Our family Christmas

I always enjoyed Christmas as a young child eagerly awaiting Santa’s visit hoping I would receive the gifts I asked for in my letter to him that my mother so patiently waited for me to write. It is such a joyous time and when we are together with our family and the ones we love it makes it extra special. I have such wonderful memories of my early childhood Christmases. I remember my parents at a younger time in their lives and the love they held for each other and for my 2 sisters and I. We were a tight knit family and our parents were very loving and caring and provided us with all the comforts and encouragement we needed.

As a father of a young boy I find myself trying to do for him what my parents did for me. If I could give him the world I would and I would see to it that he is well protected in his life. We know it is so important to give our children the love and encouragement they need so they can grow and mature into their different stages of development. The most important part of childhood is the magical part which is the time of our innocence and our belief in things that only children can believe in. It is so important to let our children experience the joys of Christmas and the wonderment of Santa Claus. I made sure Matthew wrote his Christmas list to Santa just like my mother did with me when I was a young boy. He resisted initially because he felt Santa needs to visit those who have less than we have and he felt content with what he has. I am so very proud of Matthew for his loving compassion for the needy and less fortunate. In his list he asks for simple things like rolls of paper, puzzles and books with chapters.

I had my work cut out for me this Christmas as I was trying to balance the demands of work, the minor disruptions at home with leaking pipes that destroyed our kitchen floor, a failing hard drive that wiped out my programs and data that dated back over 10 years and the shopping demands for meeting the expectations of all my nieces and nephews for a Christmas that would have a sad tone to it this year with the abscence of my dad. As I usually find myself at this time of year it is Christmas Eve early in the day and I am preparing for a day of intense shopping and dealing with the crowds and the chaos that only last minute shopping does provide. I happen to enjoy shopping at target because of their selections and pricing. After hours of walking down the toy aisles, movie aisles, book aisles and clothing aisles I managed to find something for everyone on my list. I was kind of enjoying the experience as I am feeling good finding things I think each and every kid would enjoy. I also was very happy to meet all of Matthew’s requests with the exception of the rolls of paper which I knew my sisters were taking care of.

After a full day of shopping I was exhausted and looking forward to getting home and preparing for midnight mass which was about 5 hours away. I also knew I had a lot of gift wrapping to do which I feel is the hardest part because I have not done a very good job at it. I am always envious when I see the beautifully wrapped presents my wife and sisters have for Matthew with the overlaps just right and everything perfect with bow, label and all. My feeling is as long as the gift is wrapped no matter how uneven and that it is concealed so the element of surprise is there then it really doesn’t matter how neat it is because the kids are going to unwrap it quickly anyway.

This year as far as celebrities and movies go I found myself buying gifts such as music and books relating to Michael Jackson, Hannah Montanna, the Trans-siberian Orchestra and Twilight. I also bought a model train set, remote control cars, the Hess car, puzzles, dvds and books for all on my list trying my best to please everyone. In the spirit of Christmas and with my son’s insight I also bought several toys earlier in the month for needy kids that were given to the Toys for Tots campaign. It is always important to remember the less fortunate at this time of year and really throughout the year as well.

I also managed to make our family Christmas card after taking a picture of my son in the backyard during our pre winter season blizzard and designed it on a popular website and was very pleased with it. The cards went out the day after Christmas but at least they went out as I enjoy acknowledging the wonderful cards we receive from family and friends.

I reminded Matthew as he was preparing to go to bed that he needed to set out a plate of cookies and a glass of milk for Santa and dishes of water for his reindeer. Matty was all excited as he eagerly awaited his visit like I used to do so many years ago. He was very generous with the amount of cookies and milk he left Santa and even left a note that he could have more if he was still hungry.

As Matthew went up to bed I told him to sleep and in the morning we would open up the presents. I then started bringing in all the presents and left them by the tree with all the wrapping utensils. I was not yet ready to start wrapping them as I was planning to go to midnight mass and wanted to relax a little bit watching the tv. It was peaceful and quiet and I find Christmas eve a special time and a very exciting time as it brings me back to the happy times of my childhood and reminds me of how wonderful my parents were to my sisters and I as they always made our Christmases so special. It was time to go to mass as I enjoy the midnight mass ceremony as the first mass of Christmas with the singing and the beauty of the pagentry. I always try to lead a proper and religious life and sometimes fall away from the church but I do believe and am always happy to be at church when I go, especially at Christmastime. I listen to the priest as he speaks of the baby Jesus and Mother Mary and Joseph the carpenter. It is a very joyous time celebrating the birth of our lord Jesus. This is the very true meaning of Christmas and this is what I want Matty to understand. I always enjoy singing Joy to the World at Christmas mass and seeing all the girls dressed for the occasion. It is a special day and a day we cherish. At Christmas mass when we extend our hands to one another we wish each other a Merry Christmas. As mass ended and the crowd was leaving I was admiring the church and the tree and the nativity scene. I wished all the priests a Merry Christmas and went home to wrap the presents.

