhood evaporated so quickly.

Back then, she delivered a shocker when she said that she would have liked to add another baby to her brood of eight, including older daughter Mikayla. But that was then.

Bobbi: “I wouldn’t have another one now. At this point I can’t imagine going back to the diapers and the cribs and all that.”

Kenny: “Hallelujah.”

Ann Curry: “This is grateful news, Kenny.”

Kenny: “Thankful we didn’t.”

ALL PITCH IN

Kenny is particularly thankful for progress.

Remember, for example, the toddlers who were spoonfed one by one by one by one by one, down the row of high chairs and back again. Well, that chorus line of low and high notes no longer needs to be buckled in for good measure.

Instead, all seven sit on their laurels as one whispers grace.

Food, however, was not the main focus for any one when “Dateline” visited the family this year. At this breakfast, they were hungry to see their reflections in the camera lens. Our presence was like caffeine. It got everyone riled up. Yet even in the thrall of technology, they did not neglect a task they mastered at age four.

Bobbi: “They very rarely forget to put their dishes in the dishwasher.”

Ann Curry: “How did you get them to do that?”

Kenny: “Made it less of a chore and more of an honor or something — a privilege to do. ‘Hey you can be a big boy or girl if you do this.’”

Competitive spirit has motivated them, too.

Kenny: “That’s the big thing around our house is everybody wants to be kind of the same. Or they want the same things. And so in some ways, if somebody sees somebody doing something, they want in turn to do it too.”

It would seem that having septuplets makes this kind of pitching in a necessity. After all, the ten weekly loads of wash will only multiply as the kids bulk up. But Bobbi and Kenny say they would have trained their children to help out from a young age, no matter what.

Bobbi: “Young children are so eager to please. The younger you start with teaching them responsibilities, the easier it’s going to be because they are so proud of themselves. They realize, that, ‘Hey, I’m not just a little guy, I can actually do things, I can help Mom.’”

Of course, just when they seem to be getting too big for their britches, someone accidentally wets them. More often than not, the children do make it to the bathroom.

Now Bobbi and Kenny are undertaking a different kind of training — a challenge that will last through adolescence: how to strike the right balance between encouraging independence and demanding obedience.

Ann Curry: “Why is disciplining your children and keeping them in line, such a big deal for you Kenny?”

Kenny: “Well, I just believe in good behavior. And I believe that it’s something that can be learned and it’s only learned through discipline.”

Ann Curry: “Can they be rebellious?”

Kenny: “Oh sure they can. It’s part of human nature, but there’s limits, you know. They need to know the boundaries, because we don’t want to see them hurt.”

As they grow taller, stronger and faster, the septuplets keep pushing the limits. They are undeniably daring. But Bobbi and Kenny say the children are getting into less trouble.

Bobbi: “I check on them to see what everybody is doing. And you know make sure that nobody’s hurting someone else.”

But it’s definitely not as hard as it used to be. The writing may still be on the wall, but the so-called “terrible” stages of toddler-hood are fading. Well, almost. Now that the children can express themselves in full sentences, there is, on balance, more harmony.

Tantrums are giving way to civilized conversations. Speech has had a powerful effect on this family.

Ann Curry: “How is it for you to now finally be able to communicate with your children beyond eyes and touch, but really with words?”

Bobbi: “I love it. Because not only can they tell you what they want and what they need and you know, where their “owie” is, or whatever. But just the cute little things that you’re able to share back and forth.”

Joel: “Hey Mommy you scratched me.”

Bobbi: “Oh, no I didn’t.”

Joel: “Oh, yes you did.”

Bobbi: “Oh, no I didn’t.”

Of all the things that have changed here, one of the most striking is how quiet it can be. This blossoming self-control should help the septuplets as they set off on a new adventure. This fall, the McCaughey’s made an unexpected decision and for the first time in five years, their full house will be almost empty.

GOING TO SCHOOL

Two or three mornings a week, the McCaughey’s greet the day with a new purpose. For some, their mom is the chauffeur. For others, there is a bus to catch. At the age of five, the septuplets are all going to school.

Bobbi: “After talking with some of our friends and family, we kind of decided that we’d kind of like to break them up a little bit and kind of let them grow as individuals instead of always being a group.”

Last winter with the help of her good friend Ginny Brown, Bobbi started home-schooling the kids twice a week in her kitchen.

