Category Archives: friends

2013, The Recap

First of all, I didn’t even do a Christmas post on here. So, um, Merry Christmas from our family to yours.

And now here we are: New Year’s Day. Which makes me sappy as I reflect on last year. 2013 was a big year around here.

The biggest change, which started with me and trickled down to impact the whole family, was me deciding last January to go on a diet. I didn’t decide to do this on my own, though…here’s how the whole thing went down, since the story has never fully been told.

Very early in January, most of our small group signed up to do the Color Run together in April. (Remember? My hair drama?) I planned to walk as much as possible, and do a little jogging to get ready for this, but I didn’t have big goals of actually running the whole thing.

On January 16, my friend Kelli and I were texting in the afternoon. I sent her a picture of Ghirardelli chocolate chips…I’d just eaten a handful of them for a snack, and I told Kelli they were too tempting. She suggested I throw them away…I remember asking, “Is doing the Color Run making you all healthy or something?” She said no, but that she had been thinking about dieting. I told her I was in…I definitely needed to lose a few pounds.

I suggested we try My Fitness Pal. I knew it was free, and easy to use (my sister Hayley had been using it for a while). It seemed like the best place to start. So we did. We joined that afternoon, and that night, I was already using the app to count my calories.

Days turned into weeks and then months, and now, almost a year later, I’m 29 lbs lighter (and Kelli? She’s 39 lbs lighter!)! It’s been an amazing journey that went way beyond just losing weight, and really became about health and a lifestyle change.

BTW: by the time the Color Run came around, we’d both lost 10 or more pounds and ran a decent portion of the 5k! Since then I ran a 5K at the boys’ school, even though I still really don’t like running.

Lots of people have asked how I did it. I’m clearly no expert…just a wife and mom who got healthy this year without tricks or gimmicks…that stuff is not for me. I wanted to do this in a way that I could keep going, not some shake I’d drink for a while, and then gain weight when I stopped drinking it, you know?

Here’s the recap for any of you who have asked!

1. I did this with a friend…this is ABSOLUTELY KEY. I am not kidding you. I would’ve quit a couple of weeks in if weren’t for Kelli. We texted each other dozens of times those early weeks, encouraging each other to stay on track, and we still do now. All the time.

I also had lots of support from my friend, Heather, who is a personal trainer, my sister who has lost a bunch of weight, and my friend Robin, who’s also on My Fitness Pal and who is encouraging and walks/jogs with me when we can! And, my awesome husband, who practically daily encouraged me or helped me make time for exercise. Love him.

2. My Fitness Pal (MFP) is a fantastic tool. You use it to track your calories and exercise. It’s both an app and a website, and both are very easy to use. There’s a database of foods so you don’t have to input much information, and you can even scan a barcode and the information will pop up.

My only complaint about MFP is that when you’re filling in your profile, and you put in that you want to lose 1-1.5 lbs/week, it’s likely going to calculate your calories way too low. It started me out at 1200 calories, which wasn’t nearly enough…I did start losing some weight, but I was starving all.the.time and cranky. Even now, I shouldn’t be eating at 1200 calories to lose.

Here’s a great tool to figure out how many calories you should be eating to lose weight. It’s called your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). Fill in the little form (just use the Mifflin-Jeor formula button), and it will give you your TDEE. Multiply that number by 0.8. This is the number of calories you should be eating, and you can manually enter that into your MFP profile, so that it’s your goal every day.

To get your calculated calories manually entered in MFP, follow these quick steps:
From the website’s homepage, click on goals. Then click change goals, then custom, and then put in your calories in that first box. Click the green change goals button again, and you’ve got it!

3. Exercise is so important. You know this…it makes you feel better, it builds muscle, and most importantly, while you’re dieting, it allows you to eat more. I can’t tell you how many days I worked out just to get another 200 calories or so to eat.

My next post is going to be a big list of the workouts I’ve done over the past year, so you’ll have somewhere to start.

You enter your workouts on MFP, and it will credit your daily allowance with the number of calories you’ve burned from that workout.

And YES, you should eat back your exercise calories (up to about 300 a day). Your body needs fuel, and food is your fuel (not comfort. Fuel.). You will stop losing weight if you’re not eating enough, because your body starts to think you’re starving, and then it just holds onto your fat. Just trust me.

