Building Foundations of Wonder

I’m honored to be over at Kindred Mom today, wrapping up their series on Cultivating Family Culture. Our hikes are still slow and filled with meandering and I don’t know if we’ve ever reached our destination. But both girls readily pick hiking on a weekend, so I call that a success. Here’s an excerpt and I hope you’ll head over to Kindred Mom to join the conversation!

IMG_8298My husband and I are both avid hikers. We met on a snowshoe hike; our first anniversary was spent hiking the West Highland Way, a 100-mile trail in Scotland; our pre-kid days were filled with rambles through the mountains of Colorado. So, when we found out we were pregnant, we dreamt about raising outdoorsy kids who loved hiking as we did.

Our first year as parents didn’t look all that different from our days before kids. We’d pop our daughter into the Ergo and then, as she grew, the hiking backpack and kept on trekking. It wasn’t until she became an independent toddler that our expectations of family hikes were put to the test.

It’s not that we thought our 2-year-old would be able to hike more than a mile or so, but we were hoping she’d be content to stay in the pack in between her own sprints along the trail. We didn’t reckon that our hikes would dwindle down to a quarter mile exploration. Our norm became an hour drive into the hills, a half hour or so walk, plenty of snack breaks, and an hour drive back home.

On one of these excursions, my husband’s best friend, Uncle Steve, came along and completely reframed my mentality of hiking with kids. As we drove to the trailhead, I found myself warning Steve that this hike would be short and slow. I apologized for the way kids stopped all the time and tried to create realistic expectations.

Steve responded by asking our daughter what wildlife she was hoping to see on our hike. A Mountain Lion!! was the enthusiastic response.

We piled out of the car and within a couple hundred yards of the trailhead, Steve bent down and exclaimed, Look! I found wildlife! Our daughter ran over and knelt beside him, inspecting the centipede that was inching its way along the trail. After that, every few feet, they would find more wildlife: an ant, a snake’s hole, a bird or a butterfly.

This hike changed my mentality of exploring nature with my girls. Now, we ask what wildlife they hope to see each time we head to a trail. Read the rest over at Kindred Mom and join the conversation!

Do you stop to watch the centipedes? How does noticing the small things change your perspective?


Learning Leads to Action

I’ve been thinking a lot about activism and how I want to model being active in our community, in politics, and in our world to the girls. At first, I was intimidated by SheLoves’ theme, “I keep showing up” because so often, I don’t show up. It’s easier to hide behind ideas than it is to bundle up and get outside. I hope today’s thoughts about showing up encourage you to put your learning into action. Here’s an excerpt – I hope you’ll head over to SheLoves to read the rest and join the discussion!

annie-rim-learning-leads-to-action-3After weeks of temperate weather, we woke up the morning of Martin Luther King, Jr day to snow and temperatures well below freezing. I debated canceling our plans to attend the march. It seemed like a lot of effort to bundle up my two girls, find parking, stand in the cold, and march for four miles. Would they really remember this moment? Shouldn’t I wait until they are older, when they would appreciate all the effort that went into an outing like this?

As I scrambled eggs, I looked over to see my fleece pajama-clad girls reading sweetly by the fire. I grabbed my phone, intending to text our friends and say that we were opting for a cozy snow day. Instead, I listened to a Vox from another friend who said, “Just bring a thermos of hot chocolate!”

I finished making breakfast, we bundled up in layers, I made a big thermos of extra chocolaty hot cocoa, and we headed out on the icy roads to City Park. We found parking just a block away. There were tears, mittens got wet and the hot cocoa was spilled and refilled. We ran into friends from church. We walked for a few blocks before my friend and I were faced with a mutiny of five cold children, five years old and under.

After we carried our wailing children back to our cars, switched out wet socks for dry, and headed to a nearby McDonald’s Play place, my friend and I talked about the need for collective memory. I took a picture of me and the girls in a brief moment of smiles. I want them to remember that we did this and it was good.

On the drive home, I asked if they’d do it again. My two-year-old said no, she’d rather go to a park. But my five-year-old said yes! Green light checks! Read the rest over at SheLoves and join in the conversation!

How do you put your learning into action? Would you label yourself an activist?

When Life Gets in the Way

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a dozen times: Hold expectations loosely during this holiday season. It’s hard to do, though. Often, I don’t even realize I have expectations until they’re unmet. I’m over at SheLoves Magazine today, reflecting on how life is always in the way of holy moments. Here’s an excerpt, but I hope you head over to join the conversation!

annie-rim-when-life-gets-in-the-way2I entered Advent with a bit of a swagger this year. We’ve done this before! We’re figuring out a routine and rhythm that work for our family! I don’t want to use the word “expert,” but “confident” definitely encompassed my attitude as we approached that first Sunday in December.