Bobbi had intended to teach the septuplets herself, as she has with Mikayla. But a month ago, she and Kenny decided it would be best to delay their home education for at least a year. They were concerned about the children mastering the basics.

Bobbi: “I was a little disappointed. But at the same time I wanted to make sure the kids were going to be where they should be for beginning with kindergarten.”

Not only were they born all at once, but the septuplets arrived ten weeks early — two factors which have affected their development. At least for now, they lag behind other five year olds. And even among themselves, there is a sprawling range of abilities.

Kenny, Brandon, and Kelsey are now enrolled in a private preschool with about 20 other students. On this day, they seemed most comfortable playing with each other or alone. Their teacher says it is common for multiples to initially stick together. But she has also seen the McCaughey’s reaching out to make friends.

For Alexis and Nathan, the classroom routine has been less of an adjustment. They got a head start a couple years ago in a public school program designed for children with special needs.

At this point, it is uncertain which of the two schools Natalie and Joel will attend. It will depend on how they do on pre-reading and developmental evaluations. Bobbi has been taking them for additional testing offered by the state of Iowa.

Mikayla, who will be seven in January, was curious about regular school, so she tried it out for a week last year.

Bobbi: “At the end of the week, she was glad that she was home-schooled because she didn’t have to go all day, every day.”

Bobbi now uses the mornings when the septuplets are gone for Mikayla’s lessons.

Despite her independent studies, the second-grader says she has plenty of friends in the neighborhood and at church.

Ann Curry: “Who are your best friends?”

Mikayla: “Mary, Grace, Sally, Kayla and Ashley, Ariana, Joel.”

Now that they’re older, the septuplets make better playmates, although Mikayla has typical big sister complaints.

Ann Curry: “Do you like to play with your brothers and sisters?”

Mikayla: “Um-hm.”

Ann Curry: “Who do you like to play with?”

Mikayla: “Kelsey and Natalie.”

Ann Curry: “Do you like having septuplets for brothers and sisters?”

Mikayla: “No.”

Ann Curry: “Why?”

Mikayla: “I wish I only had a big sister.”

Ann Curry: “Why?”

Mikayla: “Big sisters don’t get into my room and stuff. I wish I had a lock in my room.”

Her desire to lock out the trespassers isn’t news to her parents.

Bobbi: “Oh yes, we’ve heard it before.”

Kenny: “Yes.”

Bobbi: “But she really does love her brothers and sisters.”

FIRST ‘SIT-DOWN’ INTERVIEW

It didn’t take much cajoling to gather the septuplets and Mikayla for their first group interview. With their mother’s permission, we cheated a little to get things rolling.

Ann Curry: “Oh boy we have Twizzlers! Oh boy! I want to know you guys, who is the biggest?”

Children: “Me! Me! Me!”

Ann Curry: “Who is the naughtiest?”

Children: “No! Nah! Me!”

Ann Curry: “Who? You’re the most naughty?”

Kenny: “Me.”

Mikayla shouts, yes, he really is.

Ann Curry: “Why are you the most naughty, Kenny?”

Kenny: “‘cause.”

Natalie: “I’m naughty.”

Ann Curry: “No, really I don’t believe that?”

Brandon: “I’m naughty!”

Ann Curry: “So listen, I have another question for you guys. Who knows what the word septuplets means?”

Children: “Me! ”

Ann Curry: “Kelsey do you know?”

Kelsey: “You get into things.”

Ann Curry: “You get into things? You’re busy, kind of true. Mikayla, what does septuplets mean?”

Mikayla: “Seven babies.”

Ann Curry: “Who is one of seven babies?”

Children: “Me! Me!”

Much as they seemed to like the attention, the children couldn’t sit very long.

Joel: “Hey, I want to go to the bathroom

Ann Curry: “You want to go to the bathroom? OK, Joel.”

Fifteen minutes into our interview, everyone was beginning to lose it.

Ann Curry: “Raise your hand if you like school.”

Kelsey: “I like school!”

Ann Curry: “You do like school? Why do you like school, Kelsey?”

Kelsey: “We get some snacks!”

Ann Curry: “That’s a good thing. What else? What else do you learn?”

Kelsey: “You color!”

Ann Curry: “And you color and what else?”

Kelsey: “And you sit and be quiet!”

Ann Curry: “And you sit and be quiet.”

We talked more later one-on-one. But now, most of the children, hungry for lunch, were ready to follow a new direction.

