Handmade from the Heart

A lot of my blogging friends are sharing their favorite handmade/online shops this week so I thought it'd be fun to do the same. I'm a big fan of etsy and my love for handmade and unique gifts is increasing at a rapid rate. There's just something about giving or getting a gift that you know wasn't purchased in a mega department store. It's unique, and it's not likely than millions of other people are going to have the same thing. Shopping 'handmade' promotes creativity, individuality, and often times (depending on the shop) a great cause. A lot of handmade shop owners give part of their profits to causes like at-risk, women, education, orphan care, clean water, etc. 

So here are a handful of my favorite shops... some of which I've purchased Christmas gifts from for friends and family this year. I had the opportunity to meet many most of these women at The Influence in October and believe me when I say, their hearts are even more beautiful than their products. 

MelodyJoy1983 // beautiful handmade jewelry, cowls, painted art by Melody.

Naptime Dairies // unique and one-of-a-kind prints, often featuring scripture, for your home by Jessi and her husband

She Does Justice // scarves, prints, and accessories being sold in order to help others who are helping others

Better Life Bags // incredible handmade bags by Rebecca and other women in her community. A portion of the profits help employ women who otherwise wouldn't be able to work. {I have the 'molly messenger' bag and I adore it.}

Button Bird Designs // incredible handmade art by Angels. Too many wonderful things to list!

Amber Zaccagni // one-of-a-kind handmade leather cuffs by Amber

Snow Drift Designs // beautiful handmade cowls and other knitted beauties. {I have a grey cowl made by Kirtley and I love it!}


Live With Less is making progress. Some great progress. We started selling t-shirts on September 18th, 2012. Since then, we've sold 124 shirts to people all over the country and even a couple outside of the U.S. We've also been able to sell at The Influence Conference in Indianapolis, IN and a craft fair in Minooka, IL. On December 8th, we'll be selling again at a craft fair at Judson Church in Joliet, IL. (On a side note, I'm finding that craft fairs aren't the best place for LWL tees based on the average age of most craft fair shoppers and the fact that people come to buy more stuff, not live with less.) But we'll be giving the "craft world" another shot on October 8th because Judson Church is bringing in vendors as well as having a bake sale in order to raise money for Haiti. So LWL will be supporting their cause as well as continuing to raise money for The Mocha Club and clean water.

Just to give you an idea of what we've been able to do since 9.18.12...
  • 124 shirts sold online and in various venues
  • Over $600 raised for clean water which means that about 85 people in Ethiopia will have clean drinking water for one year. Amazing. 
{$7=clean water for 5 Africans for 1 year.}
  • People are being challenged to 'live with less' just by putting on a simple t-shirt. They're being challenged to think less about themselves and more about others.
  • $275 was raised by Angela from Button Bird Designs by selling super cute up-cycled Owls, which are still available for purchase here. Part of the profits from the sale of these handmade owls will go to Compassion International. (She also has a lot of other great stuff for sale that would make a great Christmas present!)
Recently I've been thinking about some goals for 2013 when it comes to Live With Less. I'd like to raise $5,000 for clean water in 2013. $7 from every t-shirt sale goes towards clean water which means I'd need to sell 714 t-shirts next year. It might be a lofty goal but we're gonna aim high! Go big or go home right? Well,  at least that's what we tend to say here in the midwest. 

If we keep selling at the same pace we have been in 2012 then I think it's reachable. We've sold 124 t-shirts in the last 72 days so who even knows how many t-shirts we could sell in 2013! 

I'm so honored to be connected with so many people in person and in the online world who want to make a difference in their communities and around the world. 

Would you consider buying a LWL tee for yourself or a friend this Christmas so we can help even more people? Or if you've already purchased one will you tell a friend? 

live with less. give more. make a difference. 
merry christmas.

Better Life Bags // Making Life Better

I want to tell you all about this company I am so very excited about. It's called Better Life Bags. Rebecca is the founder and owner and I had the privelege of meeting her at The Influence Conference last month. We only talked briefly but I could tell right away that her passion for helping people was oozing out of her heart. I asked her a few questions about how I could improve my t-shirt business and she was so so helpful. I didn't really know much about BLB before I met Rebecca but meeting her and hearing a tiny bit of her heart made me want to know more.

Justin bought me the Molly Messenger bag for my birthday and I LOVE it. And knowing that part of my purchase helps women in Detroit be able to work who otherwise wouldn't, makes me love it even more.

Want to give a meaningful handmade Christmas gift this year? You'll get a stunning bag but more importantly you'll help make someones life better. In order to get your bag by Christmas, you're order must be placed by December 5th. 

Check out this video to learn more about Better Life Bags.

Go here to check out the amazing handmade bags made specially by Rebecca and the women she's reaching with the love of Jesus. 

Must reads for young women

Just wanted to plug a couple of great books real quick...

If you're a young woman (middle school, high school, or college age) these two books are must reads. I haven't read them myself yet but many people I trust having been raving about them. I plan on reading both and will let you know what I think, but until then... go pick up a copy!

I feel like a hot mess.

Hey all five of you loyal readers. I'm pretty much here just to vent here today. My life right now feels like a hot mess. And I don't like it.

There's been a large amount of change for us in a very short amount of time. I don't recommend doing such a thing. It's not wise. But it's where we're at. We didn't PLAN on all of these changes happening within a month of each other, it just kinda did. My husband resigned from his job at our church, our 22 year old friend Niki moved in, and we were placed with a four year old foster child. The four year old boy requires a lot of attention and energy which wears the heck out of me. When we filled out our foster care application we specifically requested a boy, age 0-2. The first call we got on October 4th was about a four year old boy who needed a home. We choose to say yes. The experience we are currently having with the foster care system is not what I pictured. I'm sure it's never what you picture but what I pictured was being called about an infant or at least a child younger than our two and a half year old. But sometimes life throws you curves. Or the Department of Child and Family Services does.

So here I am. A stay-at-home mom to two boys, ages two and five. One who came from my tummy, one who did not. One who is very easy for me to love, one who is not. Just being honest, friends. This stuff is hard. Some days I want to run far, far away. Some days anger comes out of me that I didn't know was there. Some days I just don't know if I can do it anymore (the foster care thing, not life). Some days I loathe the idea of doing it all over again the next day.

