Yearly Archives: 2011

Au Pair in America Holiday Party and International Cookie Swap

Sunday December 11th was the International Holiday party for the Annapolis cluster of Au Pair in America.  Each au pair brought a cookie or sweet  from her home country to share and all girls went home with a bag of treats from all over the world!  Girls from Germany, Brazil, Ukraine and Thailand joined in the festivities.  Each au pair brought a wrapped gift for the gift exchange.  The gifts were placed under the tree as the au pairs arrived.  We learned about each others customs and traditions and got to know each other a bit more!   The Thai girls educated us on their New Year traditions as this is the big holiday that is celebrated in their home country.  Later we gathered around the tree for the gift exchange, numbers were drawn to determine who went 1, 2, 3 and so on.  Natasha Wrobel, Annapolis Community Counselor, handed out Christmas mugs for hot chocolate to keep warm over the upcoming winter months. 


We also had the pleasure and honor of having a Federal Marshall visit with us to give the au pairs a safety briefing and practical tips when they are out with their host families children, out on the town alone or out with friends.  It was very educational and informative. 


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!    


APIA Advantage Course – UCLA Extension Program

The next UCLA APIA Advantage Course will run from February 6 – June 11. Registration is already open

The cost of the class is $500 and it satisfies the education requirement for au pairs or half the requirement for EduCare companions.

This 19-week course, specifically designed for au pairs who are required to continue their education as a part of their experience in the U.S., is offered in a blended format–partially a media-rich, self-paced online environment and partially an instructor-led, cohort-based model.

The interdisciplinary course of study includes:

  • U.S. History: Eras 1-5 (up to Civil War and Reconstruction), including mini-modules on economics and geography
  • English-language study, including weekly reading and writing exercises
  • Arts in the U.S., including virtual field trips and activities reflective of historical eras studied by participants
  • U.S. literature: the readings which reflect the eras studied in the U.S. history module
  • Career counseling and interest inventories to determine future directions for the participants.

Participants read lessons, write, share resources, network with one another, and collaborate on special projects, as well as explore web links, play games, and take virtual field trips, all designed to further their understanding of U.S. culture.

The Community Involvement segment of the program takes the au pairs into face-to-face contact with the community. Au pairs will relate these experiences to their academic coursework in American Studies Online.

For further information call (310) 206-6671 or email

International Celebrations of Giving Thanks!

Thanksgiving in the United States is celebrated on the 4th Thursday in November.  It is often thought of as a particularly American holiday because of the story of the Pilgrims and the Indians.  You will find, however, that most cultures, religions, and/or countries have some kind of a holiday that involves giving thanks.  Many of them are associated with harvest time.  Some of them are still celebrated as separate holidays. 

In ancient times the Hebrews had a feast at which they gave thanks to God for their harvest.  It was called Sukkot and Jews still celebrate it today.  The ancient Greeks had a harvest festival in honor of Demeter, the goddess of the harvest.  They brought gifts of honey, fruit and grain to her shrines.  The Romans honored Ceres, the goddess who protected their crops.  They called it the festival of Cerelia, and that is where the word “cereal” is derived.  For hundreds of years the Chinese have celebrated a festival of the harvest moon.  This brightest moon of the year shines on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunar calendar.  The festival is called the Mid-Autumn Festival.  The Vietnamese call this festival Tet Trung Thu.  Koreans celebrate it as Chu-Sok.  People in Southern India celebrate at least 2 harvest festivals, Onam in the fall and Pongal in the midwinter.  Onam is a harvest festival associated with the legendary King Mahabalia.  Pongol is the celebration of the rice harvest, the biggest festival of the year.  In England, the thanksgiving celebration was called Harvest Home.  It took place when the last field was harvested and the crops were brought safely to the barns.  Thanksgiving has also been celebrated in Canada for a long time.  It probably began many years before the Pilgrims landed in America. 

So when the Pilgrims did land in their new home on December 21, 1620, they already knew about the ceremonies of thanksgiving.  They had, of course, come from England and were familiar with the custom of giving thanks after the harvest.  So, one year later, after a year of terrible hardship and frighteningly little success, Governor William Bradford proclaimed the first day of Thanksgiving in the Plymouth Colony.  This was the feast day that many think of when we hear “the first Thanksgiving.”  It was the one shared with the Indians, who had helped the Pilgrims and introduced them to the native foods and strange farming practices of the New World.

AAA Safe Driving in Winter Weather – A Timely Topic for Cluster Meetings

On November 10th the Baltimore cluster attended a presentation given by Myra Wieman, Manager of Safety Services, from AAA, on safe driving practices, with a focus on driving in winter weather conditions. Host Families were very enthusiastic about their au pairs attending this important meeting, as evidenced by the high turnout!

In a clear and concise manner, Myra gave us 45 minutes of potential life saving tips. Following are some of them:

*When clearing off snow from your vehicle, do not leave snow piled on top of the roof of the vehicle. This large “cake” of snow will eventually slide off while you are driving and can be a hazard not only to you, but other cars around you.

*Know the danger spots for ice: bridges, elevated highways, off and on ramps, and shaded roads.

* SKIDDING – if your car begins to skid, 1) ease up on the gas, and do not put foot on the brake, 2) keep a  tight hold on the steering wheel, 3) steer in the direction you want the car to go.