Tiny Alexis, however, needed a lift. Her ability to walk has been compromised by a form of cerebral palsy that causes weak muscle tone and, in her case, rigid ankles. To counter that, Bobbi stretches her feet before strapping on ankle-to-calf braces. How much it really hurts is hard to know. Bobbi says, for some reason, Alexis doesn’t cry like this when her dad does it.

To further relax her lower legs, she needs occasional shots of botox, the popular anti-wrinkle drug. The result is more get-up-and-go.

Alexis has also trailed in cognitive and language skills, but she is showing improvement in those areas, as well. Just this year, the little girl who sits on two dictionaries to reach the counter, has learned hundreds of words and phrases with the help of speech therapy.

Bobbi: “We have just seen a huge explosion in her language. I couldn’t begin to keep track now of all the things that she’s able to say and the way she’s able to communicate.”

Her long-term prognosis is unknown, but Dr. Peter Hetherington, who has cared for Alexis since she was a baby, is heartened that she keeps advancing.

Dr. Hetherington: “On the scope of children that we see, she’s done extremely well and she continues to do well. She hasn’t hit any major plateau where we don’t see any improvement.”

This summer, a problem was discovered that may have affected her comprehension. Alexis needed glasses.

Bobbi: “She’s not seeing properly, so that could have a huge impact on how she’s able to learn.”

On another front, Alexis has scored a total victory. From birth, she battled serious eating troubles that made it necessary for her to be fed through a tube in her stomach.

But a year ago, she started eating three solid meals a day. Therapy to get rid of her gag reflex helped. So did years of watching her sisters and brothers chow down.

Nathan also suffers from cerebral palsy. He is fighting a disorder that makes his legs stiff and causes them to cross — or scissor — when he walks. For him, the botox treatment works especially well, although he winces at the thought.

Nathan: “I don’t like that stuff.”

Bobbi: “It doesn’t hurt.”

Nathan: “I scream.”

Bobbi: “I know you did. But it makes your legs feel better, doesn’t it?”

Nathan: “Yes, but the medicine is going to be all better.”

Ann Curry: “Doesn’t it break your heart to hear him say that?”

Bobbi: “You don’t want your children to go through undue pain. But it’s not a permanent thing. You know it’s not like he suffers for days from it. It’s just a little prick. And it’s over.”

Alexis: “I can’t do it.”

There is no room for pity here. With the exception of chores that Alexis and Nathan truly cannot manage, Bobbi and Kenny adamantly treat them like everyone else.

Bobbi: “We say, ‘Yes you can. You just have to try harder. But, yes, you can do that.’”

Kenny: “Yes, you can.”

Bobbi: “Alexis isn’t quite as ingenious, as determined as Nathan. I don’t think that there’s anything that Nathan has tried to do that he has not figured out a way to do it.”

With his can-do spirit, Nathan is proving to be the kind of person you would want with you on a desert island. He maneuvers his walker with the skill of a race-car driver. He even knows when his leg braces need a tune-up.

Nathan: “I need new braces.”

Bobbi: “I know you do.”

Nathan: “These are too small.”

In September, Nathan and Alexis were fitted for their new leg braces. Special surgeries may one day help them even more. But while they are still young, their parents and medical team want to see how far they can go with non-surgical interventions.

Nathan has been practicing with crutches at school. And a few weeks ago, his parents say, he took several steps without any support.

Bobbi: “The main expectation for both of them is that they’re gong to walk independently. To set a goal to be anywhere shy of that would be selling Nathan and Alexis short.”

But the McCaugheys, who are Missionary Baptists, say, ultimately, the future for Alexis and Nathan rests in more powerful hands.

Bobbi: “We don’t know what God has in store for them, what things that he’s going to allow them to accomplish. And that we just have to be open and say, you know this is where we’re headed.”

It’s just a 20 minute drive and Kenny McCaughey is a world away from home. He works at a small company, where they paint — or, as they say in the trade, “powder coat,” metal parts.

Kenny: “I basically work on the line in the back, putting on parts and taking them off. I do a lot of shipping and receiving.”

The labor can be tedious, tiring and hot. But it satisfies Kenny’s old-fashioned work ethic. And for two years, he has always shown up on time, says his boss, no matter what.

Ann Curry: “Do you ever have a situation where he comes in and says, ‘You know what? All seven babies kept me up, I can’t do my job?’”

Kenny’s employer: “He’s never said a word, but there’s been a couple mornings that looked like maybe that was the case.”

