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Aaron’s Community Building Mix

132 - Fun Friday Treat
Creative Commons License photo credit: Holtsman

Aaron’s Building Community Mix

Making New Friends

In my previous post: St. Nick| Community Building and Batman Socks, I talked about using the folk-story Stone Soup to begin a discussion about differences, scarcity, gifts and building a community.

To avert our St. Nick kindergarten disaster, the next day I brought in the ingredients for our Building Community Mix.

With other groups, I’ve made stone soup in a crock pot or adapted the activity in a couple different ways. One time, I had everyone bring in a piece of fruit and we made a community fruit salad. But the biggest success was always making Community Building Mix.

Each of the children participated and added their ingredient into our community pot–which was a large empty popcorn tin. Each student took a turn stirring and then rolling the tin to “cook” the ingredients. We shared our “Soup” and filled an extra baggie to give to a stranger, a child they didn’t know that attended our school.

The actual recipe is just a takeoff of ole Trail Mix.

It becomes a community building activity when each person in the group brings in one ingredient for a shared experience of working together.

I have used this activity with all age groups: pre-schoolers, special education students, Boy Scouts, university students, teachers, senior citizens…. A friend even used it with her Ladies’ Church Group as their culminating activity of friendship and sharing after a month long Bible Study.

It has also worked well for many holidays: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Birthdays, Summer Camp…

Great Holiday Gift Idea

It also works great as a homemade gift.

Aaron, my son who has the label of autism and intellectual disabilities, gave this as his annual teacher gift (one to each of his teachers, school secretaries, bus drivers, job coaches, therapists….). Since we wanted to include and thank as many people as possible, and have the gift be something that would enhance Aaron’s status as a person with skills and talents, this was perfect.

Twenty years later, his high school teacher still talks about “the mix.” It was a great way of thanking all the people in Aaron’s school or work community. And he got to be an active part of making it.

Partial Participation

In a related post I talked about how Tommy and Aaron “partially participated” in making Halloween treats.

Aaron

Aaron would “partially participate” by picking out the items at the grocery (his favorite were M&Ms), dumping the ingredients into the large popcorn tin. (Tape the lid on the tin.) He would roll the tin around to mix it up. Aaron would also help put the sticker: Aaron’s Holiday Mix on the top of the small holiday tin containers, snack bag, paper cups or plastic containers.

Tommy

Tommy would also help pick out the ingredients in the store (he favored Skittles). His job was to help stop Mom and Aaron from eating the M&Ms, as well as scooping the mix with a large ladle into the containers.

Since Aaron had fine motor issues and Tommy had great fine motor skills this worked out well. Each of the boys got to use their skills to make the mix.

Building Community Snack Mix

Box of Granola
Package of Mixed Dried Fruit Bits (found near the raisins in the grocery)
Raisins
Can of nuts
Pretzels, broken
M & M’s, chocolate chips, or Skittles
Other ingredients could be marshmallows, coconut, peanut butter chips, white chocolate, popcorn, cheese fish or crackers….

Invite your friends over and ask each to bring one ingredient.

Get out your biggest bowl, or put in a large popcorn tin (tape it shut). Combine all ingredients by shaking or stirring. Ladle into paper cups, plastic baggies, or in bowls. This is a great recipe for lunch snacks, parties, and teacher’s gifts. The mixed dried fruit bits are the magic ingredient.

Add Your Comments:

Have you used any similar experiences to build friendships, share gifts? Have you used “partial participation” to include others with various levels of skills? Is this an activity you can use?

Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward

All my best, Mary

Celebrating St. Nick + Two Special Sons

Celebrating St. Nick and Two Special Sons

St. Nick: New traditions

"The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hope that St. Nicholas soon would be there."

Family Traditions:

Because of our German heritage, St. Nicholas’ Feast day on Dec. 6th was the start of the Christmas season. The tradition of putting out our socks (or shoes) was always great fun.

Aaron, our son with the label of autism, and Tommy, our son with the label of normal are now 36 and 35 years old. Last post I wrote about how our holiday celebrations are evolving: St. Nick meets Disney Princesses.

Old Traditions

The first year we were married, my mother-in-law Jean, hand-made Christmas stockings for our mantle. Of course, we were living in a small apartment with no fireplace or mantle, but it began a family tradition. You know this was a long time ago because while Tom’s sock was a typical crew man-sock, mine was shaped like silk hose plus garter. (Do they even make those anymore?)

To personalize the stockings, Jean lovingly sewed small schoolhouses on both of our stockings because we were teachers, adding a felt wedding ring on mine and a felt set of golf clubs on Tom’s. When I was pregnant, she made an “Our Grandbaby” sock for Aaron who was going to be born in December. Later I store-bought some Christmas stockings for both my sons but glued and sewed some Christmasy trim on the socks.

Now a generation later, I captured our family’s own Norman Rockwell moment—Isabella pointing to the “Our Grandbaby” stocking on our mantle.

Making New Family Traditions

Lots of families put up Christmas stockings, some find stockings that are personalized with each person’s name, or hobbies, or interests like socks for dog lovers, Barbie dolls, sports fans, or ….

But, our family made the old tradition our own by adding a token of some special moment each year on St. Nick’s Feastday.

Adding a Memory a Year

Throughout each year, Tom and I look for small tokens and give them to each other on St. Nick’s Day.

Vacations and trips were easy. There were always ready-made patches, pins, buttons we could pick up at souvenir shops. Scouts, school events, sporting ribbons and awards also were small and could be easily attached to the socks. We even added some mementos inside the socks, like Tommy’s business cards for each new job and Aaron’s first pay check. Now the front, back and inside of the socks carry magic moments to remember.

