Taking Gifts from Presents to Experiences

Michelle Wagaman, momma, wife, and crafter who appreciates family adventures, sunshine, and setting sail. By day, she’s the Prevention and Public Information Coordinator with the Rappahannock Area Community Services Board (RACSB). She's filling in today while Brandie enjoys snuggling with her new little one.

Did you see the recent headline: “Prince Williams says son was spoiled on birthday?” Um yes, he’s third in line for the throne. Did you expect differently?


But I bet you can relate just as I could. Our children don’t have to be British royalty to be spoiled.


After each Christmas and birthday (or random grandparent visit), I have to find homes for all of this new stuff. I joke about Santa’s Sleigh dumping over in my family room floor.


We recently celebrated “Christmas in July” with the maternal side of my husband’s family. Recognizing that everyone is too spread out for us all to be together in December, my mother in-law set this weekend in motion well in advance of December 25, 2015. 16 adults, seven children (all ages 10 and under), five dogs, and two cats all descended on my in-laws retirement home in West Virginia. Great aunts and uncles, first cousins, second cousins once removed, siblings, parents, everyone was accounted for. We came from Fredericksburg, Atlanta, Nashville, and several cities in Pennsylvania.


We trimmed the tree and enjoyed fresh sugar cakes and galaxy cookies. We feasted on turkey and stuffing. The kids exchanged gifts and the adults participated in the annual white elephant exchange. We went swimming in the lake and rode in the golf cart. We played board games. We told stories. We laughed. Most importantly, we enjoyed being together without the stress of having someplace else to go.


My in-laws started two years ago gifting their children and spouses with experiences over physical presents for Christmas. Last summer we zip lined through the West Virginia tree line. This year we went white water rafting. (Rumor has it that a day of ATV riding is on tap for 2017.) These are adventures that we’d love to do but wouldn’t necessarily spend our own money to make happen. We had a great day on the water together and thankfully no one fell out of our raft. It also made me excited to take our children on these adventures when they are older.


But, I also realized that we don’t have to wait until they are a certain age to gift them with experiences now. I know families who enjoy monthly date nights or daddy-daughter days. The outings don’t have to be extravagant. The goal is to spend valuable time together and make memories. We’re in a great location to make the happen – exploring the river, walking the battlefields, traveling to Richmond or Washington, D.C. – there are endless possibilities available to us, just a short car ride away.


This past January, if you asked my kids about their Christmas break, they’d talk about their time with their cousins and grandparents. The gifts weren’t the first thing they rattled off (and they received some very nice things their mother would never buy; I’m pretty sure a 10 year old doesn’t need a Coach wristlet).


Perhaps you’ll join me in putting some activities into a jar and having the kids select one. Take it a step further and have the kids help you in creating a list of adventures and experiences for the family. I know of some budding philanthropists who request items be donated to the homeless shelter or SPCA in lieu of receiving presents.


I’d love to hear where your creativity and adventures take you. 

family fun

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Love Languages

While Brandie is enjoying time with her newborn, several guest bloggers will fill this space. Love Languages is brought to you by Laura Shoaf, mother of two, Program Manager for Healthy Families Rappahannock Area, and Wonder Woman Wannabe. 


Love Languages

My husband jokes that our daughter has a hug radar: whenever she senses someone hugging, she runs into the room shouting “group hug!” This is a girl who LOVES snuggle time and can’t sit on the couch next to you without holding hands or putting her feet on your lap. Our son, on the other hand, couldn’t care less about hugs but will play Legos with you for hours.

After reading The 5 Love Languages of Children (by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell), I realized my kids were speaking different Love Languages. The idea behind Love Languages is that we all, including kids, receive and give love in different ways.

·         Physical Touch: Positive physical touch is important to people speaking this language – it could mean hugs and kisses but also includes things like rough-housing or playing sports together.

·         Words of Affirmation includes any kind of praise or affirmation. These kids like to hear that they are special or that they did a good job.

·         Receiving Gifts: Kids who speak this language feel most loved when someone gives them a present or surprise. It’s the not the size of the gift that’s important, but the message that you were thinking about them.

·         Acts of Service: Actions speak louder than words for these children. They feel most loved when you do something nice for them, like helping with their chores or working with them on a school project.

·         Quality Time: Undivided attention works best for kids who speak this language: cooking a meal together or playing a game makes them feel loved.

So how do you know what language your child is speaking? There are probably lots of clues, if you pay attention:

·         How does your child show you love?

·         What do they ask for the most often?

·         What do they complain about the most often?

·         Ask them how they know that they’re loved.

·         For older kids (ages 9 to 12), try the Love Language Profile – this short quiz gives a choice between a series of 2 options and asks which they would rather hear, like “Let’s go to a movie” or “Give me a high five”.

By speaking your child’s Love Language, showing them love in the way that they prefer to receive it, you are building the foundations for a stronger relationship and investing in your child’s security and happiness. Not only will your child be loved, they will KNOW that they’re loved. 

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Taking a Breath and Taking a Break!

If you read my bio, you know that I have a large family.  Well, much to my husband and my surprise, we found out in December that we would be adding to it.  I am excited to report that we are expecting a son sometime between now and the first week of August.  We are overjoyed to meet our new family member!


