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Mathias quads are marking a decade of mischief

The Mathias quads still laugh a lot. Not in perfect unison, but with the undeniable joy of youngsters in a house full of love and animals and look-alike siblings who hatch mischief together.

The identical quadruplets, who giggled their way into the hearts of millions as babies on "America's Funniest Home Videos," are about to turn 10 (on Feb. 16).

Grace, Emily, Mary Claire and Anna are still having fun.

The famous video featured the four babies sprawled in bed around their mother, Allison, and cackling at the funny faces made by the man behind the camera, dad Steve. Years later, people still can't get enough of it. One YouTube version has received nearly a million hits in the past year alone. Comments left online indicate people still click on the video when they need a pick-me-up.

Want an up-to-date mood improvement? Spend a few minutes with those four when they're wound up at the end of a four-day weekend. And get ready to laugh with them.

Over the long Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, the quads repeatedly sent their stuffed animals on a thrill ride down a stairway in a laundry basket. So that Monday, Allison didn't think much about it when she heard the thump-thump-thump from the stairs.

"I thought it was stuffed animals coming down the stairs, but it was children," says Allison as she guided a visitor around a sick chicken resting in a box in the kitchen. "If it's not one thing around here, it's another."

Steve rolls his eyes when asked about the frenetic pace of living with quads, but he obviously revels in it.

"I'm glad we didn't have a singleton before them," Steve says. "This way we don't have anything else to base things on. We've always had four."

Asked if the 10 years has seemed to go by fast or slow, Allison says "Fast" with no hesitation. Steve thinks about it before saying with a grin, "It depends what day it is."

Every day is an adventure at the Mathias' Lexington home, where the roll call includes 14 chickens (usually living outside), a duck, a bunny, a guinea pig, a fish, two dogs and four girls who think nothing of riding (or in at least one case stand-up surfing) down a flight of stairs in a laundry basket. They put pillows at the bottom of the stairs to be safe, they explained, giggling at their own silliness.

Those little mouths on the famous video have turned into big smiles, full of even bigger teeth. (Emily tells how one of her teeth came out when she sneezed hard, and the girls all laugh.) Shoulder-length blonde curls cover the once-bald heads. They have the lanky bodies of active kids.

But unlike most active kids, these four have been on Oprah, Leno and "America's Funniest Home Videos" (four times, the last visit to pick up a $250,000 prize). They're celebrated because identical quads are extremely rare - the chance of having quads is 1 in 800,000 and having identical quads is 1 in 15 million. Even more rare are quads as happy, healthy and photogenic as these four.

They were featured on "Super Quads," a documentary on Discovery Health Channel, and they bounced around a series of Target Christmas commercial in 2005.

During those excursions, they squeezed in visits to Disneyland and the Orlando theme parks.

"Those have been great family trips," Allison says.

Video: The Mathias Quads at Age 10

Everything hasn't gone smoothly. The commercial shoots made for long hours on the set for the then-5-year-olds. At the Leno show in 2007, a producer asked Steve and Allison what their daughters' talent was. The producer seemed frantic when told the girls didn't have any special talent; they were just identical quads.

Steve and Allison mentioned the girls were in the knock-knock joke stage most kids go through. So the producer decided the girls would tell Leno knock-knock jokes.

But then Anna decided she didn't want to go on stage.

"Her voiced started to crack, and you just knew she wasn't going to do it," Allison recalls. "The segment producer was getting pushy. It was stressful.

"But then Grace was like, 'I'm going to go out there and talk to Jay Leno.' And her sisters just followed her out there."

Back home, the quads have been typical kids. Or as typical as quads can be.

When the girls were old enough for their own beds, their parents took them upstairs and told them to pick from the two bedrooms.

"I didn't want to be responsible for making these two close to each other or these two close to each other," Allison says.

Two went to one room, two went to the other, and their sleeping arrangement has stayed the same ever since.

They don't always wear identical clothes anymore; instead they usually wear different colors of the same outfit. "It's not like I can just take Grace shopping and go only with her to pick out clothes," Allison says.

They have begun to develop different passions. Grace is learning to play the piano. Emily wants to play soccer. They all go horseback riding with their mom, but Anna is the one really crazy about horses.

"Mary Claire hasn't declared" what she wants to do, Allison says.

The four of them divvy up the various rooms of the house, making for quicker work during their Friday afternoon cleaning chores.

On their first day of kindergarten, the Discovery Health crew filmed them heading off to two different classrooms, two-by-two. Now in fourth grade, they have swapped partners each year, always with two of the quads in one classroom.

The parents dread middle and high school, when it'll be more difficult to keep the girls in the same classes. What if they leave a textbook at school or forget their homework assignments? They won't have backup like they do now.

They each have different best friends, but their circles of friends overlap. For their 10th birthday, the girls finally talked their parents into their first sleepover. The hard part will be holding the number of invitees down to a manageable level.

Steve and Allison know the teen years will present even larger challenges - driver's licenses, dating, the girls further exploring their separate identities. "I'll be sending my worries in four directions," Allison said.

But that can wait. For now the girls are 9 going on 10, and they like nothing better than to pile in bed with their parents and cuddle or scratch dad's back ... or laugh.

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