Your Name: Mandy Reilly
Children: Cristian (3)
Work: Full-time Legal Billing Assistant
Favorite part of being a mom: The last smile before his eyes close and he drifts off to Dreamland. Makes me think the horns are only there to hold up the halo.
Little known fact: I can beat the boys in Fantasy Hockey, and look cute doing it.
“Just so you guys know, Cristian has been saying “Jesus Christ” a lot lately. We’ve been telling him it’s not appropriate.”
As I read the words on his daily progress report, I quickly wondered which of his shows we’d need to monitor more closely. Phineas and Ferb? No. Penguins of Madagascar? Nah. Jungle Junction. Never. Where in the world would he get that from? Friends at school? I brushed my thoughts aside and told myself it was a “one and done” experience.
The next morning, on our way to school and work, we were running exactly on time. Any red light or pause in traffic would cost us the title of being on time and win me the award of having to park the car and go up the three flights of stairs to meet his class.
Things were going well. The expressway was thankfully not packed and I was hitting green lights. Oh no, a yellow! I was sure I could push B.B. (Yes, I’ve named my car. It stands for Black Beauty.) through, but the Saab (what is it Saabs? I was sandwiched once between a Saab and a SUV once thanks to the owner of the Saab’s texting.) wasn’t so sure and stopped on their brakes, hard. As I braked and looked back to make sure Cristian hadn’t performed some MacGyver move to bust out of the top straps of his car seat simultaneously, it happened. “Jesus Christ!” It was me I was the one teaching my son to say unsavory things.
Three-year-olds love repeating things, but a three-year-old with Autism will cling onto and repeat something more times than Britney, Miley and Christina have lip-synced combined. In the short drive from “the stoplight of doom” to school, I must have heard “JC”, as we’ve renamed the term, at least 30 times. He sung it. He used it as a cheer. I looked back and his hat tilted to the side so I’m pretty sure he rapped it. All while I tried to explain he shouldn’t say that and Mommy shouldn’t have said it either. So I curse like a sailor and I’m a hypocrite – I’m such a catch, no wonder why my guy snagged me up.
Can I get off-topic for a second? Of course I can – it’s my blog. J Did anyone else realize that parenthood has made us hypocrites? I’ve said to Cristian on numerous occasions not to do something that I was doing at that very moment. No dessert so close to bed? That’s just Mommy’s way of getting you to bed earlier so I can partake in my piece of pie before slumberland. Wear your shoes while you’re outside? If I have to I will come out there to put your shoes on you, while I’m barefoot, of course. I’m really starting to think hypocrite is now a synonym for mother.
Anyway, I thought I had gotten him to stop as I handed him over to his teacher with a kiss (for him, not the teacher) and started my walk back to the car, because after all of that we were on time (or they were late). Just as I opened the car door, I heard a familiar voice scream THE words at the top of his little lungs. I slithered into the car and drove away knowing eyes were staring me down and judging my parenting. The drive of shame was not a fun one because it started being stuck at a red light in front of the school. Yikes.
What’s the moral of this story, you ask? Besides making you laugh, which I’m sure I have done, it’s to remember that everything starts at home. I was ready to point the finger at anyone else, but I failed to realize that four fingers pointing back to the real culprit – yours truly. Before we blame society or entertainment for what’s wrong with our children or world, make sure you aren’t part of the problem.
Secondly, it’s to help remind you that children really are tiny sponges. Not only do they soak up the soapy water, but also mucky water left over after the dishes are washed. Cristian is polite, but that doesn’t mean anything if he’s swearing. Squeeze out the crud and leave the clean stuff for your children. You are their first teacher, their greatest influence (despite what you may think) and a role model. Don’t $#!%@ it up!
There's a country song by Trace Adkins called "You're Gonna Miss This." I'd recommend this song to ANY new parent. I blinked and magically the seven-pound bundle of joy I held in my arms almost four years ago is a preschooler.
You're gonna miss this
You're gonna want this back
You're gonna wish these days hadn't gone by so fast
These are some good times
So take a good look around
You may not know it now
But you're gonna miss this
I miss the baby mohawk he had until his first haircut.
I miss the teeny tiny onesies and outfits that didn't need to have characters on them.
I miss the little yodel before he began to cry.
I miss the way his teddy bear went everywhere with him.
I miss my baby boy.
I'm going to miss him needing me to lay with him at night to fall asleep...
I'm going to miss the way he fits in my lap when he wraps his arms around me...
I'm going to miss the way Bumblebee sounds like Bunglebee and Optimus Prime sounds like Optimus Pwime...
I'm going to miss being the only one that can fix his boo boos...
I'm going to miss my little boy.
Someday he is going to stay up later than I will. He won't want to hug me. Transformers will be a distant memory. There will be hurts that I can't fix.