With an associate’s degree in business, Kenny used to be a billing clerk at a car dealership.

In 1999, he traded that for a chance to be a national public speaker. The schedule also allowed him to be a stay-at-home dad, which he enjoyed for a while.

Ann Curry: “Do you miss that?”

Kenny: “Oh yes. Sometimes I do. But this is, you know, it’s a lot better for me, you know, mentally and emotionally and everything.”

The production line brought Kenny peace of mind. He still earns a decent living from a dozen or so annual speeches, but those bookings aren’t a sure thing. This job guarantees a steady salary. It pays less than $20,000 a year, but it covers half of the family’s health insurance.

Ann Curry: “Is it enough to raise seven babies plus one on?”

Kenny: “Right now it is.”

Until now, the kindness of strangers has covered most of the expenses. After their record-breaking birth, the family was showered with extravagant gifts. On the list: a free 12-passenger van, a free custom-built house, free furniture and electronics, free diapers, free juice, and for a limited time — groceries, milk, shoes and clothes.

Donations do still trickle in. A department store recently made a generous, one-time offer of clothing. It comes on the heels of a $40,000 pledge that ends today on the septuplets’ fifth birthday. For five years, the Carter’s company has provided the entire wardrobe for the McCaughey’s eight children.

Occasionally, the family now pays for babysitters. Bobbi has reduced the volunteer schedule to once or twice a week.

Ann Curry: “A lot more of the burden is falling on you.”

Kenny: “Oh yes.”

Ann Curry: “How are you doing with that?”

Kenny: “Pretty well actually. It’s because of the things that happened in the beginning that helped us get going.”

Kenny has always been anxious about being able to pay the property taxes and utilities for a house this size. But he says he’s not worried, at the moment, about providing the basics.

Kenny: “We’ve always been very conservative with money and trying to figure out ways to — to get things cheaper.”

FEEDING TEN ON A BUDGET

Bobbi never expected a lifetime free ride when the septuplets arrived. She didn’t expect a free ride at all. Armed with a shopping list and coupons, she showed us how she feeds a family of ten on about $300 a month.

Ann Curry: “How long is this apple juice going to last you?”

Bobbi: “Probably about three weeks.”

Luckily, the children like it. They will get free apple products from one company until their sixteenth birthday.

When they were born, two local supermarkets gave them coupons valued at about $10,000. Bobbi stretched some of them out for nearly five years.

Bobbi: “We actually just used the last one a couple months ago.”

Math may not be her favorite subject, but Bobbi admits, she enjoys this numbers game.

Ann Curry: “It’s 20 cents cheaper.”

Bobbi: “And it’s bigger. You like a deal don’t you?”

Ann Curry: “Have you always been — well, what will we say?”

Bobbi: “Cheap?”

Ann Curry: “No, not cheap. Somebody who wants a deal. No, somebody who likes a sale. No, somebody who likes a good bargain?”

Bobbi: “I like cheap. Look, and see I never, people say ‘Sale! 30 percent off!’ It’s a sale when it’s 50 percent off.”

Brand loyalty rarely comes into play. For instance, when stocking up on six loaves a bread each week, price is the only thing that counts.

Ann Curry: “Two for two dollars. Three for two dollars.”

Bobbi: “Three for two dollars.”

Ann Curry: “Wow.”

As for produce, Bobbi grows her own green beans, okra, tomatoes and corn. She planted her garden at a friend’s nearby farm. She picks up other fresh items, including five gallons of milk for the week, as needed. Meat is purchased from a local farmer. The rest comes from a food warehouse, where she and Kenny bulk shop every two months.

Bobbi: “A box of macaroni and cheese is 23 cents. So we can feed the kids lunch for 75 cents. You know, and open a can of fruit or applesauce or whatever to go with it if we want. You know so we’ve still fed eight kids for like $1.50.”

Of course, the budget will balloon as the children fill out their chairs. But unlike other large families, the McCaughey’s are sitting on a sizeable nest egg — thanks, in part, to this dinner guest.

Wes Yoder, president of Ambassador Agency, is their agent. When they made thunderous news five years ago, Yoder says the family was flooded with offers, from TV movies based on their life to product endorsements. Projects that got the green light included a lullaby album, an autobiography, some television and print ads, plus the sale of photographs. Each magazine spread earns them thousands of dollars.

Ann Curry: “Are the McCaugheys set for life?”