You probably know where this is going. With a two-year-old and a five-year-old, was I really expecting sweet candlelit moments every evening? Was I actually thinking I’d have a slow cup of coffee by the fire each morning, quietly reading my own devotional?

Why did I think that I would find pause in December when I can’t seem to find it in October?

I enter the season of Advent with an idea that I’ll wake up in the dark hours, cup of coffee in hand, sitting before the fire with the glow of the Christmas tree’s lights, devotion by my side, breathing into the morning. For a dose of reality: This morning I was awakened by a completely nude child letting me know it was time to “eat my coffee.” Not exactly the stuff of stained glass windows. Read the rest over at SheLoves and join our conversation!

How do you mix life and holy moments? How do you make space to keep lighting the candles?

As Light Grows

It can be easy to look back to my childhood and think how different the world was. Of course, I’m remembering this world through eyes of a child. My world was my universe IMG_7521and stretched to the places I could walk and explore. When I was Bea’s age, my world also included our neighborhood in Germany and the countries my parents took us to visit during our years there.

While that would eventually shape my worldview, at the time, my world was as narrow as any 5-year-old’s.

For my girls, their world is our yard, the walks we take to school and the neighborhood park, play dates around town, our favorite national parks, our yearly visits to Philadelphia, and occasional visits to California.

I did a quick Google search of world conflicts in 1982. There were 42, ranging from martial law in Poland to the Hama massacre in Syria. I don’t know what the exact numbers are for 2017 but I do know that conflict has been with us since time began.

When we look at Mary and Joseph fleeing to Egypt after the birth of Jesus, I wonder how different it was for them to leave family and friends behind, knowing that little boys they knew would be killed from a family fleeing their home today?

Maybe the world isn’t all that different but my hope is different. I’m grateful that my girls will have access to global news easily and quickly. That they’ll know what is happening to their worldwide neighbors – both the victories and the laments.

As we keep lighting the Advent candles and our dinner table grows lighter, bit by bit, I am reminded that this world is growing lighter. That we are raising our kids with a deeper sense of hope and peace.

Where are you finding a different kind of hope these days? How do you celebrate raising kids with a different worldview?

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “different.”

Yes to Lazy Summer Days

This weekend I had my semi-regular meltdown about the state of our playroom. I pulled out a garbage can and started throwing in all of the broken goody-bag toys, the loose papers, the pens without caps, and the stepped-on plastic Easter eggs. I threatened taking away all presents for every birthday and Christmas forevermore since we clearly don’t need any more junk in our home!!!

IMG_4633It was at this point Frank decided to pack up the girls and head to Lowe’s to buy a couple replacement basil plants after our unexpected snowstorm. Once they were gone, I turned on my mid-30’s white-mom Pandora station and started really cleaning. Without the girls, tackling the playroom doesn’t take all that long and I soon had the toys put away and under control.

I even stopped cleaning with enough time to begin my new book and eat lunch all by myself in the quiet. When my family returned and Elle was down for her nap, Frank went outside to clean up the garden while Bea and I tackled the puzzle box. We put together all the puzzles and threw away the ones with missing pieces.

Time sitting together on the floor, project in front of us, chatting together. Bea’s love language may be physical touch (and at least one foot was touching me knee the entire time) but mine is quality time and this filled my “love tank” with my little girl.

This is the last week of school. Preschool graduation is on Thursday and then Bea can officially call herself a kindergartener, something she has been longing to do since January. Our June is pretty quiet. Maybe some camping trips. Frank’s parents may come for a visit. The pool opens. But really, I’m trying to keep our time open.

I know that summer days can be especially long and that we won’t want a loose schedule for too long. I also know that we’ll get into a rhythm because we always do. But for now, I’m looking forward to not rushing, to not nagging to get out the door, and to remembering that while the days are long (sooooo long sometimes!) the years are flying by and I want to savor these summertime moments.

I’ve seen families create summer fun lists – things to check off before school starts. These sorts of lists stress me out. I lose sight of the fun and only think of the list. Maybe when the girls are older and need more things to fill the time, this will make sense. For now, I want to just say yes as much as possible. Yes to swimming and movies. Yes to backyard camping. Yes to taking the light rail to get ice cream downtown. Yes to bike riding and parks. All of those things or none of them, we’ll see.

I have fond memories of unstructured summer months. July holds a couple of formal activities but overall, I want to establish those bored lazy days with the girls now. I know that there will be long days when I long for school to begin. But now I’m looking optimistically ahead, hoping that my quality time tank will be full before Bea starts a new journey to full time school.

What are your fondest memories of summer? Do you like structure or open schedules? And, how do you keep the playroom clutter under control?!