What gives me hope is that I know this is only for a season. Everything in life is only for a season. Short or long, still a season. I am thankful for the friends who have come alongside us and given us support, money, food, gift cards, babysitting, hugs, and allowed us to vent. We need those people desperately.

Our friend Niki has moved back to Des Plaines and we miss her dearly but the chaos in our home isn't an ideal growing environment for a twenty two year old girl. She comes back to hang out with us often and that makes me happy.

I'm bummed that I haven't been able to blog much lately. It's a fun outlet for me. But in this season, I honestly don't feel like I have much to say.

So I'll probably be silent for a while until I feel like I have something productive or at least positive to contribute to the blog world.

Thanks for listening to my 'hot mess'.

Change is for everyone.

This election day really has me thinking a lot about change. That's what everyone is hoping for right? Change? Those who voted for Obama are hoping that the next four years will be different. Better than the last four. Those who voted for Romney are also hoping the next four years will be different and better than the last four. Change is a good thing. Being the President of the United States of America is probably about the most influential position a person can obtain. The person who holds this position has the power to bring about A LOT of change. Regardless of whether it's good change or bad change, it's still change.

I believe we all have a desire within to change something. To make a difference. To help someone. Just because we don't have the most powerful position in the world doesn't mean we still can't do something to infect our world with positive change.

What do you want to change? What's your passion? How do you want to make life better for other people?

For me, my passion has always involved poverty. Ever since high school I've always been drawn to poverty. It's what makes my head turn. It's what makes me cry. It's what makes my heart beat faster.

It's why, when I was 18, I packed hundreds of sack lunches with friends every Sunday night to hand out to homeless people in Des Moines, IA.

It's why, when I was 19, I moved to Brooklyn, NY all by myself to serve the poor in the inner-city.

It's why, today as a stay-at-home mom, I'm selling t-shirts. It's not quite as 'risky' as the former but it's what I can do now, in this season of life. Although at times it faded because of my own selfishness, the passion to do something about the poverty in our world, has not gone away. The desire to help change the world for someone else, still burns inside me.

My desire is to bring change for those who may not be able to create change for themselves. I may not be the President of the United States but I can still do something. And so can you.

It can be something as simple as selling a t-shirt that in return, helps provide clean drinking water to those who don't have access to it.

Give some clothes away to a women's shelter. Buy school supplies for an under-funded school. Foster a child. Make a meal for a widowed neighbor. Buy some grocery cards for a single mom. Buy someone a car. Give some money to a friend in need. Invest in someone who needs a friend. Love someone who's hard to love. 

Our human nature is to 'store up' for ourselves. God's nature is to pour out so that the 'storing up' may be seen for eternity.

What's you passion? How do you want to make a difference?

31 days // bowing out.

Hey friends. Sorry for the silence lately. The last two weeks have honestly been some of the most stressful weeks of my life. If you haven't already heard, on October 4th Justin and I took a four year old foster child into our home. Since then it's been a whirlwind of meetings with the social worker, visitations with his parents, getting him registered for Pre-K school, paperwork, more paperwork, and just trying to figure out how to manage this new season. It's been hard. I'm not by nature a person who gets stressed out easily. I'm not a worrier. Ask anyone who knows me, I'm one of the most laid-back people you'll ever meet. I like change. I like to just go with the flow. But this change has been hard.

So hard.

It's been hard adding another person to our family who's quite hyper and needs a lot of attention.

It's been hard reworking our schedule around a child who is in school from 12:30-3:05 everyday.

It's been hard to take care of and love a child who is the result of some really bad parenting.

It's been hard to have to potty train an almost five year old who hasn't quite got the hang of it yet. And again, the result of someone else's bad parenting.

It's been hard to control my temper when I watch another kid constantly antagonizing my son.

It's been hard to not have much time with my husband lately, who is working his butt off to provide for us while he looks for a full-time job.

It's been hard to not get in the car and drive far, far away.

Alright, that's enough of the negative. Yes, it's been rough but I know it's only for a season. It WILL get better. Even if it takes months or years. It will.

The good news is... the last few days it's gotten a little easier. We're starting to get into a groove and I'm starting to feel a little less stressed. This is a good thing. And a God thing.

So the reason for the post is to tell you that I have decided to bow out of the 31 days series. I really don't want to. But I think I need to. I just can't keep up anymore. And because I'm trying so hard to keep up, it's just adding more stress to my life. The even more disappointing this is I can't even keep up reading so many other 31 days series that I want to read. There are SO many great ones out there.

Sorry I couldn't finish. I know you all understand. Hopefully next year will be different.

Love you all.

Day 16 // 'water for life' for 3!

I have some exciting news to share! A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a project my friend Angela was doing. You can read about it here but I'll also give you a quick synopsis.

Angela heard about what I wanted to do with Live With Less. She heard I was selling t-shirts (she was one of the first people to buy one) and that part of the profits were going towards providing clean drinking water for those who didn't have access to it and she wanted to do MORE to help. Angela decided to make these adorable little animal pillows out of reusable products like vinyl and plastic grocery bags and sell them online. She told me beforehand that she wanted to give 100% of the profits to Live With Less so that we could use it to purchase 'Water for Life' systems for families through Compassion International. How awesome is that!?!?

Well Angela sold a bunch of the handmade animal pillows right away and made $275! Can you believe it?! I was beyond excited when she told me! The 'Water for Life' systems cost $79 each. $275 divided by $79 is 3.48. So with Angela's help we were able to purchase THREE 'Water for Life' systems for people who don't have access to clean drinking water. The lives of THREE families will never be the same because Angela did a SIMPLE thing. For that I am so grateful.

I am so honored to know people like Angela who want to do something to make a difference for other people. I know many of you are like that too.

live with less. give more. make a difference. 

It really does matter. 

Day 15 // Vacationing

This series is getting tough. I'm starting to run out of ideas. But it's not a bad thing. It's forcing me to stretch my brain a little bit. I'm pushing through the writer's block. Here we go.

