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Susan Wanderer has worked with families in kids ministry for 20 years, with the last ten years serving as Kids Minister at Mount Ararat Church in Stafford. Susan and her husband Ed reside in Fredericksburg and have three amazing kids who joined their family in 2011 and who fill their days with adventure. Come join the conversation over at 

My Stomping Grounds


I have worked vocationally in kids ministry for twenty years. The majority of the days I absolutely adore my job.  Then there are some days, where I take a deep breath and hope tomorrow will be better. Any time you are in a profession that involves working with people, life is both fabulous and frustrating. Humans. We are a wonderful and worrisome bunch, aren't we? Yet, the fabulous far outweighs the frustrating. Sounds a lot like parenting, huh?

My world seems to be filtered through one primary lens: ministry. Ministry to other families and ministry to my own family. I confess, there are seasons I fear I do not do as well pouring into my own tribe of people. That plagues me a bit.

I interact with many moms and dads who are in the thick of parent-ing, spouse-ing and life-ing. They know both the weeds and the flowers of modern day family life. This life can be both messy and lovely. Throw a few kiddos in the mix and a beautiful bouquet of weeds and flowers is formed.

I see these parents with hopes and goals for their clans. My gosh, how divine and sacred it is to hear them dream of what could-be or reflect upon what-is.  Their eyes dance with wonder and awe while they talk of how their children are growing and maturing.

Then I see the dance collide with real life. 


Kid makes poor decisions.

Mom and dad regret their reactions.

Doors slam.

Feet stomp.

Tears are cried.

Silence fills the hallways of their home.


Mom begins to whisper “I’m doing the best I can.”

Dad tries to comfort.

Mom-Guilt feels stronger than her husband’s arms.


In those real-life moments, defeat feels like a beast, shaking a bony finger in the face of parents across the globe.


“See, I told you. You are a failure of a mom. You don't know what you are doing at all.”


While I have been in vocational kids ministry for 20 years, I have only been parenting for five and a half of those years. My tenure in parenthood is not long.

In these five short years I've embraced the moments of comforting, correcting, loving, snuggling, laughing, and guiding my kiddos in the weeds and the flowers of our family life.  Some days are glorious and other days are just gross. 

Christmas is a reminder to me that God sent Jesus to be in the messy and lovely parts of this life. It is a season of refreshment and of restoration. It’s a tender season of hope. It’s the season of Emmanuel, which means God with us.  

God with us. God with my family. God with my kids. God with my spouse. God with all of us.

This seasons restores my perspective and refreshes my joy.

Please allow this Kids Minister/Rookie Mom to offer a bit of hope this Christmas season in the midst of your weeds and flowers of parenting:  Sit near the twinkly lights of your tree, soak in the wonder and awe of this season and know that Emmanuel has come, God is with us.

Merry Christmas,



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Top 5 Things This Fat Girl Will Enjoy Most In Skinnyhood

5 things this fat girl will enjoy most in skinnyhood

So a few weeks ago my hubs and I began an adventure of Weight Watchers.  I wrote about it here. The first week was stellar. Between the two of us, we lost 20 pounds. I cried, I cheered, I seriously COULD NOT STOP SMILING during the entire meeting. What a grand feeling it was. 

Then Thanksgiving arrived. The turkey, the cranberry salad, the lumpy mashed potatoes, the bread, the sweets… but I digress.  We chose not to weigh-in that week. For obvious reasons. Those pilgrims knew how to throw a darn good tasty party.

We are mostly back on track (last night we went out with some co-workers for a Christmas dinner at our favorite uncle’s restaurant in Woodbridge… Uncle Julio makes the best salsa and chips, so of COURSE we had to partake… insert eyeroll).

So last night, after our Feliz Navidad Christmas Outing, I went home and created a list of the things I would enjoy the most when I arrive in my new neighborhood called, Healthyhood. (My list actually says Skinnyhood… but so many of you send me notes of “You don’t need to be skinny you need to be healthy” that I chose the softer phrase for fear of an email rebellion.)

If you are on a weight loss journey, perhaps these might make your list too. If so, we can be neighbors in our new hood… whether you call it skinny or healthy.

1. Flying on an airplane.

If you are a skinny, you don’t even know this dreaded scene.  I want to fit comfortably in an airplane seat, arm-rests down, no flopping over into the other seat and without a flight attendant running coming to my aid using their loud voice “Ma'am, would you like an extender?” I softly proclaim:  I would NOT like an extender, thank you very much, I’ll be just fine in my tourniquet over here.

During the entire flight I’m begging God for no turbulence, because the seatbelt is being held together only by a large inhaled breath and a prayer. If it should pop open, no way would it go back together. And my fear of loud-voiced-Lucy arriving to my aid in mid-flight, “Ma’am, let me get you that extender” would come true.