4. Along those lines…don’t undereat. Your TDEE goal is what you need to be eating.

5. Water is your new best friend. You need to be drinking water all day long…so much so that you will pee more than you ever have in your whole life.

I am a girl who LOVES Dr. Pepper and sweet tea. Like so, so much. I make room for it in my calories sometimes (it’s been a lot recently, but that ends tomorrow, as Christmas break feels over), but even on those days, I drink a ton of water. And with sweet tea: I get it half-cut (half sweet, half unsweet) everywhere I go.

6. Don’t let one bad day sink you. You’re going to slip up. Just be honest with yourself and move on.

7. Find a good snack. At the beginning of my diet, I knew I needed to find a raw vegetable I could snack on. Late afternoon while I’m making dinner, I need something to eat. For me, it’s broccoli. I cannot tell you how many dozens of bunches of broccoli I’ve chopped up over the past year. But, it’s my thing: I snack on broccoli and a tablespoon of regular french onion dip all the time. If you need some protein: a 1/2 cup of light cottage cheese, a small handful of nuts or seeds, or peanut butter on a few apple slices or 1/2 a banana will do the trick.

On that note: measure your food. Don’t guess. Yes, I grab the tablespoon for the dip or when I measure out salad dressing. If you only have one set, buy another cheap one or 2 at the store. It’s helpful.

8. Plan your meals. Because I’m home most days at lunch, I make a salad really often (I used to hate making my own salads. Now, not at all. I keep lots of salad fixings on hand: hardboiled eggs, Feta cheese, sunflower seeds, red onion, rotisserie chicken in little bags in the freezer). Because she works, Kelli often ate an apple and a string cheese for lunch…this wouldn’t be enough to get me through to dinner, but this worked for her, and freed up calories for dinner with her family so she didn’t have to restrict calories at that time quite so much. Figure out what works for you!

I’m sure there’s more, and I’ll add on as I think of things, but that’s all for now. 2013 was a fantastic year, and I’m so excited to see what 2014 brings. Oh, and here are a couple of before and afters of me and Kelli :)

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at a gala, 2011

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same gala, 2012

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new year’s eve 2013

If you want to join MFP or you’re already on there, friend me: nicolediehl77. I’d be happy to go through this with you! I am still aiming to lose a couple more pounds, and I don’t foresee stopping with tracking my food anytime soon.

Color Run: Hair Drama

Soooo…we did the Color Run this morning. Matt and I and a good portion of our small group, plus about 20,000 of our closest friends and neighbors gathered in downtown STL to run/walk a 5k* and get doused in powdered color. Sounds fun, right?

Well, it really was. The weather was crappy (50 and drizzling the entire time), but that totally did not stop us from having a great time. The atmosphere is fun and getting covered in color and looking ridiculous was a blast.

pre-race, all clean and happy

pre-race, all clean and happy

post-race fun!

post-race fun!

However.

Because of the rain, we knew that the color would likely stain worse than it does on a typical day. When we got home, Matt showered first, and texted from upstairs, “You better pray hard you didn’t get much pink on you.” When he came downstairs a bit later and I saw why he said that, I got a little nervous…his neck and head still had dark stains on them, even after being thoroughly scrubbed.

pretty awesome, right? i actually loved the green/blue streaks down my ponytail!

pretty awesome, right? i actually loved the green/blue streaks down my ponytail!

And my hair had a LOT of pink in it. I started having flashbacks to 5th grade and my punk-rocker Halloween costume, complete with pink sprayed hair. That stayed pink for a couple of weeks.

I quick headed to the shower, bringing along Dawn dish detergent when my friend Robin suggested that it helped. I scrubbed and scrubbed my hair with 2 different shampoos AND the Dawn, and it was quite evident that the pink? Wasn’t going anywhere.

In a panic, I texted Kelli, consulted Matt and his mom, who was our super-helpful household manager while we were traipsing around downtown getting colored cornstarch shot at us, and eventually decided that I needed to enlist the help of Anne, my amazing hairstylist, because I seriously looked like I’d tried to color my hair with Kool-Aid in a drug-induced haze.

more than slightly concerned at this point, right before my appointment.  the color is all in blotches, and it's all over my head.

more than slightly concerned at this point, right before my appointment. the color is all in blotches, and it’s all over my head.

