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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 www.susanwanderer.com 

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My Stomping Grounds

Michelle Obama Provides A Parenting Plan

It’s politics season! Although, we live in a suburb of DC, so is it ever non-politics season around here? 

The National Two Party Conventions played out on TVs across the land these last two weeks. And as all good Washingtonians/NOVA-ians I have had the chatter of the RNC and DNC in the background as I go about my evening activities.

I have not completely paid full focused attention on either of the shows conventions. But I have given just enough attention to them to be able to have a sensible conversation around the water cooler.

Then, on Monday night I heard the cheers as Michele Obama took the stage. Not unusual, the FLOTUS usually brings a roaring crowd, especially at the DNC.

 

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But all politics aside, she looked stunning. And that dress, bless that beautiful blue.

Her words caused me to lean in towards my laptop to hear more. I found myself nodding at a few statements.

Then she proclaimed, with full confidence: Our motto is: When they go low, we go high.

 

I stood up and applauded at my dining room table like a baker who had just heard the secret ingredient to Grandma’s homemade fudge!

No matter your political view or if you even agree or disagree with the other 99% of what she said in her speech, that sentence right there: Gold.

And as a mom trying to parent three kids who are watching adults on both sides of the aisle act like kids in a school yard, I want my Wanderer Kids to know Team Wanderer needs to choose high when other people go low.

Because plenty of people, political candidates, kids at recess, bullies, and friends will go low in their lifetime. And as their mom, I need to teach them what it means to choose high. (And I need to practice that myself).

Let’s try these options:

  1. Honor Others. Even when people make you want to roll your eyes to the top of your brows.
  2. Be Quick To Listen, Slow to Speak and Slow to Become Angry. Listen more, speak less, control the temper.
  3. Be Kind. Let’s figure out a way to stand strong for our convictions in a way that allows kindness to flow from our actions and words. Kindness moves the heart towards a greater understanding and peace.

This is not a Democrat-Thing or a Republican-Thing. This is a Human-Being-Thing. We need to show our children we will not stoop to the name-calling, bullying or irrational behavior when others are behaving that way. We will rise up higher than that.

If families took this motto to heart: When they go low, we go high… this upcoming generation would live in a different world.

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5 Things We've Learned In 5 Years As a Transracial Family

Five years ago my husband and I adopted three kids from Ethiopia and we became a transracial family. They make our family such fun. Our kids have been blessed with hilarious, dramatic, joke-telling, wisdom-beyond-their-years, dancing, sassy, athletic, storytelling, musical genes. They make life better and fuller.

Wanderer family

In the five short years we’ve been a transracial family we have discovered many things. This list is not everything. It’s just a taste. If you are a transracial family, your list may look different, or you may add a few things. We would too… but for sake of an article, I listed the few that come to my mind.

1. People will stare.

In the first few months of being home we began adjustment to life as a family of five, with two languages being spoken and a little bit of chaos. Adding to that new-normal were the stares from a very captive audience as we walked through malls, in parks or enjoying a meal out as a family.

We discovered two different types of people who would stare:

Disapproving People – These folks do not approve that two cultures reside within one family. They strive to make direct eye contact with Dad, Mom and kids and shake their heads at the same time. They want to make sure you are fully aware of their disapproval. All I can say to that kind of bitterness: Bless your heart.

Curious People – We found that most people stare at our family simply out of curiosity about a white man, a white woman and three black kids. They want the back story. Are we a family? Are we babysitting? What’s our deal? At first it felt invasive. And some days, it still does.  Boundaries are a good thing. We know as a family the questions we are willing to answer. We also know the ones that are off limits. I want to use these interactions with the Curious-Stare-ers as an opportunity to educate not humiliate. I don't want to make someone feel small for being curious.  The education goes SO FAR in bringing understanding to families that look like ours. And when other families are educated, they will then educate their kids and that can result in clarity, understanding and unity. And better education of the next generation results in change.

2. If you don't know, ask for help.

As a white mom, I didn’t know there were so many things I didn’t know. (still don’t) My first week home with my kids I went to Target and stood in the hair product aisle and stared at hair products for my girls and had no clue what to purchase. I went two aisles over, found this lovely woman with amazing hair and looked at her and simply said “I need help.” She turned and looked at me, looked at my kids, grabbed my hand and said “Come with me.” She spent 30 minutes going through hair care, explanations, the what to do and what not to do. I cried thankful tears, she talked. It was glorious.