Wes Yoder: “If they continue to work carefully at managing the resources that they have, they will be well cared for. I think ‘set for life’ does not include not working.”

Things might have been different now had the family, for example, sold pictures of their newborns to the tabloids for almost a million dollars.

Ann Curry: “Any second guessing about having turned down these other offers?”

Wes Yoder: “I would turn them down again today. They said that we’re not going to exploit the children.”

Ann Curry: “Are you guys getting in my makeup over here? Here you go.”

Natalie: “No! No! Boys, boys don’t get lipstick!”

Innocence is not lost on these faces — at least not yet. The septuplets are just about ready for their close-ups.

INDEPENDENT PERSONALITIES

The septuplets scatter like dandelions at the farm, where their mother tends her garden. They are now independent explorers, who rock and roll to their own beat, as we discovered when we talked to them one-on-one.

Kenny Robert, the oldest, is the one with fun smeared all over his face — the class clown, with a knack for slapstick.

Those jelly legs have landed him in the emergency room a few times this year. He tumbled into an ottoman, gashed his brow, and earned 16 stitches. Then, he fell running with a stick in his mouth and punctured his palette.

But behind the goofball antics, behind the blanket and the comforting thumb, is a child intently focused on growing up.

Bobbi: “He is the one that came in one day with this worried expression on his face and says, ‘Mommy, hurry up and grow me up so I can be a daddy.’”

Ann Curry: “Do you know what you want to be when you grow up?”

Kenny Robert: “Grow big.”

Ann Curry: “I heard you said you want to grow big to be a daddy.”

Kenny giggles.

Ann Curry: “Is that true?”

Kenny Robert: “Yes.”

Ann Curry: “How many babies do you want?”

Kenny Robert: “I want two babies.”

Looking back, it is fitting that Kenny would be preoccupied with size. He was nicknamed Hercules before birth, singled out because he was at the bottom of the womb, holding up his brothers and sisters. At three pounds, four ounces, Kenny was the heavyweight.

Kelsey Ann, in contrast, was affectionately, labeled “the runt.” She almost didn’t survive the pregnancy — and tiptoed into the world at a mere two pounds and five ounces. Days later, Bobbi described her:

“She’s probably the most, and I say this with love, the most pathetic looking one because she’s so tiny. Her arms are just smaller than finger size, and you can see all of her ribs. And when she lays on her tummy all her hip bones stick out. She’s cute.”

Bobbi: “She’s grown out of that.”

Kenny: “Oh yes, big time.”

Kelsey was soon full-cheeked, but there wasn’t a pinch of shyness on her then or now.

Ann Curry: “Today you did something fun with your mom and your brothers and sisters. You went to a garden?”

Kelsey: “Yes.”

Ann Curry: “And what did you find in the garden?”

Kelsey: “Potatoes and beans.”

This Iowa girl is a wholesome tomboy. She is also the self-appointed mother of the group.

Bobbi: “She thinks she’s the boss, that everyone should listen to her, and if they don’t, she tells.”

But she can be gentle, too. She coaxes Alexis down the slide.

“Lexie” is short for Alexis May, the delicate child who does her best to keep up.

Bobbi: “It’s always difficult when you have to look at your child try harder to do things that should be second nature. But on the other hand, it makes it even more sweet when you see them accomplish what they’ve worked so hard for.”

The baby who could not sit, crawl or eat, can now talk about the removal of her feeding tube.

Ann Curry: “Did you have a button inside there?”

Alexis: “Yes.”

Ann Curry: “Did they take the button out?”

Alexis: “No button.”

Ann Curry: “No button? How do you feel about that? Do you like that?”

Alexis: “I get cake — cookies.”

Ann Curry: “You can eat cookies?”

The little Miss Muffett with the Billy Goat Gruff is Natalie Sue. A cherub of a baby, she still looks angelic. But her parents say, don’t let that sweet face fool you.

Kenny: “Many times I’ve caught her hitting somebody just out of the blue. And so she can be quite an instigator of things sometimes, too.”

Ann Curry: “Do you like to play with your brothers?”

Natalie: “I don’t like those brothers.”

Ann Curry: “Why don’t you like your brothers?”

Natalie: “Because, but they’re my friends.”

Natalie has a nurturing side, too.

Natalie: “Do you have a baby?”

Ann Curry: “Yes, but my babies grew.”

Natalie: “But I didn’t see them.”

