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Congratulations to the McCoy family of California – 2018 Host Family of the Year Runner-Up!

“My family 

Sunday at the McCoy’s house: It was 9am and I heard a knock on the door. Emma was asking me if I somehow knew where her iPad was. I started mumbling, still sleepy. I wanted to sleep. But it was just the right time for me to get up and go to my church. And honestly I could be the only one who always knows where Emma’s iPad is!  

It is summer camp time in my church and I called Jane to confirm if Emma and I can go together for one week in Serbian summer camp in Jackson, 40 minutes away from the city we live in. I am going to be a counselor at the camp and Emma is going with me. She is about to spend her first 5 days without her parents.  

On the way back from the camp,  as usual, I checked if there is something that I can buy on my way back home. Usually it is coffee, ice cream or some small grocery shopping. This Sunday I loaded the car up to the roof with mulch because it is Jane’s gardening weekend. Of course Nora and I were just drinking iced water and watched the gardening being done from the shade. Jane did all the work. 

Then Andy and I were hanging all the pictures in my room. I got Oh, the places you will go! painting From Dr. Seuss for my room that we bought at the gallery in Laguna beach at our first big vacation together. Jane also bought me a picture-magnet with the USA flag where I can hang my magnets from all of the places I have been to and an Adventure Awaits pin board where I pinned our instant photos. Jane bought me these super amazing photos when I told her that I decided to stay another year with them. 

At the end of the day all of us had dinner together and that is just how most of our no school, summer days are passing by.  

When you apply to be an Au Pair, in the agency they tell you that this will be an amazing experience, that you will meet a lot of new people, will make life-long friends and you will get family. It is not just about the location you get in the US, IT IS about the family, they say. Yes, right! I thought that I already have a family and this is job just like any other job and you get to travel as a bonus. I am that annoying Au Pair that kept saying: All of that sounds amazing, but I want California! It was Sunday afternoon back in Serbia and my agent called me screaming: You got California! It is the one and only Host family I have ever had interview with. And now I am staying with them for another year. We live in small town of Angels Camp, in Calaveras county, Central California, south of Sacramento. We live in Greenhorn Creek Resort, on the golf course. And the best part about that, besides the golf of course is that we can go to the pool with a golf cart!  

The McCoy’s have no problem driving around a lot. Since the day one I am driving. I drove more than three times to Los Angeles, San Diego and Palm Springs alone. We drive to Sacramento just to go out for dinner or a basketball game. I drive to San Francisco every other weekend, since I discovered I have cousins there. We drive to Lodi for gymnastic classes and to Fresno or Oakland to go to the ZOO. 

This family has a very busy schedule: school and preschool, snacks, nap time, gymnastics, guitar and music lessons, tennis, Girl Scouts, church, ballet, tap dance, swimming, a lot of play dates, parties and a lot of water balloon fights! But when it is time to go, everyone packs their suitcase and toys and we say our goodbyes and wave at the airport. They travel a lot and so do I. 

In the past year I have been to Colorado, Nevada and Hawaii and I have been traveling up and down California: San Diego, Los Angeles, Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park, San Francisco, Yosemite National Park, Santa Cruz, San Jose, Oakland, Monterey. I have passed Highway 1 all the way from San Francisco to San Diego.  

Every day is fun! We stick to the schedule but on our free time we are pretty adventurous and unpredictable. We would stay home and have a blast playing Monopoly or we would decide that maybe we should go to an adventure like indoor skydiving in Sacramento, Zip line, paddle boarding on the lake. We explore our cities: sports games, ZOO, Libraries, Museums. And we explore our county too: cowboy city of Columbia where we made candles, went on a horse ride and did arts and crafts,. We have gone to Orchards, and rivers and lakes. Sometimes we just go shopping, because the girls in this family love to go shopping! 

My family is the best! And I will say why. We had three Christmases! First Christmas was one week before the actual Christmas. I finally met Jane’s parents, Nana and Papa. They came over and brought presents of course. So we had a Pre-Christmas Eve and a Pre-Christmas day. I got  a green and blue blanket with all the USA cities on it and I gave them Christmas decorations – mini Serbian traditional uniform hat and shoes, Sajkaca I Opanak. I love Nana and Papa! We always drink coffee together and I love sharing my traditions and the history of my country with them. They were both teachers in school, just like me. 

Our real Christmas was an amazing adventure! Andy’s dad Grandpa Frank and Andy’s brother and his brother’s fiancée came over and all of us went to the Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco to a San Francisco 49ers Football game on Christmas Eve. We went to a 49ers museum too, we got to be on the field before the game, we had dinner and we went to a Community church for a Christmas Eve’s service and sang Silent Night. Christmas Day we spent at home. Andy’s brothers’s fiancée is from The Philippines so our Christmas Day food was special and new for all of us. I finally learned how to eat crabs. We also realized that we had English and Norwegian ancestors, a Filipino and a Serbian; so Protestants, a Catholic and Orthodox Christian all at one table. 

Then we had our third Christmas! The Orthodox Christian Christmas Eve (Badnje vece) in my Serbian church in Jackson. The service went on for too long and Emma cried for a little bit but both of the girls got old Serbian coins and everyone tried some Serbian food and a Serbian drink (rakija).  

What does an Au Pair actually mean? A foreign babysitter? How do you call a person who takes care of your kids, who takes them to school, who holds their hand when they cross the street, who shows them how to do their homework, how to paint, color, how to play, sit, eat, when to take a nap, when to sit on the bed, when to clean up, when not to cry or when to laugh, and when not; when to speak up or when to be quiet? What songs they sing to your children? Do they hug them when they are hurt? Do they put them on and off from the swing and how many times? Is that person your family? Do you consider it family? I am an Au Pair. And I am crazy about my girls! I snuggle them and kiss and hug them every day and every hour. And I feel like a part of their family. “Sort of like my family” to be exact, like Emma would say.  

We sing and dance, play, hug a lot and we even argue. We say I love you and I like you every day and we ask each other every day: Why are you so cute!? 

Jane and Andy often say that they will come to Serbia as soon as I go back and I already know where I am going to take them and what I am going to show them. And the girls? The girls and I made a deal that they will be Au Pairs to my kids and that my kids will be Au Pairs to their kids and that their kid’s kids will be Au Pairs to my kid’s kids. And so on.”

– Essay written and submitted by Ivana D., au pair from Serbia

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