Today I have something very special to share with you. I’m so proud to finally commence a new project on the blog. Because I’m big into community, and sharing the love, and supporting the nanny industry, I’ve been all about getting to know other superstars in the nanny industry. I want to shine a light on them, to highlight them, to let you get to know them, and share with you their magic secrets and tricks of the trade. The Nanny Spotlight at Nanny Shecando is something I’m really passionate about, and I’ve got some fabulous names lined up over the next few months. To get involved, please contact me with subject title nanny spotlight.
To kick things off, I bring you Nanny Da Poppins. Dana hails from Vancouver, Washington, is a graduate of the prestigious Northwest Nanny institute, blogs at Da Poppins, has over 20 years experience in the industry and is a strong advocate for the benefit of reading and instilling the love for a good book! Be prepared lovely readers, this is a long interview to kick things off. Grab yourself a coffee, and sit down to be immersed in the life of a truly inspirational lady.
Dana – Da Poppins,
Tell us a little about your background, what path led you to becoming a nanny?
I babysat in high school, which was really my first exposure since I don’t have younger siblings or cousins. At around age 18 I started to explore the idea of becoming a nanny. I’m a creative person who loves to laugh, and kids are the best kind of people for creativity and laughter.
You graduated from the prestigious Northwest Nanny Institute. What made you choose Northwest Nannies?
I wasn’t ready to study at college. I wasn’t sure who or what I wanted to be. But I loved kids, and I knew I could do well with kids. There is a big difference between being a Nanny and being a babysitter and I needed some training.
What kind of training and support did you receive?
I highly recommend Nanny School. I’ve met graduates from NNI that already had Early Childhood Education degrees and other college degrees but they went to NNI anyway because the school teaches about being a Professional Career Nanny. It’s a 30 week training course that offers everything a Nanny should know, from child Development to career planning. They also offer a unique training and hands on experience Practicum with local families. This, for me was one of the most important parts of the school. I learned so much from the Mom’s I worked with.
For over 20 years NNI has helped me find nanny families who treat me as a professional and do not try to take advantage of my time or my skills, the way I know some families do. I’ve never had a “bad” experience. It’s actually shocking to me when I read about what some nannies put up with. NNI has a screening process in place for families, and their fee weeds out all those who might under value my position.
Are you currently nannying?
I currently care for two little blond headed girls, who I have been with for almost 3 years. But as the girls are now entering full-time school, I know I will be transitioning to fewer hours. I also have a Certified Nursing Assistant Certificate, so I also do Elder Care part-time in the evenings. Some of my same principles for being a Nanny still apply, I’m just a care-giver for adults.
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
Now that the girls are older (three and five), I often drive them to school and classes. A short day may only be four hours. A long day starts at 6:30am and goes until 3:30pm. One girl goes to school until 12:30 so the other child and I do fun things around town until it’s time for pick up. Then it’s off to Ballet class.
How would you describe the style of your work? Do you have a philosophy and approach towards the job of caring for kids?
I’ve never been afraid to be silly, to get dirty or look ridiculous if it is going to make a child laugh. You can imagine how much this helps me relate to kids of all ages. It definitely makes me stand out to parents. Even with babies, I talk, sing, and interact all day long with at least three or four book readings outside of nap-time. I like to plan a daily craft and if it’s a long day, an outing.
What’s your favourite children’s story book and why?
“I wish I could pick just one book. But that’s impossible!” I love classic fairy tales and fables. Some of these retellings have the most beautiful illustrations and many of them are long enough to be good bedtime stories.
I wish current picture books were more like Kipling’s “Just-So” stories. He wasn’t afraid of language and big words. Using them in playful ways that never spoke down to kids, but instead, encouraged them to think big thoughts. Big words and big concepts were his playthings, and he used them like toys in his stories. I love that.
One of my favorite books, “Who’s in Rabbit’s House,” has lines that will be forever stuck in my head. Written by Verna Ardema it is a great picture book for kindergarteners, first and second graders. The story has some repetition, is full of jokes kids get, has a riddle and great illustrations. This book can be made in to a play for kids to perform, or combined with a mask making craft that kids love. Plus, it has an unusual setting that will make youngsters curious about the world.
Right now I am crushing on the recently published “The Grudge Keeper,” by Mara Rockliff. There is something about the style of the illustrations that makes me want to take extra time and study them. The story is not only fun to read, it teaches something without being preachy.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced working as a nanny?
Most of my challenges happened long ago when I was much younger. My first job was a live-in with a five-year-old girl and a baby boy. In an effort not to become their parents, the family employed a permissive, threat-reward based style of discipline that was difficult to deal with. I was not confident enough to show them a better way. However, the family did not expect me to except the rude treatment either. It was during this period that I really learned how to say things like, “Use your words,” And, “I’m sorry, I can’t understand you when you’re talking like that, could you say that more calmly?”
I’ve been talking about professional development recently, what’s your take on establishing yourself as a career nanny?
I really believe in professional development. I have plans to be a well paid granny nanny. I went to school, had four kids of my own, and then took a little college again, but now I have decided my best course would be to return to school and get a degree in Early Childhood Education or something in that area. I think continuing education is critical, not just to learn new things and revisit old things, but also for my resume. “I would like more of my practical advice backed up with some practical college.”
