I arrived in the Netherlands in 2010 with the intention of immersing myself in language and culture for one year after my management degree. I chose to do this as an au pair and had fantastic intentions to continue on to live and love with two more families in France and Spain or Italy. As a lover of all things language and children, this was a beautiful way to delve deep into the language and lifestyle. The Netherlands had so much in store for me, and along with falling head over heels for the country and culture, it was here that I also found my fantastic husband. Before the year was out, we decided to give it a go together and have since welcomed our two beautiful children Alexander (6 years) and Madeleine (2 years).
Before these fantastic little trouble-makers came into our lives, I went through the journey of deciding what on earth I should do with my life as an accidental expat. I had my heart set on becoming an entrepreneur but my passion still needed to present itself. I spent one year working in a bilingual daycare while studying child development before a burnout claimed a brief period of reflection. I quickly bounced back and after a much-needed visit home to Canada, I landed a fantastic position with the Australian Embassy as a translator and administrative officer. Love, love, loved this season of my life and the exciting and extravagant opportunities it provided me. At this point, we decided to begin our family and in 2014, we welcomed Alexander.
Returning to the Embassy full time wasn’t in the cards and it wasn’t what I wanted. While a challenging and fascinating career was my professional vision, I always knew that being a mother was my true calling and I needed a way to be home with my son. Entrepreneurship knocked at my door and I answered. With my 8-month-old baby in tow, I registered with the Chamber of Commerce in November of 2014 and hit the ground running. I’m especially grateful for this development as it soon became clear that Alexander wasn’t going to have an easy time of things and within the year we discovered the severity of his milk allergy and asthma. Daycare wasn’t on the table (because of what was on the table) and after dozens of severe reactions, ambulance trips and hospital stays, I accepted my fate as a helicopter parent.
Alexander enjoyed stay-at-home mom bliss for his first four years as I primarily worked evenings and during his naps (which he continued until well after his fourth birthday). This bilingual kid was rocking it and when he first started preschool at age 2, his teachers were amazed to see that Alexander knew the names of all the shapes, colours and numbers. I was pleasantly surprised because I really hadn’t intended to teach him these concepts and had hardly invested any effort into his education (aside from being a total bookworm and storybook addict). I took stock of what I had actually done with my little guy and it came down to my ‘cheat’. My lazy game of all things! What I did was an extension of the method I had been using intuitively throughout the years, all the way back to my babysitting club days in Canada.
I used the method to connect through a language barrier with my au pair kidlets (aged two and five) in Amsterdam and teach them English. I used the method to share learning concepts with a vertical group at the bilingual daycare. I used the method to welcome and interact with frightened pre-schoolers as they entered a new environment (for some, this was even a new country and new language). I used the method to help my husband teach our toddler son Dutch vocabulary when English was his stronger language. I even used the method with my adorable Sunday school group to incorporate movement into the lesson plans. Powerful stuff. On accident.
So, why now? Why launch this method into the wider world? Well, aside from truly wanting to share this feel-good technique with others (which I have done on an informal level throughout the years), it was Madeleine’s turn to grow and the method came back into the picture. I also got a big wake up call. By the time my little wild child came along, my business was booming and I found myself investing far more time into Alexander’s education and health. My cheeky girl was no longer a baby and she was hungry for more knowledge. These past years have been filled with turmoil and challenges for both of my babies and together with a flourishing translation business, this had kind of left Madeleine in the dust. Our little girl was having fun but missing milestones and this really hit home.
We also have a brilliant team of caregivers at home to help balance the chaos and I wanted to equip them with this simple tool to educate Madeleine from the safety of her own environment. My spicy little toddler was the first product tester and she tore through the concepts like nobody’s business. Where her big brother was delightfully tame and inquisitive as a young child, Madeleine is a force to be reckoned with. This kid could sniff out mommy’s intentions to tame her from a mile away and she resisted any educational activities and games I dared to present (I have them ALL). Until the cards. It all came flooding back to me – the cards, we need the cards! They were an immediate hit and in a whirl of passion and enthusiasm, I decided to re-organise my life to ensure that the product was brought to the market. Well, it’s here. With the help of a fantastic network of amazing women, the method is now out there in the world and in your homes. Enjoy!