Tag Archives: twins

REFLECTIONS

gift-return

USA Today disclosed last week that the average family home in the US has 71 toys.   71?!?    I can only remember having two when I was a child — a farm set and a train set.   Admittedly, both had multiple pieces.   But 71?

Actually, I can believe it.   I always seem to be stepping on toys when I walk through our home.   Even at our daughter’s in Indianapolis, the living room floor is the favored spot for dumping toys.  My wife always said that toys were things to drag from the bedroom and dump on the living room carpet, and then the kids go out and play with a stick.

It wasn’t like this in Africa.   Most children there had no toys, unless a family member had made one from a used car tire or an old cardboard box.

When we first moved to the US, I was fascinated by how different American children are from African children; not for the better, I might add.  Too many American kids say bad things back to their parents and are more materialistic when it comes to getting things (toys and candy, mostly).

Part of the problem is television programs and commercials.   Children put incredible pressure on parents to buy them everything they’ve seen on TV and advertisers know this.   Credit cards enable parents to buy – few in Africa have CC’s.   One other factor I think all parents should think about – how many buy toys out of guilt?  With very little time to devote to children, parents over-compensate by buying lots of things.

I think their offspring would prefer time with Mom and Dad.  We didn’t have lots of things growing up, but our mother was always there, thankfully.

One other thing we should be concerned about is not to encourage materialism or greed in our children and grandchildren.  “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “ (Matthew 6:19-21).

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It’s no surprise that Jimmy Fallon and Meryl Streep criticized President-elect Donald Trump Sunday night at the Golden Globes.

Fallon even commented that the Globes are now the only place in America where the “popular vote” counts.  Really?   I wasn’t asked to vote on the best movies of 2016.

The theater was full, as usual.  Many of those seated threatened to leave the United States if Trump won the election.   Canada seemed the preferred destination.  But they were there at the Globes.  Presumably they flew back for the evening!!!   Or, perhaps, upon reflection, when they saw how much they would have to pay in taxes in Canada, they decided to stay in the United States.

These people are unreal.  (Well, they are actors, after all.)  They rake in the millions or hundreds of millions and spend more money on face-lifts and breast enhancements than Donald Trump will ever spend on the military.  Their gowns alone cost more than the GNP’s of many countries.

Meryl Streep is a good actress.  So are some of the others in the audience.  They should stick to acting and stay out of politics, before millions of their fans turn away from them in disgust.

There was also an element of hypocrisy when Meryl Streep, commenting on Donald Trump, warned that violence begets more violence.  Hollywood has arguably done more to promote violence than Donald Trump or any other president could possibly do.

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alixs-kids

Diane and I have just been down to Indianapolis to see our eldest daughter, Alix, her husband, Mike, and their four children.  It was an enjoyable and relaxing few days.

I was able to take our two granddaughters, Alyssa and Elena, to tour President Benjamin Harrison’s home in downtown Indianapolis.   It was well worth the time and money to tour the historic house.   I am pleased to say that both girls asked intelligent and perceptive questions.

President Harrison was the 23rd President of the United States, in office from 1889 to 1893.   He replaced Grover Cleveland and was succeeded by the same man, a Democrat.   Harrison was a prime example of Churchill’s later dictum:  “If you’re not a socialist (liberal) at 20 you’ve got no heart; if you’re still a socialist at 30, you’ve got no head.”  He started out as a Whig but later became a Republican.

Historians do not rate his presidency very highly, but it’s interesting to note that he was facing the same issues that confront President-elect Trump today.   He raised tariffs on imports to help reduce the federal deficit and built up the navy which had been neglected since the Civil War.  (Interestingly, the day we toured the home, a website revealed that, for the first time in decades, there were no US naval vessels on patrol anywhere in the world.)

President Harrison is remembered as the grandson of President William Henry Harrison, who was president for exactly one month. He gave a very long speech at his Inaugural in 1841, caught a cold which developed into pneumonia, and died.   The two Harrisons are the only grandfather-grandson presidents in US history.

The second president also saw six states enter the Union during his four-year term, a record number under any chief executive.

