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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 

MWH blog april



My Stomping Grounds

New Experiences Birth New Passions In Our Kids!

Last weekend my son was in a musical at school. 

High school musicals are just the most fun! The teenagers, the songs, the costumes, the microphone issues, the energy, the camaraderie, the after-school practices, the costume fixes with hot glue guns, the frantic parents, the giving out of roses… the excitement alone is why three entire movies are named after this phenomenon.

High school theater reminds me why I like college basketball more than the pros. The NBA Playoffs are fun, but the passion of March Madness and Cinderella stories are where-its-at.

A real Broadway experience is amazing, but there is nothing like the scrappiness of a high school play.

These kids and their parents are all-in and dedicated.

Our family is no exception. Team Wanderer has heard the songs of Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat for three straight months all throughout the rooms of our home. We have sung them down the corridors of 95 and danced to them in the kitchen while preparing lunches.

High school theater is a family project.  By the time the curtain was called on Friday night, all five Wanderers knew every line and every note.  The success of this play felt like a team effort. Even though four of us were snug in our chairs during the performance.

When my son’s toe stepped on stage and the first note come from his lungs my eyes burst forth with tears, his sisters found new amazement in their brother and my hubs kept saying “Wow, look at him!” When the show came to a close and the final actors were bowing, Team Wanderer was wooo-hoooing like little maniacs.

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If there is ever a wonder why a child should participate in an extra-curricular activity, here is my personal-opinion-list:

  1. EXCITEMENT! Kids occasionally need to be a part of something bigger than themselves. An experience that requires a stretch beyond their comfort zone.
  2. TOGETHER! Kids need to experience that life is lived better together with other people and not solo.
  3. COMMITMENT! The importance of seeing something through to completion is lived out.
  4. BE BRAVE! New found courage and bravery are discovered in the hearts of our kids.
  5. FUN! Having fun while participating in something great allows the commitment to be exciting, new-found relationships to be built, and confidence to be birthed.
  6. PROBLEM-SOLVER! Sometimes things don’t go our way during an event or experience.  We receive the gift of guiding our kids to learn how to critically think and be problem solvers to aid in a solution.
  7. CHEER SECTION! Siblings learn to cheer each other on. (even while possibly watching on through potential green lenses)

I’m not saying go overboard and over-schedule our kids every night of the week. Yet, one night to build friendships, have fun and flex some courage-muscles is great!

Summer is coming up… lots of opportunities to try some short term excitement.

Extra-curricular doesn’t always have to be mean: semester long. That’s the fun of summer!

Here are a few exciting one-week-choices Team Wanderer has signed up for in the past few summers to help discover some new found talents and birth some new dreams in the hearts of my Wanderer-Women:

  • CYT (Christian Youth Theater in Fredericksburg and Stafford) –one week Summer Camps throughout the Summer and my girls JUMP at the chance to participate! One summer we had the Wanderer-Women giggling and learning lines for Aladdin and 101 Dalmatians during their week of camp. And on Friday, the Wanderer-Men arrived to cheer them on!
  • Dr. Yum’s Cooking Camp (Fredericksburg) – who knew my girls had such talent in the kitchen for healthy cooking and eating? Dr. Yum birthed a new passion in them!
  • WinShape Summer Camp (Stafford) – Chick-Fil-A brings to life an INCREDIBLE camp with 21 track time options (sports, science, dancing, cooking, archery). My girls try new adventures! I get to come watch and cheer them on during Chick-Fil-A-Friday-Family-Fun-Day!

While I ADORE pool time, beach time and non-scheduled time during the lazy days of summer, I also discovered my children can experience new adventures, build new friendships and discover great new talents they didn’t know they had.

Summer is coming, parents! Let’s use just a couple of those weeks to help bring a new experience to life!

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The Cure for Monday-Morning-Mayhem

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Every week, as Monday morning dawned, I found that the early hours were providing my tribe (primarily my two youngest) a less-than-stellar experience. We were waking up disheveled, confused, unaware of how to focus or conquer regular activities of daily living. 

