Why I Had Children, and Also Why I Have a Delicious Account

Today my daughters surprised me with a chocolate cake in a mug, which they heard about from a Delicious link
(no pun intended, but it fits) I posted right here on this blog. The cake included 78 chocolate chips.
They counted. It was heavenly: warm and melty, and even though I shared
bites all around, they insisted that I should get the lion’s share, and
I was stuffed afterward. Oh my goodness.

And they even cleaned up the kitchen afterward. Someone give those kids a raise.

Tuesday Links

“We must love one another or die.”

September 1, 1939
by W. H. Auden

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism’s face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
"I will be true to the wife,
I’ll concentrate more on my work,"
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

Poetry Friday: Understanding

by Sara Teasdale

I understood the rest too well,
And all their thoughts have come to be
Clear as grey sea-weed in the swell
Of a sunny shallow sea.

But you I never understood,
Your spirit’s secret hides like gold
Sunk in a Spanish galleon
Ages ago in waters cold.


Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

This week’s Poetry Friday roundup is at Big A Little A.

175 Titles

That’s how many titles were nominated in the Cybils Fiction Picture Book category, and how many I need to read in the next six weeks or so.

Two. That’s how many I’ve read so far. Neither one was a standout.

I am keeping my Library Elf
hopping these days. Slowly I’m making my way through the Cybils
database, clicking back and forth to my library catalog to see which
nominees are in our local system, reserving all I can find.

fun to observe which books catch the kids’ attention. Reading and
discussing the nominees is something of a family affair, as most things
are around here. Beanie has read more of the nominees than I have, so
far. Guess I’d better get back to my databasing, so I can catch up.

Thursday Links

You Spent HOW MUCH on That???

I received a comment on my Coats of Many Colors post
which suggested that there might be something morally wrong about paying Coats of Many Colors prices for Halloween and/or All Saints Day

They are beautiful
– and how lucky you are that you can afford them. I can’t help but
wonder how other children whose parents cannot pay these high prices
feel next to these luxurious saints! Somehow it just doesn’t seem right
to spend so much on a fancy outfit to wear on a single day when there
are people who have no homes, no food, no jobs.

I’ve seen a similar viewpoint expressed elsewhere, so I thought I’d post my response here as well:

Oh, ready-made costumes aren’t in our budget this year
either. You’ll note I said we were given some of the costumes for a
look-see, and I was all too happy to accept. 🙂 And I was happy, too,
to be able to give a bit of exposure to a hardworking mother of many.
Just because her costumes don’t fit everyone’s budget doesn’t mean they won’t fit anyone’s, and in spreading the word of her business, I am happily doing my bit to support cottage industry.

And as for "it not seeming right to spend so much on a costume" when
others are out of work, etc—well, I think you’re getting into pretty
tricky territory when you start criticizing how other people choose to
spend their income. These costumes, for example, are extremely well
made (I would not have given a positive review if I didn’t mean it, and
I stand by every word of my praise), and will be enjoyed by a whole
tribe of children, both in my own family and among our friends, far
more than "on a single day." Some families, adding up the cost, might
consider the investment worthwhile—just as my family tends to ‘invest’
our money in the books we treasure. And in doing so, we’re helping to
support other writers and publishing house employees. As writers
ourselves, we know how deeply appreciated those rare royalty checks can

Furthermore, it’s very important when passing judgment upon other
people’s spending decisions to consider that there may be many
extenuating factors in their private lives which might justify
purchases that seem frivolous to others. My own family has endured many
periods of extended hospital stays and other medical crises, and during
those times of our life we spent an amount on take-out food that
horrified me then and staggers me now in hindsight. We were coping as
best we could, and those overpriced hospital Au Bon Pain meals were a
necessary evil, at that time.

To that comment I’ll add that as for "how
other children whose parents cannot pay these high prices feel next to
these luxurious saints," I imagine they might feel very much like my
children have felt during years when they wore our cobbled-together,
safety-pinned costumes next to friends whose mothers could sew: full of
admiration and perhaps even longing, but largely unfazed, because
their minds were on the candy! 😉

Something my kids and I have talked a lot about is the danger of
envy and comparison. Our family has taken very, very few family
vacations, and the trips we have taken have been of modest scope. We
have many good friends and relatives who do quite a bit more
traveling—weeks at the beach every summer, trips to Disney or Six
Flags, all sorts of fun things. And sure, my children have expressed
some longing of their own on those occasions. We talk about those
longings frankly. Some of our friends who are able to do more traveling
are families whose baby years are behind them. How grateful we are to
still be being blessed with new babies! A day will come—all too soon;
I’ll be forty this year—when there are only "big kids" in our family.
I’ll hazard a guess that we’ll manage to do more traveling then. Of
course, Jane may well be off to college by that point. Who can say?
Right now, we are the family we are: still growing, still grappling
with medical and other challenges, and with a mom too busy with home
duties to do much in the way of contributing to family income and a dad
in a notoriously low-paying, though undoubtedly fun, line of work. It’s
a fine place to be, even if modest means place limits upon us. I don’t
think it’s doing my kids one bit of harm to hear about their friends’
trip to London or their cousins’ Grand Canyon adventure—any more than
it ‘harms’ me to read blog entries about lovely objects or excursions
that aren’t within my reach at the moment. We count our blessings, and
we know we are very, very blessed. 🙂

I heartily encourage the making of inexpensive homegrown costumes.  I read the frugal blogs and the crafty blogs with
great relish and have gratefully snatched at many a clever idea shared
by these talented and thrifty folks. But I don’t begrudge lovely
purchases of those who can afford them, and if I can help another
family by spreading the word of a home business, I consider that
another blessing to be glad of!

Random Acts of Espionage?

I’m pulling out of the Trader Joe’s parking lot when Rose asks what
happened to our shopping cart. "I didn’t see you put it away," she says.

"I didn’t have to! A nice man was heading into the store, and he took it for me. Wasn’t that kind of him?"

Rose ponders a moment. "Maaaybe," she says skeptically. "Or maybe he just wanted a way to get your fingerprints."

Wednesday Links

Out of the Mouths of Ten-Year-Olds

This one I Twittered yesterday, but in case you missed it: "Mom, is this correct? For men we say ‘fat,’ for women we say ‘overweight’?"

And this one was uttered casually during dinner cleanup by that same
dainty daughter: "Mom, do you know what I like best about girl
superheroes in comic books? The fighting. Because I’ve always wished I could just punch someone in the nose too."