I won’t bore you with the details, but let’s just say that a) there was a LOT of laughing at the salon, with everyone in disbelief that the Color Run could do something like this to my hair and b) even with their products and mad skills, my hair was still orange/pink in spots after a few tries at removal.

Eventually, Anne was able to lighten the color up enough that she could highlight and lowlight my hair, fixing the problem spots, and getting it looking like a normal non-Color-Runner’s hair again without damaging my hair. Thank God.

after!  phew!

after 3 hours of work! phew!

Since getting home tonight, I’ve learned this fun information from googling Color Run hair stain: you’re supposed to coat your hair (particularly if it’s light-colored) with olive oil or coconut oil before the race, or completely cover it. Obviously, had I even remotely thought this could be a problem, I would have done one of these things. I recommend that if you’re considering doing a Color Run, YOU DO THEM ALL. (Reportedly, you can also try ketchup or OxiClean for removal from hair, too, which I didn’t try, but have very little faith that they would’ve done anything to remedy the situation.)

Share this with the blondes you know who might be doing a Color Run, and save them some drama, okay?

*More on this later. This 5k was the impetus for our major lifestyle change around here, and it deserves more than this post about my hair issues.

Spring Break 2013

SEVERAL weeks ago, I started mentioning to Matt that I wanted to take the boys somewhere for a long weekend for spring break. For whatever reason, he kept dragging his feet about making a commitment to this, and I lovingly, patiently waited until he decided he was in (insert eyerolls, lots of sarcasm here).

When it was all said and done, it was nearly a last-minute trip, at least in this planner’s eyes. Late on Tuesday night we solidified our plan, which was to leave Thursday when Matt got home from work and drive up to Chicago and stay three nights. Oh, and we weren’t telling the boys about it, so it could be a surprise.

Can I just tell you how hard it was not to spoil the surprise, even though it was just 2 days? I had so much packing and planning to do and had to be so secretive about it, but we pulled it off!

Here’s the video of us telling them what was up…I knew the second they saw the DVD player hooked up in the van, they’d be confused…

Aunt Heidi and Uncle Jeff, I hope you feel really special right now :)

The first 20-30 minutes of the trip was spent telling them what we planned to do, and nonstop excitement and chatter. So fun. This included lots of talk about watching the Illini/Indiana Big Ten Tournament game the next day, which was being held in Chicago (the boys asked immediately after that video ended if this meant we were going to the game). Tickets had long-ago sold out, but Matt was holding out hope for scoring (relatively) cheap standing-room-only seats on StubHub. However, we didn’t let the boys know this; we told them our plan was to drive by the United Center in the morning so they could see where the game was, and then head up to Lincoln Park to BWW to watch the game.

Obviously, we got into Elmhurst (where our hotel was) really late, so we got everyone to bed as quickly as possible. First thing in the morning, Matt was online seeing if tickets were available. They were, and barely under what we decided we were willing to pay! He printed them out and presented them to the boys at breakfast…lots of celebrating followed, as you might imagine!

Only Jack Henry was less-than-thrilled about our non-seats…we got in the United Center right when the doors opened so we could claim a good standing spot, so our total time at the game was 3 hours+. He sat on the floor and asked when it was going to be over a million times, and the Illini lost, but it was still totally worth it. It was such a fun experience to be at the Big Ten Tourney, and one that the older boys will certainly remember for a long time!

We spent the rest of Friday afternoon having lunch at Pockets and then traipsing all over downtown in a steady, cold rain, until we were freezing, drenched and crabby. We spent some time recharging in the van on our way to see Aunt Heidi, Uncle Jeff, Lucy and Rockit dog, so by the time we got to their condo, everyone was in a good mood again. We walked to a bar & grill a couple of blocks away and had a fun dinner with family to wrap up our night!

Saturday’s agenda was to see Wrigley Field (just a drive-by) and my old apartment (no one cared but me), and then head down Lake Shore Drive to Hyde Park for the Museum of Science and Industry. By some miracle, we literally crossed over the Chicago River AS it was being dyed green for St. Patrick’s Day…like we could see the green swirling in the water! So cool, especially because it was something we hoped to see, but knew that we’d have to go out of our way later in the day to make it happen.

