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     Kids are always so full of surprises. Some surprises are awesome and some completely suck... and what I've noticed about these surprises is that they seem to correlate with developmental stages that my kids are in at the time. For instance, Wyatt, being a newborn, leaves me surprises by the hour... in his diaper. These surprises are kind of sucky but are largely understandable, due to his stage of development. Newborns poop (constantly). Surprise. Or when he sleeps for 5 hours straight and I'm able to rest or actually complete a household chore in an appropriate amount of time because I don't have a baby in my arms. Surprise! Or the fact that I feel an overwhelming need to protect this little person, more than I've ever felt before (hey, adults have developmental stages and we surprise ourselves, too!). I remember all too well how long it took to get pregnant, the ever-so-lengthy 10 months I carried him, and the 4-day labor I experienced to get him out of me.... if this one drops and breaks, I can't exactly run to the store, hit the clearance isle, and grab a new one in ten minutes. So these Mama Bear tendencies? Yeah, surprise!
     Another example would be Isaac, who has now entered his independent stage (pre-terrible-two's). He LOVES to be a good helper for the new baby... he likes to gently place (aka "shove") the binky into the baby's mouth, get Wyatt a clean diaper (aka fling the diaper at him with great force), and play independently while we attend to the baby's needs (aka jump off very tall furniture). He loves Wyatt, but he is very aware of his de-thronement from Baby-Land. So, he's happy to see the baby when he comes over, but he certainly acts out when his immediate needs and routine are not met to his specifications. Surprise (but not really).
     And then there is Taylor. Ah, the wonderful stage of development that is a 6-year-old-girl. Maybe it's just her disorder, or maybe it's the change of having an infant in the house once again (although this has been going on for quite some time), or maybe it's simply being 6 years old (afterall, I can remember wanting to put Cameron's head through a wall repeatedly when he was that age). But it's never a fun surprise when you awaken to find that your daughter has drawn all over a bunch of the toys in her room with marker... marker that shouldn't even be in her room in the first place. Nor is it a fun surprise when she lies to your face repeatedly about this situation, making it seem that small Marker-Trolls are living under her bed, planting markers in her room and destroying her belongings with them when they get bored. And it's an especially sucky surprise when this follows yesterday's devotions on Honesty and Doing What's Right so that our lives will be blessed instead of destroyed by rebellion. And the surprises continue to come as she has lied about almost every little daily event for the past several months... my 6-year-old may not live to be 7 if this continues, because Mama doesn't like these kinds of surprises!
     Finally, there is Cameron. He is 8 years old and a bumbling goofball most days (as most 8-year-old boys are, I'm told). But there are days when he gives the most awesome surprises. Instead of fighting with his sister and using harsh words to her (as he has done in the past), he spent his morning sweeping my floors, starting and completing his school lesson independently while I fed the baby, and he made us all grilled cheese and tomato soup for lunch (under close supervision, of course). He's been a complete dream! (SURPRISE!) To further puff up this Mama's chest, a utility worker came to my door today in order to tell me how great my son is (I'm not even kidding!). He said that when their work vehicle pulled onto our little street, Cameron immediately rode his bike into the grass and stayed to the side until the van was well ahead of him, and then he asked if they needed any help. The man was so impressed by Cameron's politeness and safety awareness, he just had to come up and thank me for teaching my son these things. (I stood there, dumbfounded and beaming.) Just last year, Cameron was riding his bike in front of cars and lawn mowers like it was going out of style! We must've grounded him from that bike a thousand times for his inability to make safe choices while riding it. And then he turns 8 and  suddenly becomes Mr. Safety! This is an awesome surprise.
     I know that life stages change frequently and rapidly. (Afterall, I did  study this in college, once upon a time when I had time, brain cells, and a life outside of my house!) And I also know that children swap roles, mimic one another, and push parental buttons just to test limits. So, by tomorrow, my entire little world of numerous children with varying behaviors could (and probably will) completely change. Wyatt's feeding, sleeping, and pooping schedule will change (thus, effecting every part of my schedule as well), Isaac will either learn to master the tall furniture or gain acceptance of his new big-boy role in the family, Taylor will get her needs met through negative attention or learn that positive attention feels sooo much better, and Cameron will continue to make awesome choices some days and be a bonehead other days, because he's a weird little boy and that's what they do (no matter what their stage of development they're in, really!). But for today, I will enjoy my awesome surprises while choosing to pray (and scream into pillows) over the sucky ones. I will praise positive behavior and discourage the negative, hoping that eventually a utility man will come to my door again and thank me for raising four amazing kids.