Bellies Full of Love

There are these amazing women at my school. They are strong and dedicated to their job. They don’t have the luxury of sitting at a desk, or of sipping their morning coffee as they work. These women sweat, pushing cartloads of coolers around our sizeable campus, struggling to get through doors and around corners. Bending, pushing, picking up and setting down, these women deliver coolers of breakfast to each and every classroom before the day begins, coming around again just twenty minutes later to retrieve the emptied coolers. It’s a thankless job that is a substantial blessing for our students, who due to a new initiative, receive free breakfast every morning at the start of their first period. Free breakfast for 2,700 plus students. Every day.

It’s incredible how food changes the atmosphere of a first period classroom. Gone are the days of hangry, tired students who act out or can’t concentrate on their work. After just ten minutes of eating and chatting, these young adults wipe up their mess, dispose of their trash, and deposit the empty coolers outside of our classroom door. They work together as a community, to care for those who are caring for them. And then they are ready to learn. It’s awesome.

I know of the hardships and trials that many of our students face. I read about their struggles in their writing. I listen to their traumas when they need someone to talk to. Despite this, I had no idea how many of our students come to school hungry, and I never considered how that might effect their day. Ironic, considering how quickly I spiral into a dizzy, irritable mess if I go more than three or four hours between meals. I was incredibly blind.

I think about my own little human, for whom I’m able to buy enough food to feed her voracious appetite, and I become emotional. My little human whose current breakfast of choice is two sunny side up eggs with a green, fruit smoothie on the side. My little human who happily consumes her food, plus any goldfish or Lara bars that she manages to sneak from the pantry, while I finish getting dressed. My little human who is able to arrive at school with a full belly. I could neither raise nor feed this little human without a village behind me, and it’s embarrassing to admit that it is only just occurring to me that schools are an integral part of the village that support our children. I love that there are people who worry and care enough about the children in their village to create a program that provides each child a free breakfast, before expecting them to be able to focus on learning.

The woman who usually deposits my class’ breakfast coolers is a breath of fresh air. Despite the laboriousness of her task, she greets me each morning with a smile and a wave. We get to chat sometimes, about motherhood, work, our kids, and the cleaning we need to do over the weekend. Just two mommas bonding for a few minutes before we each go about the rest of our day. A few weeks ago she complimented a cobalt blue skirt that I was wearing. We both loved the color. A few days ago, she beckoned me to my door, and as I opened it she handed me a pair of cobalt blue earrings. She said she had seen them and they reminded her of my skirt, so she got them for me.

I couldn’t have been more floored. A simple act of love and thoughtfulness. A momma taking care of another momma. A woman supporting another woman. A village.


It’s never okay to vote for sexual assault

Let me start by saying that I believe that no matter who wins, in this presidential election, we’ve all lost. Decency, trust, and integrity are not part of this political landscape. Perhaps that’s why this election seems to be bringing out the worst in us. We feel hopeless and angry. Anger. There is definitely an abundance of anger, fed by desperate candidates and desperate constituents.

Accusations of corruption and lies are valid on both sides. Fears of losing  certain rights are valid on both sides. Our disgust for each candidate’s ethics means we choose the demagogue we hope we can stomach for the next four years. It requires a realignment of values and a reconciliation of what we’re willing to give up. In the end, many of us are left supporting a candidate that we dislike, but who we’ve convinced ourselves will protect at least something that’s important to us. That may be SCOTUS, the 2nd amendment, abortion, immigration, or some other polarizing issue.

I can at least appreciate the fact that people are trying to find a foothold with a candidate that they feel they can vote for and still sleep at night. Differing points of view is the beauty of  democracy.

I believe that many of us are weighing whether platform or character is more important when making the decision of whom to vote for. In my opinion, character is far more important, and while neither party has put forth a candidate that I would consider to have decent character, Trump’s disregard for human rights along gender and racial lines means I can never vote for him, even though I’m not blind to the reasons that others feel that he is their only option.

I understand that there are Christians who believe that Trump will protect the rights of unborn children. Abortion is trumpeted as a reason to vote for a man who, as he courts the evangelical vote, now claims to be pro-life. On my Facebook news feed, I see Clinton being radically demonized for being pro-choice, and as a Christian, I too believe that life begins at conception and that all life is sacred. However, I do not believe in criminalizing abortion. I think that no matter the law, women will have abortions, as they have always had. I think that in valuing ALL life, we need to create legislation that empowers women with information to fully understand their decisions and to support and protect them as well. We can’t champion the unborn, while leaving women in the dark with coat hangers. I believe that the battle for the understanding of the sanctity of life is won on our knees in prayer, not in legislation. Therefore, even if I believed that Trump was actually pro-life, that would not have been a reason for me to vote for him, but I get why some of my Christian brothers and sisters consider voting for him on those grounds.