Parenting Without Immediate Results

The other day I felt like the Best Mom. I put aside my to-do list and focused completely on Bea. During quiet rest (which is just as much for me as for her) we read books, played an imaginative game, drank hot cocoa with her tea set, and wrote a book. It was a sweet three hours, just the two of us.

IMG_1708When Elle woke up from her nap, a switch flipped. I had assumed that all this quality time would carry over to the rest of the evening but something happened and suddenly Bea became a wild thing.

My first thought was, Well that was a waste of time! I could have just worked on my to do list and gotten the same results.

Of course, parenting isn’t a results-based practice. We can do all the “right things” and still not get the immediate results we’re hoping for. Sometimes this extremely long-term vision is tiring. I want to know right now that my kids will turn out ok; that my attempts at patience and empathy will pay off.

The immediate results that I am seeing are that I always have a little bit more. Even when I think I don’t have an ounce of patience or energy left, somehow I do. No one has ever died of playing one more game of tea party or reading one more book.

I’m reading Man’s Search for Meaning by Vicktor Frankl. In it, he talks about the need to look to the future, that without a future hope our present becomes meaningless. I’m taking those words and putting them to this journey. That even on the longest days, my hope is that these endless tea parties will make way for future friendships.

What is something you’re doing now with the future in mind? How does that long-term vision impact the way you view certain tasks now?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “mom.”

Review: Raising an Original by Julie Lyles Carr + Giveaway

Anyone who knows our girls knows they are two completely different humans. Their personalities, senses of humor, curiosity, and social skills aren’t exactly opposite, but they certainly are unique. Anyone who has interacted with children knows that they are each their own person. The other day, I was chatting with a dad about nature vs. nurture. Yes, we try to nurture our kids well, but a lot of my parenting is adjusted to their specific natures.

_140_245_book-2059-coverJulie Lyles Carr certainly has first-hand experience seeing the individual natures of kids. She and her husband have eight of their own and her book, Raising an Original is filled with anecdotes and advice about listening to the unique spirit of each child and parenting accordingly.

The strengths of Raising an Original come from Carr’s stories. She writes in an inviting and engaging way, affirming my own questions and struggles as a mom. Her encouraging words and big-picture reminders are what moms of any stage need.

Where the book lost some of its power for me was in the middle. Carr includes an “assessment” to help categorize children. She breaks each personality into four types: The Director, The Inspirer, The Steadfast, and The Curator. I thought the book would build off of this assessment, but it doesn’t. It feels like it is just put in the middle without much reference leading up or following. Carr also uses a lot of caveats when describing each type, reminding the reader again and again that we all have parts of each. It seemed to weaken the typing.

Carr also paraphrases the Bible a bit too loosely for my taste. She often refers to ancient characters in modern references – calling systemic injustices “extramarital affairs” and “professions.” It felt like she was watering down stories to fit into her own mixed-metaphor telling.

Overall, I think I would have liked this book a lot more if Carr had stuck with her strength: Encouraging moms along their journey. As it was, this book felt a bit muddled.

How do you feel about personality tests for kids? What are your best resources for recognizing the individuality of kids?

GIVEAWAY! I am giving away my copy of Raising an Original. Leave a comment about raising your own original and I’ll randomly select a winner on Friday, December 16, 2016. (United States addresses only.)

I review for BookLook Bloggers
I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

Creating Our Family Culture

In high school, I remember having long conversations with a family friend about the evils of shopping at Walmart. I could not understand why someone would choose loyalty to a store that was so under scrutiny for poor employee treatment. (Being the idealistic teenager, I didn’t recognize that most big box stores function similarly…)

For our friend, seeking the best deal on a product was the bottom line – buying from Walmart or Target or the local mom & pop shop didn’t matter. It was made in the same factory but one store charged less.

Taking time to visit Sacagawea’s memorial

The difficult thing with Connectedness as a strength is that while I see the lines between my t-shirt and factory labor clearly, others don’t. And really, it’s not up to me to convince them to see those lines.

I can clearly make connections between the food we eat, the impact factories have on the environment, and the fact that we use precious water resources on animal production. And yet, telling others of this most likely won’t change minds. I can recommend books I’ve found valuable, but what I’m learning is that the most powerful thing I can say is nothing. It’s in the way we live and in the small choices we make as a family that has the biggest impact.

I think of that, especially as Bea notices more and more the choices we are making and she asks the question, why:

Why don’t we eat at “Old MacDonald’s”?

Why do we write to Samuel and Flaviane? (Our Rwandan sponsored children.)

Why do we put money in the red bag at church?

All these questions – and so many more! – create our family’s culture. And the answers to those questions help create connections between Bea and a broader world. A world where our choices, from the clothes we buy to the food we eat to the budgeting decisions we make don’t just impact our family. They are choices that connect us to the world and to families like ours.

