The last time the Eastridge, Grady and McCalmant children visited The Gazette, they were significantly smaller.
It was December 1998. The three families arrived at The Gazette with multiple baby carriers. The heat in the photo studio was cranked up to 85 degrees to keep the 12 babies warm in their diapers and Santa hats.
There was laughter. There were tears. There was probably more than one stinky diaper.
In 1998, three Eastern Iowa families welcomed quadruplets into the world at the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics.
The identical Grady daughters — Ashley, Lindsey, Kara and Alyssa — were born April 8. Chad Eastridge and sisters Emily, Katie and Amanda arrived on April 9.
Kassidy McCalmant and her brothers — Allen, Aaran and Andrew — were born Sept. 28.
The Gazette celebrated the families’ happiness and joy with a story and photo published on Christmas Day 1998. A copy of the photograph was discovered by Gazette photographer Jim Slosiarek earlier this month. Looking at the photo of 12 babies, he wondered how the kids — now 14 — and their families were doing today.
So we found them.
The Grady and McCalmant families still live in Eastern Iowa, in Fairfax and Cedar Rapids respectively. The Eastridge family moved to Mackinaw, Ill., in 2002, where their children are freshmen at Dee-Mack High School.
“We’re the only quadruplets at the high school,” Katie Eastridge said.
The same can’t be said at Prairie Point Middle School & 9th Grade Academy. The Grady and McCalmant quadruplets are in the school’s eighth-grade class. Both sets said they get asked about being one of four often.
“I get asked about it at school a lot,” Kassidy McCalmant said.
It can get annoying, her brothers add.
“People still ask, ‘You’re a quadruplet?’ ” Andrew McCalmant said. “It’s like, “Where have you been the past three years?’ ”
Better yet, where have the families been the past 14 years? The last time we talked to them, learning to crawl, saying “Da-Da” and sleeping for several hours at a time was the big news. Now the teens are looking forward to driver’s education, thinking about college and doing what they all say happens often — annoying one another.
“To go from those tiny little infants to the people they are today — it’s precious,” Debbie McCalmant said.
“It went so fast,” Mike Eastridge said.
“I don’t think we thought this far ahead,” Jody Eastridge added. “You think about the baby thing and you think about the first day of kindergarten, but you don’t think about the teen years. It just flies by so fast.”
Watching their four daughters get situated for the camera, Santa hats on their heads, Kim and Daniel Grady were all smiles.
“They’ve developed into beautiful young women,” Kim Grady said.
Finding their own voice
One thing to note, though, is that these teens are individuals. Allen and Aaran McCalmant are identical, as are Ashley, Lindsey, Kara and Alyssa Grady, but their personalities are night and day.
In the Eastridge family, Chad is the ringleader, Amanda is the artistic one, Katie is described as goofy and fun, and Emily is the most serious of the four.
“We’re like our own reality show,” Amanda Eastridge said.
Alyssa Grady wasn’t sure she wanted to re-create the quadruplet photo because she didn’t want to focus on how she and her sisters are the same. Yes, at first glance, they look alike, but a few minutes of conversation highlight their individuality.
Ashley, the planner of the group, hopes to be a pharmacist. Alyssa wants to be a writer. Lindsey also enjoys writing, but she loved chemistry and American history, too. Kara isn’t sure if she’ll grow up to be a history teacher or a journalist, but she does know she rules at video games and rock-paper-scissors.
“She always wins,” Ashley Grady said.
Kassidy McCalmant said having her own room is a benefit being the only girl, but she also is considered “the weak one” by her brothers.
Meanwhile, Allen, Aaran and Andrew McCalmant agree the best thing about being a quadruplet — always having someone around — is also the worst.
“Sometimes they all talk in unison,” Debbie McCalmant said. “Sometimes they all talk at once.”
“I’m really good at listening to all four at once,” Daniel Grady said.
Listening to the same story, four times, is another skill the parents share. All the joy that comes with parenting — all the stress, all the fun, all the headaches, all the worry, all the love and all the pride — is quadrupled when you are the parent of four.
“I’ve gotten a lot of great things in my life, but nothing has topped getting these kids,” Debbie McCalmant said.