2. No Picture Taking Protruding Chin.

It will be lovely to not hold my chin high up in the air during a quick fun Instagram picture of a group outing.  In each photo I look like I’m staring at a skyscraper. The fear of the dreaded double or triple chin during pictures produces chin-pointing-problems in fat girls. It’s a real thing. Side Note: I always pick the tallest person to take the group photo… if they take the picture from high up, less chin protrusion is needed.

Also, no cropping will be a beautiful neighbor in my new hood. Because right now - cropping is a must... bust up only, please! 

3. Amusement Parks.

Similar to flying on a plane… but with no offering of an extender… just “Get off. You don’t fit.” I want to say the difference is that flight attendants are more adulty with their extender offerings than amusement parks teens who don’t understand how to accommodate awkward situations. However, the reality, fat people don’t fit on roller coasters. One day, I will fit on a roller coaster properly without having my insides squirting out between the tourniquet-type seatbelts. And my kids and I will squeal our heads off with happiness.

4. Hiking or Running a 5K.

I simply want to be able to go hiking or running with my family without the need of an oxygen tank strapped to my fat back.

5. Clothing Options.

Yes, I am aware that there are fat stores that sell fat girl clothes that don’t look AARPish.  However, I want to go into a store and shop in the section that doesn’t require me to go to an employee and whisper “Where is your Women’s Section?" As if I am not already standing in a section of women’s clothing… they all just happened to be size 2-10.  Really “Women’s Section” is code for “ Fat Girls' Area… where all the X’s live.”

The good news… these five things are so attainable. And with Weight Watchers, we are trying to get there day by day. The holidays were not the greatest time to start this journey because, well, holiday food is EVERYWHERE, lurking around every corner. Perhaps, though, this was the best time to begin.

On the way to the restroom there are WALLS of holiday breads and chocolates in the office break room. Those yummies are calling/squealing/cheering out and being so festive: “Seriously Susan, it’s Christmas, come partake!”

However, I want to enjoy my new digs in Skinnyhood more than I want those Yuletide Yummies! 

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Be an Arm-Linker and Not a Finger-Pointer

This is not right, I ordered NO cheese on this sandwich!

If they plant one more bush closer to our line of the yard I am going to call the HOA and complain!

That was MY parking place, lady!  I had my blinker on!

You just have NO IDEA how rude my co-worker is, I do not think I can live like this one more day! I am going to HR and complain.

Little moments throughout the day.  Irritants. Frustrations. Small annoyances we would classify as a common trending topic of First World Problems. We all experience them. Everyday. Moments that make us breathe deep and exhale long. My kids pick up on this and ask questions.

Instead of living in the frustration of how life has been unfair to me at that moment, I so want to teach my children to see each situation, each incident, each irritation as little moments given to us to infuse kindness & point people towards grace.

Order messed up? 

Difficult neighbors?

Irritating co-workers?

Parking place stolen?

With each of these situations, I have been given a moment in time to show my kids that we have no idea what the other person is going through. 

Is the cook going through a hard time in their family? How can we bless them during our perceived cheese-fiasco?

Instead of complaining about property rights with my neighbors, perhaps serving them in the midst of their anger would make a greater impact.

Figuring out a way to bless an irritating co-worker could change the story completely.

And the stolen parking place… seriously, we could all use a few more steps on our Fitbits.  Find another spot that doesn’t come with a dose of entitlement.

In weaving through the hard parts of our journey, I want to show my kids the importance of linking arms instead of pointing fingers.

Arm-Linking, grace and kindness equals a more empathetic, loving and decent humanity.

And we can all use a bit more decency and humanity these days. 

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I Am Fat And I Joined Weight Watchers (Again)

To type this makes my palms sweat and my stomach get butterflies.

I talked a big talk when I wrote Confessions Of A Fat Mom several months ago. So many of you (thousands actually) clicked on that link and head-nodded your way to understanding the layered and complilcated life of weight-loss. And I had SUCH high hopes for us, for me. You may be doing an epic job of moving more, eating less and holding tight. And if you are HOOORAY!

Turns out though for me, just TALKING about eating right and exercising didn't make the pounds come off. (Shocking) Apparently accountability and actually doing a real life-style change will bring about the results desired.

After many months and weeks of dismay, this week my man and I joined Weight Watchers (Again). 

Here's our story:

This week my husband and I both decided we have had enough. My college friend, Paula recently lost 50 pounds and I decided: FINE! FINE! FINE! I’LL ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING INSTEAD OF JUST TALKING ABOUT IT. (Clearly not said in frustration AT ALL)

Ed and I had one million and one things to do each evening this week, but I loaded our girls up, picked Ed up from the train station and I drove us over to the Weight Watchers store at Eagle Village.

As we arrived in the parking lot my voice became shaky, my hands sweaty and I became an excessive talker.

“Let me just drive by the door to see how many people are inside.” I said under my breath.