Ask questions. Seek Advice. Seek understanding of a new culture.

Grace and Kindness go a long way.

3. Diversity matters. 

School - We made a decision as a family that it matters if our kids go to a diverse school. We want them to experience friendships with people of color as well as white people. We want them to be around children who look like they do. When a child feels like a majority and not a minority, it matters.

Church - It matters to us that we worship at a church that is diverse and has both white families and families of color worshipping. It matters that they see people in leadership that look like they do. This helps my kids believe they can grow to be leaders within the global Church. It teaches them that they belong.

Community - It matters that we create friendships with people of color and we experience authentic community within culture.  This allows genuine dialogue to happen and it gives us the ability to widen the circle of influence around our children.

4. Racism exists. Talk about it. 

We first began to talk with our kids about race in a very natural way when they came home from school talking about Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and other heroes of the civil rights movement.  It is imperative to speak about race. The most recent events within our country have invited additional dialogue about race relations. It can be hard and awkward and frustrating. But that’s okay to sit inside the hard and talk it through.  Being silent on the topic of racism is passive and wrong. If we don’t speak, this generation will never know how to respond. I don’t always give the right answers to my kids. That’s where my own education comes in and I must seek to learn from others in order to guide my children well in discussions about race-relations and racism.

5. Grace and Kindness go a long way.

At the end of the day, grace and kindness go a long way. Mama-exhaustion comes, disapproving glances burn, racism talks sting, and the 400th question of “What happened to their REAL parents?” is asked.  Sometimes, instead of an explosion, perhaps a small sigh and some grace and kindness will go a long way. I'm not always great at this. Especially in moments of tiredness. Yet, I was taught in the scriptures that kindness leads to repentance. Not anger. Not revenge. But kindness. Anger produces anger. Revenge invites destruction. Yet kindness can prick the heart in a different way. It has the ability to soften the disapproval and produce peace.

Kindness mixed with education and authentic community gives us the ability to have hard conversations and sit in awkward moments. And this allows us to begin to understand families that are made of up many cultures and colors. 

I encourage you, parents, find families that look different than your family and start conversations. Learn, Grow, Listen, Educate and Seek to Understand.  

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Counseling Is A Gift

I love Thursday mornings during the school year. It's the day after our evening counseling sessions on Wednesday nights. This past school year Ed and I decided we needed to gain a little wisdom as we navigated the ebbs and flows of marriage, parenting, working full-time, teenagers, elementary kiddos and ministry. We jumped full force into a counseling adventure.

We experienced  a bit of refreshment for our weary souls. We woke up on Thursdays with fresh perspective and tools in our tool-belt to help us invest in this very important relationship of family.

And at 7:00AM on Thursday mornings we had AMPLE opportunity to test out what we learned from our counselor the night prior. One particular Thursday we were greeted by a few grumpy cherubs as they arose from their slumber. They did not desire for the sun to greet them this early. The rays of sunshine were complete irritations for their little souls.

I adored winking at my hubs, as if to say "I-GOT-THIS" and tried out a few of the techniques we had learned the previous evening.

Our dawning of the day was actually a smooth, wink-filled morning. 

"MOM! She just...."

"MOM! I forgot..."

"MOM! Can you...?"

Check, check, check... the peace was kept, nurture was given and most importantly: Mama and Daddy didn't lose their junk!

Mamas, counseling is WHERE. IT'S. AT!

It has given us a third party to help speak truth and life into our family. And my gosh, we need strategic people in our lives to help nurture our marriages, raise these little people and impact this world for good.

Counseling helps spur us on towards love and good deeds. The new perspective, truth and tools in our tool belts that counseling brings are well worth the effort, time and co-pay.

Helpful information and truth in this journey is precious and valuable as we help navigate these little hearts in this journey of life.

rope heart

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A Mama's Summer Mantra: WE WILL LIKE EACH OTHER!

In the middle of the beautiful moments of mama-hood, there are also hard, remarkably frustrating, scratch-your-head seasons of WHAT IS GOING ON?

When you have younger kids it may look like those lovely little temper tantrums in the middle of a public setting where passersby stare and shake their heads while whispering under their breath about how differently they would be handling the situation.

And the exhale of every mama to the passerby: Whatever man.  

For our elementary school-aged kids it may take on the picture of playground turbulence among seven year olds. Clearly your little cherub is the one without any offense in the drama of the day because Mama-I-Neeeever-Would-Do-Something-Like-That!

