Life with quintuplets can be, to say the least, interesting.
Just ask Gina and Michael Whalen, whose family abruptly became a large one with the arrival of – from first to last – Benjamin, Mary Kate, Grace Renee, Emma Rose and Alex on April 22, 2000.
All five are seniors at St. Francis DeSales High School. They're set to graduate in the spring and add considerably, in one fell swoop, to the 32 family members who are alumni of the Northland Catholic institution.
According to Michael Weisenberger, a DeSales administrator, most DeSales students – 43.51 percent – are from Columbus. Other communities represented in enrollment are Westerville (24.65 percent), Gahanna (7.75 percent), Blacklick (4.97 percent), Galena (4.86 percent), New Albany (4.05 percent) and Lewis Center (3.47 percent).
The Whalen family lived in Reynoldsburg when the quintuplets were born, but moved to New Albany in 2003.
Gina Whalen recalled the time when the two bookend boys and three girls in the middle were 5 or 6 years old and she left them briefly in the front yard carving jack-o'-lanterns. She returned quickly when she heard Benjamin crying. He said Alex had smashed his pumpkin.
Asked for an explanation, Alex said, "I don't know. I thought it was funny."
Mom remonstrated that the boy had hurt his brother's feelings and should experience the same thing, so she demanded to know which pumpkin belonged to Alex. She picked up the one to which he pointed and smashed the gourd to the ground.
Grace Renee burst into tears. "That was mine!" she wailed.
This time Alex said, "Well, I didn't want you smashing my pumpkin."
"I would say every day to me is a learning experience," Gina Whalen said.
"Life in general with them is constantly changing. Everybody says things will get easier ... and it's not ever easier or harder; it's just changing, and you have to adapt to it every time, whether it's a discipline issue or guidelines helping raise them.
"I would say it's been interesting to me that all of them have been raised in the exact same environment, with the same rules and the same parents and the same atmosphere, and they're all so different."
Benjamin, according to his mom, "fits the oldest-child description," even if it was only by a little while.
"He kind of takes charge of the group," she said.
Mary Kate, the oldest girl, "is a leader in her way in everything," Gina Whalen said. Mary Kate was the tiniest at birth, "yet she was the most stubborn and the biggest fighter."
Grace Renee, arriving third, "kind of has a lot of middle-child tendencies."
In the fourth spot, Emma Rose is "very smart. She does well in school, has a lot of common sense."
And finally, Alex "is totally the baby of the family ... and the orneriest, making everybody laugh, getting the most in trouble -- not anything bad."
The Whalen quintuplets, who have a younger sister, Lindsey Marie, born in 2009, are mostly amused by the way people react to them and the comments they've received over the years.
"Everywhere we go, people say, 'You all look alike,' " Benjamin said.
"A lot of them ask if we have the same birthday," Alex said.
While all of the quintuplets have plans to further their education, they have different colleges and career goals in mind.
Benjamin wants to attend either Miami University or the University of Cincinnati and study architecture.
Mary Kate plans to enroll at Ohio State University or possibly Ohio University to major in education with a minor in Spanish.
"I've always wanted to be a teacher since I was a kid," she said.
Grace Renee wants to get her bachelor's degree at Ohio State or John Carroll University, with a goal of becoming a high school teacher.
Emma Rose intends to major in psychology or education at the University of Cincinnati or Miami University, and psychiatry might be her ultimate career objective.
Finally, with an eye toward becoming a forensic accountant, Alex intends to study criminology and accounting at Ohio State, the University of Dayton, Miami or OU.
"I guess I'm just in awe of the fact that we have quintuplets and the fact they're getting ready to graduate from high school," Gina Whalen said. "I don't even feel like it's actually real yet. I'm trying to deal with the idea of their being 18 and going off to college."
Grace Renee put it well when she described the best part of being one of quintuplets:
"No matter what, we'll always have one of us backing the other up. You'll always have four best friends by your side."