Erika Marie


About Erika Marie

A simple Catholic wife & mama.


Puppy Doggie

So remember about eight months ago, I shared our Healing Goodbye to our Dog?

Well, we missed her so much more than we thought we would – especially me. I had no idea just how much I had grown used to having Bella around and though I thought I’d be ok without a dog for a while, it didn’t take long before I caught “puppy fever”.

It started with “just looking” at puppy pictures…then my husband started sending me random cute puppy pictures.  And then, we found ourselves talking about it together.

One day, I came into our room and caught my husband looking at something on his phone –

Cute puppy pictures.

I laughed because I’d been doing the same thing downstairs.

Long story short, soon we were stalking our local animal shelter’s adoptable animals page on their website. One day, my scrolling eye stopped on a new photo of a sweet lab puppy with fur so light it looked white.  And then, somehow, I ended up at the animal shelter and decided to see what she was like – just out of curiosity, of course.

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Well, that did it. Next thing I knew, there was a puppy in our backyard.

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She was so pretty and soft – we called her Daisy.

We soon found out, however, that though she was pretty and soft and cute as can be – puppies are no easy task!

Thankfully it didn’t take too long to crate-train her so she only used the backyard as her “toilet”. But we weren’t quite prepared for the nibbling…

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And the chewing…

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Oh, my the chewing!!!

Here…

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There…

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Everywhere!! The kids soon learned to put their outside toys away unless they wanted them to become new chew toys for Daisy.

Apparently, all that chewing is exhausting…

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Cute pictures aside, it hasn’t been a walk in the park owning and caring for a puppy. One reason I didn’t share about her until now is because there were many times within the last eight months when I wasn’t sure if we would keep her.  Ask my poor patient friends who had to hear me ask for their prayers several times, always ending with, “I think this is really the end this time,” to then end up deciding to give her “one more chance”.

Luckily for Daisy, the kids loved her. One reason I decided to get another dog was for all of us to have a special companion but especially for our oldest son who struggles with anxiety/anger management – I hoped she could become a “therapy dog” of sorts for him.

At first, he wasn’t so sure about her – she was so hyper and he just didn’t know how to handle that.  Then, over the summer, something magical happened and he “discovered” her and realized – “Hey, I like this dog!”

I started sending him outside to be with Daisy when he needed a break or was on the verge of a meltdown. He’d go out there and stroke her ears, the anxiety or anger melting out of him with each stroke.  Now, the first thing he wants to do after we’re finished at school is “go see Daisy!”  so he can stroke her ears and play with her.

She still likes to nibble on me, still chews everything! (Though not quite as much), still jumps up on us when she’s excited (which is all.the.time), still ignores me as much as my kids, still drives me and my husband a little stir-crazy.  Ok, maybe a lot stir-crazy.

But, she’s also still cute, still soft, still loveable, still loves the kids (she never nibbles on them!), still wants to be with us wherever we are (she thinks she’s still a small puppy and tries sitting in my lap), and she still has a lot of growing and learning to do.

We “celebrated” her first birthday this week – I even went to the petstore and bought her some special treats. Yup, she has me. Hook, line and sinker.

And I guess we’ll keep her…for today at least. 😉

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Learning to Drive Autism

I’m still here! Are you? Now, where was I?…

Oh yes, last time I blogged about autism and our son I shared how God reassured me in that He “has something special in mind for [my son].” As I noted there, I started sharing these posts in September 2017 but I originally wrote them privately as we were going through it three years ago, 2014 and the last one I wrote was a year ago (2016).  And now, it’s time to write new ones. It’s hard to catch up on a years worth of life! Feel free to come along with me as I stumble back through a year of fragmented memories.

We received the official High Functioning Autism diagnosis (used to be called Asperger’s Syndrome) in September 2016.  As I said before,  I felt relieved to receive the verification of what I’d suspected about him. Though I didn’t want him to “have Autism”, I felt a certain satisfaction knowing there is something that explains his behavior.  I didn’t know exactly what it all meant or where we’d go from there but, as a friend put it to me – At least now I knew what road we are on. 