Ann Curry: “You want to see my babies?”

Natalie: “Yes. Can I go to your house?”

Ann Curry: “Yes, you can go to my house some day. You have to go on a plane.”

Natalie makes a noise.

Ann Curry: “What’s that?”

Natalie: “The ‘hairplane’ do that. Sometimes Brandon do that too.”

Ann Curry: “Brandon really likes planes, too.”

Brandon: “I like airplanes that fly.”

When the family greeted President Bush on his visit to Des Moines last August, it was Air Force One that most impressed Brandon James. And he has other defining passions.

During our conversation, he made a beeline for the teddy bears, just as he did four years ago.

Brandon has always been the fearless climber, who looks at the world from the highest vantage point. Lately, when he’s not perching on branches, he is bending them into bows and arrows — his latest obsession.

Bobbi: “He doesn’t call it a bow and arrow. To him, it’s a Robin Hood.”

Ann Curry: “I heard you like Robin Hood.”

Brandon: “Because the bow and arrow go up in the air.”

Ann Curry: “Really. So what happens to Robin Hood?”

Brandon: “Robin Hood get that ‘moneys.’ Yes, I like Robin. I just like it.”

Joel Steven, the brawniest of the bunch, is the resident noisemaker.

Joel: “Rowr!”

Ann Curry: “Rowr! Who’s that?”

Joel: “It’s an elephant.”

He found his voice before his first birthday, hit a rhythm soon after, and has been a one-man band ever since. He is also a momma’s boy — albeit one with a killer hug.

Kenny: “He can be very stubborn. But at the same time, he can be the most loving and sensitive and just little kid that you can imagine. He’s a kid of extremes.”

Joel was the baby who almost died soon after he was born. A blood transfusion — and his fighting spirit — saved his life.

Ann Curry: “So Joel, what do you want to be when you grow up?”

Joel: “Eat some food.”

Ann Curry: “That’s good, because you need to eat food. Do you want to be a doctor, a teacher, a daddy, or a worker?”

Joel: “When I get big, I’m going to work.”

Then there is Curious George — otherwise known as Nathan Roy. The boy with the sunny outlook was uncharacteristically gloomy during one of our first visits. He couldn’t explain why he was upset on this day, but now Nathan can clearly express what’s on his mind. Usually, it’s a thousand questions.

Kenny: “He’ll just talk your ear off. And he’ll question you, and he may be a journalist someday, who knows, with all the questions he asks.”

However inquisitive he may be, right now Nathan is revving up for a bike with more horse-power. His father’s hot wheels have something to do with it.

Ann Curry: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Nathan: “Big.”

Ann Curry: “You want to be big? How big do you want to be?”

Nathan: “Like Mom and Daddy.”

Ann Curry: “Yes? And what are you going to do when you’re big?”

Nathan: “Ride Daddy’s motorcycle.”

Kenny: “Whee!”

From early on, Nathan has had a special bond with his father, whom he unexpectedly described, as only a child can.

Ann Curry: “Your daddy loves you.”

Nathan: “Yes.”

Ann Curry: “Do your love your daddy?”

Nathan: “Yes, Daddy has a big tummy. He has a great big bottom.”

Ann Curry: “Did you tell him that?”

Nathan: “Yes.”

From their amazing birth to those critical first months to this special night, it has been an incredible journey for Kenny and Bobbi.

Bobbi: “It doesn’t seem like it’s possible that we’re at their fifth birthday already. The time has just gone so quickly.”

And someday soon, the McCaughey septuplets will be able to tell us what it’s like to be one of a rare seven who celebrate their birth together.

The kids sing “Happy Birthday.”

Nathan: “Happy birthday.”

Natalie: “To you.”

Joel: “Happy birthday.”

Alexis: “To you.”

Kelsey: “Happy birthday dear.”

Mikayla: “Kesley, Natalie, Alexis, Brandon, Joel, Nathan and Kenny!”

Kenny: “Happy birthday.”

Brandon: “To me!”

Children: “Yay!”

The birthday celebration is a little bittersweet. Bobbi’s father, Robert Hepworth, lost his battle with cancer earlier this year.

Not only was he a big part of the septuplets’ lives, he was literally the one who brought their parents together as the pastor who presided at Bobbi and Kenny’s wedding.

The couple will mark their tenth anniversary next month. To celebrate, they tell us they plan to go away somewhere — without the kids.

© 2013 MSNBC Interactive

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