Riiiiighhht, kid. (eye-wink)

And our teenagers. Bless them. They honestly are truly so much fun at this stage. But they also know so very much. About everything. In all of life. (Insert a Mama-Eye-Roll). 

Who cares that we have lived a good two decades longer? Our precious teens clearly know way more.

It’s hard for a mama to stay sane during all the phases of the WHAT IS GOING ON drama? (head scratch)

I recognize I am called to fight for the hearts of my kids for 365 days a year, even when I am at my weariest. And as my counselor reminded me: During hard moments of parenting, sarcastic parenting is not always the most helpful parenting.

Drat. I am stellar at SSL. (Sarcasm as my Second Language)

During these seasons, I want to build a mantra around our home and remind all members of Team Wanderer that: Our family is going to fight hard for one another even when we don’t want to.

I want them to experience:

We will cheer for each other. Even when we may not believe they will win.

We we comfort each other. Even when it feels awkward.

We will stay up late for each other. Even when we are tired.

We will pray for each other. Even when we ourselves are experiencing silence. 

We will listen to each other. Even when we would prefer to speak.

We will share our highs and our lows and believe in each other.

We will like each other even when we don't.

If the generation cominng after our kids (their own children) is going to be a generation of sharers, carers, lovers, listeners and prayers, then we have to do the hard work now and and pour in those things. Even when mamas, daddies and siblings don’t feel like it.  

Because mamas, let’s be honest, there are days when we Just. Don’t. Feel. Like. It.

Summer is here and a lot of WHAT IS GOING ON? is coming for my lips.

I’m trying to develop this mantra:

We are going to fight for each other's hearts even when it's hard. We are going to laugh at each other's jokes even when they are not one bit funny. And we will go hoarse cheering each other on, even if we are coming in dead last. Because family. And family is hard and awesome and painful and beautiful. Family is worth all the mess and fun and all the feels.

And after five years it still chokes me up into an ugly-cry to hear these three humans, who were born to another woman, call me mom.

So, parents, here's to 365 days of fighting hard for the hearts of our families.

We can do it! I'm cheering us on! 

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Confessions of a Fat Mom FAQs!

Women, you amaze me. The depth of your hearts is astonishing.  After my first Confessions Of A Fat Mom post, you showed up BIG time with your personal stories and genuine estrogen-filed encouragement.  If I could reach inside the internet, grab all of your hands and sing a long chorus of We Are Family, I would. You ladies are a gift.

And then I ran into gals in restaurants and stores and and we stopped to hug in the middle of produce sections. My goodness. We hardly said any words at all except a big never-let-go embrace and mutterings of, “Your article” with repeat hugs and an “I know."

Passersby thought we were old friends reunited after much time apart. Nope, total strangers with a common bond connecting our hearts: the desire to be UNCONSUMED.

Sisters, we can do this! We can be warriors in our health and experience victory!

Many of you had questions… and requests for more Confessions of a Fat Mom Posts. 

 

While I work on few new posts, here are some FAQs from you ladies:

Q Is there a group we can join to motivate, inspire, cheer and laugh together?

 

A Technically no. But organically, yes. In our posts on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter that talk about our decisions to move more, eat less food and hold tight with our thoughts, we can use the hashtag: #moremovelessfoodholdtight  That will help us stay connected organically. If you use this hashtag, I may use your posts in upcoming articles.  I will message you to ask permission before using.

 

Q May I have contact information on the Personal Trainer you used?

 

A His name is Clarence Stokes and HE IS AMAZING! Truly, the best of the best.  Here is his Facebook Page: Get Stoked By Clarence

 

Q How do you keep your mind from being consumed with failure?

 

A That’s hard, isn’t it?  It’s the secret to this entire battle. Mind, Diet and Body success revolves around our minds not being consumed. I personally read scriptures (and plaster them everywhere) about freedom. It helps keep me focused on the goal.  The goal is so much greater than simply being thinner. The goal is freedom and health.

We can do this, sister-friends! Until my next Confessions Of A Fat Mom Post, I will be waving my woman-wings and cheering you on to FREEDOM!

Today… we CAN move more, eat less and hold tight to our thoughts! 

Go to social media and tell me what you are going to do today! #moremovelessfoodholdtight

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Pouches' Community Corner

Pouches is ready to kayak on the beautiful Rappahannock River. She’s also ready to learn more about how she can protect the river’s health using the Friends of the Rappahannock new River Report Card, sponsored by a surprise grant from the Community Foundation of the Rappahannock River Region (CFRRR).

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