Not long after Dani arrived in our home, I knew she was more than an au pair. While she is truly exceptional at meeting all of her professional childcare obligations, it is her heart that makes her really stand out as Au Pair of the Year.
Dani brings so much positive energy and love into our home. She has a joie de vivre like I’ve never seen. She is so enthusiastic about new experiences, and her energy is infectious. She was in our house for less than 24 hours when she excitedly joined us on a spontaneous camping trip with my sister’s family. It was her first time camping and she pitched in with setting up the tent and preparing the campsite. She slept her second night in Alaska on the floor of a big tent with my sister, me, and our three young boys, and it was as if she had been in our family all along.
In no time, she has endeared herself to our extended family; and needless to say, to my husband, me, and our two boys. Not only that, she wasted no time in getting to know our community. Before long, she was biking around our mountain valley town, pulling our three-year-old in the trailer. Our six-year-old taught her to play baseball, and many hours have been spent playing it in the yard, as well as soccer and kickball. She also pushes herself to go outside her comfort zone in order to embrace a new way of living, whether it’s camping, trying a new sport like skiing, or learning to drive on icy roads.
In Daniela’s first weeks with us, it was also very apparent that she excels at organization and keeping the house neat and tidy. She has always made the children’s bed and done their laundry without ever being asked, and does a much better job than I do! Everything she does, she does carefully and thoughtfully. She has an outstanding work ethic. She is always on time for work and takes her responsibilities seriously. She has gotten boys to school and activities on time every time. She also takes it upon herself to organize a toy cabinet or bookshelf.
It’s like having an angel live with us.
Dani’s love of children is very evident. In no time, she became a favorite playmate of both of our boys. She was eager to learn their games and activities and they could tell that she really enjoys spending time with them. She quickly made friends with other au pairs and their families, as well as neighborhood families without au pairs, and began to coordinate playdates and adventures together. She also takes the boys to the pool, the park and the library; on bike rides in the summer and sledding in the winter. At home, they have dance parties, sing, and play games. As with all children, ours have their unique personal challenges, and Dani is patient and loving through all of it. Our boys just love spending time with her. She looks at them with that special twinkle in her eye that lets you know she loves them.
What really makes Dani more than an au pair to us is the dedication and love that she shows outside of her work hours and expectations. She often spends her free time just hanging out with us, playing games with the kids, going grocery shopping with me, and helping with meals and dishes. She has a knack for knowing what needs to be done and then just doing it, even if it’s not in her job description. For example, our dog is on a special diet, and when Dani notices that the food bowl is empty, she mixes up a new batch. She also takes her on walks and hikes in her free time. She pitches in around the house in exceptional ways. I’m frequently surprised by vacuumed floors, my personal laundry neatly folded, kitchen cabinets and drawers reorganized, and even 50-year-old pots and pans that were just black with use shining like new. I’m still not sure how she managed that last one! In addition, when I come home from a giant Costco shop, she’s often there at the door to help me unload and put away groceries.
There are so many ways she makes life better for all of us!
In addition to her generosity of time and spirit, she is also very gracious. I don’t think I’ve cooked a meal that Dani has not profusely thanked me for and told me how great it was. And she manages to do this in the warmest and most authentic manner every time! She also expresses thanks at the end of each day and warmly and sincerely wishes us a good night. Our boys love to spend time with her before bedtime, and she welcomes them into her room to jump on the bed, get tickled, dance, or even just cuddle. Her positive personal qualities are such good examples for our children to witness, and she is also a model for me of patience, gratitude, service, and love.