It was sobering to note that the three-story home had no indoor plumbing!

It was an interesting visit and I recommend it if you are ever in Indianapolis.

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On a different day I took the twins to McDonald’s for an ice cream sundae, followed by a visit to Meijer, a huge grocery store that also sells toys.  (The twins would probably describe it as a toy store that also sells groceries!)

When ordering ice cream for them, I asked for a hot tea for myself.   The man taking the order responded with “Excuse me?”  I repeated my request.  He said he had never heard of it!  (seriously!)   So I asked for the manager and, again, repeated my request for a hot tea.   He had at least heard of it.   I added a request that the bag be put in the cup before the water as it tastes so much better that way.   My order came five minutes later – a styrofoam cup with luke-warm water and a separate tea bag!

I’m pleased to say that Tim Horton’s is moving south – they have now reached Ft Wayne.  I think I will stay away from Indianapolis until they move the extra 120 miles!  At least the Canadian franchise makes decent tea – just stay away from the donuts.

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There was an interesting paragraph Monday morning from an Israeli paper:

“Religious Jews are more excited about Messiah’s return than Christians are,” Markell told WND.   “Muslims are more anticipatory about their Mahdi’s return than are Christians about Jesus’s return. This shows the deplorable state of the church today that is ‘majoring in minors.’   They have their finance seminars and marriage conferences but have shoved the idea of the Lord’s imminent return not just to the back burner, perhaps to the back yard.”   (WND)

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AIRPORT ATTACK

The latest terrorist attack at Fort Lauderdale’s airport is disturbing.  It highlights the danger that ISIS is spreading beyond Islam to non-Muslims.  The perpetrator of Friday’s attack was an American born Hispanic.   If ISIS spreads its influence to hispanics and other minorities in America, attacks like this will only become more common.

A Palestinian drove a truck into a group of soldiers in Jerusalem on Sunday, killing four and injuring dozens.   These truck (or lorry) attacks in France, Germany and Israel are also spreading.

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NEW YEAR, 1917

We were with Alix and Mike over the New Year’s weekend.   Mike came across a quote, supposedly from Russia’s last Czar, Nicholas II, who wrote on the last day of 1916, in the middle of World War I:   “1916 was cursed. The new year will surely be better.”   Those who know Russian history will be aware that the Czar abdicated in February of 1917, the country was plunged into civil war before the year ended and the royal family were all slaughtered.   The “quote” was tweeted by Gary Kasparov, the famous Russian chess player who now lives in the United States.   Whether it’s true or not, it should make us think!

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GRANDCHILDREN, THE DEBATE AND THE CANADIAN CROWN

Evan very upset he couldn't have that "juice."
Evan very upset he couldn’t have that juice.

We’re visiting our daughter, Alix, her husband, Mike, and their family in Indianapolis.   Seven of our grandchildren are with us in the house. Our son’s two girls had to stay behind for basketball try-outs on Sunday.

The 5-hour drive south was stressful, to put it mildly.   Not only did we have to contend with road construction that seriously impacted our speed but we had three young children in the van, one of whom hates traveling and kept asking to go home.   Even after we arrived, he still wanted to go home, asking Grandpa if we could leave late at night just to get away from it all. He must have sensed my stress!

It’s now Friday lunchtime.   Just as I sat down to write, Evan, one of Alix’s twins, rode in a laundry basket down the steep stairs and crashed into the front door.   He’s ok – I’m not sure about the door and the laundry basket has definitely seen better days!  (Not to mention Alix’s heart failure!)

A few moments earlier, our autistic grandson who has a tendency to run away and get lost, knocked on the front door.   We’ve no idea how he got out but at least he came back.   He’s 4.   He’s a late developer – I ran away when I was 3.

Evan is clearly a troublemaker.   I have been sipping whisky in an attempt to kill a sore throat, though it doubles as a coping mechanism with all the activity around me.   I just looked up to find Evan took my whisky bottle over to his mom and asked her to pour him some “juice.”

In spite of the occasional stress of sheer numbers, I still think that the opportunity to have time with grandchildren is a tremendous blessing and we truly enjoy every minute of it.