But for now...
I love the way he "shakes his booty."
I love the way he giggles when I smell his not-really-stinky toes and pretend to faint.
I love the way he snuggles into my chest and cuddles back to sleep early in the morning.
I love the way he calls me his best friend.
I love my son. That's not going to change ever.
Before this gets mushier than an overripe banana, there are definitely things I will NOT miss.
I will NOT miss changing dirty diapers and going another round at the toddler-wrangling rodeo to do so.
I will NOT miss the headbanging, which is my least favorite of his "habits" -- especially at two in the morning.
I will NOT miss meltdowns for no apparent reason that result in me crying myself.
I will NOT miss filling out paperwork for everything.
Most of all, I know I'm not going to miss a moment of watching my little one grow. Parenting is a gift you receive each and every day of your life. Though there are some gifts I'd like to return or regift, I'll take the bad with the good. He's definitely a keeper.
What do you miss? What will you miss? What do you love now? What will you NOT miss?
I've been home sick for the past day and a half. Thanks to my little blue-eyed Petri dish, I came down with an ear infection, a sinus infection, an upper-respiratory infection and the beginning of strep. Needless to say, I hit the proverbial jackpot of winter illnesses. Forced to stay home today by my husband (and a fever), I had a really difficult time just laying down. My mind raced with at least 20 other things that I could be doing at that moment, not including what I should have been doing -- working.
Why are there only 24 hours in each day? That's simply not enough. Especially considering that 8 are spent sleeping (hopefully) and 8 are spent working (thankfully). Add in the other necessary evils (errands, bills, cleaning, transportation) and the day is gone before I even got a handle on it. Moms, I know you feel me. Autism aside, I'm a Mom just ilke you.
If you could do everything you wanted to, what would you do?
I want to read. I LOVE reading, but it's so hard to find time. A luxurious bubble bath? Ha -- I take a five minute shower, if I'm lucky. I also KNOW I can't be the only person who has the hardest time changing pages while on the elliptical, which would be the only time I'd really have to read. I set a goal of reading a book a week. Yeah...I'm pretty far behind.
I want to travel. Money is an issue to, but I would love to take my boys to the places they'd like to go. Blake wants to go to the Hockey Hall of Fame and Cristian wants to go to Disney World. And me? I'd really like to go somewhere where fruity drinks are flowing and dolphins are my only sense of entertainment.
I want to take time for beauty. Make-up is non-existant on weekdays and my choice of hairdo is a ponytail -- the true decision for me is to make it a full or half. I have recently found that I love nail polish...but I need to pencil in time to paint my nails. It's hard for me to excuse a half hour for a manicure or four hours to get my hair done when I could be spending that time with my son, especially when I think that his teachers see him more often than I do.
I want to exercise. It's a necessary evil, but I really love the feeling I get after a half hour on the elliptical and a trip around the circuit machines. I love blasting my music, but I unfortunately end up thinking about what needs to be done. Phone calls I can make, errands I can run, e-mails I can return. I feel guilty for taking the time to do something that I need to.
I want to volunteer. I always wanted to be one of those moms that helped out in the classroom and really made an impact in their kids' school -- like my mom was. Unfortunately, teachers need help the same hours that I work. I'd love to be more involved in Cristian's classes, his daycare and even in the community. A little sister would be great (i.e. Big Brothers/Big Sisters), but I barely have time for my little one. The support group is a start, but...only one person showed up. I keep telling myself that Rome wasn't built in a day, but the sting is still there.
I could go on, but I don't want to preach to the choir. You're probably reading this thinking that there's so many other things you could be doing at this very moment.
Where's the instruction manual? Or the magic pill that allows us fulfill all of our responsibilities AND accomplish all we want while looking good AND making it all look easy? Every mom is a Super Mom. There are so many pieces to our puzzles -- children, family, work, exercise, beauty, hobbies...just to name a few. I'm exhausted thinking of them all.
What are your tips and tricks to make all of the pieces fit? At the end of the day, can you hang up your cape and be content with all you've done? Can you tell me how you can do things for yourself without feeling a huge case of Mommy Guilt?
“We can choose to be affected by the world, or we can choose to affect the world.”
Someone pinch me! Today is the day that many have worked so hard for. The Puzzle Busters will meet for the first time. I feel so excited – almost like it’s the first day of school! Soon there will be new friends made, new resources shared and a new community formed.
Needless to say, things have been crazy around here with getting all the resources we can, adding a social media presence, handing out flyers to anyone willing to take one and appearing on TV. Ah yes, TV. You might be reading my blog for the first time if you saw me on The Morning Blend. If that’s the case, welcome! If not, feel free to watch the segment here:
My whole experience with The Morning Blend was wonderful. Tiffany, Molly and the crew were so welcoming and so nice. I really appreciated their attention to detail by asking all the right questions and showing they read. I really did feel like I was talking to two good friends and could have talked to them much longer if allowed. Who knows, maybe I can go on again someday!