What I fail to understand, where I draw the line at accepting differences in opinion, is the justification of Donald Trump’s sexual assault and harassment of women by my Christian brothers and sisters.

It’s always been clear that Trump sees women as objects, and objects only. He has dehumanized women time and time again. I am not surprised in the least that he openly brags about assaulting women. However, I am truly heartbroken by the comments I have seen on social media by fellow Christians that reduce Trump’s horrific acts to locker room banter. Locker. Room. Banter. This is how university athletes are simultaneously given a slap on the hand and a pat on the back for raping unconscious women. This is how victims of sexual or domestic abuse are shamed for telling the truth. This is how powerful men get away with drugging and raping countless women. This is how minor victims of sexual assault or harassment fall through the cracks of our school systems. This is rape culture at its finest. And it is being dismissed by those who know better.

We can’t be a church that teaches the values of marriage and family, but look the other way when our nation’s potential leader assaults women. Where will our congregations be, when its female members rights to safety, security, and equality are being surreptitiously eroded by the normalization of the abuse of women?

So my question for those of you who defend Trump despite his physical, emotional and verbal attacks on women, is how do you justify voting for him? Are our mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters the sacrifice necessary to ensure a Republican platform? Is the conservative vote more important than assault?

I’ve seen the argument that Clinton is corrupt and that her husband was just as awful towards women. I find this to be doubly insulting. This not only sends the message that a political scandal is graver than sexual assault, but it also victimizes a woman by judging her for her husband’s actions. No matter what crimes Hilary may or may not have committed, no matter what legislation she may or may not enact, NOTHING sanctifies the election of a man who categorically diminishes and strips away women’s dignity, liberty and safety. Voting for sexual assault is NEVER okay. The price for women is way too high.










Yes, You Can Say the F-Word

Little humans. We teach them to be polite and compassionate. We teach them to use their words instead of their fists. We teach them to be active listeners and respectful of others. I watch my daughter learning how to be kind and thoughtful, and experience both relief and dread. Yes, I want my daughter to be sweet, but not too sweet. I don’t want her to become a doormat, because she’s afraid it’s rude to stick up for herself. I don’t want her to silence her voice, because someone else’s opinions are louder. I don’t want her to equate kindness with passiveness. I pray that she is both gentle and strong, wise and assertive, and both considerate and confident. I pray that in the moments she uses her voice, it is loud and clear.

We’re living in a world where predators are attempting to snatch children from their parents in grocery stores and public libraries. A world in which clowns now symbolize the evil parents fear. Stranger danger feels more real than ever, whether or not it actually is. How do we teach our little ones to be aware of these risks without scaring them? This is a question for which I understand I will never have a satisfying answer.

As clown hysteria built up in Austin this week, I realized I needed to say something to my daughter. I found myself worrying back and forth about the most politically correct, least frightening way to broach the subject, and then on our drive home from school she brought it up. In school, they had discussed what to do if they see a clown, which was obviously to not talk to it and to tell a teacher. I was grateful that her school had taken this initiative, but the momma bear in me, the one who would die for the green-eyed girl in the backseat, the one who would protect that precious life at all costs, took over the woman who worries about saying and doing the politically correct thing.

So then I told her that all clowns are now officially bad. She started giggling, but she was on board, asking me questions about friendly clowns she’d interacted with in the past.  We decided that the one who gave her candy last year was in fact good, but that he’s probably not a clown anymore, because now all clowns are bad. The nice ones quit their jobs.

Then she asked, “Momma, what if they talk to me?”

Good question. If you see a clown, you turn and run away. If a clown or any stranger tries to talk to you, you scream as loudly as you can, and run away. I was beyond thankful that she found this comical and serious at the same time.

I went on to tell her that if a clown or stranger tries to give her candy or touch her, that she should kick, hit, scratch and bite as hard as she could, and that she shouldn’t worry about being nice. It’s the one time she could be as mean as possible.

She loved this. “Momma. Can I say bad words? Can I say the f-word?”