Today I want to talk about vacations. I could really use one right about now. Seriously. Our life is parked in the train station of 'crazy town'. This is not normal for us. We are usually a pretty low key family with not a lot of commitments during the week. And we still don't have a lot of commitments but adding another child to our house has been quite the adjustment. He started school this week so now I'm taking him and picking him up from school five days a week. At the same time I have a two year old who needs to get a nap in at some point within those same two and a half hours that the other child is in school. I've yet to figure it out.

Anyway, I really value vacation time. I love to travel and see new things and spend time with friends that we don't normally get to spend time with. It's all so refreshing.

But when we do go on vacation we tend to try and keep it as cheap as possible. We are able to set aside some money each month for our 'vacation' budget, but it's not a lot. So when we leave town for a few days or a week we usually head to a friends house, out-of-state, who is willing to have us:)

When our friends the TeSelles lived in North Carolina we drove out twice to visit them. We also have friends who have a place in Pigeon Forge, TN and we've been blessed to stay there a couple of times. My family lives in Des Moines, IA so we usually travel there a few times a year. Because of the TeSelles we now have many friends in the Charlotte area and we spent a week there this past summer staying with our friend's Natasha and Greta and their families. It was a GREAT time.

We aren't a Disneyland or Cancun or Ski resort kind of family. Maybe one day we will be. But for now we just like to pack up the van, take a nice long drive, and hang out with people we love.

So there you go. That's how this Laib family 'lives with less' when it comes to vacationing.

Now I'm ready to start planning one.

Day 14 // clothes

Let me start by saying, I love clothes. Ok well maybe 'love' isn't the right word. I really LIKE clothes. I always have. It's kind of weird because I don't consider myself someone who loves fashion or even feels fashionable but putting on a new pair of jeans just does something to a girls heart, doesn't it? It makes you feel like a new woman.

As you can see by this picture, my style is pretty simple. Give me a pair of jeans, a t-shirt, and some cool kicks and I'm set. Lately, I'm learning to work accessories into my wardrobe too. I might be failing.

I've gotten much better at controlling myself when it comes to buying clothes. I don't buy nearly as many clothing items as I used to. And I buy a lot more used clothing than I used to. I hardly ever buy new clothing anymore. I like shopping thrift and consignment stores because there's more variety and it's way cheaper, obviously. I've always been a name-brand girl too. I care about look and quality (to a certain extent) and I am not inclined to go buy a pair of jeans at Wal-Mart or the Fashion Bug. Call me a clothes snob if you want, it's just my preference.

Some of my favorite places to shop for used clothes are Plato's Closet and Goodwill. I feel a little old to still be going into Plato's Closet but I'm ok with that. It always makes me feel a little better when I see a another "mom" shopping amidst all the teenagers. The other day I ran into a couple of high school boys who were shopping at Plato's at the same time I was. Awkward. Or maybe I'm just that cool. Or probably not.

Where do you shop when you're trying to save money on clothes? Do you have any secrets to thrifting for great clothes?

Day 13 // I love Apple.

On day thirteen I would like to tell you about my love for Apple computers. I purchased my first Mac in 2004. It was a white iBook. Remember those? It was beautiful. The computer before that was a Dell. Yuck. It was a brick that ending up dying long before it should've. I was living in New York City at the time and I had picked out my beautiful new iBook at the Apple store on Prince Street in Soho. I love hanging out in Soho. It's one of my favorite spots in NYC. I picked up my new computer and held it tightly all the way back to my apartment in Brooklyn. I remember getting home and opening it up and just staring at it. It was beautiful. White. Clean. Untouched. Did I mention beautiful?

Since that day, I've never gone back. Apple computers have my heart. I'm kind of a tech lover so if you're not one of those people then you probably think I'm weird and want to stop reading. That's ok.

So what does this have to do with 'living with less' you ask? Since I purchased my brand new iBook in 2004, I've never purchased another new one. I've had five Apple computers since then and I've purchased them all used. Mostly from craigslist. And it's only backfired on me once.

Not everyone is a fan of buying used computers and I totally understand that. It's a risk. Especially when you're buying from a stranger. But for me, buying a brand new Mac just isn't an option. So i choose to buy used because that's what we can afford.

Sometimes when you're choosing to 'live with less' there are just some things you can't buy new. Cars, computers, clothes, the list goes on.

Is there anything you've chosen NOT to purchase new?

Day 12 // the mocha club

Today at Influence I met some really cool people. Well, I met a lot of really cool people but specifically I'm thinking about three people who are doing a really cool thing. Barrett, Annie, and Marisa work for/advocate for an organization called The Mocha Club. 

The Mocha Club is challenging people to give up a few mochas a month and use the money towards a project that helps better the lives of people living in poverty around the world. According to their website, 

"Mocha Club is about connecting your community with our community in Africa. You start by giving up the cost of a few mochas a month and get to pick where that money is going. We have many different ongoing projects around Africa - pick the one that YOU love. Then start your team so you can invite others to join you in making a difference!" 

I love what Mocha Club is doing around the world to help provide clean water, HIV/Aids prevention, education, and orphan care as well as protecting women and children who are in vulnerable situations. 

Mocha Club and Live With Less have a lot in common. I would love our paths to cross one day in hopes that together we might make even bigger ripples in the kingdom. 

live with less. give more. make a difference. 

Day 11 // Living with less at Influence

Hey everyone! I'm having a blast at The Influence Conference in Indy! Lots of beautiful, fun, and inspiring women here. The sessions are great and the Sashes Market is oozing with creativity.

I'm having so much fun that I'm getting a little behind on my '31 days' series. Oops.

I'm honored to be able to sell some 'Live With Less' t-shirts at the conference and it's been so fun to be able to share the LWL story with so many people.

Today I just thought I'd make a list. A practical list of how I'm 'living with less' at Influence.