The Museum of Science and Industry: love, love, love. Would definitely recommend to anyone with kids 4 and older, or even just adults. Tons of great stuff to see, lots of buttons to push, a huge variety of neat exhibits. We saw the new Animal Inside Out exhibit, which prompted alternating “ewww” sounds and hilarious laughter (there are a few human specimens – all male, by the way – in addition to animals).

The rest of Saturday was spent driving to Schaumburg {during which time I enforced “mandatory napping or you don’t get to swim in the hotel pool tonight,” which was glorious and one of my best ideas all weekend} to go to Ikea and then have dinner at Portillo’s, which was, of course, delicious, and the only meal all weekend that pulled me off my diet.

The boys all got to swim, but I bowed out gracefully when we saw that the pool was FULL of people: primarily unsupervised children age 7-15. Our boys didn’t care, and swam for a bit before bed.

Sunday morning wasn’t quite as early a wake-up, and I was shocked when I texted Matt from the fitness center to come join me for breakfast and got a reply that everyone was still in bed. At nearly 8:00am! This is simply unheard of in our family, which means, I guess, that we sufficiently wore them out over the weekend.

We had one more fun thing to do, though, before leaving the Chicago area, and that was stopping to visit our friends, the Kellys. I love what Karen said in her post: so good to see your BFF in real life, and know she exists outside the virtual world we use to stay connected. :) Our kids just pick right up where they left off nearly 2 years ago, the last time they saw each other, which is just so fun to see.

After a too-short stop with them, we headed back to STL a bit nervous about the weather, but only encountered a brief stretch of sleet before it turned into all rain for the remaining 100 miles or so.

Here’s a photo-dump to wrap things up!

Story of My Life

There will never be any need to write a biography of my life.

Someone could simply copy the book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, and he’d be good to go.

I came downstairs to quickly reorganize a couple of things for 2 reasons:
1. My sister just moved out, meaning her storage stuff is no longer on our basement. I was going to put a few things away and
2. My friend Katie has started an awesome resource in her basement. She’s collecting clothes and shoes, infant-big kid, boy and girl, so that when foster families get placements, they’ll have somewhere to go for necessities for the kids they’re taking in. I knew I had a box of clothes I could give her, so I was getting that out.

Should’ve been simple. And yet, I turned it into this:

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Not pictured are the 2 large boxes headed to Goodwill, the 2 trash bags, and the heap of recycling.

I’ll be glad I did this when it’s done, but this wasn’t really the plan for the morning…

PS if you have things you’d like to donate to Katie, leave me a comment and I’ll put you in touch with her!

In Real Life 2

By far the most surprising thing about having blogged for so long now is that I’ve made friends online, real friends, through my blog. People who I’d previously never met but, because of our blog connection, have become my Facebook friends, too, which makes keeping up with them easier.

I never imagined strangers reading what I write, and then me reading what they write, and forging friendships.

Last year, I told you about meeting my friend Laurie from Utah when she was in town. Totally loved it.

Well, a few years ago through her blog, I found Kathy, a Nebraska farm wife and mom of 4: 3 adorable boys and 1 sweet girl.

Kathy and Laurie weren’t friends in real life either, at first…you can read here about how they connected (sad story…have Kleenex at the ready).

And on Monday, I met Kathy at Kayak’s Coffee for breakfast, caffeine, and time to chat face-to-face. Her family was in town to visit her brother-in-law, and she made time to meet with me while she was here.

It totally felt like I was meeting a pen pal I’d known for a long time. I LOVED chatting with her (and I kept Jack Henry, my tagalong for the morning, quiet with French Toast and then, games on my iPhone) and left feeling like I did after I met Laurie: I wish this girl didn’t live so far away.

Ok so next time, it needs to be me, Kathy AND Laurie. Got it, girls?

12 Dates in ’12: Date 4

Gah! I almost forgot to blog about this!

2 Friday nights ago, I took the kids down to Zach and Michon’s house so they could spend the night, and we could go out.

It was another 2-Groupon/daily deal date night, starting with a restaurant in the Central West End we’d never been to, and followed by a trip to The Big Bang on The Landing.

