Get to know a local mama: Meet AMANDA

Please welcome mama Amanda.

Born and Raised?

I was born right here in Peoria, but didn’t stick around for long. As the daughter of a Caterpillar engineer, we made seven moves before my sophomore year of high school as a family, including an 18-month stint in Leicester, England. My three younger siblings would agree with me that frequent moving has given us many eye-opening and unique experiences growing up, as well as contributing to the closeness we still share today together.

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University?

After graduating from IVC High School, I attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (ILL-INI!) I absolutely loved attending a large university and being exposed to so many different cultures and lifestyles while there. As an Elementary Education major, I also had the opportunity to experience the Urbana-Champaign area more closely as I completed student teaching in the local community. It is a fabulous area and I would love the opportunity to return someday!

Hubby/Setting Down?

My husband, Jeff, and I are actually high school sweethearts. We started dating Senior year of high school and both attended college together. As an engineering major, Jeff got a job at Caterpillar here in Peoria after graduation, and thus began my search for a teaching position in the area. We chose to settle down in the Chillicothe area for both personal reasons and commuting ease for Jeff. As IVC graduates, Chillicothe is home to us and we love being apart of the small town community. We also knew we wanted to be close to family when the time came for us to start a family. We currently reside in the Mossville area and love being able to feel apart of Chillicothe, but also have easy access to all of the amazing things Peoria has to offer our family!

Children?

Jeff and I have three children together. Our oldest, Owen, is 5 and will be attending Kindergarten this August (Time really does fly when you are a parent!). Owen was followed by two younger sisters, Cecilia, 3, and Hazel who will be 2 in August. Both of the girls will be attending preschool at our home church in North Peoria and we feel so lucky to have found such an amazing group of teachers to love on our children during the school year. Now, what this stay at home mama is going to do with two free mornings a week next year is a mystery (and a blessing!).

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Passions/Career?

After graduation, I ended up taking mid-year second grade teaching position with Peoria District 150. While I loved teaching second grade, I knew I really wanted to stay at home with our son, Owen. I gave up my full-time teaching position to transition to motherhood and ended up falling in love with substitute teaching (of course, as my schedule allows with 3 little ones!) in the IVC school district. More recently, though, you’ll find me as the Office Manager for the Communication Junction team! Communication Junction has been a key part of raising our three children, being a CJ family for nearly 5 years now, and having the opportunity to become a (small!) part of the amazing things CJ does for families and the Peoria community and is just awesome. I feel extremely blessed to have the flexibility to work from home and still do all of the stay-at-home mom things I’ve always done, but also have an outlet for personal and professional development.

When I’m not “mom-ing” or working, I enjoy getting outside, organizing random things in our house (it really is a problem), travelling, trying new recipes (and restaurants!) and exercising. Personal interests and hobbies definitely do take a spot on the back burner as a mom of three little ones, but I relish in the opportunity when I get a chance to do something just for me, even if it’s just a 20 minute run after Dad jumps back on parenting duty after work. This little bit of self-care has been critical for both my personal well-being and as I continue to grow in motherhood.

Summer/Fall Plans?

Before the end of summer, we have our first vacation as just “our family of 5” up in Grand Haven, Michigan area. We have done a weekend or two away, and of course trips with or to see family, but we are excited to begin making travel memories with our children together! We also have a “Summer Bucket List” that we are working our way through to keep us both busy at home and engaged with things to do in the area. As Fall approaches, we will be begin all of our usual autumn activities and traditions (Tanner’s and Christ’s Orchard anyone?!), as well as settling into a new school year routine.

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Fav Local Activities?

I feel so lucky to raise my children here in Peoria with all of the fun and amazing things there are to offer families. We frequent the Peoria Zoo and Playhouse and ask for memberships as holiday gifts every year (seriously, so much better than a pile of toys!). As parents of a now-confident bike rider, we will be utilizing Bicycle Safety Town more frequently as well. Our kids love being able to get biking fast without having to worry about cars, since we don’t have sidewalks in our neighborhood. We also try to hit up Shore Acres in the summertime, some of the amazing playgrounds our area has to offer (Santa Fe Park in Chillicothe is a favorite!), and getting over to Wildlife Prairie Park when we’re feeling adventurous enough to tackle it with 3 kids!