Absolutely. You can absolutely say the f-word to any stranger or clown that tries to grab you. YES. At this point, she was in full-blown, hysterical laughter mode, pretending to be a little ninja warrior in the backseat.

When we quieted down, she asked, “But then you’re going to be there, right momma?” My heart wrenched with the dreadful knowledge that too many children are abused, trafficked, and murdered, despite loved ones desperately searching for them.

Yes, I promised. I assured her that she was not actually going to see a clown or stranger, and that we were just practicing so that we would know what to do, just in case.

She giggled again. “Yeah. But momma. You’ll get the clown and you’ll get him dead!”

Yes, momma will hunt him down. I suddenly had quite the little Rambo on my hands.

Then we got a little more serious and I reminded her that God is always with her, and that she has family and friends who love and pray for her every day. That our faith in God means we do not have to live in fear. That God is always with us, and that we are never alone. As we pulled into the garage, I silently prayed for Jesus to lay his protective arms over our children, our schools, and our communities, shielding us from those who seek to do harm. And as I followed my little human into the house, listening to her chat away about mermaids, baking pumpkin pies, and the sunflowers blooming in our backyard, I thanked God for her sweet heart and her feisty spirit, and that while the f-word will never be enough, HE most certainly is.



Fat. The grim reaper of women’s self-esteem has entered my five-year old’s vocabulary and I am livid. Not with her, but with our world. With myself. With you. I want to throw a tantrum. A hair pulling, limbs flailing tantrum at the unfairness of society’s persistent hypersexualized, dysmorphic, skewed glorification of beauty that NO ONE can achieve without starvation, photoshopping, surgery, and insane contouring.

I’m sick of billboards advertising a woman’s way to a cellulite free life.

I’m sick of hearing women praised for waist training. I can’t believe that is even a thing.

I’m sick of seeing magazine covers that “out” celebrities who were “caught” sans makeup and who are then picked apart for being, dare we believe it, human beings.

I’m sick of the accepted objectification of breasts, while breastfeeding mothers are publicly humiliated and shamed.

I’m sick of average size women being referred to as “plus” size, and I’m sick of dehydrated and hungry women being hailed as the ideal of beauty.

And while I believe that most agree that our beauty standards are unhealthy, I am sick and tired of the lack of collective voices demanding that enough is enough. A child shouldn’t worry about her physique and a woman having negative thoughts about her body image shouldn’t be the norm. Men and women, we are diminishing ourselves. We are collectively damaging the mental and physical health of those we love, and we should be outraged.

My first confrontation with the F-A-T word was in the third grade. It’s one of the few memories that I have of this age, and it’s crystal clear. We left our classroom and were walking down the hallway. I remember my little girlfriend casually whispering to me over her shoulder that all women get fat, and that when you become a woman, you have to start sucking in your tummy. This was brand new information to me. “We should start practicing now,” she said, and so we immediately sucked our bellies into our scrawny, nine-year old frames. I remember staring at my concave reflection in the glass trophy case as we filed by, disturbed by my new understanding of womanhood.

And now it’s my daughter’s turn. My beautiful, active, healthy five-year old was told by someone that if you eat too much food, your tummy will be fat. I learned this as we were getting ready for church on Sunday. She was getting out of the bathtub while I was putting on my make up, when she asked me, “Mommy, is my tummy too fat?” I whipped around.  The smile that usually dances in her eyes wasn’t there. The telltale giggle that usually erupts from her lips when she’s telling a “joke” was silent. My girl was serious. I dropped to my knees and we had the first of what I am sure will be endless conversations about being pretty enough, thin enough, good enough. Conversations that will be steered towards being strong enough, healthy enough, curious enough, kind enough, brave enough. I hugged my sweet girl, silently praying that her estimation of her self-worth will be grounded in her faith, rather than raked over the coals by the world’s ridiculously unnatural measures.

After that it seemed that the only sensible thing left to do before getting dressed for church was to stand side by side in front of my mirror, flex our arm muscles, and shout at our reflections, “I am beautiful! I am healthy! I am strong! God made me special!” The beautiful laughter and light that usually exudes from my girl returned, and we promised we would do that every day.