As I arrived home I had the task of wrapping all of Matthew’s presents first. We managed to buy him things he asked for and things we felt he would like. I knew he would love the train set and the racing car track. I also bought him lego sets and 500 piece puzzles and some of his favorite movies on dvd. He can never have enough board games so we bought him Monopoly and Scrabble and Yahtzee and his favorite game Sorry with a Sponge Bob theme. We also got him the Hess car. My wife bought him more practical things such as shirts and pants and shoes. I was lucky my mother in law awoke and helped me with wrapping the presents. It took us about 3 hours to wrap and we still had to wrap for some of the other nieces and nephews which I said we can do tomorrow.

As my mother in law turned in for bed I stayed up a little longer to watch a Christmas movie and then finally fell asleep around 4:30 am knowing that Matthew would want to open his presents early in the day. Before I drifted off to sleep I kissed my wife goodnight as she was asleep for several hours already having wrapped her presents early in the day. I dreamed of my son waiting for Santa to arrive and of Maria and I continuing his dream and belief in Santa as that is a precious gift. The gift of childhood innocence. As we slept we awaited Christmas day all together opening up our presents. This was still a few hours away so I slept peacefully and felt very content with my wife and son who I love so very much.

Merry Christmas!

Edward D. Iannielli III

The voice of an Angel

It’s not often we are touched by a song or a performance that brings us to tears so when it happens it truly is a remarkable thing. I often enjoy music and can listen to it with many people around me in a public place such as a concert or alone when I am driving in my car listening to the radio or a cd. To me music is a very important facet of life and it helps connect us to many times and moments in our life. I have a real connection to the music of Trans-Siberian Orchestra because it brings me back to the time of my son’s birth. I also cherish the music of the 60’s and 70’s because it reminds me of my childhood and brings me back to those happy days.

Since I started driving a car at 18 years old I always enjoyed listening to the music as I would drive whether it was down the block to the store, on my way to work or on a long road trip down to Virginia, South Carolina or Florida or on the west coast in California. It’s the music that makes the drive more enjoyable and makes the times more memorable.

My mother enjoyed singing and I have fond memories as a young child when my mom would sing me to sleep. Those were my most favorite times. My mom loved to sing and I always loved listening to her voice. I find it interesting that my wife Maria also likes to sing and loves Karaoke and her favorite music is country. I enjoy listening to her sing and remember when she too would sing Matthew to sleep as a baby. We always encourage Matthew to sing when he is in the mood because he has a nice voice and it is a wonderful thing to express yourself through song and if a child can feel comfortable singing in front of others it will help them with their shyness and help them with their self esteem also.

As the father of an autistic child I am always happy to see when other autistic children have developed talents that take them places and help them teach others. I am very impressed with the young girl Gina Marie Incandela, who also is autistic and is a very talented singer and is well known for performing at sporting events singing the National Anthem. She has such a beautiful voice and is such a pleasure to watch perform and I have shown my son videos of her performances and he is so very impressed and so proud of her achievements.

I was never blessed with the talent of singing or playing a musical instrument so when I listen to music from well known artists or amateurs I really enjoy listening and being touched by their work. I have grown to enjoy the concept of giving amateurs the chance to showcase their talent in a tv talent competition. You can see how serious these unknown performers are and how they welcome the opportunity. One of my favorite artists that went from unknown to overnight sensation was Kelly Clarkson who got noticed from her performance on American Idol and was the very first winner of the show. Since her win on American Idol the show has launched her career and the careers of many other talented performers and has provided a great deal of entertainment.

The popularity of American Idol has also launched the series in Europe with Britain’s Got Talent and the most remarkable performance was that of a 47 year old woman who by appearance was considered a non serious candidate by the audience as they laughed as she spoke. Even the judges including Simon rolled their eyes and didn’t know what to make of her. She seemed sweet as she introduced herself to the panel and the audience and she was very proud by the way she conducted herself. As the judges asked her a few questions and she politely replied it was now time for her to perform. Before she started to sing it was obvious she seemed to want the stage and to have this opportunity based on her behind stage interview.