Best part of being their mom?

I feel like this is such a hard question as a mom of three very different kiddos! As I whole, I’m constantly in awe of the amazing opportunity I was blessed with to raise and care for these three. While oh-so challenging many days, I love not only seeing the dynamic and bond our children share with each other and getting to experience all of the “fun stuff” that comes with parenting, but also the opportunity parenting provides for personal growth. Becoming a parent has taught me more about myself; my flaws, strengths, individuality, confidence, and weaknesses, in the last 6 years than in my entire pre-parenting lifetime. Individually, our oldest has a determined, strong-willed personality topped with all the snuggles and jokes in the world. We call our middle-child our “quirky” one. She’s silly, creative, loves her family, and wears the middle-child hat so perfectly by being able to seamlessly transition between playing with her older brother and then moving on to play with her younger sister. And our youngest - she is also strong-willed like her big brother, but has such a fun, outgoing personality. I feel like I could go on and on what I love about being their mom!

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Announcing Our Little Adventures Guide!

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Bushbaby is just as passionate about getting kids outdoors as our families and we know there are some great activities and educational opportunities for families in our beautiful state, but they are not always easy to find!

Our new initiative, Little Adventures Guide, offers a perfect solution with a unique guide to nature, outdoor recreation, and exploratory education in Illinois! This guide is beautifully hand-lettered and printed on canvas so that kids can color it after they visit each location and enjoy its fun activities!

Soon we will also have an online component here on our web site with photos, videos, and maps to provide additional guidance. Watch for our updates twice a month, posted on our social media, in our emails, or in the store, featuring each location individually—all while highlighting what makes them special and the reasons we chose them.

We expect this initiative to grow and evolve over time and we can’t wait to share more as families get involved!

Get to know a local mama: Meet Renee

If you live in the area, you have probably met Renee (and tasted her scones). Bethany calls her a dear friend and we could not be more delighted to have you meet her: Renee Robison

Born + raised:

I was born and raised in Peoria, IL.

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College + career?

I attended Illinois Community College for two years. I own Four30 Scones, which I started with my husband three years ago. The name Four30 came from our wedding date, April 30th.

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Hubby + children?

I met my husband Shane and got married at age 20. We will celebrate 19 years together this April. We have 4 children...ages 8-15.

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Best part of being a mama?

They make me a better person and teach me life lessons. This parenting thing is not always easy...they teach me patience, selflessness and servitude. I feel so blessed to have these 4 in my life!

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Family fun?

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We love to travel, eat out and play games together. Our family loves the outdoors. We live for the warmer months, pools, boating, camping,fishing and walks. Over the past few years we’ve taken some fun and stretching (for me!) camping trips. We’ve tent camped Yellowstone, the Black Hills, Mt. Rushmore area, Salt Lake City and Sheyboygan, WI. The simplicity of tent camping and making your own meals is rewarding and nice to get unplugged from normal life and work. This summer we would like to go back to the Black Hills around Mt. Rushmore with our kids. There is beautiful hiking, scenery, lakes and sight seeing. Not only is Mt. Rushmore a great place to take kids for the history and scenery but it’s a place where you can slow your pace, relax and take in the scenery. I highly recommend Crazy Horse also...another memorial made out of rock.

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** Renee frequents BUSHBABY with scone pick-ups, so next time you see her SAY HELLO!

Guest Post by ARIEL: International Travel with your babe

Meet Ariel.

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We recently took our 4 month old on a vacation to Italy for two weeks. The trip included planes, trains, boats, a rental car, and plenty of walking and hiking. We visited the Alps in northern Italy where my mom's family is from, and we ended our trip in the stunning Cinque Terre region on the sea. Some said we were brave (crazy) for taking a baby on a big international trip. But, it was actually a great age to travel with Henry. He was still exclusively breastfeeding and not yet crawling. That made him very portable. And babies fly for free. We had a wonderful trip, and we would do it again if given the chance. Here are 8 things we learned along the way.