Later that Sunday we meal prepped for the week. By we, I mean I slaved away, while my little person tasted everything in between entertaining me with stories and dance performances. Meal prepping is no joke around here. There may be only two of us, but we eat for 10. We are active, we are hungry, and we are cranky when we’re without food for more than three hours. For dinner this week we prepared a spicy Thai mushroom curry, a cheesy pumpkin pasta, and some whole wheat berry muffins for fun snacks. I just pray that as we continue to build a home centered around nourishing our bodies, minds, and souls, that the destructive outside voices will be quieted enough for my girl to let her inner super woman flourish.


I yelled at a stranger’s kid today

It was a normal summer day for us. We ran, we ate, we swam, and we ate some more. Today was a normal summer day, barring one exception, that being the moment when I found myself parenting a stranger’s child.

My daughter has always been fearless in the water. Up until last summer she would enthusiastically shout, “watch me dive” before throwing herself into the pool. I would watch her sink to the bottom for an obligatory thirty seconds, before fishing her triumphant, squirming body out from the shallow depths. Every now and then there would be a fellow momma that would be wading by, chasing after her own mermaid or merman, who would stop just long enough to let me know that my daughter was drowning. Never mind the fact that I was standing over her, arms outstretched, laser eyes focused on my child. I would disguise my annoyance with a laugh and swear to myself that I would never be that woman. I would never assume that I knew better or usurp another momma’s autonomy. But who am I kidding? There are many moments when I become that woman.

There was a boy today at the pool, the same age as my little person. I knew we were in for an interesting afternoon when he kept squirting me directly in the face with his projectile water apparatus. His grandmother was there with him. She was confidently rocking a bikini, and rightly so, and I wanted to hug her in between being soaked by her grandson. Thankfully, he soon set his water torture device down and asked to play with my daughter’s diving rings.

My girl loves to share her diving rings, and often uses them as a way to make friends with other kids at the pool. She is by no means perfect. There are days when sharing means she bosses the other kid around. There are days when she feels jealous of someone who is a stronger swimmer. And there are days when she is sugary, sweet perfection.

They started out playing well together, each taking two rings. Then our new friend decided that he would rather grab the rings that my daughter had just retrieved, than dive for his own. I could tell she was confused when he latched on to the rings in her hand and began tugging at them. Hard. I was sitting in the water a few yards away and started to get up. Then my brain started screaming, “Whoa helicopter mom, sit your butt back down!” So I did. I sat on edge, watching various emotions play across my daughter’s face, and I felt my stomach twist in knots at the life lessons she was potentially learning.

Here was a boy, aggressively tugging my daughter back and forth, attempting to pry her toys from her hands. He was ignoring her words, words that I have taught her to use when people invade her space. I saw her face, her smile that didn’t reach her eyes as it normally does, trying to figure out if this was play or if this was mean. It was only a few seconds, but it felt like a lifetime. A lifetime in which I recalled moments from my childhood of being thrown onto the ground at recess by boys that “liked” me, or so my teacher said. Moments when I was too naïve or too sheltered to realize that a boy who I out “wrestled” was angry, not just because I had won the “game,” but because I didn’t succumb and allow myself to be kissed, as my more experienced friend had. Times when being tossed and dunked in the pool by a boy meant that he wanted to be my boyfriend.

I knew what was coming next and I sprung up. Sure enough, just as I started to move towards them, he reached out and shoved her head under water. Before I realized it, my teacher’s voice was bellowing at him for all to hear, as I crashed through the water. I didn’t care. Grandma was laying out on the other side of the pool, but to her credit she jumped in at the sound of my voice. By the time she reached my side, I had finished lecturing her grandson about shoving people under water and how he needed to ask nicely for toys that he wanted to play with. As she began to rip into him, I turned to my daughter and told her that she should still share with him. At first she protested, but then she handed him two rings and he apologized. I then played pool police for the next thirty minutes, tossing rings for each of them to dive for.

The truth is, he was a sweet kid, and only his parents know whether or not he knew any better. I want my daughter to know better though. I don’t want her to equate hurt with affection.  I knew she was watching me as I chastised this stranger’s child, and I realized that as much as I wanted to whisk her to the other side of the pool, I couldn’t. She won’t always be able to run away from the boy who shoves her on the playground. I have to teach her to stand her ground and set boundaries, without losing the kindness that radiates from her core. So I made an effort in front of my daughter, to play with this kid as long as he followed my boundaries. When he chucked the rings back at my face, I told him he had to hand them to me if he wanted to play, which he did. The afternoon ended peacefully, and we all amicably said goodbye when it was time to go.