The moment she gave the cue to start and started to sing it was like heaven and earth collided as she drew everyone in with that angelic voice she was blessed with and all her dreams from when she was a 12 year old girl were all of a sudden happening in that instant. She not only shined in that moment but brought tears to the eyes of so many people and in the process touched so many people from across the vast landscape of England and all of Europe to across the Atlantic to the States. She was so incredible in that performance and she really touched everyone in the audience and the panel of judges were in a state of shock. It was the most incredible performance I ever saw and I literally had tears in my eyes and no matter how many times I watch her performance I well up with tears in my eyes as her performance is so touching and her voice is such a pleasure to listen to. The woman who touched so many with her voice and her incredible talent is Susan Boyle and I am so very happy for her as she is so inspiring and has such a wonderful gift to share. She is truly amazing and I am so touched and inspired by her story. I made sure I picked up her debut cd for my wife as a Christmas present as I know how much my wife loves to sing and we both felt her story is so compelling.

It is not often that someone touches us as profoundly but Susan Boyle really did and I am so delighted to learn of her and to hear her music and that angelic voice as she really has touched us and we thank her very much for that and thank Britain’s Got Talent for discovering her.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Our beauty comes from within and our joy comes from our children

Life for many is a long road of discovery with many detours and alternate routes to choose from. It is about finding ourselves and how we relate with others. We are always learning and gaining insight and developing as our own person and our inner feelings and our experiences help in shaping who we are. We need to be loved, respected, heard and counted on so we can fully experience what is so wonderful about our lives and we need to share who we are and never run from it. Life is about living and sharing and reaching out to others and finding peace and happiness and tapping into the beauty of our selves that comes from within. When we open up and fully achieve the inner peace and happiness we are seeking we will find the true meaning of life and will realize how special we are and how important it is to be true and honest and to reach out to others and share a part of ourselves. We will find that when we relate to others we are able to share ourselves and we can then help touch others and also be touched by the actions and commitment of others and also seek the answers to the questions we are faced with throughout our travels on the roads and superhighways of life.

In seeing my son, Matthew on the very first day of his life when I was with Maria and she delivered him with all the doctors and nurses there and all the commotion in the delivery area I was truly amazed and had tears streaming down my cheeks for I was now a dad and I was so overcome with joy. I suddenly realized I had so much to learn in raising a baby with my wife and also felt this emotional bond with Maria and Matthew, our newborn little boy which was and is the most wonderful, incredible, spiritual, happiest and most joyous time of my life and I will forever be grateful for this most incredible opportunity. Words can not always express how we feel and when I was going through the wonders of our son’s birth I just felt so at peace and in a wonderful place and moment in my life. I felt something I never felt before and it will always remain with me because that is without question the happiest day in my life. It is a day I enjoy reliving and thinking back to and it always brings a smile to my face and makes me realize the most important things in life.

Our son Matthew is so beautiful in every way and I remember placing his hand in my hand when he was an infant and I was just so amazed at how tiny and how perfect he was. It is just so enlightening to see a baby and to realize they are part of us and we are part of him or her and our hearts grow with all the love we hold for our baby. The love of our baby is the most precious gift we can ever receive and share because it is a wonderful time and before you know it that time is past in the blink of an eye given the hectic nature of our lives. We derive such joy and happiness in raising a child and it by far is the most interesting and exciting time we will ever experience and we will most certainly miss it when the time passes by. That is why it is so very important to fulfill all your dreams and desires in raising your child and always give them your full undivided attention and all the love you hold for them. It is so special to have those times together as a family and it is all worth it. I am by far a more caring and loving person and I approach my life with more purpose and happiness as the proud father I am of our son Matthew (Matty).

I would say my intentions as Matthew’s father are always good and I am realizing the importance of spending as much time with him as I can. We all have responsibilities and pressures in our lives but must also remember that our children are the most special and most important part of our lives and no matter what happens we must always remember that and do all we can to protect and nurture our children. Our children are our gift that helps us become better as human beings and help us to learn the special things and most important things in life.

My parents were my connection to this place we live in and they were wonderful and truly committed in raising my sisters and I and I firmly promise to do my best with Maria for our son, Matthew because we love him and are so happy to have him in our lives. We are truly blessed and I am always very emotional whenever I have the opportunity to talk of my wife and son for they are what makes my life so wonderful and purposeful. In the Christmas season we all try to be better as people and reach out and go that extra step and I feel since Matthew’s birth I always felt this way. May we all be so blessed! Peace and Joy to all!