Well, I’d like to say life was easier after that – and in many ways it was because I at least had the big question answered. I felt like I finally had the right key to the car I’d been sitting in and I felt very excited that I finally had the answer.  But then…I sat there in the car and realized I had no idea how to drive or where I was even going to go! This was no self-starting, self-driving smart car – nope – this was a good ol’ stick-shift-and-clutch kind of machine.

It didn’t take long after the diagnosis for me to feel almost as confused and helpless as before.  I guess I naively expected that someone would call me and offer to take my hand as we walked through this new path with our son.  “They” would explain autism to me and how it related to our son. “They” would tell us exactly what he needed and where to get it. “They” would be there in his “out of the window” moments when I had no clue how to handle him and “they” would tell me exactly what to say or do.  “They” – the experts who knew more than my husband and I  – would teach us, train us, encourage us, and guide us.

I looked for “They”, calling around different “autism-specialist” places in our area hoping “They” would take pity on me.  Instead, I ran into wall, after wall, after hard-concrete-reinforced-wall.

Yes, we’d love to help…would you like to add him to our two-year waiting list? Bam!

Yes, we offer free services….but he’s not severe enough. Bam!

Sorry, he’s too old (most “free services” end at age 5). Bam!

Um, how much will that be….oh! Each time for how many times each month or week?  Yikes.  Expensive!!!! Bam!

And, a super-high insurance deductible we’d never reach before paying burning a hole through our pocket and our savings. Bam!

Once again, I felt trapped. Trapped in the gap.  The gap between typical and severely atypical, the gap between too young and too old, trapped in the gap between making too much money and not enough.

Looking back, however, I see that I was also trapped in my own grief. Yes, apparently grief comes not only after the death of a loved one like I was already experiencing, it also comes after a life-changing diagnosis.  And, like death-related grief, there are normal “grief stages” one goes through.  Without realizing it,  I was in the Denial and Isolation phase about the autism (like with my dad’s death) even though I told myself I accepted it.  I both yearned for help to walk us through this journey and, at the same time, recoiled and just wanted my son to “be normal”.

Looking back, I think one reason I didn’t find the help I sought was because I was looking for someone who would make my son “normal” again – and our life easier.  That person did not exist because that was an unrealistic expectation. 

I also assumed “They” were the experts and knew more than we could about how to help our son. I assumed everyone else – the therapists, specialists, teachers – would be the ones to tell me what my son needed and what we needed to do for him.

I had the key. I started the car. For a while I sputtered along awkwardly riding the clutch and grinding the gears trying to decide which gear to shift into next, still unsure of our destination.

Then, slowly, slowly my foot eased off the clutch and the gears didn’t grind quite as loudly. I prayed more for acceptance than for a miraculous “easy button” to suddenly appear. I prayed more for guidance – that God would lead me to the right resources and the right people.  I prayed more for grace-filled patience to deal with the out-of-control moments.  And He answered me.

I waited expectantly for the LORD, and he took notice of me and heard my cry.

With my husband’s encouragement, I took steps to make sure my needs were taken care of so I could function better and have the physical and emotional strength I needed for my family. I joined the Y and developed exercise routines; I found a great doctor and counselor to navigate me through all the grief and confusing emotions that go along with parenting a child with unique needs; I searched for books and podcasts and other resources to give me a better understanding and perspective of the what and the who of Autism; and I simply took time to just be with God and enJOY Him in the subtleties of life.

For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matt 7:8)

I reached out to a local parent-to-parent group and met a mother whose son had similar struggles as ours and I found a  support group for Catholic Mothers with Special Needs Children – it was the group I didn’t want to need but when I finally started going I knew it was the group I needed and wanted.  Though we all faced our own unique challenging children, we all shared the same hopes and prayers for them and our families. I discovered how powerfully encouraging these simple words can be:

Me too. 

or

My child, too. 

Slowly, slowly – God breathed His Grace through me and slowly, slowly my grief turned into hope and I began to see the joy and peace in myself, in our son, and our family.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

About six months after the diagnosis, we finally found a therapist who was an “autism specialist”, didn’t have a two-year-long waiting list, was located on our side of town, and was more than happy to work with us and our budget. Through that, the support groups and resources I plugged into, I feel like I’m finally getting the hang of “driving the car”.