Seeing our part in the world, drawing those lines is incredibly important to me. (I guess this makes sense, as Connectedness is my second-strongest strength.) Because of this, I’m trying to be more intentional in how I present these relationships to our daughters. I want them to be conscientious and aware, but also to make these discoveries for themselves. So I answer the questions and make sure they see and hear us debate our purchases – the whys and hows. Even though we give online, we also physically give at church and to other charities, so the girls see this tangible act.

These small ways, and the conversations that come because of them, is how I hope to create global citizens. I hope our daughters become women who don’t find their allegiance with a country but with the world; who are loyal to all people, regardless of background or culture.

Do you see connections in your world? How do you respond to that big picture?


This post is Day 17 of the Write 31 Day Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the StrengthsFinder test. You can find the entire series over at Live Your Strengths page.

Raising Learners

One of my favorite parts of staying home with the girls is watching their learning styles develop. Especially the past couple months, we’ve seen Elle’s little personality really emerge. Some aspects of each girl are totally me or Frank. Others are completely them or a cool mix of various family members.

unnamed-1Bea has always been an imaginative player and reader. As soon as she was mobile, she would pull books down, surround herself with a pile, and be content reading. Even today, she’ll approach us with a giant stack of books, ready to snuggle and read. I can gauge her days at school based on the height of the pile. It’s her way to connect, to learn, to unwind.

So far, Elle isn’t like that at all. She has a few favorite books and loves reading those over and over, but she’s a girl on the move. She stacks blocks, moves furniture, climbs, and explores. She’ll take the outlet covers off, examine them, and try to put them back. She learns by doing and is much more methodical in her approach to a new game or toy.

There’s something so amazing about watching these years first-hand. As a teacher, I would see the later stages of these connections. Now, I get to see the initial spark – what will eventually become fluent reading or writing. Ideas that feed into math and engineering.

Now, when we go to the library and Bea is asking more questions about how things work, we have a mix of fiction and nonfiction books. I’m trying to actively model how we learn – and not just through Google. (Though that’s an often used tool in our house, too!) It’s been fun seeing the books that are brought home – on electrical currents and the fastest races run. Even Elle insists on choosing a book to bring home. (Her’s are much more random and driven by librarian display picks.)

I don’t know if either girl will have the “strength” of learner, but in the meantime I hope to foster a love of discovery and learning. Regardless of who they choose to be when they grow up or what their own strengths are, I want to foster the tools of learning and the magic of the library.

How do you teach kids to learn? Is the library still where you go to find information?


This post is Day 14 of the Write 31 Day Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the StrengthsFinder test. You can find the entire series over at Live Your Strengths page.

Measuring Mothering Success

When I was a teacher, my success was measured every day. I could chart my students’ progress and had formal assessments to verify my findings at least three times per year. Even though it was stressful to always be putting a number on my teaching, I had few doubts as to my successes or failures with my methodology and practices.

Success = Choreographed dances

Motherhood has no such outcome chart. I flail wildly through the days, hoping that somehow these two girls turn out okay. We do things I think will be beneficial to creating productive members of society: Reading books, going to museums, waiting in line, learning to entertain ourselves. But who knows? All this effort could result in success or possibly a huge disaster.

Ultimately, I have to do stuff and then open up my hands and let them go. I have to trust that the hours of attention to table manners and cleaning up will translate when Bea is at school or at a friend’s house. I have to hope that stopping to correct or affirm behaviors will somehow make them stick.

As a maximizer, I thrive on that measured success: I need to know areas of improvement or areas that I can continue to build a strength. I want to take something from good to awesome.

At work, I always looked forward to principal evaluations. Even at the museum, when my boss observes me, I like debriefing afterwards and talking about areas for improvement. Sometimes I wish someone could observe my mothering and give me a measured plan for further improvement. The problem is that, what are we basing our findings on? How can we accurately measure the success of craft time or quiet rest time?

That’s where faith and trust and community come into important play. It’s not that I compare my mothering to my friends but that there’s a spirit of camaraderie in this season. The power of me too! is especially important right now, when I wonder if I’m going crazy.

Maybe I’ll never be able to measure the success of my mothering. When would that happen? At 18? 25? 42? Even though it goes against my personality, this immeasurable success has rounded out the sometimes-harsh edges of always looking for the best. I’m learning, not necessarily to settle for mediocre, but to live life a bit more openly, and a bit more trustfully.

How do you measure your success as a parent? How do you respond to observations and constructive criticism?


This post is Day 8 of the Write 31 Day Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the StrengthsFinder test. You can find the entire series over at Live Your Strengths page.