Our socks have become treasured scrapbooks of our lives.

Tommy's Christmas Sock 35 years

Tommy's Christmas Sock 35 Years

Aaron's Christmas Stocking

Aaron's Christmas Sock 36 Years

What do you think? Does this tradition meet the test of inclusion+ normalization? Are Aaron and Tommy’s socks alike? Age-appropriate? Do these socks also celebrate their individual gifts and interests?

You can see Aaron’s Trolley Bus pin from our trips to the Smokies, the pin from Carlsbad Bat Cave, his school bus and Lakota Pin, his prom key chain, his Boy Scout patch from Woodland Trails, a horse pin from Cincinnati Riding for the Handicapped, National Park patches where he hiked with our family…

Tommy has Boy Scout pins, school patches from the cross-country team, buttons of him looking fierce in his junior high wrestling uniform. Tommy also hiked the same easy trails in the National Parks but those patches were not the same accomplishment they were for Aaron. Tommy was proud of his week in Philmont and the more difficult mountain hikes on the Appalachian Trail with his dad…

So both Aaron and Tommy had hiking patches. The difference was the intensity, duration and difficulty of the trails.

Both were proud accomplishments.

Transition

Tommy’s wife, Ana, bought Christmas stockings for their first Christmas together. Each year I give them some token to add to their sock. This year, Ana became a United States Citizen. After the ceremony the Daughters of the American Revolution passed out little flag pins. I asked for an extra one, planning to add it to her sock.

Aaron just moved into his new house, I have stockings ready for his first house decorating party, he will get a house key on his sock.

And so the tradition continues:

“The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hope that St. Nicholas soon would be there.” (Night before Christmas)

Wishing you many happy memories this holiday season.

Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward

Best,
Mary

Comments

I hope you’ll share some of your family’s holiday celebrations. Is this an idea your family can adapt? Does your family celebrate St. Nick’s or have some unique tradition?

Other stories you might enjoy:

Tale of Two Brothers: Sibs of People with Disabilities

Circles of Life: Family Reunions

St. Nick Meets the Disney Princesses?

St. Nick and the Batman socks

St. Nick and the Batman Socks

St. Nick and the Batman Socks

I shared my story about St. Nick and the Batman socks. I told you I would give the Batman socks to our granddaughter when she went to kindergarten.

Well, as you can see in the picture above, Isabella picked the Batman socks right off our tree, made a face…and a new family tradition began.

As we learn in early childhood and special education, we take our cues from our children, right? Use those “teachable moments.”

New St. Nick Traditions

I don’t know if Tommy and his family will decide to put Isabella’s worn socks on their Christmas tree, but I’ve been trying to figure out how to continue our St. Nick’s tradition of fun plus lessons in diversity, inclusion and building community.

I’m not sure it will work, because two year olds are pretty young to understand sharing, but I’m thinking of giving Isabella two sets of Disney Princess socks for St. Nick’s.

One for her, and one to share.

I don’t want this to be a “charity” or “pity” model, but rather a gift of joy. I have read research which says giving is the best present you can give yourself.

Charity is tricky. I want Isabella to learn that she is giving a gift. It is something she would like, it is pretty and new (or gently worn), she can try to envision what the new little girl will feel like when she gets it.

If all goes well, this can be our new tradition.

Who doesn’t need a new pair of socks?

And even though the Disney Princesses are all young and beautiful, they are from different cultures and had to overcome some diversity, right?

Hopefully, the story of “St. Nick and the Batman Socks” will become a cherished tradition…and will continue to teach about diversity, community building and inclusion. And hopefully, our precious little Isabella will also learn about giving and sharing with others.

Comments:

Want to take bets? How will this little experiement work? Do you have any holiday traditions that promote community building? Do Disney Princesses rock?

Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward

All the best, Mary

Check out these other posts about the Holidays:

Grandma Gets a Thong

What is Charity and Love?

Thanksgiving: A song about autism

Kill the Turkeys: Life lessons for people with disabilities.

Thanksgiving: Inclusion and Interdependence

Thanksgiving: Song about Autism

Hi Everyone,

On Thanksgiving, I wanted to thank each of you for being part of our Climbing Every Mountain community.

It’s been an exciting experience to meet new friends and connect with people who care about people with disabilities.

More people are subscribing to the “Get Notice of New Posts” in the upper left hand corner of the website. More people are retweeting and sharing the social media love.

Now, there are over one hundred and twenty articles or posts, hundreds of comments, and visitors from over ten countries. Inch by inch…. I’ve been reposting some of the “evergreen content” but hope to have new articles for the new year.

But sometimes we need to live in the NOW.

The last couple posts have been about dreams for the future (click here), and rants about the past (click here).

So NOW: I want to ask each of you to concentrate on TODAY and the people who bring you joy.

Right Now! Just for today, we accept that everything is just the way it is supposed to be.

Sure, we can begin the climb up the mountain again tomorrow, but for today we can feel good about who we are and the people we love.

This might be considered heresy for an advocate: But there are many wonderful things we don’t need to change.

I am so thankful for my husband Tom, who even though he thinks there are only space aliens on the web, he still loves me. After 46 years he is still my best friend.

I also want to thank my wonderful children and family: Aaron, Tommy, Ana, Isabella and Vivian–I hope I haven’t embarrassed you too much. You do give me amazing memories and stories and teach me what life is all about.

Gift: A Song about Autism

It is hard to always look at “the silver lining,” see “the sunny side” or “the glass half full.” So, on this Thanksgiving Day, give yourself a gift and “listen to the music.”

Through My Eyes is a song about what it feels like to have autism. I thought this was beautiful and hope you will too. Enjoy!

Happy Thanksgiving.

Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward
All my best, Mary