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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

My FitBit and My Over Extended Arm Swing

On Mother’s Day my incredible teenager gifted me with a long-wanted Fitbit.  Joshua downloaded the app to my phone and set it up for me to begin my journey of counting steps.  Each day I tap my wrist with pure hopefulness and watch the numbers climb.

Last week my hubs and I went on a field trip with our fourth grader to Jamestown. Each Virginian knows this field trip well.  It’s a rite of passage for every elementary school kid in our Commonwealth.

The night prior to the bus leaving I was hopeful to get a maximum number of steps during our time in the land of John Smith and Pocahontas.

As we experienced the colony, the ships, the colonial people, I discovered something: I have developed an Over-Achieving-Arm-Swing. (OAAS)

Throughout all of Jamestown and Yorktown I produced an over-extended arm swing with an obnoxious full range of motion. And due to the OAAS I refused to miss one swing, errrr, I mean step throughout my time with these very active fourth graders.

As we strolled by the canons and colonial dwellings, my sweet hubs would swoop in to hold my hand. You would think I would be completely giddy for a full day of hubby-hand-holding. But if Ed at all grabbed my FitBit arm, I immediately moved to his other side to insure the steps were actually counted on my stepping device. Which actually was a win-win-win. I was able to hold his hand, get my swing in, and gain a few extra swings since I did the quick step to his other side.

Later that evening we arrived home from the field trip and my first grader asked for a walk to the playground.  Of course! On. It. My. Cherub.

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As we walked, she insisted on holding my FitBit arm. I pondered the situation and her need for connectedness as well as my need to keep her on the safe side of the road. I then began to swing our arms super high, as if playing some weird let's-see-if-we-can-touch-the-sky-game.

She bought it and in a few steps my arm buzzed with fireworks from the 10,000-step-delight. The OAAS was worth it!

So, all you FitBit Over-Achieving-Arm-Swingers Unite!

Onward to more steps & opposite hand-holds of our hubs and kids!

Win-Win-Win!

 

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My Disgusting Mom Mobile

Each year our Kid and Student Ministry Teams from Mount Ararat Church in Stafford take our annual pilgrimage to Atlanta for a Family Ministry Conference.

This year our voyage, with 16 fellow colleagues, was scheduled to depart at the end of April. I did what all wise girls do when they are about to take on three days of exceptional learning. 

I had my toes done (sandal weather in the ATL) and my eyebrows waxed (because every girl needs good eyebrows to take on a conference).

The day before we left I discovered I would be one of the drivers to help transport 16 adults to the airport.

I immediately became flushed, my heart began to beat wildly and panic nestled into my nerves. MY MAMA-MOBILE IS DISGUSTING.

mom mobile

I immediately drove to the nearest car-wash spot. I only had an hour in my time-belt before I needed to pick up my kids from school.  Isn’t that always the way it goes?

This was not looking good.  

As I entered the car-wash line, a young-twenty-something-bearded-boy motioned me towards the starting point. His eyes peering over his sunglasses told me he had seen my type before.

I didn’t care. I had a mission to accomplish.

Before I came to a complete stop and while my window was still lowering, I began (all in one breath): "Hey there. Listen, I have somewhat of a personal emergency. I am a mom. This is a mini-van. It houses five plus people every day (plus my kids' friends). It is gross. The cup holders look like a science experiment is happening inside, the carpet on the floor clearly is summoning Hansel and Gretel, the dashboard has the remnants of sneezes, pollen and dust and under the littlest Wanderer's car seat I think I heard the rustling of a small animal that has now become our unofficial pet."

I looked deep into the sunglass eyes of the young-twenty-something-bearded-boy and begged for complete mercy: "I need your great assistance to transform this thing into a houseable-mobile for adults to travel to an airport tomorrow morning. And, if possible, I need it done in an hour so I can go pick my kids up from school. I’m not too proud to grovel and beg."

The young-twenty-something-bearded-boy stared at me, blinking and speechless: "Ummmm, ma’am, lemme go talk to my manager."

"Would it help for me to plead my own case? I can. I will. Just give me the nod."