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We are, of course, in Mike Pence territory. He’s been Governor of Indiana for four years and is highly spoken of by, seemingly, everybody.   He’s done a good job governing the state, which has a financial surplus.

I thought he was treated badly on Monday by his opponent Tim Kaine in the Vice Presidential debate.   Mr. Kaine kept on interrupting Mr. Pence so that he could not get his points across.   Kaine was rude while Pence responded like a gentleman.

Another difference between them was over the issue of abortion. Kaine squirmed and waffled while trying to explain how he supports abortion when his own church, the Church of Rome, is against it.   He said he felt it would be wrong of him to force his own view on women who want abortions.   Mr. Pence, a Protestant and regular church-goer, reaffirmed his total opposition to abortion and said that, as Governor of Indiana, he has been promoting adoption as a means of encouraging women to give birth, rather than have their unborn child murdered.   He reminded viewers that Mrs. Clinton supports partial-birth abortions, allowing women to abort babies when they are close to delivery.   He even quoted Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.”

Mrs. Clinton supposedly takes her Christianity seriously – she’s a Methodist, a church now opposed to abortion.

Kaine and Clinton can only be described as hypocrites, supporting the murder of innocent children, while claiming to both be people of faith.

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This year’s US presidential election cannot be encouraging any country to adopt the American system of government.   Comments heard overseas are along the lines of:   “Out of 330 million people, this is the best you can come up with?”

The ignorance of the rest of the world shown by Gary (“What’s Aleppo?”) Johnson, who is now claiming that knowledge of world affairs is “over-rated,” must be another influencing factor.

So, it’s not surprising that Canadians welcomed Prince William, his wife and two children, to British Columbia and Yukon.   The future King and Queen of Canada, with their son, Prince George, who will succeed his father on the throne 40 or 50 years from now, ensure that Canada’s current system of government will endure for the rest of this century.

Canada is a constitutional monarchy, just like the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.   There are also 13 other Commonwealth Realms over which the Queen reigns.   In addition, she is Head of the 53-nation Commonwealth of former British colonies.   The British government has no authority over any of these countries.

Although many people think the 90-year-old Queen doesn’t do anything, the left-wing Independent newspaper in Britain wrote the following on her responsibilities:

“Her schedule is incredibly regimented, with multiple formal proceedings, events and processes she has to adhere to every day.

Meetings with ministers and officials take up a large portion of her day and, like most of us, she spends a big chunk of her time at work.

Morning

The Queen’s working day begins at her desk scanning the daily newspapers.   She then proceeds to go through some of the 300 letters she receives from the general public every day.   Some of these letters the Queen reads and replies to herself, while with others she tells members of her staff how she would like them to be answered.

Her Majesty will then see two of her private secretaries with the daily quota of official papers and documents.   She receives a huge number of correspondences from Government ministers and her representatives in the Commonwealth and foreign countries.   All of these have to be read and, where necessary, approved and signed.

A series of official meetings or ‘audiences’ will often follow.   Each meeting usually lasting 10 to 20 minutes.

If there is an Investiture, a ceremony for the presentation of honors and decorations, it begins at 11.00am and lasts just over an hour.

The Queen will then lunch privately although every couple of months, she and The Duke of Edinburgh will invite a dozen guests from a wide variety of backgrounds to an informal lunch.

If Her Majesty is spending the morning on engagements away from her desk and other commitments, she will visit up to three venues before lunch, either alone or jointly with The Duke of Edinburgh.

Afternoon

In the afternoons, the Queen often goes out on public engagements and prepares for each visit by briefing herself on who she will be meeting and what she will be seeing and doing.   Her Majesty carries out around 430 engagements (including audiences) a year and will regularly go out for the whole day to a particular region or city.

The afternoon draws to an end with a meeting of the Privy Council with several government ministers.

Evening

Early evening can involve the weekly meeting with the Prime Minister, which usually takes place on Wednesdays at 6.30pm.” (Independent, 9/9/15)

She is also available to all Commonwealth leaders.

Prince Charles will inherit the same responsibilities, as will Prince William, then George, in turn.