Now, when I buy a daily deal to somewhere I’ve never been, I always look for reviews online. Obviously, you have to take them with a grain of salt because so many will just get online to complain that it might not always be a completely fair review. However, you can generally get a good idea of what the place is like. When I bought the restaurant deal back in December to be a part of this gift to Matt, I checked Yelp…everything looked ok.

I happened to look at the Yelp page for this restaurant the day before we were scheduled to go, and it was a good thing I did. It seemed that the restaurant had been treating many of its Groupon customers pretty badly. To me, that clearly indicates that the restaurant doesn’t understand the purpose of a Groupon, which should be to get new customers in the door with a good deal, win them over with your excellent service and outstanding food, and turn them into repeat customers.

That won’t happen when you treat your Groupon customers like second-class citizens.

The deal was for any 2 entrees and any 2 glasses of wine on the menu. Others reported that when they went in to use their Groupon, the most expensive entree (filet) was suddenly “not available” that night…and then, the table next to them without a Groupon would order their meal a little later, and magically, the filet was available. Fortunately, we didn’t have a problem with that, but we did encounter one of the other problems mentioned online, and that was that the restaurant was only giving baskets of bread to their non-Groupon customers. I mean, seriously…how ridiculous is that?

When we asked about it, after seeing another table be brought a basket of bread right after being seated (and prior to ordering anything) but not having any bread at our table, we were told that you had to order salads (not included in the Groupon) to get bread. We asked the host, who spoke English, if this was indeed the case, and he claimed to have just been back from vacation, and that our waitress likely knew better than he did. But, since we made the point of asking for clarification, she came back and told us she’d bring bread like she was being extra-nice to us. Whatever.

It was at this point that I started to worry slightly that someone might spit or worse in our food.

I have to admit: the food was delicious. But we will never be back. I don’t anticipate they’ll even be in business that long, given the way they’ve treated their customers.

So that was interesting.

Also: did you know that if you have a bad Groupon experience, they’ll refund your money or at least give you a $5 credit to your account? I wrote describing the situation, and was honest about poor service/good food, and I got a $5 credit. I’ve only ever had one horrible Groupon experience and they refunded that in full. So if you have a problem, be sure to let them know.

Moving on to part 2 of the night: the other deal, which was for The Big Bang on The Landing (it’s a dueling piano bar, and we hadn’t been since it opened about 10 years ago). Our friends the McGills got the same deal we did and met us there for a very interesting night of people-watching, good drinks, and table singalongs. By far the best part of the night :)

All in all, another fun night for the 12 in ’12! Click the logo below for more date ideas!

Spring Break 2012 Wrap-Up

I hate to do this in one fell swoop, but I’ll never get around to blogging individual events at this point, so because I want to remember this break, I’ll have to do it this way.

*2 weekends ago, we attended our first-ever Dogtown (Irish neighborhood) St. Patrick’s Day parade! I knew it would be a big deal, but I really had no idea just how big a deal it is. Whoa.

One of Matt’s coworkers recently moved into a house on the parade route, so he was kind enough to invite a bunch of us over. We got to the area about 2 hours before parade time, and still had to walk about a half-mile to his house. It wasn’t a really big deal…kind of fun, actually, given that on every block, there were big and small house parties going on, which was entertaining.

houses up and down every block had flags and parties gathered...so fun!

I’ve got to admit: the actual parade is a little boring (sorry Irish people reading this). There are a few dance troupes, a few firetrucks and the like, and the rest is Irish clans walking together. Throwing beads to the crowds is what saves the parade from being boring for the kids, at least…they collected probably 100 beads. That are sitting in our basement now, sorted by color and style.

Oh, and did I mention that it started raining, heavily, about midway through the parade? Yeah. So that half-mile walk back was a good time. Making memories, though, right?

*We watched about a million hours of NCAA basketball games, and the boys shot hoops themselves for hours on end.

*Trip to the Magic House with the McGill girls! And, Bennett took a nap.

*Play time on Tuesday with Bennett’s preschool friend Adam and his mom and sister!

*Baseball practices…we’re up to 4 a week total right now, with Jack Henry’s being added in a couple of weeks.

*A fun visit from my college roommate, Kim, and her daughter, Zoe! We got in some park time, game time, lots of chat time, and a trip to the zoo, even though it was raining a bit the whole day. Honestly, it was a GREAT zoo day. We saw all the animals we hoped to, the crowds were non-existent, we only got a little bit wet, and for my 2 boys with allergies, being outside when it was a bit cooler and the pollen had been knocked out of the air was fantastic!