Apply for baby's passport as soon as possible

Even infants need a passport with a photo, and the passport will expire in 5 years. We took Henry's passport photo ourselves at home and then had it printed at a local pharmacy.

Travel with trusted helpers

Of course this isn't a requirement, but we traveled with my sister and brother-in-law and they helped immensely. It's hard to put into words what an amazing aunt and uncle these two are. They helped carry the stroller up and down the stairs, held Henry during meals at restaurants, changed diapers, made him laugh when he got frustrated, and rocked him to sleep some nights. They also researched and made several travel decisions for us along the way, like where we should eat for dinner and which train to take.

Wear your baby

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I couldn't recommend it more. Henry napped, nursed, and hiked many happy miles in the baby carrier. We used it every single day: in the airport, on hiking trails, at the farmers market, and during meals. The lucky lad had quite a few croissant crumbs dropped on his head during this vacation. The carrier saved our arms and it kept him quite content. We have a carrier that allows him to face both in and out, and it was nice to have both options.

Use a backpack as diaper bag

Whether you buy a new trendy "diaper backpack" or just use any old backpack, it's a great way to carry your baby items on the go. I could wear Henry in the baby carrier on my front and the diaper bag on my back quite comfortably.

Pack lightly and do laundry in the sink

It's very hard to pack lightly with a baby, but it does make traveling easier when you don't have too much stuff to lug around. To avoid packing 2 full weeks of baby gear, we washed things like burp cloths, pajamas, and onesies in the sink and hung them to dry. Packing an all-purpose soap made this option easy. We used the same soap for body wash, face wash, baby wash, laundry, and more.

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Packing for sun

Since sunscreen isn't best for little babes, it can be hard to plan for extended time in the sun. We used a sunhat for Henry and then covered him with a thin swaddle blanket, which kept him pretty cool. I also wore a wide-brimmed sunhat and it kept him in the shade when he was in the carrier or in my arms.

Flying with an infant

In my opinion, it's so much easier than driving with an infant. You don't have to worry about the car seat, and kind people keep bringing you snacks and drinks. Because of the baby, you are also invited to go to the front of most lines in the airport. I was pleasantly surprised to find that fellow passengers were very warm and welcoming, not annoyed to be sitting next to a baby. Here's what we'd recommend.

• Check the car seat Most airlines will let you check the car seat for free, and it was nice not to have to pay to rent a car seat with our rental car. Also, it was reassuring to have a car seat that we knew fit and worked well for our baby. Most international cars use the LATCH system, just like in the States. You can purchase a large bag specifically made to pack a car seat on the plane. For us, the car seat bag was worth it. We also padded it with diapers and wipes and a foldable bassinet.

• Check the stroller at the gate A friend let us borrow a lightweight and compact travel stroller, and it was nice to have the stroller in the airport. We also used the stroller at the beach to keep him out of the sun and sand.

• Request a bassinet for the flight Most airlines offer a cute little bassinet for babies up to 20 pounds or so. Henry slept and also played in the bassinet. We were grateful to have somewhere to put him besides our laps.

• Feed the baby during takeoff and landing Henry didn't seem to have any trouble with his ears popping, maybe because we nursed on the way up and down. Many folks recommend it.

• Fly through Amsterdam airport We LOVE the Amsterdam airport. They have a gorgeous baby care lounge, a children's library, a children's science museum, and plenty of great places for kids to play. It's all free of charge.

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A baby can break through language and cultural barriers

As we walked through the airport or down busy streets, people often approached us with huge smiles and charming greetings for the baby. They asked how old he was and tried to make him laugh. In a hot sunny town square, several people gave up their seat in the shade so we could get Henry out of the sun and change his diaper. These kind people were both locals and international tourists, and we didn't even have to ask.

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