I still ride the clutch and grind the gears more often than not and I’m still not quite sure where the heck we’re going, but I’m going – and that’s the first step to getting wherever we’ll end up.

What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.(John 13:7)

You can read all the posts I’ve shared about our son and autism here.


Listen for and enJOY God’s Voice 1

Happy Sunday! Here’s an excerpt I’d like to share from my monthly contribution at CatholicMom.com about listening for and enJOYing God’s voice.

God calls us to sit in silence and listen for His Word when we’re trying to understand His Will for us … but if God rarely spells things out for us with a banner in the sky. If He doesn’t have a specific Will for every situation then what exactly are we listening for?

I asked this burning question to my confessor hoping for a lengthy answer that would tell me exactly what to do. The priest thought quietly for a moment and then gently offered this perfect answer:

A light and subtle breeze …

I loved his response, yet … I wanted to know more.

I’ve had that experience … but … what do I do with it? How do I interpret it?

Head on over to CatholicMom.com for the simple yet so perfect answer he gave me…


“I Have Something Special In Mind for Him” 2

Thank you to all who’ve commented, online and in person, about the posts I’ve shared about our son and autism. Before I decided to share our story here, I honestly felt scared. I wasn’t sure how people would respond or how it might change relationships for my son or our family. However, once I opened the gates to my vulnerable heart, a flood of love, support, and encouragement rushed in.  Thank you.

You can read all the posts I’ve shared about our son and autism here.

I started sharing these posts in September 2017 but I originally wrote them privately as we were going through it three years ago, 2014. It’s been incredibly helpful to go back and read through them for myself and then to share them now. I’ve almost reached the “equal point” where the past meets our present location.

Here’s one more I wrote that I go back to frequently, especially after difficult moments when I wonder what in the world God was thinking when he thought I’d be able to handle this.

November 2014 –

I’ve been doing a lot of self-searching and re-thinking about myself, our son, and how I approach life and all the overwhelming parts. We’ve still had struggles, but for some reason they seem to be lessening in frequency and intensity. Maybe it’s just a nice phase but I’ll take it and enjoy it for now.

The last major tantrum he had, that I can remember, was a few weeks ago while in adoration – of all places. He had been begging me to let him come with me to our regular Saturday afternoon hour but I always said no because, as much as he always promised he’d be good there for the whole hour, he never was.

But this time he begged, Please! Because I need to get ready for my first Communion!

How could I say no to that?

Well he did pretty good for the first oh, 20 or so minutes, and then he was done. Without going into all the annoying details, suffice it to say that the baby probably would have acted better in there than he did that day.

It didn’t help that I had chosen that day to bring my journal along with me so I could really get my feelings out about the whole situation. Our family therapist had suggested I journal how I feel “in the moment” of his tantrums. And boy oh boy, he gave me every opportunity to write exactly how I felt!

If you were to read that journal entry, you’d probably think it was the writings of an insane bi-polar crazy lady. It started out nicely, positively, but then ended up in a hot scribbled mess.

I glared up at Jesus, present there in the silent Eucharistic host, pathetically pleading with him to save me from all this.

Can’t you see my misery? Why don’t you do something instead of just standing up there watching? 

What started out as a peaceful getaway to spend some quality time with Jesus and my son was now more like a hot boiler room with the boiler about to explode.

And I did, I burst into huge sobbing tears. Everything came out, all those emotions I’d been bottling up were finally released. It was ugly.

Eventually, I calmed down enough to look back up to Him, asking Him for some sort of consolation. And I got this –

I have a special plan for him. TRUST ME. I need you to trust me and know that I have something special in mind for him. [And for you and your family.]

I’d heard this before, during his pregnancy and in his infancy years. Deep down, I knew God had something special in mind with this one. Not that He doesn’t with the other three, but there’s something…different…with this one that I’ve always felt.

Hearing those quiet words – like a quick burst of energy in my heart – calmed me. It re-focused me and helped me remember.

Things might be hard right now with him. Very, very hard. And there are days when I don’t understand him at all and really just want to be able to enjoy my sweet son again but can’t because I can’t see the good through all the bad.

But if all I do is focus on the bad, I’ll never ever see the good that God sees in him. I may even rob whatever it is God has in store for him if all I can do is be exasperated with him all the time.