  • I drove from Joliet, IL to Indianapolis in our Toyota Camry that gets 35mpg. Score. Less money spent on gas. 
  • I'm staying with a friend of a friend rather than staying at the hotel. Less money spent on lodging. (We couldn't really afford this anyway but hey, I'm still adding it to my list:) 
  • I didn't shower this morning. Less water. It may also result in less new friends. Not sure if that was a smart trade.
  • I'm taking advantage of the food offered at the conference and trying not to buy any food outside of that. Less money spent on food. 
  • So far, I haven't purchased anything at the Sashes Market. And believe me it's hard because there are some GREAT things in there. I can't guarantee that the will power in this area will last much longer though. The market is just that good. 
So there's my list. I know these aren't life changing things but for me it's a good discipline to daily ask myself the question "What can I live with less of today?" 

Even if it's a small thing the goal is that it's a baby step toward a more simple life. 

live with less. give more. make a difference. 

Day 10 // the shirts are here!!

The 'Live With Less' t-shirts are finally here! I am beyond excited! I am even more excited to put mine on and actually WEAR it. Have you ordered one yet?

You've probably already heard, but just in case you haven't, these shirts are being sold to inspire others to live with less, give more, and make a difference. My hope is that every time you put on your LWL t-shirt you'll ask yourself...

"What can I live with less of today in order to give more to someone in need?" 

I believe this answer will look different for everyone. For some it may be a little less fast food each week so you can have a few extra dollars (or some McDonald's gift cards) to give to the homeless man on the corner that you drive passed every morning. Maybe you're like me and for you it means spending less money at Starbucks or shopping for clothes so you can help kids in other countries have clean drinking water. Maybe it means going to the movies a little less so you can sponsor a child through Compassion International. Maybe it means spending less money on yourself so you can help out a single mom in your neighborhood. The options are endless. 

A portion of the sales from the t-shirts will go to providing clean drinking water through Compassion International's 'Water of Life' program. 

If you haven't already purchased a 'Live With Less' t-shirt and would like to, just click on the LIVE WITH LESS shop above. 

I am super excited to be heading to Indianapolis tomorrow to attend The Influence Conference with 220 other blogging women! There will be a 'market' at the conference that will feature handmade goods from a handful of women attending and I'm exciting about having the opportunity to sell a bunch of LWL t-shirts there! 

I'll be keeping up with my 31 days series while I'm there so be looking for some posts from Indy over the weekend. 

Live with less my friends!

Day 9 // a one car family.

For about the last year we've been a one car family. On purpose. It's one of the ways we've tried to 'live with less'. Justin and I wanted to experiment and see if we could survive with one car between the two of us. It worked for the most part because I am a stay-at-home mom and up until a couple of weeks ago, Justin worked mostly from home during the day. We did our best to communicate who needed the car when and work around any conflicts. There were a few times where we ran into problems and had to find a solution like renting a car or borrowing one from a friend but for the most part it worked pretty well.

This is Dominick, our mini-van. Well, this isn't OUR mini van, it's just a picture I pulled off the internet but this is what our van looks like. We purchased Dominick in March of this year and I really like him. Dom has been our only vehicle for the last seven months.

There are great benefits to being a one car family...

  • Less money spent on gasoline.
  • Less money spent on car insurance.
  • Less money spent on vehicle maintenance.
  • Less pollution being added to our already deteriorating environment. 
Yes, sometimes it can be a hassle to have to 'share' a vehicle but I really think the positives outweigh the negatives. 

Ironically, this week we are officially going back to two cars. Justin is now working outside our home and needs a car to get to and from work. 

The simplicity in this area was nice while it lasted. Maybe we'll return to being a one car family again someday. 

Has anyone else out there tried being a one-car family? I'd love to hear how you pulled it off. 

Day 8 // a little less space, a little more love.

Hello day 8. Hello readers. I have some big news to share today. As the month of October approached I did my best to make a list of ideas of things I could write about for 31 days. I knew I would be in trouble if I tried to just sit down at the computer each day and come up with something to write, on the spot. But the great thing about life is that 'it happens'. LIFE happens. And this past week, it did just that.

Justin and I have been licensed foster parents for about a year now. For months we've been waiting for 'the call' from the foster care agency about a child who needed to be placed in a home. So many months had gone by we started to think 'the call' was never going to come. The whole idea of being foster parents was sort of in the back of our minds.

And then, this Thursday, it happened. We got the call. It was about 2:30pm and I answered a phone number I didn't recognize. It was Terri, one of the social workers we worked with during our licensing process. She informed us that there was a four year old boy who needed a place to stay. 'How long' was an answer she couldn't provide. I told her I would talk to my husband and then call her back. Justin and I talked, prayed and then called Terri back about an hour later. Our decision was to bring this four year old boy into our home for however long God had planned.

We picked him up at a McDonalds about 25 minutes away. He was waiting there with another social worker who had been with him most of the day. He had been in court and then in the foster agency office where he waited while things were bring 'processed'.

The whole moment was quite surreal. My husband describes it as "driving your wife who's about to give birth, to the hospital, but take away the, 'you knew you were pregnant' part". We had no idea what to expect. We had no clothes for this little boy. We put out a plea on Facebook about an hour before we went to get him, for a toddler bed and some friends came through right away. He came with the clothes on his back and nothing else.

All we knew was him name, his age, and that he needed a safe place to sleep.

It's been four days and it's been quiet a whirlwind. Due to privacy reasons, I can't tell his name or much about him. But I can tell you that he is a very sweet boy. He is also VERY energetic (which also might be diagnosed as something more official, eventually). He has adapted unbelievably well to 'our' schedule. He eats anything I put in front of him. He sleeps very well and doesn't get out of his bed until I come in his room in the morning. (What!?) He hasn't shed a tear since he's been at our house. (I'm sure that will come eventually when the honeymoon stage fades.) Half of the time he calls Justin and I 'mommy' and 'daddy' and the other half of the time he forgets our names after we've reminded him about twenty times that day. He adores Cooper and hasn't shown an ounce of aggression towards him. I could go on and on. He's just a great kid.

But... it's only been four days. I'm not imagining that he will turn into a completely different child and start breaking everything in our house tomorrow, but I know this journey will not be easy. It's already brought it's fair share of challenges in just four short days. I'm tired. So tired. Going from being a mom of one to a mom of two without barely any warning, is tough.

My addiction to Starbucks Chai Lattes has increased. You can read more about that in my Day 7 post.