In contrast to the US, where party politics has seriously damaged the unity of the country, the Queen brings people together in a non-political way.

Western democracies, in the main, have one of three distinctly different forms of democracy.

The US presidential system is one.

The “Westminster” (British system) is another.   This is just as democratic.   People elect their representatives to parliament.   The dominant party’s leader becomes the prime minister.   The Queen remains outside of politics, but contributes greatly to political stability and national unity.

The third option is a mix of the two, with a parliamentary form of government and a prime minister but, instead of a monarch, there is an appointed figurehead president, with similar powers to the British monarch.   The Germans, Italians and Irish have this form of government.   A serious weakness was shown with this system in 1934, when the German president died suddenly and the new Chancellor, Adolf Hitler, simply abolished the office and had himself proclaimed “Fuhrer.”   This could not happen in a constitutional monarchy – when the Queen dies, automatically Charles becomes King.

Although some people in Canada would like to see the tie with the Crown abolished when the Queen dies, Canadian John Fraser summed up their arguments this way:   “Queen Elizabeth has done a great job for Canada; therefore let’s make sure there is no monarchy when she dies.”  (“The Secret of the Crown,” John Fraser, 2012)   The reasoning really doesn’t make sense.

Fraser points out that Canada is one of the most successful countries in the world, thanks partly to its political system, which includes a major role for the Crown.   The country’s birth owes its origin to the Crown and the people’s allegiance to it. Even the current Liberal Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, is committed to maintaining the tie with the Crown – indeed, he invited William and Kate to Canada, along with their two children.   Next year, Prince Charles and his wife will be in Canada to join in celebrations for the 150th anniversary of confederation.

 

PERSONAL REFLECTIONS

Ethan and Evan on their 4th birthday
Ethan and Evan on their 4th birthday

I’ve been going through a box of old papers from my college days at Bricket Wood in England.   The box is over 40 years old.

In it was a letter from the first minister I knew well, a man called Vivian Bassett.   He was the Methodist minister who first influenced me when it comes to religion.   It must be 50 years since I last saw him. I’m sure he’s been dead for quite some time.

He was a really nice man, a good example of Christian love, compassion and mercy, three qualities that are rarely found even in ministers of religion.

He was also a great servant.   He visited all his parishioners twice a year on foot, even if they rarely attended church.  He didn’t scold them, but rather encouraged them and listened if they wanted to talk about their problems.

Before he left our church he was ministering to thirteen widely scattered congregations – and did so without a car!

Thinking about him reminded me of what Jesus Christ said in Matthew 20:

But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them.  Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.   And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28 NKJV).

Vivian Bassett was not an ambitious man.  There wasn’t a political bone in his body.  He had no desire to head the Methodist Conference.  He simply wanted to serve the people at the pastoral level, which is what he did.

I remember his last service well.  There was standing room only in the church as people we rarely saw at church turned up to honor a highly respected and deeply loved man.

The new minister arrived a few days later after the Bassetts vacated the parsonage.  The new man was a highly academically qualified minister who knew his Bible better than most.   His name was Dr. Letch (we teens called him “Lurch” after a popular character in a hit TV show at the time) but knowing your Bible isn’t enough.  He did not have the same rapport with people that his predecessor had and did not come over as caring and compassionate, which are more important qualities in a minister representing Jesus Christ.

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Jesus Christ.”  (Phil 2:5)

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The twins in Indianapolis, Ethan and Evan, are now four years old.

Their mother, our eldest daughter Alix, reported a few days ago that she had gone to the bathroom and found the floor covered with water. She asked the boys what they had been up to (a question she frequently asks!).

This time they proudly told her they had washed their own feet — in the toilet bowl — and “look how clean they are!”   Yes, being a mom is a mixture of Aawww and Eew . . .

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Meanwhile, their three-year-old cousin Leeson in Lansing has added a new word to his vocabulary.

That word is “Never!” as in “Never! Never! Never!” (or more accurately with a British accent “Nevah nevah nevah!), his typical response when asked to do anything.

At first, I didn’t think he knew what it meant, until I asked him if he wanted an ice cream and did NOT respond with “Never! Never! Never!”