*I got to drop the boys off with my friend Kelly’s kids for a couple of hours, during which time I went to Walmart alone. I know…I dream so big when I get a break from my kids.

*I went with friends to see “The Hunger Games.” And I loved it, but obviously, the book is ALWAYS better.

*Cake ‘n Steak 5 was last night at Zach and Michon’s, and it was so much fun, as always. I puffy heart love this tradition we have. Great food and drinks and fun time with family, which is even more fun now that the cousins are getting old enough to play with our boys when we get together! They were outside all evening long, which resulted in some serious allergy eyes for the boys today, but that’s ok.

So that pretty much wraps it up.

Tomorrow will be a rough day for kids going back to our school, as it will be the first time they are all back together since tragedy rocked our community. I feel like my boys are doing well, and we’ve talked about it a couple of times, but there are so many kids who knew those girls so much better than they did, and will be faced with an empty seat tomorrow. I’m really proud of our school has responded, and there will be a lot of extra counseling help there tomorrow, but I still feel sick to my stomach anticipating this day.

Back soon with happy home improvement projects.

Merry Christmas 2011

A huge thank you to Sara of Less Ordinary Designs for our lovely cards, and Sonya at Kirso Creations for our family pictures.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Hand-Dyed Scarves by Rho

I love stories of young people who are hard workers, passionate about what they do, and who use the gifts they’ve been blessed with to make a success of themselves.

I love it even more when I happen to know the person, so I’m excited to tell you today about Cortney Rhodes, who just happens to be from my little ol’ hometown of Effingham, IL.

Even though she’s a couple *cough cough*, ahem, okay, maybe several years younger than I am, I’ve kept up with Cortney’s whereabouts via her parents and Facebook. After college graduation, she headed to New York where she worked for Amsale Bridal and Ann Taylor Loft, and was hired to work Fashion Week twice. Not bad for a Midwestern girl right out of college, right? :)

A few years ago, I started to hear about these silk scarves she’d been making, and I was definitely intrigued when she posted pictures on Facebook of the process by which she created them. Through word of mouth, Facebook, and trunk shows, Cortney started selling her amazing, unique, hand-painted silk scarves.

Just last week, I got one of my very own.

Pardon the bad photography (courtesy of Jack Henry, who took about 17 pictures of me stringing lights, each one worse than the next), but isn't that scarf lovely? It puts my mall scarves to shame, I tell you.

close-up of the design on the scarf

 

Cortney recently returned to Chicago, primarily so that she could be closer to home and focus her attention on her own label. 2012 will see the launch of rho by Cortney Rhodes with a line of clothing in addition to her beautiful scarves.

Here’s a word from Cortney’s bio:

I create all of the designs for my scarves through hand painting using various techniques. All the work is done in a studio on my family’s 5th generation farm.

Each piece of white silk is treated like a blank canvas on which my ideas and inspiration are expressed. There are absolutely no two pieces alike and any minor imperfections are part of the uniqueness of each item.

Her website is in its infancy, but she’s adding more items as she’s able, and there are lots of scarves available already. PLUS, she’s offering a great discount to people who know her, and said that I could share the discount code with you all! Simply go to her website, choose a scarf, and enter the code TRUNKSHOW at checkout. Orders over $100 receive free shipping, too.

These would make amazing Christmas gifts for the people on your list! Go check out rho!

Some Good News for a Change.

The news is just chock-full of evidence of the evil that exists in mankind. It’s horrific and infuriating and gut-wrenching, and I’ll never understand it.

So, for a change of pace from all of the nastiness you’ve heard about in the media this past 10 days or so, I bring you something beautiful and wonderful and amazing.

It’s the story my friend Laurie (remember, I got to meet her In Real Life last spring?) has been telling on her blog.

It’s the story of their new daughter, Joya, who still currently living in China, but will hopefully be joining their family in the next several months.

She’s broken the story into five parts. Grab some tissues, and get ready for a great story. (Hint: until they had their placement, their 4 boys had been referring to the unknown baby girl who would be joining their family as Mrs. Nesbit, from Toy Story!) Here are the links:

One.

Two.

Three.

Four.

Five.