WARREN, Ind. - No, they don't look alike. Yes, they bicker from time to time. No, they can't tell what the others are thinking. And yes, now that they're high school seniors about to leave for college, they'll miss everything that is their home - from the fertile farmland that leads nearly to their front porch to the scenic pond out back, to even their mom and dad. And how many kids will admit that?
"I'm not just makin' this up," says Mike Thompson, who sits with his parents and three 18-year-old siblings at a large oak table. "We really do have good parents. . I think the reason we are the way we are is because of our parents."
On the other side of the table sits his dad, Mark. "Thanks, buddy," he says softly.
Mark and Annette already had a son, Kyle, born in 1991, but they had hoped for other children. When Annette had difficulty getting pregnant, the couple opted to take fertility treatments. On Dec. 30, 1995, three months premature, 3-pound, 2-ounce Hanna was born at 9:18 a.m.; followed by 2-pound, 15-ounce Nick; followed by 2-pound, 13-ounce Mike; followed by 2-pound, 13-ounce Megan.
By 9:20 that Saturday morning at Parkview Hospital, the family of three had become a family of seven with "the Thompson quads."
"There was Kyle, then bam! - four new siblings," Mike tells The Journal Gazette (http://bit.ly/1nKJv9C ).
Because they were all so small, the four babies stayed for six weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit. Megan and Hanna came home in the middle of February, followed a few weeks later by Mike and Nick.
The infants became healthy and strong toddlers, and the toddlers would go on to school. As the years passed, the quads celebrated birthdays between Christmas and New Year's. They would be off to Southern Wells High School, where each excelled in the classroom and was named to the honor roll.
And while all four have been active in 4-H, Mike, Nick and Hanna took their passion for agriculture-related science to a higher level, having recently returned from a national soil judging competition in Oklahoma City. As a team, they finished in the top 10. Individually, Nick was first in the country.
Mike, Nick and Hanna have chosen agriculture-related majors at Purdue University in the fall. Megan, who as a child broke her arm while jumping off a bunk bed, has opted to separate from the pack and attend Ball State to study elementary education.
"They all do their own thing," Megan says of her three siblings.
Mike says, "I'm ready to get out of high school. I'm sure I'm going to miss home and high school, but I'm ready for a change."
And then Hanna: "I'm a homebody. I'm definitely going to miss home. But I'm excited to meet new people and get out and do my own thing."
Through the years they have been asked countless times of what it's like to be a quadruplet: how different is it; what sacrifices have to be made? And all four have the same stock answer: They don't know a difference; it's what they've lived with.
"There are definitely some pros and cons of being a quadruplet," Nick says. "It's everyday life for me. It's still unique. But I play the quad card whenever I have a chance to use it."
"For interviews," Nick says. "It kinda sets you apart from everybody else. Right now I'm running for an FFA state office. That's in the process now, and anything that makes you look more unique over another candidate is always a plus."
There have been some classmates through the years, however, who didn't know the four Thompsons were quadruplets.
"They thought we were two sets of twins," Hanna says. "And one kid knew we were all siblings, but thought I was 18, and one of us was 17, and somebody was 16. They didn't know we were the same age."
The close family was forced closer when the Thompsons' home burned to the ground just before Christmas 2008. Family pictures, Christmas presents, clothes - everything was gone.
"It was my fault," Annette says. "I had a heat lamp in the cat house, and the dog went in and knocked it down and it caught the front porch on fire."
While a new home was being rebuilt to duplicate the old one - even down to the same color carpet - the Thompsons lived in their 30-foot-by-24-foot barn for eight months.
"Looking back on it, it was kind of fun, really," Mark says. "I wouldn't want to do it again. The TV was right here (his hand a few feet from his face). And we had four beds in a row. You could roll out of your bed and into their bed."
But in a few months, the beds will be empty. Kyle has been gone for five years now, and soon, the others will be gone, too.
Mark leans back a little in his chair at the table and says, "They all are really, really good children. They really are."
Information from: The Journal Gazette, http://www.journalgazette.net
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Patchy fog tonight. Warm again tomorrow.
Patchy fog tonight. Warm tomorrow.