“Oh gosh, there are too many people in there, Ed. I can’t do this. At all. No way. What was I thinking?”

Then two little voices from the backseat spoke up, “Mom, you can do this. Don’t be afraid.”

“Yeah Mommy, don’t be scared. I believe in you.”

My eyes became leaky and I dared not to blink for fear they would spill over into an uncontrollable sob.

I stared at the steering wheel. Here I was again. At the end of another rope. Staring weight-issues square in the face. With my kids in the back seat observing it all.

“Come on honey, we can do this,” assured my amazing man.

I grabbed his hand, took a deep breath and the four of us went inside.

I normally seem like an extreme extrovert. However, as an only child, there is also a very real introvert that lives inside. And the moment I walked in the door of Weight Watchers the introvert in me came out and I went inside my shell like a turtle.

We were greeted by a lovely lady and told to go ahead and join the group and they would meet with all of the new members after it was complete.

I went to the very back row and I dared not make too much eye contact with people.

The meeting was fine. My girls and Ed really enjoyed it. I was too busy feeling self-conscious to really listen to what was being said. The noise of my insecurity was louder than the leader talking.

Ed looked at me and proclaimed with humble confidence, “These are good tools. We can do this, babe.”

My girls were in complete focus on the stories from all the men and women and they completely forgot they had screens in their hands. 

“Mama, you can do this! Jesus will be strong where you feel weak!”

And with that, we filled out the paperwork, stood on the horrible scales and walked into our first week of counting points. Which is actually not hard at all because there is an app that basically does it all for me on my phone. It’s genius.

Our kids are cheering us on, we are cheering each other on and we are determined to be healthier.

We are moving more, eating less, holding tight and counting points!

If anyone in the local area wants to join us on this journey, the Weight Watchers at Eagle Village is AWESOME! Come join us!

Ed and I will document our journey along the way. I tried to find a full length "before photo" to put up on this article, however, I could not find one. Then I realized, fat girls don’t take full body length photos. Ever. We are Stellar Croppers.

Susan before

In several months, I’m hoping to be able to post a full-length photo.  Wooooohoooooo! (said in a nervous, shaky, sweaty cheerleader type voice)

Who’s in?  Who wants to join our crusade to become healthier?

All those local or not local, we would love for you to become part of our tribe as we cheer each other on! 

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What is YOUR Most Embarrassing Story about Falling?

We heart October. I mean truly, love it. Our annual pilgrimage to Belvedere Farm is one of our favorites of the fall season.  And after weeks of waiting, today was the day I went to Belvedere with my daughter and her second grade class. Besides Snead’s Farm, this is one of our favorite Octobering-Adventures in the Fredericksburg area.  

After our wagon drive to the pumpkin patch, we picked our pumpkins, I smooched Dib and told her I was taking our freshly chosen pumpkins to the car and would meet her at the rope swing with her friends. As the other parents and I were walking to our vehicles, I tripped on a BOLDER (actually, more the size of a pebble) and fell flat on my face, with all my weight landing on my knee. My pumpkins went flying and I’m positive my hoodie did not remain securely around my waist.

Y'ALL, I am a big girl and that is a legit amount of weight on one knee.  I’m not sure if it was pain or embarrassment but I totally passed out and woke up with many people standing around me and an ambulance on the way.

Side Note: Christ Chapel Academy truly is one huge family whom I ADORE. They all swung into action, took care of my child and made sure my husband was called. They kept my daughter happy and she remained with her friends at the farm while I went to the ER for X-Rays.

Zero broken bones but a nicely swelled up knee greeted my husband as he got to the ER. I will elevate my leg for a couple of days and all will be fine.

But can I say to you something that is true: There is no graceful way to fall. And even tonight after the incident was over, I found hay still in my bra. Which proves, my arms and legs were all over the place while I tried to save myself from a definite splat to the ground. The ground won.

When you fall… everything is in slow motion.  And while you are falling you are thinking “OH MY WORD! I AM GOING DOWN and is my underwear showing?”

I am so thankful no video (that I know of) was made of me eating the dirt. If there were, my kids would already have it up on my son’s Instagram account. Because what’s funnier than Mom falling? Nothing.

This is possibly THE most random article I’ve ever written for Fredericksburg Parent. But I figured we need a little bit of humor in this crazy October in America.

And what is funnier than “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” stories? Nothing. Watching people fall makes you muffle the laughter because you want to feel empathy but truly, you just need to belly laugh for fear of exploding.

So tell me, what’s your best “I’ve fallen” story?  All of us parents could use a good belly laugh today!

Happy Fall!

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Pouches' Community Corner

Bikers Against Child Abuse, Inc. (BACA) exists to create a safer environment for abused children by empowering children to not feel afraid of their world. Imagine how an abused child feels when a group of large bikers rides up to their house, inducts them into their club and then escorts them to court to testify against their abuser.

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