Edward D. Iannielli III

Matty’s Christmas List

Tis the season to share and to celebrate as family the joys of togetherness and our love and devotion to our children. It is the time of Christ’s birth which is a very spiritual time of the year and a time where we enjoy being together and exchanging presents with our loved ones. It is a time when we prepare our children for Santa Claus’s arrival and make them aware that if they are to be visited by Santa they have to be good for the year.

Since my son is autistic he has occupied his time with creating lists of just about anything you can think of. He has found great joy in creating lists so when I asked him to make a list for this Christmas that we would mail to Santa I thought it would take him no time and that he would be so into creating it. So when I asked him to write his list I was quite surprised he still had not started it. When I asked him why he said he felt that Santa should be helping the less fortunate and that he did not want to receive a gift because he felt that there are too many poor children who have very little food and clothes and they should be the first on Santa’s list. I was so impressed with my son’s compassion and yearning to see the less fortunate helped that I was deeply touched.

I told him that God is trying to help all the people in the world and he wants us all to feel special in his eyes and that we should still write Santa because we are all children of God and we all deserve to be noticed for the good we do. As children we all look forward to the holidays when we are with our family and we get to open presents that are given to us as gifts and celebrate the true meaning and spirit of the holidays especially Christmas. Our son was born in the month of December so he receives gifts for his birthday and for Christmas. He is a great kid and is like most kids yet he seems very mature for his age and has such a sense about himself in that he wants to help people and make the world a better place to live. He gets very upset when he sees pictures of children malnourished and dying and wishes that he could help them to get the food and basic nutrition they need.

Matthew said he would make two lists for Christmas 2009. One was a list for the needy and the other list was for him as I asked him to write. In his list for the needy he really expressed his wishes and dreams that all the families who are struggling receive the love and support they need to keep their homes and provide for their families. Matthew said that we all should share in providing one thing to help others in need. He said something very profound and I am quite impressed with his dreams and his vision in helping to make things better for the less fortunate. He envisions that if we all could do one deed to help someone and we provide them with the love, support and friendship they need and we multiplied that one act of human kindness by the actions of others who feel the same way we would certainly have accomplished something very positive and would see how this would certainly help others.

I feel Matthew has grown and matured a great deal despite his autism and his personality really shines because he really is very caring and always wants to help others. For this reason alone I told Matthew that this is why Santa needs his Christmas list so he can recognize his kindness and his good deeds and reward him for it.

Matthew’s Christmas list was written with the innocence and the sincerity of a child who truly believes and it is precious and I will fulfill some of his wishes by seeing that he gets money, rolls of paper, pencils, dominoes, books and family board games. He certainly deserves the items he requested and we are so proud of him because he is a terrific kid and he makes Christmas for us so special!

Merry Christmas to all, especially Matthew, our wonderful son!

Edward D. Iannielli III

The importance of fitting in

As a father I always try to teach my son the important things in life and support him in all he does. I am always trying to instill in him the proper values and proper behaviors he should follow and that he should always accept others and try never to lose his patience and that he should always have heart in all he tries and to never give up. I also wish to teach my son the importance of fitting in and being committed to finding things of interest so he can develop and establish skills and confidence which will enable him to make friends.

When you find something that interests you and that can help make you a better person and help you in developing and maturing and establishing friendships you should stick to it because that is so very important and should always be a priority. I certainly can relate things in my life as a young boy that helped me acquire self confidence and also made me a better person and I try to relate these experiences to my son so he can learn and make choices. I also try to tell my son that at times we also appreciate our alone time and we do cherish our privacy as well. It is important to know how to balance both because we should have times where we can be alone but most importantly should have times where we are participating and enjoying the company of others.

When you develop self confidence and feel good about yourself you can then find joy in participating in activities that interest you and provide you with positive experiences and enable you to make friends and learn important things such as competition, teamwork, friendship and most of all the fun and excitement in participating with others and fitting in as a member of a group.

The joys of childhood are a very meaningful time in our life and help form us as individuals. What we learn in our childhood stays with us for the rest of our lives and are what help shape us and teach us about ourselves and how we interact with others. My earliest childhood experiences have been a major factor in my life and have shaped me as a person and I know my son has made choices in his young life based on his feelings and experiences as a young child like I have.
If I could teach my son one thing that would make a difference in his life it would be to have trust in his abilities and himself as a person and to know that he has so much to be proud of. My parents always made me realize how important it is to believe in yourself and to never give up. This is what I learned as a child from my parents and this is what I want my son to learn in his youth as well which he will apply in his adulthood which will make him grow and mature and give him a sense of accomplishment. After all this is what we all seek in our lives is a sense of accomplishment.

