Thursday, July 27, 2006

Another Sleepless fright

Watch the trailer for the suspense thriller "Sleepless."

Some of you said that you enjoyed the movie "preview" we posted for the family picture "Shining." Here's one that takes the opposite approach. Witness the suspense and terror of "Sleepless in Seattle."

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Thoughts on special needs

Alex and family
Originally uploaded by eandjtrygg.
(By Erik)

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve hated loud noises.

Pops, bangs, shouts and whistles — sudden, sharp sounds always make me jump and set me on edge. Getting through a Fourth of July fireworks display is still a bit of a challenge, pretty colors aside.

That’s partly why I’ve shied away from people that get lumped together in the broad category called “special needs.” A lot of churches have them — people with autism, Down syndrome, retardation. I just don’t do well with them, I’ve always thought.

And some of them make loud, sudden noises.

I remember a boy in the church where I grew up who had severe mental handicaps. He couldn’t communicate or even walk, but his parents faithfully brought him to church each week. He’d occasionally make these sort of loud, gurgle-type sounds that are hard to describe. I can still hear them if I think back.

I also remember wondering why his parents brought him to church. He clearly wasn’t getting anything out of it, and he was somewhat distracting (though I remember our minister deftly working one of this young man’s noises into a sermon once). It must’ve been hard for his parents to get him there every week, too.

I don’t think like that anymore, not after meeting another young man, Alex.

A missionary in Africa had contacted me about Alex, who was baptized not long ago at the Brentwood Oaks Church of Christ in Austin, Texas. Jeanie and I were headed down there for Karen Reynolds’ wedding (see previous posts) so we spent an extra night in Austin and attended the church’s special worship service for kids with special needs.

Alex is autistic. His mom told me the technical term for it — it’s long and vague. A lot of folks, myself included, get confused here because we equate autism with Dustin Hoffman in “Rain Man.” That’s a very narrow perspective of autism. It’s a huge spectrum of disorders — I think they even call it “autism spectrum disorder” now — that range from mild to severe.

A lot of people who society used to label as anti-social have a mild form of autism that’s been classified only recently. It’s called Asperger’s Disorder.

And autism is a lot more common than I thought. One out of every 116 children born in the United States has some form of it. For Down syndrome, the number is 1 out of every 800 births, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Alex, like a lot of autistic children, is non-verbal. He only speaks a few words, but a therapist taught him how to communicate by pointing to letters on a piece of paper.

There’s another boy in at Brentwood Oaks, Jackson, who’s also autistic and communicates the same way. I talked to his mother on the phone, and she said that the conversations her son engaged in after he learned the point-and-spell method amazed her.

For example, in a recent group class for autistic kids, one girl asked the other students what they thought about Hamas. Jackson replied by spelling out “I can’t believe they won the election.” He went on to say that he wants peace in the Middle East and doesn’t support their brand of violence.

“And how old is your son?” I asked his mother.

“He’s nine,” she said. The family doesn’t even watch that much TV. As best as they can tell, Jackson has been reading the newspaper over his father’s shoulder.

The folks who teach the special-needs class at Brentwood Oaks are starting to realize that they need to modify their topics to include discussions of the Holy Spirit and other issues they once considered too complex for the students to grasp.

Taking care of kids with autism and other special needs is tough. It’s an around-the-clock job. Parents don’t get to worship together, and some have given up on church because it’s just too difficult to manage. That’s why Brentwood Oaks and other congregations have launched special programs for these kids.

They’re not easy to start. Brentwood Oaks brought in a therapist to work with the kids for the better part of a year — and to train the “pals,” volunteers who accompany the children to class. The volunteers told me that the first weeks of their program, now a year old, looked like a circus compared to today. But they kept training, and things got better.

Now the program is a magnet for people from different churches who have kids with special needs. Some people bring their kids to Brentwood Oaks just for the special-needs ministry. When Jeanie and I visited, one of the kids got picked up early so he could go to Buddhist temple with his parents.

Alex’s mother told me that one of the blessings her son has brought her is the realization that sometimes we have to accept help. We can pretend to be self-reliant all we want, but these kids — these very intelligent kids — remind us that we’re all reliant on God for everything. We all have special needs.

And we’re not all that different.

During the Brentwood Oaks class, we sang “If You’re Happy and you Know It.” We skipped the verse that goes, “If you’re happy and you know it shout ‘Amen!’ ‘AMEN!’”

One of the volunteers nodded toward one of the young, autistic students and told me why.

“He hates loud noises,” he said.

If you want to read the story I wrote for the Chronicle about special-needs ministries, click here

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

PHOTO: Meeting special needs

Serving special needs
Originally uploaded by eandjtrygg.
Here's another photo from our recent trip to Austin. Jackie Boyd, children's minister for the Brentwood Oaks church in Austin, Texas, teaches a class for children with special needs.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Found my thrill on Solsbury Hill

(By Erik)

Have you ever heard the song “Solsbury Hill” by Peter Gabriel?

Yes you have. Even if you don’t think you have, you have. Trust me.

It might help if I tell you it’s the song with the lyric “my heart goin’ boom boom boom.” I’ve just googled the lyrics and I can’t find another memorable one in there. The song tells about someone longing to live with the eagles after he hears one say, “grab your things I’ve come to take you home.” (I guess that’s another somewhat-memorable lyric.)