The dynamic in our house has changed. Cooper, our two year old, has a very mellow personality and is very laid back. "James" (not his real name) is very high-energy and much louder than Cooper. The "feel" our home is now different than it was four days ago.

With all that being said, a little boy has a safe place to call home (at least for now) and is surrounded by some people who love him. We hope our home will be a place where he can be a safe place for him to grow, for however long God allows him to be apart of our family.

Today we're living with a less space so that someone else can have a little more love.

Live With Less.  Give More. Make a Difference.

Day 7 // what's your addiction?

Today I'll be talking about what I have a hard time with when it comes to "living with less" of this thing. It's a little bit embarrassing actually, but I figured it's time to be a little vulnerable.

Ok, so here comes the confession. Are you ready?

I just can't live without... Starbucks Chai Lattes. There it is. Now you know my dirty little secret.

Ok, so in all seriousness I CAN live without Starbucks chai lattes. I just really like them. A lot. Is it an addiction? Maybe.

Here's the deal. I NEED to learn to live with less chai lattes because they are expensive. It's not practical or even wise for me to buy a $3.50 drink from Starbucks everyday or even every other day.

So I'm trying to live with less. Less delicious chai latte running through my veins. It's hard.

One thing I do substitute for the in-store chai lattes is buying the box of chai concentrate at the store which only costs $3.50 at Target and making my own at home. It's obviously much more cost effective and you get about six or seven times the amount for your money.

What's you addiction? What do you struggle to live with less of?

Day 6 // we don't buy presents for our kid

Yay, I'm catching up! So it's day six and what I'm writing about today might make some of you not like me anymore. It probably won't but there's still a possibility.

I love giving gifts. I also love receiving gifts. "Gifts" is one of my top love languages. I just really like to give. I tend to think I'm a pretty good gift-giver but those who have received my gifts at one time or another, may disagree.

However, there is one area in which my husband and I have chosen to 'live with less/spend less'. It's the area of buying gifts for our son, Cooper. Cooper is two years old. Cooper has celebrated two birthdays and two Christmases. Guess how many birthday and Christmas presents his mom and dad have purchased for him? None. Yep, none.

Go ahead and think that we are the worst parents in the world. It's ok. It won't hurt my feelings.

Here's what we think. Cooper is still too young to understand what a "gift" is. He's probably also still too young to know what a birthday or Christmas means. He gets plenty of birthday and Christmas presents from friends and family and Justin and I have no desire to add to the collection of stuff he doesn't "need". Please don't get me wrong, we LOVE when he gets presents from our friends and family because we know it's their way of showing Cooper that they love him. We do the same for our friends and family. We would never deny him a gift from someone else (unless it was going to harm him, of course) but we ourselves have chosen to let others be the bearers of gifts as long as Cooper doesn't know the difference. I should also day that we LOVE our son, we just choose to show that love through avenues other than physical gifts.

One day when he's older and smart enough to figure out that his parents didn't get him anything for his birthday, well, then maybe we'll change our policy. Maybe. This Christmas will be Cooper's third and we still haven't talked about whether or not we'll get him anything.

I'll let you know what we decide:)

How do you all feel about getting gifts or not getting gifts for your kids? Especially when they are too young to know what it means?

Day 5 // Living with less food

Ok, so let me start by saying that these last couple of days I've felt like I'm back in college when it comes to doing my daily blog posts. Not because I'm dreading them or doing them against my will but because I'm squeezing them in at the last possible minute of the day (or in this case, doing them a day late). Remember those days when you had a paper due at 11:59 pm and you emailed it to your teacher at 11:58pm? I have a good reason for having gotten into this habit, even though really it's only been twice so I probably shouldn't be so hard on my self. Anyway, things have been a little crazy around here the last 24-ish hours but that story will have to be saved for another time.

Since I never really gave a "wrap-up" on my '7' food month, I thought I'd write on that today. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, here's a quick recap. For the entire month of September I ate only seven foods. Chicken, sweet potatoes, spinach, apples, bread, avocados, and eggs. Or at-least I tried. I didn't always succeed.

It was a challenging month. Maybe even harder than I expected. I think what added to the challenge is that it was a hard month for Justin and I personally. Some big changes occurred in our lives and I guess you could say we were experiencing more stress than normal.

On those days when hard conversations were had or tough decisions were made or disappointing moments had to be swallowed,  there wasn't much we felt like we had control over. Which isn't' always a bad place to be, but it's usually still a hard place to be. My instinct in those moments, even though I knew I was restricting myself to only seven foods that month, was to just eat. I am not normally an emotional eater, or at least I didn't think I was, but in these moments food was all I felt like I had control over. Even if it was as simple as eating one cookie, I still had control over that cookie when everything else seemed to be falling apart.

I know it sounds silly but I think real people struggle with this on a daily basis. On more than one occasional during my 'food month' I let my emotions get the best of me and I allowed food to be my comfort. Is it really that big of a deal? For me, probably not. Because it's not likely that I will balloon to 400lbs. Ever. It's just not in my DNA. Honestly my stomach can't even handle large amounts of food without revolting.

But for some, food can have devastating effects. The tiny glimpse I got into the world of emotional eating helped me empathize with those who deal with this issue on a daily basis. I'm not saying that eating your problems away is ok, I'm just saying 'I get it'. At least a little, tiny bit.

My hope is that we can enjoy food the way God intended, take what we need, and let the world have the rest.

I'll end with this. Hayley who blogs at The Tiny Twig said this in a guest post she contributed to a '7' book club over at (in)courage....

"Did you know that 40% of the food in America goes wasted, yet 1 in 6 American’s haven’t enough to eat?  Clearly, this is not a supply issue.  The problem isn’t that we have too many people to feed, or that we cannot grow enough food to feed the hungry.  The problem is, the “haves” are taking more than we need without thought."

Let's chew on that, shall we? 

** If you'd like to read a great article about food waste, click here

Day 4 // a great opportunity to give

Hey friends! It's day four in this series and I am REALLY excited about what I will be sharing with you today. Today it's a little less about how I'm learning to live with less and a little more about how a friend of mine is doing something to make a huge difference.