"No, I got it, ma'am." (he says it slowly as if to convince himself this is real life)

Five minutes later, I found myself next door at Stabucks, beverage in hand, answering emails and waiting on the AMAZING CAR WASH PEOPLE to work some serious magic and whip that mom-mobile into shape.

I arrived back to the car wash one hour later, fully refreshed from my St. Bux Chai.

When I stepped one foot into my newly renovated Mom-Mobile, I thought I’d arrived into pure luxury.

It was so beautiful! I wanted to make that lovely Sienna my permanent dwelling. The clean car aroma was sensational. No more sour small, no more crunched up pretzels on the floor, no more sneezes on the dashboard. Pure. Luxury.

I decided I immediately would contact the post office for a residence change card. I am moving from my home to the blissfulness of wherever that little Black Sienna is parked.

Disgusting-Mom-Mobile-Owners, there is hope for us!

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Confessions of a Fat Mom

I had such high hopes. I truly thought If I could just lose the weight I would be a better mom, better wife, better employee, better daughter, better in law, better adventurer, better roller coaster rider, better lover, better booth-sitter, better hiker, better yoga-pant-wearer, better Loft-dresser, better everything…

And once I had lost my weight, I would have arrived.  And then food, exercise and weight would no longer be an issue and I would move onto the next shortcoming and stronghold.

I dreamed of waking up in the mornings and not thinking about how fat I felt.  I obsessed over not obsessing about wise eating. 

I lost close to 70 pounds. Through diet, exercise and an incredible trainer, my butt was sufficiently kicked, my actions held accountable and the weight came off. My local trainer and friend, Clarence Stokes showed more compassion, patience and kindness to me than I deserved.  

For 12 months the weight-loss journey was a glorious gift. I look back at the pictures from a year ago and I was so excited for the first time in my adult life to be a part of the Summer Season. It felt as if I had received a special membership card only given to healthy people and I was allowed in every pool and amusement park without a shame placard around my neck.

Then menopause arrived early. And my body revolted. The hormonal rollercoaster of life allowed for over half of those pounds to arrive back on my already over-weight hips. With each pound came guilt, shame and tears. I can blame half the weight gain on hormones and my body acting like a rebellious-middle-aged-woman throwing a temper tantrum. But the other half, that is just me allowing poor choices to overtake. Admitting that last part makes my soul hurt.

So here I sit at the beginning of the new Summer Season.

Today I S Q U E E Z E D myself into last years’ little gem of a swimsuit and stared in the mirror at how differently it looked. As my daughters knocked on the bathroom door with anticipation for the first day of pool season, I bit my lip, pushed back the hot tears and went off into the sun with my kids as they blissfully kissed summer hello.

The cycle of weight loss and weight gain is complex. The ones of you that do not know this journey do not understand its burden. 

Most people (who I affectionately call ‘Skinnies’) think: Seriously, just stop eating, start exercising, do something about your current circumstance.

And while yes, the simplicity of that seems obvious, weight-loss is a bit more tangled than that. It’s a stronghold.  It holds your heart and your thoughts stronger than you ever anticipated. 

My current goal is small, but attainable: More Move. Less Food. Hold Tight.

It’s not about being skinny or even 70 pounds lighter.  Its about not being consumed. A fat person’s thoughts are normally dwelling on one phrase: I am so fat.

We wake up thinking it, ponder it throughout the day and go to bed beating ourselves up over it.

For each person, More Move, Less Food, Hold Tight may look differently.

But this is what I want it to look like for me. 

  1. Move each day for 30-45 minutes.
  2. Eat Less. (Less poor choices and more wise choices; think more protein and veggies)
  3. I’ve grabbed a few key scriptures to hold tight to during times of difficulty that will help my mind and heart stay on course.

And Today! Today, I CAN attain that. Then I will celebrate that success like a crazy woman.

I will wildly dance around my living room, sing way too loud and squeal with delight over one day of More Move, Less Food, Hold Tight!

Then I’ll get up and try it again tomorrow.

Taking it 24 hours at a time makes the guilt not heap up so high. It makes the shame not so overwhelming. It makes the tears not choke me. 

Twenty-four hours gives me an ending point to my day and the ability to celebrate a win like a wild woman. 

