Holding Time Openly

I’m over at SheLoves Magazine today reflecting on this summer of transition for our family. Kindergarten is done; preschool starts next year; we are easing into a new stage. But, as always, my carefully laid plans and expectations aren’t necessarily what life offers. Here’s an excerpt – I hope you’ll head over to SheLoves to read the rest and join the conversation!

annie-rim-when-seasons-don_t-fir-into-neat-boxes-2I recently visited an abbey about two hours north of us, near the Wyoming border, for a personal retreat. My plan was to spend a couple days in reflection and silence. I brought way too many books, my journal, my computer (just in case), and my hiking shoes. I wanted to rest, read, and reflect.

The abbey is Benedictine so the nuns observe the Offices in between running a farm whose pasture-raised, hormone-free beef has a years-long waiting list. I mapped out how many services I could attend while still maximizing my time alone.

My drive up took longer than anticipated—I had forgotten to factor in holiday traffic. I arrived in time to unpack, go for a short walk, and take a quick nap before Vespers. Singing the Psalms and the Magnificat stirred my heart and my carefully planned time of rest started to shift. I started to release my grip on my schedule and recognized that the very nature of an abbey retreat included adjusting my daily rhythms and pace.

A few hours later, I attended Compline and, having run into a friend at dinner (what are the chances?), went for another walk with her before bedtime. I awoke earlier than I would have at home and savored the luxury of staying in bed, listening to birds chirping and cows lowing in the pastures. I got dressed and noticed I was ready in time for Lauds, the second Office of the morning.

Taking my cue from Vespers, I put aside my quota for attending services and decided that I needed to listen to the rhythms of the abbey. Head over to SheLoves to read the rest and join the conversation!

How do you shift expectations and lean into seasons that don’t necessarily fit into your original plans?

Twenty Years From Now

Life is all about the both-and, isn’t it? I both love staying home with the girls and I’m eagerly anticipating our next horizons. Living in this tension is hard work and I’m honored to be over at SheLoves Magazine today, sitting in those feelings. There are no answers, but I know I’ll look back on this phase without disappointment. Here’s an excerpt and I hope you’ll head over to SheLoves to join the conversation!

annie-rim-twenty-years-from-now-2Exploration was part of life—from literally getting on a train to visit a new location to engaging with friends from different backgrounds and world views. This became a habit I held onto: Seeking out new information and ideas, either through books or over a meal with a new friend.

Fast-forward nearly 15 years and that quote doesn’t fill me with the same excitement any more. It fills me with nostalgia and wistfulness. The last time I traveled internationally was in 2011, before we even started trying to start a family. We’ve gone on adventures since then, yes, but they aren’t what I was imagining in my untethered early-twenties.

These days, you’ll find me at home in the suburbs, establishing healthy routines for our daughters and grappling with ways I can make a difference in my community through cultural interactions with our immigrant neighbors and by dipping my toes in the world of activism. Most often, life doesn’t feel glamorous or adventurous. It feels so very typical. When asked what I do, I most often shrug and say, I just stay home with the girls.

This isn’t the whole truth, but I never know how much a stranger really wants to know about all the ways I’m piecing together meaning in my own backyard. I still read a variety of books that challenge my thinking, my outlook, and my faith. I still seek out conversations and friendships with people who have lived different experiences, whether by choice or circumstance.

My husband and I were talking about this phase of life and parenting. I told him it’s a both-and feeling for me. I both wish we could travel and live a carefree life and I recognize the importance of tending our roots. Read the rest over at SheLoves and join the conversation!

What do you look back on, twenty years later, with fondness? What are choices you’re making now that are tough but you know will be good in the future?

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?

A Gradual Journey of Activism

I’m honored to be over at SheLoves Magazine today, thinking about activism and what a long journey it is toward doing it well. I’m learning to look ahead at those who are doing it well and remembering to look back and help others along their path. Here’s an excerpt and I hope you’ll head over to SheLoves to join the conversation!

annie-rim-a-gradual-release-3In sixth grade, we had to create a “mousetrap vehicle.” As I remember, we were given very little instruction beyond the requirement that our creation was propelled solely by the snap of a mousetrap for a certain distance. In the days before YouTube, I still remember struggling at home with my parents, trying to figure out how to engineer this incredible feat. I finally was able to make mine snap and move just enough to get a passing grade, all the while amazed at my classmates whose parents had engineering degrees and had been able to make their mousetraps do tricks while gaining momentum.

Maybe my teacher had done a whole unit on propulsion but I just didn’t retain any of it. All I remember is the feeling of overwhelming frustration and defeat as I tried without resources to engineer a small vehicle across a masking tape line.

Years later and armed with a degree featuring new educational methodologies, when presenting new content to my second grade students, I would first model a lesson to my students, showing my thinking process using large chart paper. Then, they would practice it in small groups with me so that I could offer immediate feedback. Next, we’d do a guided practice as an entire class. And finally, my students would be able to implement the concept independently into their own learning. It’s essentially an intentional way of holding the hands of my students as they mastered a new idea.

Sometimes this would take a week or a month. Some concepts took the entire year, like learning to write a multi-paragraph essay. But we would keep working at it. The release didn’t always go in order. Sometimes, we’d have to go back a step or two until a student was ready to move on. Some kids got some concepts quickly while others took more time and guidance. It was rarely a linear process.

I’ve been thinking about this lately as I’ve dipped my toes into the world of activism. I love following activist parents on Instagram and Twitter. These families may have kids who are a bit older than my own, so I can learn from their journey. They often are farther along in their own awareness of activism and practices of inclusion than I am. Read the rest over at SheLoves and join in the conversation!

What about you? Who do you look to for guidance and inspiration on your journey?

Coming To Terms With a Stereotypical Family

I’m honored to be over at The Mudroom Blog today. Their theme this month is Adoption and Foster Care and I was surprised to find that I had something to say about it. While it’s not in our plan right at this moment, one thing I’m learning about planning my family is that there is no plan – only trust and grace. Here’s an excerpt. I hope you’ll head over to The Mudroom to join the conversation!

When I was Planning Out My Life in my twenties, I assumed I would:

  1. Get married
  2. Adopt a puppy
  3. Have 2 biological kids
  4. Foster and/or adopt another kid or two
  5. Live Happily Ever After

I got married and we soon adopted a puppy. Three years later, we gave birth to our first daughter and three years (almost to the day) after that, our second daughter was born. We’re at a place with our youngest that, if I was to go by my original schedule, we should start filling out paperwork and taking preparation classes to explore foster care and adoption. This is what we should do. We are fairly stable, fairly well-educated, mostly good parents. Shouldn’t we be saving the unwanted children?

But whenever I put aside my savior complex (because, of course, fostering and adoption must be so much bigger and deeper than that) I still can’t bring myself to fill out the paperwork because of one big reason. I’m tired. Having two young kids is tiring. (I know, I know. Try filling a minivan before talking about exhaustion!)

I’m embarrassed that only two kids makes me too tired to want to add to our family—either biologically or through foster care. I’m embarrassed that I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of preschool next year, when I can claim two mornings a week for myself. I’m embarrassed that I’m not digging deeper into an unwavering capacity in God’s energy.

For a long time, I felt proud of our family plan. And maybe that’s why it feels too overwhelming now. Read the rest over at The Mudroom and join the conversation there!

Did you map out your family plan? How has it changed? What have you learned from those changes?

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?