Erika Marie


About Erika Marie

A simple Catholic wife & mama.


“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?


My Son knows He has High-Functioning Autism and He’s Proud of it! 3

(Source: https://www.pexels.com)

After we received the official “High-Functioning Autism” diagnosis a year ago for our son (9 years-old at the time), we knew we’d need to tell him but weren’t quite sure how we’d do it or how he would react to it.  After talking with good friends, whose son is also on the spectrum, and praying about it we decided to approach it by focusing on his brain and how it works differently.

As an aside, while saying goodnight to him in his room on the evening of the same exact day we received the official diagnosis from the psychologist but before we told our son, his eyes suddenly lit up and he excitedly blurted out,

My brain is SOOO different!

It caught me off guard and gave me goosebumps. Did he know?  Unless he could read my mind or read the papers from the psych, we hadn’t said anything about this to him before. My heart calmed down when he explained that he’d been reading about the brain at school and how different everyone’s brain works and he found it all quite fascinating. For a few months, “the brain” was the main thought going on in his own brain. He talked about the brain, asked questions about the brain, read all he could about the brain and decided he would become a “brain doctor” one day.

We decided to use his current brain fascination as the lead in the conversation we had with him shortly after the diagnosis day. After family prayer, we asked him to stay with us on the couch before sending him to bed.

“Son, remember how we’ve been talking lately about your brain and how everyone’s brain works differently?

-Excited Nod.

“And you know how we’ve been going to different doctors for a few years now to try and help you with your emotions and anger?”

– Slow nod, anxious eyes, as if he’d forgotten but now remembered…or maybe he thought we he was in trouble.

“Well, after meeting with Dr. X, we’ve learned that – your brain really is cool and it works very differently than many other people’s brains. In fact, your brain is so cool and different that there’s an even a special name for your kind of brain, do you want to know?

– He looks at us, intrigued.

“It’s called high-functioning autism.”

We let him take that those words in and then explained it a little more, telling him it doesn’t mean he is sick or that there is anything “wrong” with him, it just means that his brain works differently.

We told him that because of this, sometimes it’s harder for his brain to do things like control emotions and focus on tasks or make good choices. We told him we were going to help him, together we are all going to help him, so that even though this is how his brain works and even though it’s harder for him sometimes, we’re all going to help him learn how to do things as best as he can.

It was a good, simple conversation that I’ll remember forever. Later, after he went to bed, my husband and I felt relieved but also unsure how  – or even if – he would respond to this news.

In the weeks that followed, we only mentioned it to him again if the situation called for it. If he was having a hard time focusing or treating his siblings nicely, we used that as an opportunity.

“Son, remember what we told you? About the autism? Well this is an example of how your brain has a harder time with focusing or paying attention to others’ feelings.”

Or

“Son, I know this is hard for you – because of the autism – but I’m trying to help you work hard to focus.”

We weren’t really sure though if he understood – or even remembered – what we told him about having high-functioning autism. Until one morning, before school in the kitchen, he came over to me with a shy smile, like the one he makes when he’s been thinking about something and wants to share it but maybe feels a little funny about it, and then enthusiastically declared,

I have high-functioning autism!!

I stopped mid-chew. I was awake now.

I turned and looked at him, a little shocked and intrigued. I asked what made him suddenly say that and he just kind of shrugged,

“I dunno know, it just popped! into my brain and I felt like saying it.”

Ok, then. I guess he had listened to what we told him and had been thinking about it.

I asked him if he had told anyone else about it. We hadn’t planned on making any type of announcements to anyone but closer family and friends until he was ready (er, I mean until was ready). He said no at first and then…

“Well, I kind of told Bill (a friend in his fourth-grade class at school). Bob (another classmate) told us he has ADHD. So I told said, ‘Well, I have high-functioning autism!'”

“Wow. Ok, then. That’s great!”

We told him that was ok to tell others as long as he was ok with it. And that was that.

All that worrying I’d been doing about how he’d react and if he’d want to tell others. It’s funny how one can agonize over something and then, in one simple word or conversation, realize –

It’s all going to be ok. Chill.

I realized in that moment that my son is growing up in a very different time than I did, a time when “being different” isn’t so different after all.  A time when one kid can say, “I have ADHD,” and another respond that, “I have high-functioning autism” in the same way one might have said, “I have blue eyes,” and the other “I have brown.”

He went off to school that morning but I thought about what he said all.day.long. I guess I was just surprised and a little taken aback. I had just found out myself that he definitely has this and was trying to process it all. I had only started sharing the information with family and close friends, and then, just like that – he’s not only ok with it for himself but is ready to blurt it out to his classmates.

It wasn’t him that wasn’t ready to share…it was me. 

A new feeling grew in me. Pride, a good kind. I felt proud that he did pay attention to what we’d told him and that he had been thinking about it. Proud that he felt comfortable with it and even wants to share it with friends at school. Proud that he was kind of excited about it when he’d talked about it – like he’d learned something really cool about himself.

Because he did. 

I had felt afraid of how he would handle this information about himself, afraid of how we would navigate letting others know about it or not. Again, God showed me

TRUST ME. I GOTCHA COVERED.