So you’re a nanny and a mother, and a blogger, and a super crafty person. How do you manage all of that?
I think women can do many things, have many passions, but not all at the same time. When I am working on a craft project or a blog post, I’m not cleaning the house. When I am out with the kids, I’m not folding the laundry. And when I’m at work, well, I’m not at home getting all that other stuff done.
I have to focus on the task in front of me, not all the other things that need to be done at the same time. My kids help and they are getting fairly self-sufficient, and my husband is awesome. He supports me in my job and my crafts by making dinner. Often.
Tell us about the DA Poppins blog.
Years ago my friend started blogging and she was always telling me about the circle of friends. So I tried it out as a way to practice my writing – with the goal of appealing to an audience. I wanted to share life stories and make people laugh. I blog about the things I am passionate about: telling stories, sharing stories, reading stories, children, family life, and scrapbooking.
Where do you draw inspiration from when creating content for the blog?
When I’m not posting, I am writing blogs in my head on the way to work. I’m editing how-to’s and humour stories, parenting tips, nanny insights, sharing scrapbook pages and stories about wonderful people I know.
How do you see the blog evolving over the next 12 months?
I joined social media to widen my appeal. I’m working on positioning the “Da Poppins” brand. I want [Dapoppins] to be known as this Nanny insider, Mom, creative person who loves children, and as an advocate for reading aloud and early literacy. I want to push that Dapoppins is parent friendly, but she is also a kid’s best friend.
You’re a scrapbook enthusiast. Where did that stem from, and what do you usually create?
Thank you so much for asking me this question! Some might think it such a cliché – “Mom Scrapbooker.” But I just enjoy paper and photographs. It really is about telling the personal story for me. I made my first scrapbook when my first son was born and I haven’t been able to stop telling the story! I put a lot of our history in the scrapbooks, the kids lives, and all the paper that generates. I’ve made personal “story books” for the kids. One son loved his so much he proudly took it to show and tell. That just filled my heart so much, that he liked what I was doing for him.
Have you always been interested in arts and craft?
After reading East of Eden by John Steinbeck in high school, I discovered that good writing was art. It was painting landscapes, faces, emotions, and refining them with the English language. I’ve always dreamed of doing that. I just finished reading The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. There were several moments where I had to stop and savor the brush stroke of her sentences.
I can’t write like that, but I can make a canvas with layers, colour and textures. I can tell a quirky story with scrapbook paper. I can express all my emotion with paper, glue, and scissors and not be limited by my actual skills. Scrapbooking is only as difficult as you want it to be.
What do you do to recharge the batteries and reconnect with your quiet side?
I pour everything I have into work – I am performing, protecting and providing. I must have a good attitude and never lose my patience. This is so very exhausting. Outsiders don’t always see this. I’m paid to have all the answers and to not get angry. Maybe that seems like a high standard to some, but in reality, it is what makes me a professional. It takes a lot of energy to always be performing for my audience of children, maintaining self-control while at the same time staying one step ahead of the little ones I am taking care of.
When I get done for the day, I’m done with talking, sharing, and giving for a moment. I hug the kids, kiss my husband; they go back to what they are doing and I grab some alone time. I power up with prayer time and church time, and as a lazy introvert I recharge with long naps and lots of alone time.
So you’re based in Vancouver, Washington. What’s your take on it?
Vancouver is 30 minutes from Portland, Oregon. This whole area is filled with indoor and outdoor kid activities – I love it!
The Oregon Zoo, Children’s Museum and Science Museum are all great! Year long families passes are the best buy, and most families I’ve worked with buy them routinely. There are hundreds of parks, water fountains to play in, walks to go on and places to explore. The library system is amazing, with a huge book selection and weekly free activities. Most of the athletic gyms all have great kids programs that teach things like gymnastics, ballet, rock climbing and karate from pre-school to pre-teen.
Where do you shop in your area for tools of the trade?
My favourite places to shop for art is at the Saturday Market or one of the many local Farmers Markets. It’s where I can find some very unusual, whimsical stuff made locally by people just like me. I love that. Kazoodles is a locally owned store that carries tons of games, toys, interactive activates, and books. And of course Powell’s World of Books in Portland, which is packed with interesting stuff (and books).
You’re 80 years old and you are writing yourself a letter titled “Secrets of a life well lived.” What does it say?
“Play everyday, laugh everyday, pray all the time and there is no guilt in a good nap.”
I actually have a post coming up on the blog soon about this! I’ve known some truly interesting and lovely elderly people, my grandparents included, that taught me life can be as fruitful and fun at eighty as it is at twenty. It’s just a different perspective.
What’s the best thing about what you do?
Children. Babies. Laughter.
Biggest piece of advice for new nannies starting out?
Be observant and ask lots of questions. Every family has a ton of unwritten rules and habits that are so familiar to them they don’t even think to explain them to the new nanny, especially if this is their first nanny.
To participate in the nanny spotlight, please contact me. If you’re a rockstar in your field, be it a nanny or sitter, childcare worker, primary teacher, nanny industry expert, nanny agency or children’s author, I want to hear from you!