Just as soon as I could finish breakfast, I had received two e-mails and two phone calls based from my interview. I had families interested in attending, organizations wanting to help promote and even an author willing to donate books as a resource and to come in and present. AMAZING! The outreach of support Puzzle Busters has received so far has truly blown my mind. I am forever grateful for the opportunities I’ve been able to receive and for each and every person who has had any role in this dream turned reality.
My grandfather kept a laminated quote in his wallet at all time and when he passed, I kept it. It’s made it’s way onto every monitor I’ve owned since then and though it always had meaning, I’ve never truly understood it until now.
Now that things are somewhat settling down, I should be back on a more regular schedule around here and I promise to talk about a more varied range of topics. It’s been really fun to document this journey, however, because chances like this do not come around everyday. Though most of us would like to, each day doesn’t always bring change, dreams come true and a real difference for an entire community. But, I digress. I sometimes need to remind myself that every blog post doesn’t need to turn into a plea to become Miss America – especially since I am married (though I’m all for world peace.)
I will just leave you with some pictures taken through what truly was my special day. I’ve tried to downplay it all, but others have told me what a big deal this all is. Without buying into my own hype, this is all pretty cool indeed.
In case you forgot what this is all truly about, here’s a reminder…
Just remember – a puzzle does eventually come together with enough patience and perseverance.
P.S. I definitely did not forget about the Milwaukee Admirals tickets I promised to give away here. One lucky winner will win a 2-pack of tickets to the Autism Awareness game on April 1st. I will draw a winner a month from today - March 22nd.
All you need to do to enter is leave a comment answering this question:
Name one of the three ways I mentioned that someone could help a parent of a child with Autism.
We all have pipe dreams growing up. I’m not talking about the “two and a half kids, a dog and a white picket fence” dreams—those all come true in their own special way. Besides, who has half a kid and white picket fences get dirty easily.
I’m talking about the “I want to be president of the United States” dreams. Sure I threw around a lot of different possible careers growing up including nurse, veterinarian and librarian, but president definitely had to be the most out there. I do care about people, animals and books, but definitely not politics. I’m not sure what possessed me to write that I wanted to be the first female and Hispanic president when I was 11 on a questionnaire. Maybe I thought it looked impressive or made me appear more intelligent – either way that is the pipe dream I’m talking about.
Every dream that I had – pipe dream or not – changed the first time Cristian was placed in my arms. His dreams were now my dreams. I had dreams for him, with him and about him. All my previous dreams seemed so insignificant compared to my new ones. And as he started to grow, so did my dreams. Soon my dreams of learning his cries and surviving sleepless nights turned into dreams of playmates and mommy/son outings. Life’s dreams for you are often different than your own dreams, however – my little aggressive wanderer taught me that.
My dreams again changed upon receiving Cristian’s autism diagnosis. Instead of mourning what could be, I put on my big girl panties and reminded myself (and everyone else) that dreams don’t die – they evolve. Did I really think that my dreams for my son included finding a daycare that worked with his special needs or meeting someone at a Halloween event who showed me the therapy we wanted him to have was still possible? Of course not, but I was as happy when those milestones were accomplished as I was when he first spoke or walked – and would be with anything else he accomplishes. Just because his dreams are different doesn’t downplay their importance for him.
Always the planner, I planned dreams for myself as well. Cristian was given an amazing gift and I wanted to share it with others who had been given that same gift. As I previously mentioned that dream was tarnished when we didn’t find a support group fitting our needs in our area. I channeled my 11-year-old self and dreamed a little pipe dream. I was going to start a support group of my own. Maybe it wasn’t something as grand as presidency but it was grand in the lives of families dealing with autism.
Inspired by my blog post, I knew what I wanted to do but had no idea how to proceed. I sent out e-mails and networked. Amazingly, I got a bite right away. There was a real need for my idea – many others were dreaming my same dream. I was offered the chance to step up as an organizer and happily obliged. I truly think that advocacy is my calling and that fate took over. Pun intended -- the pieces fit together perfectly. Without any further adieu, I’d like to introduce you all to my “little pipe dream that could.”
Puzzle Busters has truly been a labor of love thus far. None of this would be possible without the love and/or support of my family and friends, and especially my husband (my handsome right-hand man), my mother (my inspiration for advocating), Nicole from Easter Seals (my graphically-inclined organizer), Kevin from the Richardson School (my wonderful space provider) and of course, Cristian (my reason for dreaming). It really takes a village to raise a child and to advocate for them as well.