 

My Mom-Voice was taking on new volumes and tones.  My eyebrows were seeming to meet my hairline.  My index finger was doing entirely too much pointing at 6:30AM.

 

Each Sunday night the butterflies arrived and the dread of Monday-Morning-Mania was upon me.

 

A few weeks ago, I stomped my foot on Monday-Eve: NO! Not tomorrow! Not in my house ANYMORE!

 

Mondays, you try to trip us up each week.  You try and break us with your crankiness, exhaustion and “WHERE ARE MY UNIFORM PANTS?” moments. Your goal: render the rest of the week completely and utterly useless. But, not this time!  We Wanderer-Women are slowly learning your strategy.  We are keeping up with your moves.

 

After five years of being discombobulated on the dawn of each Monday, we have learned your secret: Sunday Night.

 

As the sun began to set on Sunday and we waved goodbye to our weekend, each Wanderer-Woman packed her back pack, finished her homework, laid out her uniform and even got to bed on time.

 

As the sun rose, you attempted to party with your Monday-Morning-Mayhem. 

 

And. We. Attacked.

 

I know where my uniform pants are!

My backpack folder is ready and Mom has already signed it!

My lunchbox is packed!

I am not even tired-cranky because I got my sleep!

 

My gosh, the youngest Wanderer even had a spare moment to log some reading hours.

 

Monday, we have your number.  The Wanderer-Women were all over conquering your crazy. 

 

At least for this week… 

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Mama's Kitchen Is Closed

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Last Tuesday I received a diagnosis of strep and double ear infection because apparently all moms in their 40’s have the immune system of a 6-year-old.

On Thursday I helped my teenager pack his luggage for his first overseas mission trip.

On Friday I hugged my teenager tight and put him on an airplane with 13 other people.

On Saturday I had a birthday party for my newly crowned eleven-year-old and her school friends. (All while reminding my seven-year-old that her birthday turn will arrive next month).

And on Sunday after church our extended family of eleven took our birthday girl to Spotsy Towne Center and celebrated her at the yumminesss of Bravo.

 

By Sunday evening, I was passed out on the couch, barely awake and officially declared that any and all Mama-jobs were done for the day.

 

So, you can imagine my surprise when my girls came flying in from bouncing on the trampoline and expected more from me.  They began to question what was going to be for dinner.  Who did they think I was?  Rachel Ray?

 

I am done little loves.  Mama’s kitchen and her brain are closed.

 

The conversation went something like this:

"Mom, what’s for dinner?"

"Ummmm, well, we ate a late lunch which was technically NEAR the hours we call dinner.  So, go get yourself a banana."

 

After blank confused stares, they emerged from the kitchen with bananas, chips and salsa. 

 

That felt like a well-balanced meal and I didn’t have to raise a pot, pan, spatula,or condiment.

 

Well played girls.

 

Next up: "Go bathe, lay your clothes out for tomorrow, get your backpacks ready and I’ll meet you on the couch for an episode of something." (all said while not leaving my comfy sofa-spot).

 

Cheers heard all around.

 

You may call this lazy. I call it Strategic-Sunday-Night-Parenting.

 

Monday morning arrived and I felt more refreshed; ready to accomplish great things! The kitchen reopened and a hot breakfast was prepared, lunches were made, humming came from my lips and dancing from my hips as I flittered around the kitchen.

 

Mama, give your kids the fantastic opportunity to show off their responsibility-muscles. Every now and then, you need to close your kitchen and your brain without the weight of any guilt.

Onward, sisters!

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Chronicle Of A Hot-Mess-Mama with Exhausted Kids At Bedtime

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Let's talk about bedtime.

That little hour of the day, that falls in our family between 7:00-8:00.

Every night.

One hour.  That's all.  But it's one hour that can turn our glorious dancing into disaster. 

Some nights are awesome and I want to squeal "Bless the Lord, Oh my soul!"

However, other nights... other nights I am convinced I am the only mother alive who is in great need of a white jacket and an institution.

One hour earlier I was B.E.G.G.I.N.G. my sweet little cherubs to drink their milk at dinner.  Sixty minutes later, they are camels.

