Category Archives: friends

Spring Break 2015

I can’t believe it, but we’re on the other side of spring break already, which means the countdown to the end of the school year is on…39 days! 

The first several days of spring break were here in STL, and we stayed busy hanging out with friends, going to a St. Patrick’s Day celebration (we are the absolute least Irish people ever, but this was so fun), and enjoying a few 70 degree days outside all day long. 

The end of the week was spent in Chicago and the burbs. The boys couldn’t remember being at the Shedd Aquarium (I don’t even remember how long ago we took them), so that was the activity for Thursday when we got to the city. The entire family’s opinion post-visit is this: we’re pretty much over aquariums. I mean, it was cool, we saw some fun stuff, but meh. 

 Now, I LOVE downtown Chicago. I love the hustle and bustle, the crowd, the hotels and restaurants. Since the boys hadn’t ever stayed right on Michigan Ave, we decided that’s what we would do, and stayed at the Hard Rock. Love its location, and it’s a nice place. 

Overall, though, the boys weren’t all that impressed. I mean, they liked the hotel, they thought Michigan Ave was OK but not that big of a deal [mostly they were like, “we have to walk everywhere?” Suburban kids (shakes head)]. Millennium Park and the food were probably the highlights of our 24 hours in the city. I can’t say I blame them on the food: they had Garrett’s popcorn, Giordano’s pizza for supper, and Wildberry for breakfast. Plus Starbucks hot chocolate in the morning with their dad while I snuck in a workout at the hotel (see above list of food to know why this was necessary).

 We headed out to Wheaton Friday late morning for the next part of our trip: seeing Matt’s sister Heidi and her family in their new house! This was just so much fun for all of us…the boys all left in the afternoon to play baseball, and Heidi and I stayed home while her two little girls napped, which gave us a great chance to talk for a while. It was just so good to catch up! 

The rest of our time was spent with the boys playing with their little cousins and Rockit the dog, eating more amazing food, and the adults just enjoying each others’ company and a few good drinks, and a trip to a great museum on Saturday morning. 

On the way back to STL on Saturday afternoon (our Sunday was full of baseball practices and team pictures and the like, so we needed to get back), Matt asked the boys for their highlight of the trip, and all three said Aunt Heidi and Uncle Jeff’s! :) 



 Here’s to the next few weeks flying by. The pool is calling my name…

Let’s All Be Brave.

Friday night, I had some good-for-the-soul time with two of my best girlfriends. Over dinner and a couple of drinks at one of our favorite spots, we talked and laughed for a few hours that served to recharge our batteries.


here we are, reunited on sunday morning.


Also: it’s not a night out with me until someone has told me I’m too loud. And that happened a couple of times, which is another mark of a successful evening. What can I say…I am a tiny bit loud.

These girls, Kelli and Robin, are not just friends that I have a good time with. These are girls who know me. They know about these big, scary dreams I have for myself, and they’re supportive. Not just cheerleaders for my cause, but people who ask hard questions, pray for me and my family, and hold me accountable for the things I say I’m going to do. And I do the same for them.

They’re the girls I referred to at the end of my Maybe It’s Time post, who are also dreaming big this year. And they’re well on their way to pursuing their goals, and we are only seven weeks into the new year.  I’m kinda proud of my people.

And? I’m beyond blessed to have more than just these two in my corner. There are a select few others, too, pulling me out of my comfort zone and into this next whatever-it-is stage I’m entering.


On Friday morning, I saw a review for a book called “Let’s All Be Brave” by Annie Downs. I read a little more about it, and I decided it was something I needed to read. I ordered it from Amazon, and thanks to prime shipping, it was in my hands by 9:45 on Saturday morning.

The boys asked if they could watch a movie, and I readily agreed, and ran upstairs and jumped into bed to read my new book. In just a few pages, I was in tears (in addition to being kinda loud sometimes, I’m a bit of a crier, even more so recently). It’s not a sad book; it’s just that I’m feeling like I’m at this transition that’s requiring some courage, and a few of her comments read like a friend writing encouragement right to me.

Like this.

I think it’s really nice when other people remind you that you are loved.

It makes you brave.

When you know who loves you, you know your safe places. You know where you can rest. You know where you can go when you fail. (I’m sorry if I’m the first to tell you this, but brave or not, you are going to fail.) Knowing who loves you also lets you know who you can trust with you brave ideas and who will hold you accountable to being brave but not being foolish (if you let them).


I hope you have brave ideas. And that there are people right there with you.

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 :)


at a gala, 2011


same gala, 2012


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!


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:


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?