Guest Post by TINA: You Just Never Know...

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.


Guest Post by CHRISTINE: Here we go...Alaska

Here we go...

My husband and sister planned this amazing adventure from the Midwest to Anchorage on to the Kachemak Bay in Alaska. We were on our way to O’Hare airport with two large suite cases stuffed in the back of our 4Runner. One was full of fishing and camping gear, and the other was packed with clothes. I was a little on edge as Declan had been scream crying for two hours in the car, which was not his usual behavior. Thirty minutes away from the airport we discovered blaring Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti was the only thing that stopped this insanity.

Once in Anchorage we met up with my sister, her husband and our eight-year-old niece. Our plan was to pitch our tents down the Kenai Peninsula until we reached Homer. During the summers in Alaska it is easy to stay up late because the sun does not seem to set. This made it easy to stay up until midnight dancing to bluegrass music in Hope. Kyle was in heaven seeing all of the salmon runs occurring and fly fished for sockeye, coho and pink salmon. I was happy to breath in the mountain air, eat fresh berries and salmon, and not to see any bears.


Angelic women live in Homer. I mean it. As soon as we sat down at the Mermaid Café, before saying a word, a woman brought our son warm food. It was such a kind and thoughtful gesture. From Homer we chartered a boat to take us across the Cook Inlet to a bay where a yurt would be our home for a few days. This ride was breathtaking. We saw hundreds of salmon, jellyfish, eagles, an otter, a sea lion and a whale. And just like in the commercial, my phone storage ran out while video taping the whale. Usually in the bay you will see hundreds of starfish on the beach as the tide changes. A parasite had been moving up the west coast that summer and we saw none. It was a reminder of the natural balance of life.


We made it back home in one piece with a deeper appreciation of the Earth and all of her cycles. Although our son Declan was only 16 months old, we hope it influenced him to appreciate nature and spark a curiosity of adventure.
The majority of the trip went smoothly, which I attribute to thinking ahead and conscious packing. That is why Bethany, the queen of adventure gear at Bushbaby, asked me what some of my essentials are when packing for a trip like this one. For the kiddos a micro puff jacket is key for the cold plane ride and when the weather dips at night. The technology makes these jackets warm yet easy to stuff into a corner of a bag or used as a pillow. Our little one also packed boots, socks, a stocking hat, gloves and a rain jacket from Bushbaby. Two to three pairs of Smartwool socks are very important. They can go longer without washing and are very warm. A lightweight rain jacket with a hood will keep your kid dry and is an easy layer to pack while keeping your load light.


In order to navigate our toddler, a diaper bag and luggage through the O’Hare parking lot, we bought a second hand Kelty kids carrier from Bushbaby. Once we checked it as luggage (kids gear checks free) we had our packable Ergo as transportation for Declan. Both carriers were used throughout the trip on hikes.


In order to support our immune systems and keep calm while traveling we made sure to pack a few of our favorite Young Living essential oils as well as some portable chiropractic equipment (all four adults on the trip are doctors of chiropractic). The oils I packed included Australian Blue, Thieves and lavender. Of course we packed lots of healthy, organic snacks such as nuts, apples, dehydrated fruits and veggies. Being as we were dropped off in the middle of nowhere without cell reception, the adults brought a first aid kit including sewing necessities, fire starter equipment, pocket knives, fishing gear, sleeping bags, rope, garbage bags, polarized sunglasses, cameras and a bear gun.
If getting out in Mother Nature and sleeping under the stars sound fun to you, but you have never done it before, my advice is to start local. We have a lot of great places to camp in the Peoria area. The more you camp the more you learn what a necessity to pack versus a pleasure is. For our family camping is a great way to reconnect to each other.


*Christine and her hubby, Kyle, own HAYNES FAMILY CHIROPRACTIC here in Peoria

SU2C Beautycounter: Join us and Stand Up to Cancer

High Impact Summer

Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) and Beautycounter have come together to honor all who have been touched by cancer. Join us in bringing awareness to the disease, the value of research, and the people it impacts. Every contribution, no matter how much, makes a real difference in SU2C’s effort to stop cancer from taking more lives.


Together with Beautycounter, Bushbaby is raising awareness and funds for SU2C to support skin cancer research and prevention.

Why is Beautycounter Working With SU2C?

Beautycounter delivers on their mission in three important ways: through our beautiful products, education and by advocating for more health protective laws. This campaign is an example of our mission in action. They believe that preventing exposure to potentially harmful ingredients from the products we use every day is simply the right thing to do.

At Beautycounter, they've banned more than 1,500 ingredients setting a new health and safety standard—intentionally screening each ingredient used for safety. This is about progress—not perfection. Because every little bit counts.

JOIN NOW by clicking on this link below. With every donation, Bushbaby will display a placard in your honor on their store's windows. Come in + let us snap a photo with your placard. We will gift you with Beautycounter samples + offer 20% off any Beautycounter product in-store.

#StandUpToCancer #BcStandsUp


Get to know a local mama: MEET TONIA

Born & Raised in Geneseo IL.

Went to Bradley University where I earned a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering.

Met Joe while in college and married him in May 2005.

Our first child was born in June 2008 and we named her Annabelle Rose. She is a smart, kind and motivated 9 year old. Isaac Joseph was born in October 2010. He is an analytical, energetic and loyal 7 year old. Along the way, we expanded our family with a great dog, Hershey, and 2 cuddly cats.


Joe and I are both engineers working for John Deere factories in the Quad Cities. I support Combine manufacturing. I love to tackle projects at work, but the best part of the day is coming home to our great family and learning what happened in their ever - expanding bubble! Joe and I love to ‘talk shop’ but we are careful to limit the conversations and create space where our interests do not overlap. I have an affection for quilting, but lack of practice will keep me at the novice level for the foreseeable future! I lead Annabelle’s Junior Girl Scout Troop and Joe is a committee chair of Isaacs’s Cub Scout Pack. Annabelle is on the swim team and is learning to play the piano. Isaac and Annabelle both have started strumming the guitar and take lessons together where they get to work from each other’s strengths to better their ability. I like to think of myself as a mom that is ALL IN with her kid’s activities but still reserves space for her own wellness!

Significant orthopedic medical problems have forced me to become a stationary mom in a fast-paced world. I have spent the past 4 years learning how to keep up with our active lifestyle while battling limited mobility and chronic pain. Failures, disappointments and self-reflection have all taught me how to ask for help and accept a standard different from what I might have offered in years past. I refer to it as my “evolving new 100%”. I am still learning how to say ‘No’ but I try to watch the strong women around me that can do it so gracefully. The most important thing I realized through this challenge in life was that I can teach my children to live healthy, active lives even if I watch from the sidelines. Along the way they have learned a little extra compassion. Teaching them independence is the best part of being their mom. Joe and I have such an impactful role in their life right now to teach faith in God, empathy for others, kindness and love for the planet we live on.


Our summer plans are shaping up to be a whole lot of pool time! For the first time in several years, we do not have a family trip planned. We are looking forward to our staycation! The children have the most fun outside in the pool, on the trampoline, riding bikes with the neighborhood children and roller skating! There is nothing like going back to the basics to keep this age busy! Preteens want all the independence but are not quite ready for the responsibility. We have planned activities lined up for a fun filled summer of learning and being outside, but we will also spend a lot of days exploring and making up our own adventures. Fishing, science experiments, water balloon fights, lemonade stand and gardening are a few activities that give ‘tweens’ a chance to spread their wings while maintaining a controlled environment for the adult!