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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

Creating a Circle of Influence


We mamas adore other adults pouring, speaking, encouraging, loving, engaging and spurring on our kids. Additional adults who speak truth over our babies are as sweet as nectar and as valuable as fine gold or an evening of binge-watching Netflix without disruption (now THAT is a rare gem).

The few pre-selected folk that we eagerly allow our children to be engaged with reach far beyond one moment.

These individuals say the same things we are saying, but they say it differently/cooler/more non-parent and without the nag of a mom or dad. 

  • Mrs. Cole, Kindergarten Teacher –   She selflessly drives carpool for us each morning to our school.  She invests in them.  “Mom, Mrs. Cole says this…. Mrs. Cole says that…”  Yes, I LOVE IT. She is exactly right!
  • Taihlor, Small Group Leader at Church – “Mom, Taihlor says we should make the wise choice!”  Yep! I Agree… lets do what Taihlor says!
  • Mr. Brent, Friend – “Mom, Mr. Brent is a hard worker… it is good to really work hard and help people.”  Yes!  I Agree!

Parents… with all the outside influences that bombard our kiddos, let’s intentionally find adults who can provide great, positive, like-minded wisdom for them.

As moms and dads we can’t provide everything for our little cherubs during their developmental years. That’s why life is done best in community.

Preschoolers think moms and dads are the bees knees… by middle school all moms should be wearing a name tag with “I’m Mom, SERIOUSLY??!” (complete with dramatic eye-roll)

Make a list. Who are some like-minded, incredible adults who can invest in the physical, social and spiritual development of your child?  It doesn’t have to be a long list.  But during the elementary years of inquisitiveness, middle school years of drama and high school years of independence… other adults speaking wisdom over our kids can be so very helpful.

I have found in 19 years of working with families, moms and dads who create this circle of influence are able to weather a storm a bit better when hard seasons arrive. Community matters.

Parenting does have difficult seasons. It is a good thing to have a plan and reinforcements. 

Friends, family, teachers, churches, coaches, etc… these people are your reinforcements.  They can help carry the load of parenting by creating a circle of influence around your kids. And their words will be life-giving and they will provide a beautiful partnership for the success of your child.

So, who is on your list?

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Caution: Teen Driver In Car!

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I have a new driver in the home. He is absolutely ecstatic.  I am a wee-bit giddy.  As soon as we complete this permit phase, I will be in the never-ending land of milk and honey (and lunch-box-bread). There is now one more person to help navigate the errands in this Wanderer – Home. Hallelujah! 

There is also a new hat on my head: Driver-Educator.  I want a cool charcoal v-neck-t-shirt with the hashtag: #drivereducatormom. It’ll be all the rage with Moms of Teens. 

We will start a club, put ace bandages on our sore knees (from all the unnecessary stomp-breaking on the passenger floorboard), and wear Fitbits to track our steps… since we force our kids to park at the VERY end of the parking lot. (parking is NO JOKE, man)

The club will also teach us how to delicately and accurately engage in the following conversations:

Speed Navigation: Son… sllllllooooooowwwwww yourself down. Now… seriously, slow down, now. Like right here. Right. Here. In. This. Spot. Slow. Down. Can you hear me talking out loud?

A Declaration for The Obvious: Hey buddy, do you see that Stop Sign? It’s coming. In like five feet. Stop completely. You know what, just stop now. (At this point, I feel the need to activate my inner-Fred-Flinstone and stop the car myself)

Reminders: Blinkers on the left. Windshield Wipers on the Right.

(at the next Stop Light) Blinkers on the left. Windshield Wipers on the Right.

(at the next intersection) It’s not raining, buddy… Blinkers on the left. Windshield Wipers on the right. 

His Reminder to Me: Yes, Son, I realize there are no brakes on this passenger side of the car. Yes, I know! I can’t help it, OKAY?! I’m a bit stressed. I need chocolate.

Driving as a Driver-Educator is a whole lot different than driving as a Mere-Passenger. I was not aware of the amount of alertness or the required explanation that would be needed to get from one stop sign to the next. It’s a whole new level of consciousness.

I need to take an entire course on “Instructions”. Perhaps an entire Masters Degree. My mind has limits and I now realize this is one of them.

When my son asks to go to the store and I know it will require a major intersection, my brain turns into a mix of Google Maps, Mapquest and Waze.

Moms of Driving Teens, I declare to you: we WILL maneuver through this phase and throw off the control that somewhat strangles us. We WILL enjoy spending quality time with our teen and embrace their excitement for independence. 

Because here is the complete truth: While I recognize this driving permit is code for independence I also know this time is a gift. While there are certain moments of YIKES because, we are driving a massive piece of metal moving at a rapid-rate-of-speed… there are more moments of absolute joy.

These moments of connectedness are life-giving… and for that I am completely grateful.

Because, after this big season of life, there will not be too many more seasons where he will say, “Mom, can you help me with this?”

Let’s embrace this season, moms and dads.


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Back to School

Four years ago on a hot, beautiful day on a cozy front porch in Ethiopia, I became mom to three incredibly beautiful kids. From the moment I heard my children say "Mommmeeee!" in their delicious Amharic-Accent, I knew I was ALL IN and completely in love.

This week my kids stepped their toes into the first week of first grade, fourth grade and tenth grade.

Five years ago, I had no clue about the many emotions that arrive during this back-to-school season. Before my kids arrived home in America, I saw parents walk through the Target-Back-To-School Section with glazed-over-eyes, zombie-ish in their pursuit of fresh-smelling-school-supplies. As I sipped my Starbucks Chai, while pushing my red basket, I curiously watched them. I didn't understand the very real panic that nestled its way into the nerves of these moms and dads.

Now I know. Now I believe. Now I understand the turmoil.
"Where are the two pocket folders with brads? This folder only has brads and no pockets! What will I do? Will the teacher even allow my child in the classroom if I can't find these pockets that they INSIST exist? Marbled-only composition notebooks? I only see solid colors. What is so special about the marble?!"

Four years later, I am in my own annual state of Parental-Emotional-Frenzy. One moment I'm cheering with my flabby-woman-arms that my cherubs are heading back to school (hallelujah!), and the next moment I'm teary eyed that they are growing up too fast. When mid-August arrives, I honestly feel like I need medication and a good counselor.

For a moment I thought it was just us adoptive-mamas that fall apart like this: "My kids are growing up too fast and they haven't even been in my home that long... I've only got a few more years with them and before I know it they'll be GONE and I'll FORGET WHAT THEY EVEN SOUND LIKE." (all-said-in-one-emotional-slightly-sobbing-breath)

Then I noticed, while in the Back-To-School-Section, a sweet-looking mom who was a hot mess about college ruled vs. wide ruled. "I'm going to blink and you will need COLLEGE RULED PAPER!" She then gathered herself together and placed her wide-ruled paper gently in her cart while exhaling a comforting breath toward her fifth grade daughter. Her daughter, as If on cue, rolled her eyes and exhaled: "Oh good grief, MOM."

They're growing up, moms and dads. And while summer was a blast of excitement, non-scheduled fun, vacations, sunburns, chlorine and lazy days of not knowing what time it is... this new season has made room for routines, number 2 pencils, field trips, sports-mom-swag, homework, tests, book reports, projects, early-morning-wake-ups and parent/teacher conferences. I may just go burn a mulled-spice candle and hang a fall wreath on my door simply because the nostalgia of the moment is JUST THAT THICK in the air.

We have arrived to another new season, parents! We can make it through another glorious year of elementary school inquisitiveness, middle school drama and high school independence!

Grab your chai and embrace the nostalgia.

Emotions, school supplies and all.

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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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