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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

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!


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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 (  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 (  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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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.


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



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


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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