Get to know a local mama: Meet JEN

Welcome mama JEN.

Born?

I was born in Cork, Ireland. We lived there until I was 8. I still have aunts, uncles and cousins there!

Raised?

My family moved to a northwest suburb of Chicago when I was 8. I graduated from Jacobs High School in Algonquin.

University?

I got my bachelors degree in Elementary Education from Bradley and my masters in Reading and Literacy from Benedictine.

Meeting hubby + settling here?

I met Michael when I was a senior at Bradley and he was a freshman. We were given such a hard time! He is the best guy. His family owns a business here in Peoria so there was no question where we were going to settle. I have learned to love Peoria! It really is such a great place to raise kids.

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Children?

Nora is (almost) 6, Aidan is 4 and Emma is almost 5 months.

Passions, career?

I love teaching. When I graduated, I taught kindergarten and first grade before having my babies! I took some time off, and then was given an amazing part time opportunity to teach preschool. I teach at St Philomena and it has been such a blessing to our family - the perfect balance for me of being able to work with littles and to have time with my own kids! I also work as the Social Media & Events Manager at Communication Junction. CJ and Abbey were pivotal in the growth of my littles’ ability to communicate.

Summer or fall plans for the family?

We have spent lots of time outside — swimming, biking, scooter-ing, golfing — we truly to take advantage of the nice weather while it’s here!

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Helpful activities to keep you little ones active, to pass along to other local families?

The Rock Island trail is so great! There are also so many fun parks and playgrounds in the area. Another favorite is Matthiesen State Park - our kids are still pretty young and are able to handle the trails and hiking there.

Best part of being their mom?

It’s hard to choose just one — I love seeing my kids learn to do something independently and feel pride in themselves. It is amazing watching them grow and mature into strong, confident little people!

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Get to know a local mama: Meet Brooke

Born? Peoria, IL Raised? Green Valley, IL

University?

Bachelor’s Degree & Master’s Degree at Illinois State University

Meeting hubby + settling here?

Mike and I met playing each other in a 3 on 3 basketball tournament in Jr High! We began dating our sophomore year of high school and haven’t looked back since! 💕 Our families are from Pekin and Green Valley so settling here was an easy decision! We LOVE being close to family! 😊

Children?

We have two beautiful girls, Carly (5) and Collins (2)!

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Passions, career?

I am a speech language pathologist! I work full time for Morton CUSD709 and part time for Communication Junction! I’m pretty sure I have the best of all worlds between those two positions! My passions in my field are working with individuals who are non-verbal/minimally verbal as well as with littles! I absolutely LOVE the moment of watching communication happen between a kiddo and their parent! ❤️❤️❤️ Outside of work I love to run and sign up for races in the area often!

Best part of being their mom?

I love being a mom and being able to share all of my favorite things with them, but I’ve truly loved watching them grow into their little (or big) personalities and developing their own ‘favorites’! My summers with them are just the BEST!

Summer or fall plans for the family?

We are heading up to Lake Michigan for a mini vacation at the beginning of August to gear up for Carly heading off to Kindergarten! We also love taking little trips down to St. Louis to cheer on our Cardinals and see our animal friends at the zoo!🐻

Helpful activities to keep you little ones active, to pass along to other local families?

Sign and Sign Story Times with Communication Junction!! Library activities...they’re the best!📚 Playing...on the floor/outside/in their room....just playing with your kids! Take time for it...they absolutely love it! ❤️

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!