My friend Angela owns Button Bird Designs. Angela is one of the most creative people I know. If you haven't checked out her website yet you need to! She does amazing things with items that most people would just throw in the trash.

Angela heard about my project called 'Live With Less' and she was inspired to do something to help. Angela decided to make these amazing little animal pillows (by hand!) and she's going to sell them. Here's the best part... all of the profits will go to Compassion International's 'Water for life' program! This is the same cause that the profits from the 'Live With Less' t-shirts are going towards.

Here are the adorable animal pillows that Angela will be selling. They are $25.00 each. On the outside she used vinyl she bought at a Habitat ReStore and she stuffed the insides with plastic shopping bags. Pretty resourceful, right?

Click here to buy one of these super cool handmade animal pillows to support a great cause and help provide clean, safe drinking water for people around the world!

Live with Less. See you tomorrow. 

Day 3 // Sell before you buy

It's day three in this wonderful 31 day series and I'm still feeling inspired to write about my journey of {learning to live with less}! I'm sure that will fade by day ten but as long as the inspiration's here, I should embrace it right?

Today I want to share a tip with you on how I afford to purchase something I would like to have, even when I can't afford it.

Justin and I have created a pretty tight budget for ourselves and all of our income is divided into categories. Our desire it to be as responsible with the money God gives us as we possibly can. We don't always get it right. We use the Dave Ramsey envelope system (which I will probably talk more about in another post this month) so each month we have a certain amount of money set aside for food, clothes, household products, gas, date nights, "fun" money, and so one. It's not an extravagant budget in the sense that our envelopes are overflowing with cash to spend on whatever we want. They usually end up empty much more quickly than we expect.

So what happens when I see a pair of shoes I like or I "need" a new bag for my laptop and there's no cash for it in our budget?

I find something to sell. Yep. I do this all the time. If there's something I want and I know we can't afford it, I just find something around the house that I can sell to get the cash for the new thing.

If I see a pair of jeans I really like, I take a couple pairs of old jeans to a consignment store and get cash for them.

Let me stop here and say this: Just because I want something doesn't mean I buy it. There is definitely some self-control that has to come into play sometimes. And, if I just don't have anything around the house to sell, then I don't buy whatever it is that's on my "want" list. The self-control to not purchase something occurs much more often then the impulse of buying. And this is definitely something I've had to work on because I am naturally an impulsive person, in many areas. Just wanted to be clear with you all that I don't just figure out a way to buy everything I "want".

Moving on.

About 8 months ago I was in need of a new laptop. I had an old, used MacBook that I purchased off of craigslist and it wasn't a smart buy because it ended up having more issues than I knew about. I decided to sell that laptop on craigslist along with my snowboard (that I LOVED but was only using a couple of times a season) and I was able to buy a much newer, used MacBook on craigslist that is still proving to  be a great buy! I did have to front a little bit of cash for this transaction but I was able to pay it off eventually.

I know all of this "i want" language doesn't sound like it fits with a series about learning to live with less but I promise, this is going somewhere.

Here's the point.

Learning to live with less might mean something different for everyone. For me, it's about cutting back on the amount of things I purchase but also making sure that I'm not accumulating a house full of stuff in the process. I'm constantly in pursuit of minimizing the amount of stuff we have. It doesn't mean that I can't EVER buy ANYTHING. When I choose to sell something first before buying something new (even if it's used) it helps keep my accumulation of 'stuff' in check and also helps save money.

I control my stuff. It doesn't control me. Or at least that's the goal, isn't it?

The more 'stuff' you have, the more space it takes up in your life, your home, and eventually your heart.

Keeping fighting the fight. I'm fighting right along side you.

See you tomorrow.

Day 2 // Trash or Treasure

Alright so it's time to start digging into this topic of learning to live with less. Let me first say that I am certainly NOT writing this from an experts view. I do not have this all down, by any means. Living with less is just something I've been thinking about a lot lately and well, I needed to pick a topic for this 31 days series. I hope to share some helpful tips but I know I will be challenged myself, along the way.

It's my desire to write from the position of a learner and not a teacher. I hope that's the impression you all will pick up. Let's take this journey together.

One of the things I love to do is look in people's garbage. Well, not really IN their garbage, more like around their garbage. When's it trash day in my neighborhood I always have my eyes open for what people might have put out on their curb. Does anyone else do this? I know my friend Angela from Button Bird Designs does. She makes some amazing things out of garbage!

One of my other favorite things to do is look on the 'free' section of craigslist. Usually it's a bunch of junk like old tires or dirt or a collection of magazines from fifty years ago but every once in a while there's a gem in there. And if I come across that gem, I chase it! Yesterday was one of those days. Or at least I thought.

I saw a post on craigslist that someone was moving and had put a bunch of stuff on their curb that was free for the taking. I checked out the list and it definitely has some gems! I texted for the address and about an hour later I got a response. So Niki, Jenn, Cooper and I hoped in the car and were off on an adventure!

We got to the house and there were already two other people there. Darn. I guess I'm not the only fan of the CL 'free' section. We waited our turn but scoped out the goods from the van and realized that all the good stuff was already gone. We still ended up taking a red wooden shelf just for fun. I'll probably paint it and use it for a book shelf in Cooper's room. Cooper liked it so much that he held onto it the entire way home. :) And as you can see, our trash digging adventure wore Jenn out. 

Learning to live with less isn't just about having less stuff. It's about learning to spend less so that we can give more. I love finding free things that I can use or even repurpose because it's save us money that we can use on more important things. 

Last summer I found this big piece of wood in my neighbors garbage. I pulled it out and turned it into a project. After a little sanding, painting, and distressing, it's now probably my favorite piece of art in our home. And it didn't cost me a dime. 

Who needs HomeGoods when you've got trash day once a week? Okay, well maybe there are some things you SHOULD buy and not dig out of the garbage. A lot of things actually. But for me, part of learning to live with less is learning to be resourceful. 

I would love to hear how some of you are attempting to live with less. 

See ya tomorrow!

31 Days is here!

I haven't mentioned this yet but for the month of October I am going to be participating in a series called '31 Days'. The Nester started this a couple of years ago and this year there are close to 800 bloggers participating! Crazy! 

