War on Average

encouraging each other not to be satisfied with mediocre


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Mom Hacks: Laundry

Those of you who follow my of Facebook may have seen my live video on my Laundry Mom-Hack, and this can serve as a follow up to you.

Here was where I found myself: Spending a lot of time trying to have a reading chair instead of a laundry chair.

laundry

I have three children and a husband. Two of those children are girls who change their clothes a lot. They are also girls who dress themselves (and have for quite a while). What did this result in?

Drawers that look like this.

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So I found myself transitioning to having the girls put away their own laundry, since they didn’t keep it in my nice piles anyway.

Then, as a looked at my mountain of laundry (on my beloved laundry chair) I realized I was wasting incredible amount of time folding their clothes–since, as I said, they just ended up in heaps in the drawers anyway.

So my husband purchased me three small baskets. Now I am done with the laundry in at least half the time. I just sort each girls’ clothing into their basket. It is not folded. It is not put right-side out.

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It in then their responsibility put away the clothes as they are, sorted as they like, since they will be dressing themselves. It has saved me time and will teach them responsibility moving forward!

And yes, the clothes are wrinkled. But they were wrinkled sitting on my laundry chair for days and they were wrinkled as they were shoved and pushed around the drawers. The kids still look adorable.

After about two months of doing this, I consider it a great mom hack success!

 

Want to improve your family’s allergies, skin issues, brain function, immunity and more? Learn more about non-toxic laundry solutions from Shaklee! They work incredibly well too! I know, my kids are messy eaters!

Does this help you? Does this save you time? Let me know if you have tried it!


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Dear New Girl at the Gym,

gymDear New Girl at the Gym,

First, welcome. I can tell you are new here. Not just because I am kind of here a lot, but because you’re still finding your groove. Guess what? That’s okay! I remember when I first walked into a gym and just trotted along on the treadmill and watched the news because I wasn’t sure how to change the channels and didn’t want to look funny on the weight machines. I’ve been there too. Just because I did it a few years before you doesn’t make me any better. And if I get the chance, I am going to say hello. I want you to knowthat where you are is a a good place to be. I want you to know there are people who will answer your questions. I want this to become a community for you. I want this to be a community who is FOR you. I want you to be here long past March.

Second, way to go! I know it’s hard to decide to go someplace new. I know you’ve invested money and time to be here. If you have kids, I know (trust me, I know) what a workout it was just to get them all in shoes, coats, hats and to the childcare just to get to the weightroom or treadmill. I know the pressure you may feel when you put yourself out there and you look around feeling like everyone else knows what they are doing or that you’re in the way cause you’re a “resolutioner.” (Not everyone else knows what they are doing.)

I want you to know that I would rather park farther away for the rest of the year if it means the gym stays packed with people like you who grow in their commitment to health. I hope the gym is always this busy. I hope that if your kid is sick next week that you come back the next week. I hope you find a groove (and you will, give it time and I have  a few tips below).

Remember, this time for you is GOOD for you and for everyone in your life. Prioritizing this is not selfish. It compounds the blessing that you are in every area of your life. You will have more energy, more focus and even feel better in your clothes this month. But think about the rest of your life! The choices to care for YOU today will impact your health 20, 30 years from now. Exercise builds muscle, increases metabolism, increases bone density, and most definitely decreases stress and increases sanity. Think about how NOT breaking your hip playing with your grandkids could because you made the resolute commitment to choose YOUR health even when it was uncomfortable. As it is said, life, growth and all good things start OUTSIDE you and I’s comfort zone.

If you’re struggling this month, know you have a cheerleader in me…and I bet, if we get to know each other, someday I will be rooted on by you too! Keep it up, my friend!

– Harper

Some tips for getting started:
1. Schedule your weekly routine to go to the gym. Commit to it on your calendar before planning the rest of the week. It will help you stay on track.

2. Have a plan for each day you attend. There are so many resources online that you find tips and ideas for workouts.

3. Hire a trainer. If doesn’t have to be a weekly thing. You can hire an online trainer (I know a great one) or hire a trainer at your gym for one session. They can help you figure out some exercises that will help you reach your goals and then you can continue to build on those.

4. Have an accountability partner to call you on gym days or to work out with you.

5. Get gym clothes that you feel good in. That really makes a difference.

6. Eat to support your goals. Begin exploring what type of nutrition will help you recover. For example, if you are wanting to lose a few pounds it is important to eat in a way that burns fat, but preserves and even builds your valuable muscle at the same time. I have found that high fiber (veggies especially) and protein sources that include Leucine is key in this endeavor.


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Miss Pam’s Vegetable Soup


Our beloved Miss Pam brought us some of her amazing soup on a rough night when I had no idea what I was going to make for dinner. It was delicious! I needed some help with mine and she made it amazing. She taught me her skills and now my kids ask for “Miss Pam’s Soup.” It is an excellent way to get in as many vegetables as you want and add some you and your kids might not otherwise eat!

