Heart Work with the help of Mario Brothers

The other day I made Ree Drummond’s amazing cinnamon rolls. The recipe makes about 32+ rolls. (I also made Ina Garten’s Outrageous Brownies, my own chocolate oatmeal cookies, and some mint chocolate chip and cookie dough ice cream.) I think it’s safe to say my pregnancy sweet tooth has been turned on and turned up! There are plenty of sweets for everyone, so if you’re hungry, you should stop by. Please. (I just heard Randy yell from the kitchen, “There are baked goods everywhere!” and it wasn’t in an excited-kid-in-a-candy-shop-kind-of-way, it was a I-have-no-where-to-put-down-my-coffee-cup-kind-of-way.)

Those cinnamon rolls, though. They are so delicious and just a tad labor-intensive. But a lot of the work that goes into them is also dependent on the yeast, and whether or not its done its job. There are many references to yeast in the New Testament, and how it only takes a little yeast to work through a whole batch of dough–it can be good yeast and make the bread rise well, or it can be bad yeast and spoil the batch. When I made the cinnamon rolls this time around, I was afraid I burned the yeast and killed it. It wasn’t able to do its job the way it normally does, and the rolls didn’t rise as well as usual. They still tasted delicious because they’re covered with cinnamon, sugar, butter, and delicious maple icing. But I knew the truth. They weren’t as good as they should’ve been.

I’ve been reading a lot of blog posts and books lately about raising kids. being a mom, homeschooling, etc. As a homeschool mom, it can be easy to feel a lot of pressure to raise “perfect” kids. Or at least “perfectly educated and well-mannered” ones. We are home with them, so we have all the time in the world to turn them into wonderful little specimens, right? 😉 But what I’m realizing/learning/accepting as Randy and I work through a parents’ Bible study together is that the work I do to turn out God-fearing children is futile if God’s not already in it. Just like I can work the dough all I want to turn out delicious rolls, but if the yeast isn’t good, the rolls will fall flat.

Our church recently had a parenting conference where one of the speakers outlined God’s work and our work in parenting (what is actually within our power and what is not). You can read about his list of things that are part of the parent’s work when it comes to raising God-fearing children here.  (And please do, it’s a great read!) When we dwell on the fact that so much of our kids’ lives are not within our power to control, it can feel freeing, and also scary! It can also be tempting to throw our hands in the air in a moment of frustration and say, “Forget it! I have no control, anyway! Do what you want.” But this is not what God wants. In fact, we are commanded to teach our kids the things of God and to evangelize to them, even though we’re not guaranteed the results we want.

I like that accepting God’s power, love, and grace in the life of my family takes some of the pressure off of me. But it doesn’t remove my responsibility, and I’ve been thinking lately about how to be more intentional about teaching Godly characteristics to my children. At the beginning of the year, we did a unit on the Fruit of the Spirit. (All of my lessons are outlined in my blog and you can see them by clicking on the link.) But just like reading and math require continued practice, so do learning and exhibiting Godly characteristics. It can be easy during the school year to get so focused on academics that it’s hard to squeeze in character-training. That’s one reason I think the summer break is an excellent time to practice these characteristics and others such as manners and social skills. For us, this is where We Choose Virtues comes in. I purchased this simple, 12-week program a while ago but haven’t found the time to start implementing it until now. We only have 2 weeks of school left, so I wanted to start now before I get too relaxed in summer. For 12 weeks, we will focus on one characteristic each week. My job is to read the parent cue card (which also has a Proverb linked to each virtue) and implement 1-2 of the fun ideas for introducing the characteristic to my children. Then I also have to notice and give them praise when I catch them exhibiting that characteristic during the week. They can’t call my attention to their good behavior, I have to notice it. We decided to tie a reward system to this program, also. My kids love playing Mario Brothers on the wii each weekend, but they can lose time playing because of bad behavior. So I thought, if they can lose time for acting poorly, shouldn’t they be able to gain some time by acting the way we’re teaching them? Of course, I want them to understand the value in having these characteristics in a lifelong, eternal sort of way, but at their age, there’s nothing wrong with some immediate gratification. 😉

So here’s our Mario Brothers time chart set up:

The 2 posters are from We Choose Virtues. I made the Mario chart myself and stuck velcro pieces on it so we can swap out what characteristic we’re working on and so that Mario can move forwards and backwards. What I like about this system is that there is redemption. If we’re working on self-control and one of our children loses control over something on Monday, Mario will move back 10 minutes. But he can still move forward again when Randy or I catch that child remain self-controlled in a difficult circumstance later that day or week.

So we begin this new adventure Monday! I’m excited for it. Remembering to keep my children and their hearts in my prayers is such an important piece and I’ll admit that sometimes I fall short there, so that’s my own goal right now. When I don’t pray for my children, it’s like forgetting to add the yeast to a dough I’m making. And at least if things get frustrating at times, we have plenty of cinnamon rolls, brownies, and ice cream to soothe our souls (and satisfy our sweet teeth)! Seriously, come over for a treat. Anytime. You’ll be doing us the favor! 😉