The challenge is to write on one topic for 31 days. I'm not sure how I'm going to pull this off but I'm going to give it a shot. 

So here's my topic. I'll be writing for 31 days on 'learning to live with less'. 


I'll be sharing stories and ideas about how I'm attempting to learn to live with less. It will involve everything from time, money, food, relationships, and space. And probably more since I'm gonna need 31 days worth of ideas. Eek. 

I've also got some blogger friends who are doing this series as well. You should check out their great ideas. 

The Nester // Home is 31 days

Caroline TeSelle // 31 days of rest and risk

So come back tomorrow for some thoughts on living with less!

9 more days!

Only nine more days until the end of September. And you know what that means? The '7' food challenge/ fast will be done. It's crazy to think that this month is almost over. When I started it I felt like this was going to be the longest month ever. But surprisingly it has gone by kind of quick. 

I have some confessions to make.

I may have cheated a little bit. Ok, not may have. I have.

The nights are the hardest. I've done great eating only '7' approved foods at breakfast, lunch, and dinner but after dinner and after Cooper's in bed and it's 10pm, I'm hungry again. And at 10pm you don't feel like cooking a sweet potato or some chicken. And I probably already had two apples that day and three pieces of bread and I don't feel like eating either of those again. So I busted out the box of cereal just to make my stomach stop growling at me.

Excuses, excuses I know. Just trying to be real with you all. I haven't done this perfectly.

I've noticed how often I don't do something because I simply 'don't feel like it'. Feelings are not bad but they are also not always very reliable. Kids in third world countries don't have the option to eat what they "feel" like eating. They eat what's available or they don't eat at all. The fact is, I'm spoiled. Just sayin'.

To give myself some credit, I'm still doing it and I am determined to finish strong.

There are a few things that I have really missed eating this month. Pita chips and hummus, cookies, oatmeal w/raisins, and cheese. And lately I've really wanted to eat a donut. I'm not normally a donut eater considering they instantly raise your cholesterol by 100 points but I really want one. I think it's all the pictures of 'apple cider donuts' being re-pinned on Pinterest that's getting to me. Mmmm.

So nine more days. I can make it. And you better believe there will be a celebration on October 1st!

'Live With Less' t-shirt pre-order!

The Live With Less shirts are officially available for pre-order TODAY! 

Click the HERE to order yours on ETSY. 
If you don't have an ETSY account click HERE for another order option. 

It will be in your mail box in about two weeks if you live in the US. International shipping will take a little longer.

*If you live in the Chicagoland area you can just purchase one from me in person and save on the shipping. 

Live With Less // A New Venture

Hey friends.

There's something I've been dying to share with you all. But it just hasn't been time. At least until now.

Back in July, while I was on a solo road trip from Des Moines, IA to Olathe, KS to see Jen Hatmaker speak, I believe God put an idea in my head. After reading a couple of Jen's books I felt the need to 'do something'. Something to make a difference. It's not abnormal for me to get ideas like this but usually I never execute them because I'm afraid. Afraid that they will fail. But this time I'm not letting fear control me.

Here's my dream that is about to become reality. It's a small dream but hopeful something that will make a difference even if just for a few.

I'm launching an initiative called Live With Less.

LWL exists to inspire others to live with less, give more, and make a difference. 

How you chose to 'live with less' is up to you. I'm on my own journey towards living with less and I know that it will look much different from the people around me but none the less, the goal is to have less so that I can give more. More time. More money. More space. More of my heart.

How will this all flesh out? Through a t-shirt. Kind of.

I asked a friend to design a t-shirt for me that will be sold for $20. A portion of the profit will go towards providing clean drinking water for people around the world.
On our planet 884 million people lack access to clean drinking water and and 3.575 million people die each year from a water related disease. These are statistics I have a hard time wrapping my head around. Mostly because I enjoy an endless amount of water each day and I can't picture what life would look like without it. Can you?

Compassion International provides safe water systems (which they call Water of Life) to families, which provides them with clean, safe drinking water for an entire lifetime. A LIFETIME.

And they only cost $55. For you and I that's equivalent to a pair of shoes or a date night out with your spouse.

So the goal is simple. 

Buy a t-shirt. Help provide clean drinking water and change a life forever. 

The t-shirts will be on sale in about a week but I wanted to give you all a heads up on what was coming. 

Thanks for reading friends! I hope you're as excited about this new venture as I am! 

A website and Etsy store to come soon! 

Our family is growing

The Laib family is growing. And no, not in my belly. Or from the foster care system although we hope to add some children to our family that way, one day. This weekend our friend Niki moved in. Justin and I met Niki about six weeks ago when we took our high school students to a camp in Wisconsin called Expeditions Unlimited. Niki was interning their for the summer and she was one of the staff that worked our trip. She helped us kayak, rock climb, navigate obstacles, and served our students tirelessly day in and day out. Niki and I connected right away and got to talk about life quite a bit the five days we were there. After our group left, Niki finished out her internship and then returned home to Illinois.


Niki is 22 years old and just graduated from college. Her life thus far had has plenty of challenges but she is a person who is choosing to trust Jesus and His plan for her life. Prior to this weekend her living situation was not healthy or ideal for a twenty-two year old woman and moving back in with her biological family was not an option. After many conversations and feeling like it was the right move to make, Justin and I invited Niki to come live with us. And she accepted. 

Some of you know that we already have another girl living with us named Jenn. Jenn is twenty-one and has been living with us for about 14 months. Jenn is a part of our family and is like a big sister to Cooper. We've loved having her in our home and love that she was so willing to give up her own room to share a room with a new friend. 

So Niki and Jenn now share what used to be Justin's office, just off of the garage. It's got a "girl's dorm room" kind of feel. I had fun decorating it and getting it ready for Niki to move in. We got to do a "reveal" of sorts. Justin met with Niki at Starbucks on Saturday night to let her know that we wanted to invite her to live in our home. When they came back, Jenn and I were waiting at the garage to show Niki her new room. She had no clue that we had already prepared a space for her, she just assumed she'd be sleeping on the couch for a while. I told her to open the door to her new room and when she did she was in complete shock. The shock was coupled with excitement and a little bit of disbelief that this was really happening. She was practically speechless. It was a fun moment and the perfect time for us to validate our feelings for her. She is loved so much and we are so excited for her to be in our home.