"Mom, can I puh-lease have my 13th sip of water? I'm going to die! Do you NOT CARE THAT MY THROAT HURTS?"

No. Truly, NO. I just do not care. I care that I have been awake since 5:00AM and once I hear that little snore come from your lungs, I am going to sit down, pour a warm cup of tea and go to my happy Hulu-Land. 

And two books a night is clearly a case for calling CPS on me because "My friend Jane's mom reads her THREE books a night.  THREE, MOM."

Well, good for Jane's Mom.

My youngest daughter’s current delay-tactic: theology questions. Um, no. You do not get to pull "Church-Staff-Kid" card and ask me an ecclesiology question in hopes that it will earn you 20 more minutes of awake-time.  I finally catch on to this array of questioning and I just proclaim (as any sane woman does) "NO MORE! No more Jesus questions... No more God questions... No more Bible questions... JUST. GO. TO. SLEEP."

Then, every ache and ailment comes to life:

My tummy hurts

My legs are itchy

My throat is dry

My arm is falling asleep

I forgot to put my hair in a ponytail! I'll get knots!

It gets so intense that I wonder if my girls pediatrician needs to be changed to a geriatric doctor. 

Don't send me hate-mail... I absolutely positively adore my children more than my next breath.  I totally am aware that this time is flying by and I will completely miss these nights.  But I also know, I miss my sanity! I lose all rational mama-thinking between 7-8 and become like a robot:

Brush your teeth.

Go to the bathroom.

Drink a sip of water.

Get in bed.

Get under the covers.

Close your eyes.

Stop talking. 

Kiss. Kiss. Hug. Hug. Snuggle. Snuggle.

 

Then... just as the crazy is finally wearing off and my girls give-way to much needed sleep...

I stand in their dark bedroom, stare at their beautiful sleeping faces, do a quiet Whip-and-Nae-Nae and think:

We did it, girls.

We survived one more night.

You are the greatest kids on this planet.

Your sleep is restoring and reenergizing your little bodies so we can embrace a great day of life all over again tomorrow.

 

And I am reminded: I absolutely, postively adore and love being their mom.

 

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Parents, We Are Dipping Our Toes in Uncharted Territory

Parenting can be complex. Who knew a pint-sized child or an acne-prone teenager could induce such a wide range of emotions from parental units?

Not to mention… we are the first generation of adults to dip our toes into several parenting arenas:

  • Smart Phones
  • Social Media
  • Online Safety
  • Constant Connectedness
  • Online Pornography
  • Online Predators
  • Sexting

As a Kids Minister, my door has families enter often who are desperate to know how to navigate this digital, highly sexualized, constantly connected generation. I sometimes am able only to offer a listening ear as we seek to navigate this virtual world together, creating a plan as we journey along. 

The above list doesn’t even mention all of the “normal” parenting challenges or victories: friendships, extracurricular activities, puberty, education, cultural challenges, etc…

But here is my top recommendation: Don’t Do This Alone!

Parenting is hard and we need a village: A group of people that will sit knee to knee with us and help us pour wisdom and support into one another and into these tender topics and issues.

My husband and I have a small group of folks from ourcChurch who we do life with each week.  We meet on Tuesday nights. The kids load up in the basement of someone’s home and play until sweat is dripping from their faces. The adults are cozied upstairs sipping coffee, munching on desserts, and chatting about life.

When someone has a heartache, another family who has Been-There-Done-That is able to swoop in and offer advice or at least a listening ear. It is helpful to know we aren’t on an island trying to solve this parenting puzzle alone.

A circled-up-group-of-adults helps to lessen the anxiety, provide (sometimes comic) relief to hear other similar parenting stories and give much needed support in this crazy-busy-life.

Our small group also offers our kids two very important essentials:

  1. A group of kids to play and interact with each week, who grow and change together as their seasons of life grow and change.
  2. A group of adults that will pour into the life of our kids. A greater impact is leveraged when other adults that we trust invest in the life of our child.

Win. Win.

I encourage you… especially if you are in a hard season of parenting, to find a village. We are all better together. Go find your people… and circle up! 

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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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