Later that same day, while I prepared dinner, he suddenly blurted it out again with much more enthusiasm – like he’d been practicing it in his head all day and was finally ready to hear the words out loud.

I HAVE HIGH-FUNCTIONING AUTISM!!!

I stopped mid-stir, warm tears welled up in my eyes (or maybe that was the onions?) and my heart swelled with gratitude and pride. I gave him a big squeeze hug (he loves when I give him squeeze hugs) and asked if he’d been thinking about that a lot. His eyebrows shot up, along with his arms, and he loudly proclaimed,

“Yes!!! I’m just SOOO interested in it!”

Wow! Ok then, that answers that question.

My son has high-functioning autism, he knows he does and he’s proud of it!

(See all posts about our son and autism here)


Sunrise Colorado {Wordless} 1

Here’s a little “wordless” break from our vacation in Colorado this summer.  Thanks to amazing friends, my husband and I sneaked out of the house early (without the kids!) to watch the morning sun rise over the Grand Mesa Mountains and flow into the Colorado National Monument. 

It was sublime.

Again, all photo credit goes to my awesome husband.

Colorado National Monument Sunrise Pano

Colorado National Monument Sunrise Pano

Colorado National Monument Sunrise Pano

Coke Ovens Trail in CNM
After watching the sunrise, we took a short hike down into the valley.

Coke Ovens Trail in CNM Pano
I so wanted to play hopscotch across those “Coke Ovens” but my husband wouldn’t let me. 😉


The Diagnosis 2

In my last post, I wrote that I at first didn’t want a label for my son…until I needed it.

A big part of me didn’t want a “label” for him…but then I wondered if it would be easier and help me explain his behavior to others…and myself if he did have one.

I decided we needed to know “the answer”.

One big question I’d like answered is: Is he “normal” or is there really something physically/neurologically different about him? If I could peer into his mind, would there be some sort of sticker in there somewhere, a label marked “Normal with a grumpy disposition?” or “Aspergers” or “ADHD” or “IHNO” – I Have No Clue.

The family therapy was a great start for us – and again, it was the best first step we made. For me, it was the beginning of an acceptance of who my son is…and the acceptance that I did need outside help to learn how to help regulate my son’s moods and anger issues.

While Family Therapy did help in many ways, we reached a point where we felt like we were spinning in circles or at least beating around a big giant bush that was obstructing a clear path forward.

Through prayer and many conversations with very good, wise, and patient friends, we decided it was time to get a fuller perspective and understanding of what exactly makes life so hard for our son. At that point, our family counselor had mostly said he didn’t think it was autism/aspergers so I decided maybe we should look into ADHD as a possibility.

Long story shorter, we got him set up with a new psychologist  – thanks in GREAT part to a good friend’s referral. We specifically asked him to do a comprehensive and thorough evaluation so as to leave little doubt about the answer. (We were tired of all the uncertainties and back and forths.)

Thankfully, we had really found the right doctor this time, he is incredibly thorough and took as many extra steps as needed to get to the right evaluation.  My husband and I and our son spent an initial visit together and then our son spent two afternoons with him doing the ADHD survey evaluation.

The last day, after all the testing finished, the Dr. came out looking a little perplexed.

“Well, I really don’t think he has ADHD,” he said very certainly but then hesitated before adding, “….and I don’t think it’s autism….”

But he kind of trailed off at that point and said he wanted to spend more time looking over the results and talking with his colleagues about it.

“I’m not certain yet what it is, but I want to figure him out.”

To which I quickly responded,

“You and me both!”

Though I didn’t get the final answer I was hoping for that day, it was reassuring in a way to know even the professional felt perplexed by my son!

After about a week, the doctor called and asked my husband and I to come visit with him and we spent a little over an hour going through a verbal questionnaire (different from the written one we’d already handed in). This gave us the opportunity to delve into our answers more and give practical real-life examples of our son’s behaviors and struggles.

After going through that questionnaire together, he said he believed we could put autism back on the table. He explained a little about how the world of autism was undergoing many changes in how autism is diagnosed and how the understanding of autism was expanding beyond the stereotypical traits most people associate with autism. Asperger’s Syndrome, as it had been called for decades, was now included in the general “autism spectrum” instead of a stand alone condition. In light of the new diagnosing protocols (DSM-5), he really felt our son could indeed “fit” into the autism diagnosis after all.

He handed us the evaluation results with his official diagnosis:

High-Functioning Autism.

Some parents may feel crushed to hear those words about their child and see them typed out so officially in big black ink.

Honestly, I only felt like crying because we had finally reached it.

The Answer. 

The verification of what I’d suspected about him since he was about 4/5 and now he was almost 10. That’s a whole lotta years of not knowing what’s going on with your child and not knowing how to help him or respond to him and now knowing why?! Why, Why?! Why is he like this?!

Am I happy he “has autism”. I wouldn’t say it like that. What I do say is –

I love my son.

After that day, I felt incredibly relieved and satisfied knowing there is something that explains his behavior.  I didn’t know exactly what it all meant or where we’d go from there. As a friend put it to me –

At least now I knew what road we are on. 

(See all posts about our son and autism here)

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