When Justin and I got married I don't think I could've ever imagined that five years into married life we'd have two young women living in our home. But for me, it was such an easy decision, almost second nature, really. They bring so much joy to our home.

When I was 18 years old I had a similar story. My youth pastor and his wife invited me to come and live with them. They recognized that my 18-year-old self needed some stability and a healthy home and they graciously offered that to me. I lived with Greg and Caroline on and off for about 4 years and the time I spent with them was living-changing. I honestly feel like I would be a completely different person today if God hadn't brought Greg and Caroline into my life.

Having Niki and Jenn live with us isn't necessarily an act of me "paying it forward" but rather, me having the desire to add the same value I received from the TeSelles, to someone else's life.

Jenn and Niki's stories are different than mine but we have so many things in common. The desire to be loved, affirmed, and cared for in a safe place. Which is something we all want, don't we?

I'm excited about what the future holds for all five of us.

'7' FOOD update

It's been nine days since I started the '7' food experiment. What a journey it has been so far. The first few days were tough. I was grumpy, hungry, and wondering if I could really make it an entire month eating just seven foods. But then it started to get easier. I wasn't thinking about cookies and potato chips as much anymore and I wasn't as hungry or cranky either. My thinking shifted from "this sucks" to "I think this is actually doable". If you read my last post you know that I was contemplating breaking the month up into chunks because we were running out of grocery money very quickly. But my friend Natasha encouraged me not to give up and to get creative and figure out how I could make it work. I am thankful for her. So it's day nine and I'm still going but we have made a couple of changes.

Justin started out doing the experiment with me (he likes a good challenge but I think he was doing it mostly to support me) and I asked him if he would be willing to end his month prematurely so that I could finish mine. He said yes. I basically was asking him, "Would you eat cookies and all the other good food so that I can continue to not eat cookies and all the other good food?" Who wouldn't say yes to that?

He will continue to eat some of the '7' foods with me but he has released himself from eating strictly seven things. He's free, people.

The other change that I made is that I am going to start subbing beans for chicken. Chicken tends to be expensive, especially if you buy quality chicken, so I'm going to be eating a lot more beans instead of chicken. I'll probably do a week of beans and then a week of chicken and then another week of beans.

So as it stands I'm still only consuming eggs, bread, chicken/beans, avocados, sweet potatoes, spinach, and apples. I guess I should call it 'eight' instead of 'seven'. Or maybe 'seven and a half'.

Here's what a typical day of eating has looked like these past nine days:

Breakfast: egg sandwich with spinach.

Lunch: a piece of chicken, with some avocado, or a avocado and spinach sandwich

Dinner: chicken and sweet potatoes (usually cooked in the crock pot or baked)

Snacks: apples or a slice of bread

Sounds super exciting right? It's been quite eye opening for me even though I don't really consider myself a "foodie".

It's so nice when things are simple. Even though I want to eat a lot of other things the simplicity of only having a few options is kind of freeing. Especially when it comes to food. I know what foods I can eat, I eat them, and then I move on with my day. No obsessing over choices or being consumed or distracted by cravings or impulses. I eat and then I live.

Only 19 more days to go.

The Influence Conference

I am super excited to be attending The Influence Conference in Indy in about five weeks. It's a blogging conference and a first of it's kind for me. A dear friend surprised me with a ticket to go. Amazing.

There's an assignment been given to the ladies who will be attending so we can all get to know each other before I actually get to know each other. Ha. Brilliant, right?

So here it goes. 
3 get-to-know-me items // 
  • I have lived in 5 states in the past 10 years. I love change and I love the excitement and new things that come with moving. Although I never like saying good-bye to good friends and family. 
  • I cannot accurately express my love for Starbucks Chai Lattes. Hot or cold. I would drink one every day if they weren't so expensive and they didn't make my heart flutter so much. 
  • In "dreamland" I want to be a professional snowboarder. 

2 things you're looking forward to about the conference //

  • Learning about how to be a more strategic blogger and also how to be a better writer. 
  • Meeting lots of new women. I love hanging out with women and making new friends. I'll be coming to the conference by myself but I ain't scared. And beware all, I like to ask a lot of questions. 

1 thing you can't leave home without //

  • My iPhone. Sad I know. I may eventually need some therapy. 

Day 3 of the '7' experiment

I am approaching the end of day three of the food experiment I talked about here a couple of days ago. How's it going, you ask?

It's hard.

The first two days were the hardest and I feel like it's getting a little easier. I've felt pretty hungry in between meals and it takes a lot more work to prepare the seven foods that were chosen than I am normally used to. I have used my crock pot a TON this week. I've been throwing chicken breasts in there and yesterday I added sweet potatoes which turned out pretty good. I've never cooked sweet potatoes in the crock pot before.

Things I've noticed about my body... The first two days I felt pretty crappy. Tired. Lethargic. And my muscles were cramping probably because I wasn't eating ENOUGH food. I think I was taking in too much protein and not enough fiber because my system was a little "backed up". TMI, I know. Sorry.

Even though it's been hard so far (I don't know why I expected it to be easier) here's what I've observed...

1) We eat because we can. There have been many times these last couple of days where I thought "I want a cookie" or "I'm gonna go eat some chips" forgetting that those items were not on the '7' approved list. I just wanted to eat because I could. Because it was there and accessible. Not necessarily because I was hungry or needed to eat.

2) When you don't have access to food, you think about it a lot. I've found myself constantly thinking about food. What I want to eat. What I can't wait to eat when this experiment is over. What I could eat without anyone knowing. My mind has been consumed with thoughts about food and I don't really like that.

This experiment has really been stretching me. The only bummer aside from being hungry is that this seven foods has taken a toll on our grocery budget that I did not anticipate. We have a certain amount of money for groceries each week and this experiment has eaten up most of our food money already and we still have a two-year-old mouth to feed.

So we may be splitting this month up into chunks rather than doing it consecutively.

We'll just take it one day at a time:)