What you need:
Olive oil
One onion, minced
One orange or yellow pepper, minced
Garlic, minced
3-6 cups broth
Vegetables (suggestions below)
Spices (suggestions below)
1-2 small cans tomato sauce
1-2 cans 14 oz diced tomatoes
1-3 cans of beans (black, navy, pink, etc.)
1 can corn
Cooked chicken, 1/2-1 c shredded (optional)
Cooked rice or quinoa (optional)

Amounts of ingredients are based on how big of a batch you would like to make. I make a HUGE batch.

 

What to do:
Sauté minced onion, pepper and garlic in olive oil

Add stock


Bring to a medium boil and add root veggies (turnips, carrots, etc)


Make sure there is enough stock to cover the root vegetables. This will vary based on how big of a batch you’re making.


Next I add the spices! I don’t measure anything 🙂 but toss in what you like! I use just a shake of cayenne because the children don’t like it too spicy. Let that boil while you prep the next things. About 10 min. Or longer if you have children who always need 5 million things while you’re making dinner. A good place to do some clean up around the kitchen.

Then add diced tomatoes and tomato sauce.
1 can each unless you have a large batch then I add 2.

Next add broccoli

Then add raw green beans, asparagus, celery etc. I chop these while the broccoli is boiling.


Then add chicken, if you’re adding.

Keep the soup at a medium boil.

When you’re about 20-30 min from eating, add beans and corn, drained (can simmer longer too if needed) and zucchini and squash.

About 10-15 min before eating add any rice or grains you’d like to add. I’ve used this at Pam’s suggestion but also added home-cooked brown rice or quinoa. Bring to a low boil. If you keep longer than the 10-15 minutes, have it at a low simmer.


Ready to serve and freeze!


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Stones of Rememberence 

August of 2016 marked our 15th wedding anniversary and we took a trip to Michigan in the fall to celebrate. At the same time we found ourselves beginning to grieve a loss. As we walked the beach, we began collecting these beautiful stones, which quickly became a conversation piece. As we reflected on our marriage—full of blessings for sure, but trials, uncertainty and tumultuous times as well—most of what we could remember were stones of remembrance; the times when God showed Himself good, strong and faithful. Through every hard season, we could look back and see God with us…even though while IN the season this was often hard to grasp.

If you’ve spent time with us there is a good chance you’ve heard us talk about these stones of remembrance. So where does this idea come from?
In Joshua 4, God commands Israel to set stones as monuments of reminder to all generations of the great things the Lord had done—specifically His miracles at the Red Sea and the Jordan. God, in the same way, commands us to remember His faithfulness in our life. This is for His glory and our own good as we find comfort and confidence in His steadfastness to His children through ALL generations.

Joshua 4 
21 And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, 24 so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”

Then in 1 Samuel 7, where we get the line from Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, “Here I raise my Ebeneezer, hither by Thy help I’ve come…” it provides the account of SamuelThat we can raise up that stone and see how He had brought us through—that He who began a good work in us won’t stop until it is finished!

1 Samuel 7
12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.”

We also realized that on our honeymoon, we collected shells. Shells are pretty…and empty. In those early days of marriage we couldn’t possibly predict what was beyond the horizon of these first fifteen years, but now, fifteen years later we remember. We will continue to remember because unlike the investment industry phrase “past performance is no guarantee of future results,” with God his past faithfulness is absolutely assurance of future faithfulness. This is why we collect these stones. Whether it has been the need of a specific season or our GREATEST need, to be rescued from sin and living for only ourselves, God has been our provider. His faithfulness hasn’t always looked like what we’d expect or even want, but it’s always been better than our own plans and paths to provision. A faithfulness that is certainly worth remembering with an object of weight and permanence like these stones.
We walked into that anniversary trip in a hard place. To be honest, we are not out of it yet. A church plant in a community we love, where our heart and hands had been worn in service to God and the vision and people He’d placed on our hearts came to an end. A place we suspected that God was preparing us to live, serve and grow for the rest of our lives ceased to exist. But we are choosing to pick up the stones of His past faithfulness. It’s good exercise in order to be prepared to see and put in place the new stones that we are certain will come from this season.

There has been so much on social media about how 2016 has been such a horrible year and that 2017 could not start soon enough. It’s interesting how we tend to look for something to CHANGE to make our circumstances better, like something as relatively and realistically inconsequential as the “clean slate” of a new year. Maybe it’s time for us to look for something that is UNCHANGING to give us hope. Maybe it’s time to for us to rely on what has been the same yesterday, today and forever to give us this great hope we are looking for.