He also knows how to tease with the three-word expression.   When I wanted to give him a hug before he left for school, he again responded with “Never! Never! Never!” but very quickly afterwards ran to me and gave me a big hug, loudly proclaiming that “I wove you, Gwampa!” (As the chief supplier of his drug of choice – ice cream – he can’t afford to upset me.)

But when it comes to following instructions, depending on his mood, we most often hear “Never! Never! Never!”

Jesus Christ told us to be like little children.   When I think of Leeson, I’m mindful of how his words should be our attitude to sin at all times: “Never! Never! Never!

Most Christians would likely agree with that.

But what about the words in Matthew 7:1-4?

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? For how can you say to your brother “let me remove the speck from your eye”; and look, a plank is in your own eye?”

When it comes to judging others for their sins, few Christians would exclaim:  “Never! Never! Never!”

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The BARNA Group that studies religious trends and attitudes in America illustrated this in 2013 when they published the results of a survey of thousands of conservative Christians.  They had been asked a series of questions to determine how much they were like Jesus Christ.

Only 14% had the mind of Christ.   51% of these conservative Christians were like the Pharisees.   They defined the Pharisees as people who judge others harshly for their sins while justifying their own.

That’s 51% of conservative Christians!

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Yes, Leeson and his brother have started school. Leeson, aged 3, is in the Head Start program that lasts three hours each morning, Monday through Thursday.   His brother Aubren, ten months older, is in the Great Start program that is seven hours a day.   Both are thriving in their new school setting.

The first few days were difficult, especially for their mother and, perhaps more so, for their grandparents.   There was lots of crying, weeping and wailing – and that was just from Grandpa!

My wife and I were about to look for a Grandparenting Support Group to help us get through the emotional trauma of taking our grandchildren to school.

Fortunately, we found a support group of sorts, in a Quality Dairy we stopped at.   It had a really good display, a “group” of fresh donuts!

Comfort food – that’s exactly what you need after dropping off two young children at a new school.   I don’t think we are going to need any other support group – we have about a dozen donut shops en route back from the school.

 

 

NINE DAYS IN THE DELLS

We’re back. It’s good to be home.

We left home on Wednesday 8th October, driving to Lake Michigan and then catching the ferry across to Wisconsin, then driving another two hours to the Dells, where we joined about 800 other people observing the biblical Feast of Tabernacles.  We have enjoyed the Dells last year and this year – it’s a lovely place and it is wonderful to reconnect with good friends.  And we have some very good friends there!  It was certainly the highlight of our year!

While we were there, we shared a condo with our daughter, son-in-law and their four children. Also resident in the condo were Mike’s cousin Eric and his wife, Dorothy, with their three children.

It was great to have more time, especially with the two-year-old twins, Ethan and Evan. They soon wanted to sit on my knee and look at nursery rhymes on my laptop. Like their cousins in Lansing, they also love “Thomas, the Tank Engine.”   They also watched that on my laptop.

Mel and twins

I’d like to think they wanted time with their grandfather but I also reluctantly accept that the laptop is the attraction, with “Papa” the one who happens to control it.   They also came into our room first thing each morning, searching for a gift (we hid little Matchbox cars in our room for them to find – the girls got doll clothes). Grampa’s and Gramma’s room was soon staked out for it’s content of goodies – they would arrive each morning holding out their hand for a cookie.  We had a condo with a loft and they loved to go up there and drop things on our heads over the barricade – thankfully none of the plastic cups they dropped had water in them!

I find it amazing how different they are, considering they are twins. They shared a womb and popped out of it a minute or two apart but that is the end of the story. They look different and are built different. There is also a definite sibling rivalry there, which tended to manifest itself in church so we had to separate them during services.

I’m also amazed at how their two older sisters, Alyssa and Elena (9 and 7), help with their brothers. They carry the boys everywhere and help feed them and look after them. This makes things easier for both parents.

It was a week of bonding with our Indianapolis grandchildren.   We’re already looking forward to seeing them again for Thanksgiving. We’ll have all 8 of them then!

Now that we are back, I will start writing again on world affairs.