You just never know….
In the late 1970s (very late), when I arrived earthside, if someone told my mom where I would be today she would have probably laughed. It was August, winter in my hometown, where normal temperatures linger around the mid 40’s. A city of 20million, known as “the concrete jungle” welcomed me into the world and I went on to have a typical childhood of a South American kid. In my country, that included gated community high-rise living, trained dog for self-protection, and very little exposure to nature – the opposite of what many people think when they hear I am from Brazil. The truth is that I had amazing vacation experiences growing up when my family would pack everything in the car and drive across the country to get away from the hustle of the big city, but my actual day-to-day childhood was limited because safety was always a concern.
Fast forward 17 years and I landed in North America when my dad brought the family to Chicago while he was working on a PhD. I spoke no English. I knew no one. But I noticed most homes didn’t have a fence, much less an electric one with a locked gate and a guard dog behind it. Life was about to radically change. Eventually, we moved even further north a few years later, and made Canada our new permanent home. I worked at a bank for close to 8 years before figuring out I needed a new career and when I finally made the move, it brought me back to the Midwest. I graduated from NIU in DeKalb in 2010 with a degree in Nutrition and Dietetics and was accepted at the supervised practice dietetic internship program at OSF. It would be a year of no income, living in Peoria, a city I knew nothing about, before I could sit in for my RD exam and become a Registered Dietitian. I made the move to Peoria telling myself – “One year. That’s it. Then I am out of here” But one should never say never, except to say “you just never know”.
Midway through the program I met my now husband, who was also a transplant living in Peoria (he is an engineer at CAT). We dated for 7 months, got engaged, and were married 8 months later. We bought our “starter” home that year in 2012 - a modest 1960’s ranch in the heart of town. I was by then working in the clinical field and two years later in 2014 we welcomed our first boy, Landon, now 4 years old. We knew we wanted back to back pregnancies with children close in age and so it was that 15 months later, in 2015, we welcomed our second boy, Luke who is now 2.5 years old. I know I am biased, but our little family feels perfect.
Along our road to where we are today, some things became the foundation of our life. Mike and I started believing that we were so blessed, that we actually already had all we ever needed. Our starter home became our forever home, and we got to work on making sure we didn’t live a life focused on things, but that we kept the focus on the experiences. In 2014 we went through the Dave Ramsey program and paid off both cars, then saved for and paid cash for upgrading one of our cars when the family grew, then paid off student loans and got down to just owing the mortgage on our starter home. During that time, our family doubled in size, Mike got an MBA at Bradley and I stopped working full time. We are truly blessed. I work about 10 hours a week outside the home, as a neonatal dietitian at a special care nursery with preemie babies, which is my dream “out of the house” job. The rest of my time is spent on my primary dream job – my family. We chose to homeschool the boys and in these early preschool years especially, nature time is essential for them to develop relationships with all natural things around them. We are often hiking and exploring the many green areas, nature preserves, and state park around Peoria, and the boys are thriving on a “school diet” of outdoor life and good reads. We have a growing home library of delightful rich literature which is becoming their favorite hangout place in the house. Outside, they love to identify birds, dig holes on the ground, play in the creeks, cook mud meals, and collect nature finds. They have super interesting discussions about leaf shapes and colors, and love to see how many acorns they can fit in their pockets. My youngest prays for snow every night. If you are not sure if God listens to prayers, this spring is clear evidence that He does.
We enjoy travelling and have done so both as a family and as mom/dad only trips. These trips have taken us to South America, Europe, Asia, and around the US and Canada. Last year our US family road trip took us east to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, then enjoying historical towns on the way back and camping at Shenandoah National Park where the views from our hikes were just as amazing as the bear we saw. This summer our family road trip is taking us west, where we will visit the National Parks in Colorado, then enjoy a family reunion in Nebraska on the way back and a few days in one of the thousand lakes of Minnesota. We will also be spending a few days at a family camp here in Illinois with other nature loving homeschooling families and we are very excited for that.
I continue to believe that living a simple life leads to living a big life. I continue to believe that experiences shape who we are and that those experiences, second to our faith, are the most important things we can impress on our children. I continue to love my husband even more every day, especially for his desire to raise two Godly men of character out of our children.
Where this world of adventure and experiences will take us next, you just never know. But wherever it is, I will make sure I take note of the new flowers and birds I see along the way.