I’d also like to thank Milwaukee Moms for giving me a voice. I don’t think that any of this would have been possible without the experience, confidence and resources provided to me. I especially would like to thank Katie for being so supportive and welcoming throughout the process. I really don’t mean to sound like an acceptance speech, especially because this ride has just begun, but I am definitely not a one-woman show and do not want to give off that impression. What has been accomplished is no small feat for families affect by autism in the Milwaukee area. I can only hope that a large void is filled and families receive the support and understanding they seek and deserve.
Here’s what I need from you all, my dear readers. Please help to get the word out. Check out the wonderful website Nicole helped create. Give flyers out and encourage others to attend, or even have them e-mail me if they have any questions. I have so many ideas and plans for this group, but the Puzzle Busters will be absolutely nothing without support from families who we can support as well. I am looking forward to meet future friends, playmates for Cristian and families we can grow with. Do you have any ideas or suggestions? If so, please share! Please note that we are working on Facebook and Twitter for the group as well!
Following in the footsteps of Rachel and Katie, I invite you to watch The Morning Blend with the lovely Molly Fay and Tiffany Ogle a week from today – Wednesday, February 15th from 9am to 10am. If you work, DVR it. I plan to talk about how our diagnosis really has helped me dream and give me the courage to strive to make sure they don’t remain pipe dreams.
I think it’s funny that this will be posted on the 4th anniversary of finding out that we’d be having a boy. My life hasn’t been the same since that day, but I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way. The pattern may be completely different than I originally imagined on my life’s puzzle, but thanks to Cristian, I’m putting the pieces together.
I’m alive. I haven’t meant to ignore you, but I have been up to my eyeballs in work, working out (a necessary evil) and working on an amazing super-secret project that I PROMISE to share with you sooner than later. I’ve thought about at least ten posts that I’d like to sit and write and share with you all, but once Cristian is in bed for the night the only thing I can think about is my own trip to Snoozeland. I’ve been productive in almost every area in my life except blogging. I promise to change that in February.
Wait, did I just type February? Oh my…when did we pass through January? Though it feels more like March or April with this weather (which I am LOVING, Mother Nature), the boxes of character valentines and delicious conversation hearts (though I only eat the purple ones – no joke) do indeed tell me that it’s February. It’s a month filled with football and chocolate – a little something for everyone. More importantly, it’s a month filled with love. I am fully aware that saying February is a month of love is extraordinarily cliché, but in my family February is the month for anniversaries.
My grandparents were married on February 6 and lasted until death parted them. The amount of love they had for each other was second only to the amount of love they had for family. They stayed together through good times and bad, happy and sad, richer and poorer…you know the drill. Nana and Papa truly shown me that the vows you say truly mean something. They also told me that it all begins with your spouse and it all ends with your spouse. Everything happens in between – children, career, houses, cars, debt – but your spouse is the one constant if you let them be.
My parents were married on February 18 and will be married for 28 years. If I could describe my parents’ relationship in a song it would be Martina McBride’s “I’m Gonna Love You Through This.” So much adversity had been thrown in my parents’ way even from the beginning of their relationship. Perseverance was key and survival was the only option. Mom and Dad have let nothing get in the way of their love – a third shift dangerous job, various surgeries and injuries (including cancer) and most importantly, life. Mom and Dad have shown me that marriage is a blessing. It’s a blessing to be with your best friend and have them be the first person you see in the morning and the person you kiss goodnight.
Almost 7 years ago on February 11, 2005, I met Blake face-to-face in the airport as we met on the Internet. Our first “date” was attending the funeral of the very same woman who inspired me to find someone I loved as much as she loved my grandfather. 6 years ago, I married that man. The past 6 years have been far from the easiest. We’ve had our fair share of ups and downs, but I wouldn’t have it any way. With the stepping stones put firmly in place by my grandparents and my parents, I truly know not only what love is but also what it means and how to keep it alive.
You may ask why I am writing this particular post in this particular blog. As I’ve mentioned previously, over 85% of couples dealing with an autistic child end in divorce. We have had so many struggles before this and will have many struggles after this, but we will be in that 15%. Whether it’s Saturday night TV catch up with cuddles, dollar store gifts or an extra kiss in the morning, it’s imperative that we keep the fire alive. Our hearts are full of love for Cristian, but we must also heed the lessons that my parents and grandparents taught us. It all began with just the two of us and it will all end with just the two of us. We are each other’s best friends.
With that all being said…Blake – You know I’m a sucker for a good love story, but also know that ours is my favorite. Thank you for being my happily ever after. Happy (early) Anniversary, Shrek!
I'd also like to wish my parents a very happy anniversary on earth, and Nana and Papa the happiest of anniveraries in heaven. With all that mushy stuff out of the way, I will be back in the next week to tell you my EPIC news (and I typically hate using that word)! I’m doing big things in 2012 and I cannot wait to share it with you!