By the way, Peter Gabriel wants to go live with eagles that fly, not The Eagles that sing “Hotel California” and “Take it Easy.”

OK, back to my current gripe against “Solsbury Hill.” It’s overused. It’s the theme to a current cell phone ad, it was featured in the films “In Good Company,” “Big Fish” and probably a dozen others. Pick another song, please, advertisers and movie-makers of the world.

According to a moderator of the Web site “DVD in my Pants,” the song is “used in every sensitive father-son relationship movie or any time Cameron Crowe is allowed within 50 miles of a soundstage.” (And I think we all know it's hard to find a more reliable source than a Web site named "DVD in my Pants.")

One rather creative usage of the song is in a movie “preview” for “Shining.” This short video clip shows you how much a song can set the mood for a film — or change the mood, or even change the genre!

Now I’ve got “I’m standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona” stuck in my head.”

Watch the preview for the touching family picture "Shining"

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The good ol' days at Deer Gap Court

(By Erik)

Mom sent me this a few months back. A dear friend of the family passed away, and this was in a collection of old church-related material that he had. It's a page from the directory of the Alexandria, Va., Church of Christ, where we attended from the time I was born until I was 5. (Amy was 2.)

Dad worked for the government and we lived in a townhouse on Deer Gap Court. Then dad another government job, only to find out that it was in Macon, Ga., not the D.C. area.

I'm not lookin' too happy in this photo. I'm guessing there was some familial strife leading up to it.

Or maybe I'm sad because they misspelled my name!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

PHOTO: Karen and Scott's wedding

(By Erik and Jeanie)

We're just getting around to posting photos from the wedding of our good friend Karen Reynolds (now Karen Cuellar) from a couple of weeks ago. It was at the Westover Hills Church of Christ in Austin, Texas. The Flickr site is down right now, so we're trying a different way of posting the photo.

In this shot, Karen and her bridesmaids (pictured are Jeanie and Karen's sister, Becca) are looking at a video monitor showing a bunch of pictures of Karen and Scott when they were kids. The flower girl, Karen's niece Emily, was very cute but somewhat unimpressed by the slide show.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Flag Day (sort of)

(By Erik)

We've been non-stop busy since the Fourth of July, it seems.

This past weekend we traveled to Austin, Texas, for Karen Reynolds' wedding. Had a great time. We also visited Roger McCown, minister for the Brentwood Oaks Church of Christ, and attended Sunday morning service with the church's ministry for children with special needs. More on that experience later. (It'll be in the next Chronicle, too, by the way.)

Today is Missions Sunday at our home church, Memorial Road. I'm working as a flag bearer during the service. There are about 200 of us carrying flags of various countries. The church has divided the flags into categories:

1. Flags of countries that Memorial Road spends missions dollars in or has some connection to (Brazil, Australia, Kenya, etc.)

2. Flags of countries that have a significant number of Churches of Christ (and, in most cases, tenuous connections to Memorial Road) — I'm carrying the Cuban flag here.

3. Countries that are "unreached" (with fewer than 100 church members and three churches) — this is the biggest category and I'm carrying the Norwegian flag, of course!

I disagree with some of the listings in category 3 (Bolivia should be in 2, not 3, and so should Argentina, etc.) but overall it's a pretty good concept.

I asked Jeanie if I should wear my Castro hat (see photo a few posts back) as I'm carrying the Cuban flag.

She said no.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Spray paint and funnel cakes

LibertyFest 2006
Originally uploaded by eandjtrygg.
(By Erik and Jeanie)

We just got back from our annual trip to LibertyFest, our fair city's salute to the Fourth of July. Memorial Road members volunteer to help every year.

This year we spray painted kids' hair patriotic shades of red, white and blue. It rained just before we got there and drizzled throughout out shift, so customer turnout was a bit low.

Then, after dinner at Steak N' Shake (Erik's idea) we set up our chairs to watch the fireworks and Erik went to get a funnel cake (Jeanie's idea).

There were two lines at the funnel cake cart. Erik got in the shorter of the two, placed his order and paid.

Then they told him to go stand in the other line to wait for a funnel cake.

Forty-five minutes later, he had one.

The fireworks were great, and we made it back to the house in record time. Good stuff!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Too much bass for the monkeys

Victoria Falls
Originally uploaded by eandjtrygg.
(By Erik)

I’m sorry to report that my two Zimbabwean monkeys just had an accident.

Since I returned from Africa they’ve perched atop one of my stereo speakers in the den. I was just playing songs from “Share the Well” by Caedmon’s Call, and apparently the bass from the song “Volcanoland” jolted them from their position.

One fell over and the other plummeted to the floor. It’s a good five-foot drop, too. Luckily, they’re both made of wood.

A Zimbabwean monkey done in by an Ecuadorian song — how sad.

You’ll be happy to know that the stone hippo remains unshaken.

Speaking of Zimbabwe, here’s a photo I took of Victoria Falls, one of the natural wonders of the world. This picture doesn’t do it justice. No picture can.

Read more about my trip to Zimbabwe here.