I don’t know if they way I reacted was right or wrong. I just pray that as my daughter encounters similar situations, that the sweet kindness of her spirit will not only be unharmed, but that she will also become unafraid to fiercely protect her boundaries.

We made veggie pot pies for dinner and a bell pepper salad with some unique farm-to-table produce that a sweet friend shared with us. Comfort food for a normal, slightly odd kind of summer day.

We Go, or We Die

We go, or we die. It’s a statement that will never leave me. Simple words, weighted in life experiences that I can’t fathom, spoken in broken English by an African teenage refugee. This beautiful girl with the brightest smile spoke these words in the same matter of fact way I tell my five-year old that if she eats candy, she’ll get holes in her teeth. And then this precious soul laughed. A bold, contagious laugh that left me no choice but to laugh with her, the truth of her words hanging between us as we hugged and she went on to her English class.

It’s been a little less than two months since I heard this phrase, and yet I think about it every day. Thankfully, these words are not true in my life in the literal way they are for too many, but I see the truth of her words everywhere. Those five words embody perseverance, they laugh in the face of sitting down and giving up. We are all persevering in one way or another. Not a single one of us will escape trials or crises in different ways at different times. When you live your life believing that if you don’t go, you’ll die, your life requires a degree of faith.

The size of whatever burden we are carrying in a particular moment is insignificant. There are days when I feel that if I have to prepare one more meal, clean one more toilet, or say “no, you may not have another snack” one more time that I will lose my mind . And as dramatic and silly as I know I sound, I can’t not do any of those things. I could, but the gross, hangry, chaos that would ensue would be equivalent to death, so I go until I find joy again in the marathon of parenting a little person. There are other days when I simply have no clue what God is doing in my life. Those days are particularly frustrating, those punched in the gut by life days, but I know that I have a choice to go in faith and trust that God’s got me or to die a spiritual death. I know that the way I go is being watched by two little eyes and one little heart, the sponges of the sweet soul who spends her days trying to emulate her momma. That burden is heavy, but I hope that she will learn to “be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer” (Romans12:12). The way we go is as important as the actual going. To go in love, to go in faith, to go in hope, this is what I pray to be able to do throughout my life.

I’m so thankful for the truth this student spoke into me at the beginning of this summer. Her trial that day was simply making it to summer school. She had to take TWO city buses just to reach the nearest school bus that would transport her to her classes. Her family had just moved, and she wasn’t sure of her address. Confused and unable to speak more than a few sentences of English, we thought she would have to be dropped from her course. We couldn’t risk her getting lost chasing buses in unknown parts of the city. When she showed up with only a couple of hours to spare before the attendance/drop deadline, we were astounded. We shook our heads in disbelief. I would never have made it. I would have heard three buses and said I’m out, and I’m a native English speaking Texan. It had taken her hours. She was hungry, she was tired, but she had made it. That’s when she spoke, her eyes sparkling with laughter. “Miss. In Africa we go, or we die. So today I said I go.”

I usually kick off my shoes when I first walk in the door, until I carry them upstairs later. Found my little person lining up her shoes with mine this afternoon.


A New Season

Women wear so many different hats, and often more than one at a time. I’m a single mother to feisty five-year old. I’m also an English as a second language teacher. I’m a Christian. I’m a runner. I’m a food-a-holic. I don’t have answers to the crazy ups and downs of life. What I do have is faith, and a growing desire to live out my faith in small steps of love within my Austin community. In this season of my life, I have slowly been waking up to the fact that loving like Jesus happens in our own backyards, not just on mission trips to foreign countries. Loving like Jesus means choosing not to gossip about a co-worker. It means taking some mac’n cheese to your neighbors that you’ve never met. It means spending time nourishing your friendships. It means loving without expectations and truly meeting someone in the small, mundane tasks of everyday life.

I started LoveBabyFood shortly after my daughter was born as way to share my parenting journey, but as we have both grown, it has become a space to share the small steps of faith and love we take every day, and for fun, what we eat along the way. Renaming this space seems to make the most sense, a choice that I’ve wrestled with for a couple of months now. And just as God has been molding my heart to love as he loves, in the brokenness of our daily lives, and just he has been preparing my heart for the terrifying moment that my daughter will enter kindergarten, I finally realized that I need to let go of “what was” and embrace this season of our lives. So while this space will still be made up of the same heart, soul, and recipes, its name will grow with us. Thank you for your support of LoveBabyFood, and I hope you will continue to enjoy Love, Faith, and Food.