It is so very important to realize that everything we accomplish and achieve is based on all we learn as children. It is so crucial to tap into our inner being as a child and nurture it for it is our way of expressing who we are and our way of learning who we are and how we relate to others. Our childhood is the most important aspect of our life and that is why it is so important to teach our children and always be there to help them and most importantly to listen to them for this is how they learn by interacting first with us and then with their teachers and their peers.

Edward D. Iannielli III

Let it snow, Let it snow, Let it snow!

As I look out our door from the inside where it is cozy and warm and I see the snow quietly falling at a pretty rapid clip and feel the cold air on my cheeks I can’t help but feel an excitement and joy I felt as a child when I would love to peer outside the door and watch the snow fall. It brings me back to the day when I was a young kid and my parents were my source of protection and comfort. They were truly wonderful and made me always feel safe. As we prepare for a major snow blizzard where the current forecast predicts accumulations of up to 24 inches I am feeling like a kid again and will make sure I take Matthew outside to play in it and take pictures of our first snow of the season which happens to be occurring 2 days before the official start of winter season.

These are the moments that stand out in our lives and we will remember them throughout our lifetime. We will be talking of this storm for many years and my son will be able to tell his children of this unexpected snowstorm when we were hit with a major blizzard a week before Christmas in 2009.

I first learned of this storm only yesterday not even realizing the magnitude of it. I am feeling the excitement and anticipation of a major weather event and looking forward to the next day when we can go outside and see the beauty and splendor of nature’s snow across the landscape. I look forward to walking with my son outside in the street and taking it all in. I remember a major blizzard we had back in 1978 when I was in high school and in 1994 when I was working in Brooklyn’s Starrett City and we had 3 snow days missing work. I remember walking on Merrick Road, a major roadway with a friend with virtually no cars on the road in 1994. It was completely buried in snow and I just was amazed being able to experience this as it is very rare.

These are the times we cherish with our children and the snow makes it extra special and gives us the feeling of joy and happiness but we must always remember that as beautiful the snow is it can be very dangerous because of the cold temperatures and the icing conditions. We also need to take care in shovelling the snow because many people are susceptible to health concerns because of the physical activity exerted in moving the snow.

As I see the snow falling at a rapid clip from our door and I listen to the forecast on the weather channel and I am at home enjoying spending the time with my son in the living room I am so very happy as this is what the beauty of life and family is all about. I will have a mental image of this forever etched in my mind and will love looking at the photographs and seeing my son when he was just a kid enjoying the snow with his mom and dad on a day off and just playing and being a kid. It is a wonderful feeling and one that will forever be remembered and enjoyed for years and decades to come. As I tell my son as we look out the door realizing Christmas is a week a way and seeing the snow fall that we should enjoy this moment and that this is so exciting and we surely will enjoy tomorrow and for the night all we can say and think is “Let it snow, Let it snow. Let it snow!” This is a day to remember and a day to share with others. Enjoy the snow with your kids and be safe!

Edward D. Iannielli III

For Matthew, my son

Matthew my son, you are my light, my shining beacon. You are my inner strength. I can have a hard day but when I see your smile my heart just beats stronger and my love grows with no boundaries as I forget what seemed difficult earlier. You teach me through your own wisdom and childlike innocence. It is with great pride and joy I speak of you and tell the world how much you and Maria mean to me. I am so very grateful for your smile, your insatiable desire to learn and for all your wonderful questions.

The love you hold within your heart is just as powerful as the love I hold within my heart for you and your mommy. You are what is right with the world. You are what is right with my life. You are what is right with me. You are the gift that makes my heart light shine.

My early memories of you are when your mom so proudly held you in her arms at the hospital to nurture and love you and to show you off to all.

I know you have your difficulties as we all do and I realize we don’t see the world quite the same, as you have to adjust to the limitations that autism imposes on you. I do however know within my heart that we all have a purpose and a reason for our lives and so I say to you with a father’s love that you should always follow your dreams and never be afraid. You are special in every way and you should never be discouraged and should always build upon your failures. Your life is just as important as any one else’s and you should always remember that.

No matter how many times you are tested in your life always remember that you have something so very powerful. You have a lot of love in your heart and an inner beauty that always comes through and that will help guide you in your life.

You are my son. You are my love. You are my life.

God Bless you Matthew!

Love always and forever.

Mommy and Daddy

Edward D. Iannielli III