Words of Wisdom – Know when to say “No”..know when to just stay home and not attempt to drive if the weather is not good. It is not worth risking your life!

Regarding Distracted Driving – Here are some important things to know. As of October 1, 2011 Texting while driving is ILLEGAL in Maryland. This means no writing, sending or reading a text message while operating a car. EVEN while at a stop light. The fine is $70 + 1 point on your driving record for a first offense, and a second offense will cost $110 + 3 points.  We learned that since October 1, over 730 tickets have been given in Maryland to drivers who were texting while driving. 

Related to the Texting Law is the No Hand- Held Cell Phone While Driving law. A driver may still talk on a cell phone while driving in Maryland, however it needs to be a “hands free” cell phone. Either a blue tooth device or earphones connected to the phone will suffice. The fine for a first offense is $40 and subsequent offenses are $100. No points are assessed on the driver’s record, unless the violation contributes to a crash, and then 3 points are given.

The last portion of our class was about Child Passenger Safety. Remember that AAA will gladly assess the safety of your car seats. To find a technician to help you correctly install your child safety seat – visit or call 1-866-SEAT-CHECK.

To schedule a safety presentation for your group, contact Myra Wieman at

November 13-19 – National Game and Puzzle Week

– Most children love to play games – ball games, card games, board games, word games, guessing games. Playing games is important because it helps children learn how to handle disappointment when they lose. It also helps them to l earn to take turns and how to follow rules. Play their favorites or teach them a new game from your childhood.

Halloween Safety

Every Halloween night, a chill fills the air as little ghouls and ghosts take to the streets for a night of Trick-or-Treating. Halloween is a time for frights and fun, but is also a time when parents and children should focus on safety.

Tips for a safe Halloween

Remember to follow these safety tips to help ensure you and your “Trick-or-Treaters” have a safe and enjoyable experience this year:

  • Wear bright clothing or reflective gear; Carry a flashlight if out after dark;
  • Know the route that your children will be taking if you aren’t going with them;
  • Younger children should go with adults: at least a 4:1 ratio is preferable;
  • If possible, give your kids a cell phone and check in with them at specified intervals;
  • Have an understood time for everyone to be home;
  • Explain the difference between a “trick” and “vandalism.” This is also another good opportunity to discuss peer pressure. More often than not, kids participate in acts that they know are wrong because a “friend” led the way.

Changes to the Maryland Driver's Handbook


From the MVA website:
Beginning October 2011, the knowledge test you must pass to get a non-commercial Class C learner’s permit will be based on information in the new Maryland Driver’s Manual. The new Manual includes basic knowledge on driver safety for new drivers, including: traffic laws of this State; highway signs regulating, warning & directing traffic; and safe driving practices.  The improved graphics, full-color design, and brief paragraphs provide an easy read of only 39 pages – packed with core driver safety facts.

I have updated the links (on the column to the right) to include the New Driver’s Handbook in English, Spanish and an audio version. Paper copies are available in MVA offices.

There is now one booklet instead of two. The yellow booklet that contains the information on who needs a driver’s license and who does not, which I have given out to be kept in the car, will probably not be available after September.

What to keep in the car for proof now?
I have obtained a copy of the Maryland Law regarding International Drivers. The information is copied directly from a booklet which all police officers have in their squad car. The idea is that it shows them where to look up the law and once they compare your paper to that section of their booklet, they should realize that au pairs are allowed to drive on their country license (for up to one year.) Sometimes, they will still choose to write you the ticket for not having a Maryland license. If that happens, don’t worry. You can go to court and the judge should drop the ticket, as long as you are in your first year and have a valid license from your home country in your possession.

I have uploaded this document on Google Docs. You may access it HERE and print a copy for each car the au pair drives.

October is Fire Prevention Month

FiremanOctober is Fire Prevention Month and the American Red Cross is encouraging people to take steps to lessen the risk of a fire in their home.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, there are between 350,000 and 400,000 house fires in the United States every year. Home fires are the biggest disaster threat to families in this country, above floods and hurricanes.

That’s why the American Red Cross is encouraging people to remember two key fire safety steps: installing smoke alarms and developing a fire escape plan.

“The Red Cross responded to more than 62,960 home fires in fiscal year 2011,” said Charley Shimanski, senior vice president, Red Cross Disaster Services. “Fires strike suddenly and spread quickly. It’s important to take simple steps now to protect the members of your household. During a fire, every second counts and being prepared can greatly reduce the effects of these devastating disasters.”

It is recommended that people check each smoke alarm in their home by pushing the test button at least once a month and replacing batteries every year, or as needed. Fire escape plans should include at least two escape routes from every room in the home and a convenient meeting place at a safe distance from the home. Practice the escape plan at least twice a year and revise as necessary. Families are encouraged to pay particular attention to developing and regularly practicing escape plans for children and older adults.

Additional recommendations include:

  • Keep matches and lighters away from and out of reach of children.
  • Don’t leave the kitchen, and don’t leave the home while you’re frying, grilling or broiling food.
  • Once you are out, stay out! Call the fire department from a neighbor’s home.

During Fire Prevention Month, visit for more steps people can take to lessen the chance of a fire in their home.