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After nursery school on a warm spring day, Jenifer Joyce's children charged into the house carrying octopus characters with dangling arms made of pink construction paper.

The 32-year-old woman can relate to lots of arms. She deals with 10 of them every day - the arms of her 4-year-old quintuplets.Full of after-school energy, Christopher, Kevin, Lauren, Megan and Ryan race to the kitchen to find a box of cheese crackers while Mrs. Joyce patiently hangs the windbreakers that were peeled off and left in the front hall.

Families with five children are not unusual. But circumstances are different when the five all have the same growing experiences at the same time: the first tricycle ride, the first trip to the store.

Does Mrs. Joyce really pile all five preschoolers into the family van and take them to the supermarket or the mall?

"I try everything at least once," she said. "I'm a great believer in that they're not going to learn how to behave unless you try it.

"I can sense their moods. There are certain days when I start out with all five, and I end up turning around and coming home before I even get there. I can't take a chance with them, especially when I'm alone.

"They're more tiring now because they have all this energy and they feed off each other. Normal children will die at 8 o'clock at night and be ready to go to sleep, but all of a sudden one sparks up and they're all running around the house wanting to play Superman.

"Most of what I do is no different from other people who have five kids. I don't consider myself a supermom. I assume most mothers do the same things."

About 40 people turned out to help the Joyce family during the critical first year. The volunteers - and a loving husband, Jerry, and live-in mother-in-law - actually enabled Mrs. Joyce to complete her college education last year and get a degree in computer science.

But instinct has become her strongest talent.

"I can spot a glass fall before they even push it or a flying pancake even before they throw it," she said.

She's doing something right. Her quintuplets are full of energy but well-mannered and respectful, and especially obedient to their mother's wishes. Especially when her voice rises.

"If they're really bad, I separate them," she said.

Mrs. Joyce said her husband helps a great deal, doing the laundry every morning before he goes to work as a high school teacher.