So as you reflect on 2016, whatever trials and joys you have encountered, I hope you can work on the discipline, along with us, of setting aside those stones of remembrance and recalling how God has been good and faithful. This is the root of hope for things to come in 2017 and for all eternity. We certainly can’t imagine living without it.

If we can encourage you in this Hope or even help you explore it for the first time we’d love to have those discussions. Sometimes we have to borrow each other’s stones of remembrance when we are struggling to find our own.

In a season where we hear and even sing so much about Peace and Hope, maybe the portion of this letter from the Apostle Paul can help guide us into a new year…

Romans 5.1-5 “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Happy and hopeful new year!

Ryan & Harper


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Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili

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Oh and bacon. But if you are vegetarian or vegan is it very delicious without the bacon also!

What you’ll need:
1 yellow pepper (or orange)
1 onion (yellow or whatever you have)
6-7 pieces of cooked bacon (nitrate free) (optional)
3-5 medium Sweet Potatoes
4 cloves minced garlic
2 TB chili powder
2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or more to your liking)
2-3 cups broth
1 can diced tomatoes
2-3 cups cooked black beans (or 2 14 oz cans)
Olive oil
Avocado (not pictured but awesome)
Sour Cream

What to do:
If using, cook bacon (I use the oven*)
Put olive oil in a large pot
Sauté onion and pepper and sweet potatoes till onion is soft
Add spices and garlic
Add broth, beans,  and tomatoes
Chop bacon into bits and put 1/2 into the pot
Simmer for 20-30 minutes based on how soft you like the sweet potatoes

Garnish with bacon bits, avocado and sour cream.

 

 

*To cook bacon in the oven, line a cookie sheet with foil (if the cookie sheet does not have sides, create sides with foil). Place bacon on foil in oven and turn on to 400. Check after 15 min and then leave in until desired crispness.

 


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Finding Health and Passion in a Busy Life

CropperBy Christine Cropper

 

In June of 2013, I found myself as a busy mom (of three small children, one a newborn) who had been on medication for my acid reflux disease for the past 12 years. I needed energy, needed to lose weight from my having my third baby, and I knew that I wanted better health for our family!

Another mom from preschool was so kind to help me in the drop-off line each morning. We became fast friends and in the process she shared with me how she had found energy, had lost weight and began creating a healthy life for her family. The company she partnered with was Shaklee, a company that I found to have history, integrity, and high quality products that I could trust.

I started with my own health, using what we call the Vitalizing Plan, one meal replacement per day and my Vitalizer strip of vitamins. I had so much healing by just using this kit that I was eager to learn more about natural solutions to our entire family’s health. After using the kit for almost three months, I had lost 15 lbs, my cholesterol had gone down almost 30 points, and my acid reflux disease was gone! I came off Prilosec and I wanted to learn how to help my kids. My then four-year-old daughter got stomach aches every time she would eat and she also had eczema all over her legs. I listened to a health stories conference call and listened to some Wellness Webinars. That education led me to start her on our Incredivites (children’s multi), Chewable C, and Optiflora probiotic. Within a couple of weeks, her eczema was disappearing and her stomach aches had become much less frequent. I was elated! About six months to a year later, my then one-year-old son was experiencing respiratory issues every time he would get a cold or virus. The doctors called it “reactive airway” and wanted to put him on a daily steroid. I absolutely did not want to do this, so I looked to Shaklee for a better, safer solution. I added our chewable omega 3, called Mighty Smarts, into his daily regimen along with Incredivites, Chewable C, and Optiflora. It worked!!! He has gone a year and a half now without any respiratory issues whenever he gets a cold or another virus! Also around this time, my husband started using Optiflora probiotic and noticed a large change in his digestive health. His family has a long history of colon cancer and he was excited to start approaching his health in a preventative way. He fell in love with the quality and integrity of Shaklee products and the company. We know that all of our children and ourselves now have a stronger immune system because of Shaklee. We love our non toxic cleaning products, we love our skin care products (vitamins for your skin), we love our Life Shake, supplements and basically everything that Shaklee produces is fantastic, safe, and works incredibly well.

Then in April of 2015, my husband and I were invited to a large Shaklee event. We felt compelled to learn more about how we could share the health that we had found with Shaklee with others. We definitely knew that we always wanted Shaklee to be a part of our family’s lives to keep us healthy. We are both teachers, so we thought, ‘why wouldn’t we want to educate others on how to have better health? What if we could build a business and help make other people’s lives better? After all, it is our passion to serve others.’ It made complete sense to us that we would build a business with the Shaklee opportunity. However, there was always a reason why it wasn’t the “right time”. We were just so busy and overwhelmed with daily life and taking care of our three little ones. Also at this point I was eight months pregnant with our fourth child and I could barely do the laundry, let alone think about starting a business, so I waited. Then our fourth baby came on June 12! We knew that we wanted to start our business some time soon, and we knew that it would probably never feel like the “right time” because life will always have a lot going on. So we took a leap and started our business on July 1, 2015. We are so glad that we did! We earned our initial investment back in the first month!