Over-weight Moms, we can do this. We can prove to ourselves that One-Day is attainable. And if one day is attainable, then two days might be doable as well.

So, let’s do this.  We can move more… eat less food… and place our thoughts on better things.

Let’s encourage each other and be community for each other to make wins possible each day.

 I am flapping my mom-wings over here and going hoarse in cheering all of us on to victory!

Let’s unite and become healthy Moms, healthy wives, healthy employees, healthy friends…

I’m cheering you on!

#moremovelessfoodholdtight

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The Wanderer-Women Camp List!

Hey all you spunky mamas who are ready for summer!  After my post last week, several of you messaged me and said “Hey! I want your list of your top-camp-experiences!”

So, after five summers of fun around the greater Fredericksburg/Stafford/Prince William Area, here are my personal favs! We haven’t necessarily participated every year, but we did dip our toe in their goodness at least once and each experience was completely delightful!

Here they are, The Top Six Wanderer-Women-Approved Camps:

  • Winshape Summer Camp (http://camps.winshape.org/camps-for-communities/)  WinShape Camp provides a professionally trained staff to help create the most meaningful, unforgettable and fun-filled day camp experience you’ll find anywhere. With 21 track times (archery, basketball, cheerleading, crafts, dance, fast food, flag football, girl world, gymnastics, journalism, lacrosse, man land, musical theater, painting, secret ops, sewing, soccer, construction, wacky science, yard games) my girls talked about going back to Winshape for the entire school year!  It is an unforgettable, must-do day camp experience! (Grades 1-5, partial and full scholarships available)

 

  • Dr. Yum’s Cooking Camp (http://www.doctoryum.org/kids-cooking-class/)  The kitchen design alone is worth the price of admission. You feel as if you have walked onto the set of an HGTV show. Dr. Yum provides kids with a cooking and tasting class that focuses on a healthy, plant-based diet. Class begins with tasting different types of plant foods and learning about their different health benefits. Students will then prepare one or two dishes while learning basic cooking skills. Mom or dad arrives at the end of the day to taste their new homemade creations! Added bonus: kitchen-clean-up is done by the kids! (Ages 7-12)

 

  • Christ Chapel Academy Day Camp (http://christchapelacademy.org/my-cca/summer-camp/) Each kiddo participates in a wide variety of activities including swimming, a field trip to coordinate with their week’s theme  and plenty of outdoor play and activity! The staff is fantastic and my girls left this day camp blissfully happy and eager to go back the next day! (Completed K\kindergarten through completed Grade 8)

 

  • Summer Adventure Camp (http://www.mtararat.org/get-involved/kids/events) This camp is for your younger kiddos.  When my daughter was younger, she ADORED being able to go to a camp like her big sister! This camp offers two separate weeks of fun:  June 27- July1 & August 8-12. Choose one week or both weeks…whatever works for your schedule!  Camp is from 9am to 2pm each day. It’s a fantastic week of fun and exciting age-appropriate activities. It’s a must-do for your younger kiddos! (Ages 3 through kindergarten)

 

  • CYT, Christian Youth Theater (http://www.cytfredericksburg.org/camps/) CYT Musical Theater Summer Camp is one of the most affordable quality musical theatre camps in Northern Virginia. There are camps offered throughout Spotsy/Fredericksburg/Stafford. In the morning, campers rotate to a variety of theater classes including dance, drama & voice taught by qualified instructors. After lunch, summer campers play exciting games before they come together for showcase rehearsal. All campers perform in the musical theater showcase at the end of the week, featuring a variety of songs, dances and drama.  This experience is so much fun for my kids! (Ages 4-18, camps are broken down by ages; check the website for the camp that best fits your child’s age range)

 

  • Gymnastics Camp at Stafford Gymnastics and Recreation Center in Falmouth (http://www.staffordparks.com/index.aspx?nid=117) The level of excitement my girls had during this camp surprised me! They adored every single second of it! They loved their coaches, their friends they made and they truly learned so much about gmnastics in five days.  The days are structured with gymnastics instruction in a fun age-appropriate environment. My girls left feeling confident and excited to experience more!

There it is, parents, our list! 

I hope you are able to find something great for your child to experience this summer!

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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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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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