Editor's note: This is the second in a weeklong series that includes catch-up stories on the first Chief Illiniwek, the Solon House, Mr. Blue Hands, Irving Azoff and more. We’ll take your ideas, too, at email@example.com.
DANVILLE — In the winter of 2006, Pete and Jenny Ferrill weren't the only ones eagerly awaiting the arrival of their quintuplets.
The birth and homecoming of the "Ferrill Five" captured the attention of many in East Central Illinois — and then a larger audience once a four-part documentary about Jenny's high-risk pregnancy and delivery — called "Quint-essential" — aired on The Learning Channel.
Four days before Christmas, Irelyn Kadyn, then her brothers Landyn Konner and Layne Mykel, sister Kieran Skye and brother Drayden Karter were delivered by Caesarean section by a team of 100 or so doctors, nurses and staff at St. Louis Children's Hospital. Though two months premature, weighing in at 3 pounds-plus and measuring between 14 and 17 inches, they went home about two months later, earlier than expected.
Today, the quints are outgoing 8-year-olds who are home-schooled in Danville by Jenny. Pete runs an independent affiliate marketing business from a home office, allowing for lots of family time.
"They love school," Jenny said of her students, whose desks are arranged in a semi-circle in their "classroom" off the living room.
Recently, they have been studying the human body and solar system and writing about Martin Luther King Jr. In their free time, they enjoy riding bikes and scooters, walking their dogs and playing with friends.
"They're very imaginative and innovative," mom said, adding they have no problem entertaining themselves or others.
The kids' personalities haven't changed since infancy: Irelyn is the leader and mother hen; Landyn is energetic and a comedian; Layne is thoughtful yet adventurous; Kieran is a nurturer and helper; and Drayden is compassionate and tries to make others happy.
And as is the case with other multiples, they share a special bond. When one is sick or away, the others feel "out of sync."
"It's kind of like they are a package deal," Jenny said.
Eight years ago, the Ferrills were constantly replenishing baby formula, diapers and wipes. Today, it's food, Jenny said with a laugh.
The couple also have had numerous medical expenses. Irelyn was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was 2 . Kieran and Layne have achromatopsia, also called "day blindness," which makes their eyes sensitive to bright light and often requires them to wear sunglasses. Landyn has had three surgeries for eosinophilic esophagitis, which causes the esophagus to constrict. And all but Layne have asthma. Jenny said none of those conditions stems from being premature.
Dealing with the health problems and financial demands has been far more challenging than raising quints, even when the diaper-changings and late-night feedings seemed endless, Jenny said.
"We didn't know any differently," she said, adding the couple still get lots of help from her mom, Karen Butikas of Westville; Pete's folks, Don and Fran Ferrill of Clinton; and her grandparents, George and Rose Lipousky of Westville.
The film crew is long gone, but the kids still draw attention when they're out on the town. "Most are astonished" that they're quints, Jenny said of those who have never heard of the Ferrill Five.
While some parents can't wait for those milestone moments, Pete and Jenny are happy to take one day at a time.
"I don't want to rush time," Jenny said, watching the quints form an impromptu conga line and parade through the house. "I want to cherish each moment and just enjoy our family time."