The name of this blog is “Babies Can’t Wait” and my little one is no exception.  I have already started having contractions and do not know when he will make his appearance.  So, I am taking a deep breath and taking a break.  I will not be writing over the summer.  I plan to return back to blogging in the fall, but I want to take some time to focus on my new little man.  Stay tuned, though.  We may have some guest bloggers to fill in with helpful tips while I am out.

I look forward to having new stories for you in October.

Final thoughts:

Remember, PEID staff members are still here to help you if you have concerns about your child’s development!  Remember, Babies Can’t Wait!  Find us on Facebook or Contact the Parent Education –Infant Development Program of the RACSB:   http://www.racsb.state.va.us/

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Taking Care of Me while Taking Care of You


I love having a large family!  Trust me; there is never a dull moment in my house.  My house is a mess, but my heart is full.  Here comes the but….But, sometimes, my energy tank has to run on flat empty.  With every item on the to-do-list and spending time with my children, my needs often get pushed past the back burner.  There are days when using the bathroom in peace is the only way that I can take a minute for myself, there are days when that does not even happen. 

While I feel like this is part of parenting, the truth is that I am better at taking care of my family, when I take the time to take care of me.  I recently came across an excellent resource for different ways to take care of yourself as your child travels through the stages from prenatal to early childhood.  Sometimes, all that it takes is a concrete reminder of how important you are!  Please take a moment to check out:  http://www.ecmhc.org/documents/TakingCare_ParentBk_final.pdf


If you need some help on your parenting journey, we are here!  There is no better time to act than now!  Remember, Babies Can’t Wait!  Contact the Parent Education –Infant Development Program of the RACSB:   http://www.racsb.state.va.us/

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April is Autism ______ Month! Should the blank be "Awareness" or "Acceptance"?

In April, we join together to celebrate individuals with autism.  Today, I find myself in a similar position as last year, so I thought we would revisit a post from then.  I have heard April referred to as “Autism Awareness Month” and I have also heard “Autism Acceptance Month”.  Is there a difference?  Are these words interchangeable?  My answer is that yes, they are different, and we need them both. 

Awareness:  The first step is awareness.  The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines being “aware” as “the knowing that something exists.”   We have made great strides over the past decade increasing awareness that Autism exists.  Autism Speaks is celebrated its 10th year anniversary last year and they re-capped their 10 years of knowledge using 20 short facts.  I would like to list the first four of these directly from their website.  You can find the entire list at www.autismspeaks.org.


1. Autism’s prevalence has skyrocketed.  Ten years ago, autism’s estimated prevalence was 1 in 166. Today it’s 1 in 68 – an increase of more than 100% in one decade.

2. Direct screening suggests that autism’s prevalence may be even higher.

3. Autism can be reliably diagnosed by age two.  Because earlier intervention improves outcomes, Autism Speaks is redoubling their efforts to increase early screening, especially in underserved communities.

4. High-quality early intervention does more than develop skills.  Early intervention can change underlying brain development and activity. It’s also cost effective as it reduces the need for educational and behavioral support in grade school and beyond. (www.autismspeaks.org)

Please visit Autism Speaks to learn more about autism, research, and advocacy efforts.

Acceptance:  The focus and initiative on awareness over the past decade has help spread the word about and recognition of autism, but this is not enough.  We now need to expand from that knowledge towards a focus on acceptance.  Miriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines acceptance as “the quality or state of being accepted or acceptable”.  Individuals with autism need to know that they are acceptable in our community, lives, and hearts just the way they are.  The state of having autism should not negatively impact acceptance.  The Autism Acceptance Campaign proposes that “Autism acceptance means embracing and valuing autistic people as autistic people instead of being afraid of us, having low expectations, or trying to find a way to make us not autistic.”  Self-advocates propose that autistic individuals do not need to be fixed but rather celebrated as a natural expression of diversity.  Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/autism-awareness-how-about-autism-acceptance.html#ixzz3WXRG9uHv.

By moving from awareness to acceptance, we grow from knowledge into the active acceptance of individuals with autism.  I would argue that as we progress from knowledge through acceptance, we will be inevitably led to a third “A” word, appreciation.  Appreciation is the combination of awareness and acceptance in order to appreciate the value of what each individual has to offer. 


Final thoughts:

If you have any questions or concerns about autism, we are only a phone call away!  Learn the signs and act early.  If you have concerns about your child’s development, we can help!  Remember, Babies Can’t Wait!  Find us on Facebook or contact the Parent Education –Infant Development Program of the RACSB:   http://www.racsb.state.va.us/

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About Brandie

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Join my blog to find early childhood developmental tips, tidbits, strategies, and activities to support children and families.   As a mother of multiple sons (18, 14, 8, 6, and 3), I know that life can be hectic, so all strategies and activities can fit in the context of daily routines and places families typically go.

I am enthusiastic about supporting families who have concerns about their child’s development and helping connect them to desired resources.

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The Table at St. George’s is a market-style food pantry serving the extended local community. Visitors are invited to select their own items from a variety of fresh food, including locally grown produce. The Table’s mission is to encourage healthy eating, build relationships with those in need, and blur the lines between those serving and those being served.