But there is good there – much, much good!

So I’ve been praying more – like really praying. Not just assuming God knows I need him. I’m praying – out loud. 

Not just when I’m calm and “in my window”, but when I’m out of it, or know I’m about to flee. I send a quick plea for help –

Jesus, be with me! Inject your grace into my heart right now – like the cortisol running high in me. Be my stress-relief. Be my survival-plan. Be my peace. Help me stay calm right here, right now, in this moment. 

And you know something? It’s been helping – tremendously. And because I’ve been able to remain calmer in those moments more, so has my son. It’s not perfect – never will be. But I feel like we are improving, and that’s all I want for now.


Podcast Episodes Round-Up {Autism, Self-Care, Grief & Suicide}

Time to take a break from writing about my thoughts and life experiences and turn the spotlight to others’ thoughts, experiences, and great ideas.

I took a podcast-listening sabbatical but recently returned. I really enjoy hearing other people talk into my ear instead of listening to my erratic thoughts all the time.

I found the coolest podcast app, it’s called Castbox. It’s a great app that you can create an account with – no lost subs if you switch phones – and can play it from multiple devices (phone, tablet, pc, etc). Best part: it’s free!

Below are some of my recent favorite podcast shows and episodes I’ve enjoyed and you might too!

Finding Mickey – Finding Mikey – Parenting our kiddo with Autism (ASD), Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), ADHD, Aspergers

I. LOVE. this podcast! After our son’s official autism diagnosis, I’ve been hungry for more information but find it daunting trying to sift through books and blogs. This has been the perfect way to learn while driving, running, cleaning, etc. I especially love that Mickey’s Dad and Mom created the Finding Mickey podcast, I love listening to them talk about their son and their experiences together. It’s rare to hear the experience of raising a child with autism from the dad’s perspective so I really value Mike’s perspective and desire to share resources with others.

I HIGHLY ENCOURAGE everyone to listen to the Finding Mickey podcast. I’ve loved all their episodes but these three have been my favorites to listen to so far.

Resources for Parents of kids with Austism/SPD/ASD/ADHD

Tips For Kids Who Have Siblings With Autism – this one is so great! Mike and their daughter – Mikey’s older sister – talk about what it’s like to have a sibling with autism. I loved it so much I had our daughter listen to it too.

Nonverbal to College Grads – Interview with Collins Foster – We’re not there yet but this episode is phenomenal! It gives me much hope and excitement for our son’s future and others’ with spectrum challenges.

The Autism Show 

Another new-to-me podcasts – and I thought it would be hard to find autism resources, ha! I haven’t listened to all their episodes but here are two I related with and found very edifying and encouraging.  Everyone’s experience with autism is different and I’ve learned so much just by listening to other’s stories.

96: Learning To Embrace Autism As A Mom

74: Autism Mom Memoir –  I enjoyed this one so much with LeeAndra Chergey I bought her book Make a Wish for Me: A Family’s Recovery from Autism.

If the word, “recovery” puts you off, listen to her explanation in the podcast of that word usage. 

Fountains of Carrots

Lest you think autism is the only thing on my brain lately, it’s not the only thing – just a fairly large chunk.

When I need a break, I invite Haley and Christie into my head. And I’m glad I do because sometimes they have some incredibly enriching conversations that do my mind and soul good. Especially these two recent ones:

Foc 068: Choosing Real Self Care, Not Perfection With Kate Wicker – Wow. I needed to hear this one. You need to hear it. Everyone needs to hear it. Interestingly, I recently started reading Kate’s book and would also highly recommend it. Getting Past Perfect: How to Find Joy and Grace in the Messiness of Motherhood.

Lastly, this one –

FOC 071: Grieving Suicide with Faith with Leticia Ochoa Adams – Everyone knows someone – or will know someone – who become victim to suicide. Whether it be a family member, friend, co-worker, or just that one person you kind of knew but didn’t really know. Leticia shares very candidly here experience with losing her son to suicide. This conversation is the one no one wants to or knows how to talk about. Leticia speaks eloquently and compassionately about suicide, mental health, and how our Faith can support us in these challenges.

Do you listen to podcasts? What are some of you favorite podcast shows or episodes?

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