The best part is that we never felt like we had to do anything alone as we began our business. Our leaders helped us every step of the way, as well as many other people on our team. Even in the midst of the chaos of my postpartum life, I was always supported. Our leader allowed us to host our launch event at her home and she was always willing to get together to help us with skills and planning. The community that we have the opportunity to work with is truly phenomenal! There is so much support on our team! You are never alone and any answer is just a phone call or text message away. We have tons of resources and did I mention the free training that we receive? When I was teaching I had to pay for my training, now I receive free training every week. All in all, joining the business has been one of the best decisions for me and my family. We became business leaders within three months and we are now looking to build a team of our own! What a rewarding and exciting field to be a part of! Our country needs to move towards prevention and Shaklee is going to lead the way. When we take small steps that lead to big results, this is called the Shaklee Effect. We feel empowered to be a part of this revolutionary company!

 

For more information on the products Christine mentioned or about the Shaklee opportunity, contact the Shaklee distributor that sent you this blog link.


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Christmas Cards

“Balance. It’s like a unicorn; we’ve heard about it, everyone talks about it and makes airbrushed T-shirts celebrating it, it seems super rad, but we haven’t actually seen one. I’m beginning to think it isn’t a thing.”
Jen Hatmaker, For the Love

I hope I have never given the impression that I balance it all. I don’t. I think that’s why I am so moved by the first chapter of this book the above quote is from, “For the Love.” Christmas cards are a great example of this. I had written this post in my head but was so thankful to read this chapter before I had a chance to type it.

CCards
IF I was sending a Christmas card, it would include this picture. And I would use that cute template that says, “All is not calm, but all is bright.”
(Photography: Robb Davidson Photography)

First, I love mail. I love sending real cards with stamps. I love receiving mail. I love cards and letters and stationary. I love getting Christmas cards. I love a picture I can hold and put up on my wall and connections with people and a mailbox full of joy.

Here is the background on the Christmas cards
(skip to “Where I’m At Now” if you’d like).

I longingly waited until we had a cute little face to put on Christmas cards. I had special pictures taken and addressed and stamped lovingly all my Christmas cards. I did this for one year. In 2011 we moved into a new house in December and then had my sister’s wedding. I sent New Year’s cards. Then in 2012 we had a baby in the fall and because I had just sent birth announcements, I thought, ‘I’ll skip Christmas cards this year.’ That’s not really true. My husband said, “Are you crazy? You have a new baby, a growing business, a toddler and you just sent out birth announcements that had a family picture on it. Let’s skip them this year.” I said, “But of course!” No, not true again. But, I did thankfully (eventually and begrudgingly) follow the wisdom of my husband and said to myself, ‘Well, years we have babies and send birth announcements I just won’t send Christmas cards.’

Then in 2013, I just couldn’t get it together. I know that I’ve been taken off other people’s card lists because I have not sent one. I know. I’m okay with that. But something had to give. In 2014, we had another baby. And guess what? I didn’t even send a birth announcement. And now it’s 2015 and I’m here again, but this year, I have come to grips with my life.

Where I’m At Now
Some things have to give. I just can’t do it all. And I have to be okay with that.

I am choosing to be wise with my time and my energy. This year I am sadly putting aside this time-honored tradition that I love and focusing on the things that God has put front and center. We have a lot going on with ministry, business, and of course, three little wonderful people.

This is sad for me, but I know that I will be less stressed, less busy, and more focused this season if I let this one go.

I hope you still do a Christmas card this year (but it’s okay if your policy is to only send one to those who send one too). I don’t share this to say anything negative about how you spend your time or energy. I love getting your cards and I am thankful that you can still do this (I hope to again one day). We all have to have different stories and a different balancing act.

I only share this to say that this is something that I, sadly, am giving up. I am freeing myself from feeling like I have failed because I can’t do it all. I am sharing that I am not letting myself feel judged because I didn’t send one again this year. I am freeing myself from the “well I will next year” lie and just letting it go.

If you want the other lists of things I have had to let go, I’m happy to share. I often sing “If I had a million hours…” to the tune of BNL’s “If I had a million dollars..” But I don’t. God generously gave me 24 hours (and a need for sleep) and seven days in a week. Learning to let things go that I feel I “should” do is a process of trusting Him and His plan for me. I don’t know what you need freedom from this year, but I hope there is some encouragement in this.

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And this is the pile of personal, specific notes still on my to-do pile—some of which have been sitting there for eight weeks, one is my very best friend’s birthday card (three weeks ago). I have some other things I need to get to first.

 

 

 

And I love you all and Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah and thank you and everything else.