The Little Engine That Can't

This book sits on my sons' nightstand among LEGOS and matchbox cars. Actually, as you can see, two copies of this book sit on my sons' nightstand.  If you have only ever read the abridged version, good for you. If you have the full version, I'm sorry. It goes on forever doesn't it.  I cry a little when he picks the long version.

We're all familiar with the story even if we haven't read it. A train can't make it over the mountain and the contents of the train (toys, stuffed animals, a toy clown) try to find an alternate ride.  If only Uber worked for trains.  In the end a little blue engine comes along that thinks she can so she does. YAY! Happy ending right? It totally is. Don't worry, I'm not going to ruin it.

But have you ever read the story from the first engine's perspective? Or do you read it from the little blue engine's?  The focus is usually on the Little Blue Engine. "I think I can." The phrase, "If you think you can you can," is one used in our house all the time.  We want to be the one that saves the day. We want to be the one that overcomes. We all want to be the Little Blue Engine but sometimes we are undoubtedly the first engine in the story.

I was so exhausted one night but by the grace of God was obedient to reading to my son (please don't pick the long version).  Reading through the story for the millionth time, suddenly God gave me different eyes. 

The first train was carrying wonderful things to the kids on the other side of the mountain: food, toys, stuffed animals.  That's a lot of stuff it has to pull behind. The mission is a good one but it can get heavy.  I have an amazing journey, we each do, but there are a lot of things we pull with us.

No matter what stage of life we're in we have a mission and there are things we must bring with us for these missions.  And these things can get heavy.  I think we've all been in that place.  The place where we just need someone. Maybe we don't want the train to take our load but to just come along side us.  We want to keep going but we have stopped with a jerk and simply cannot go another inch.

Three different trains come along right.  We could dissect and analyze these trains forever but just go with me here.  Each train is at it's own stage and we're not gonna blame them for not helping.  We don't know their story.  We each have our own journey and that night, in my journey I was that first, tired engine.

Most days I feel like the last engine (the tired, rusty, old engine) but this night, I hadn't even completed my trip. I couldn't get through my day. I couldn't even muster, "I like I can." I was Phoebe in FRIENDS.  I didn't even have a pla- (Do you have a plan?). I couldn't even ask for help. The funny little clown had to do it for me.

Finally along came this little engine who didn't have a load to carry. She had a job. She had an important job. She switched trains in the yard. But she saw a need and she tried.  She knew she could do more than what other trains expected of her and so she pushed herself.

Now I don't want "Little Blue" to take my load. I love my load. Maybe she could just go in front of me chug, chugging and puff, puffing, "I think we can. I think WE can."  These "Little Blue" friends are amazing and I'm insanely grateful for my "Little Blues" but lets look back at the first engine.

Am I alone in this? Am I the only one who read "The Little Engine That Could" and cried feeling like the first engine and so happy "Little Blue" came along? I mean usually I'm all, "Yay Little Blue. I think I can too! Let's do this!" But what am I suppose to do when I am that first engine?

Those magical words, "self care," are ringing in your ears aren't they.  If you're like me when you hear "self care" you visualize a day at the spa being completely pampered but for most of us that's just not realistic.  We can relate to the scene in "Bad Moms" when the "fantasize" about a minor car accident so they get to be "pampered" in the hospital (just to be clear we don't really want that to happen). So what are some practical ways to take care of yourself?

My favorite is a book and a cup of coffee. Even that doesn't happen very often.  A coffee date with a friend maybe. The one that lets you out from the inside. Some days we might be able to treat yourself to a shopping spree or a spa day but be content in the warm cup of coffee now too.

When we are in the circus, finding time for self care requires more sacrifice than wrangling the lion.  But if we don't find that time we will sacrifice something much greater.  


Hello From the Inside

Well hello.

It has been quite a while but that is how it is when we choose this life. We choose less of us for more of everything else. We choose crazy, busy, messy, love. We wouldn't change it for anything. In the midst of this anything though we have our moments.

Moments of loneliness. Moments of exhaustion. Moments of missing.  We miss all sorts of things: friends, warm coffee (forget hot), showers at our own pace, naps, even uninterrupted bathroom breaks.  We know, "this is a season." We know, "this too shall pass." We know, "enjoy it while it lasts." We know this and we do but I want to say something to those single friends, young married friends without children and even the ones with children whether your children are old or young or all over the range.

Thank you.

When you sent that silly text that had nothing to do with anything, thank you.  When you didn't get upset because it took me 3 hours to respond to said text, thank you.  When you came to my house with my circus in full swing and joined in or kept up our conversation pretending there wasn't a circus, thank you.  When you walked through Target with me and my circus and let me juggle my mom and girlfriend hat (actually holding one while I wore the other), thank you.  When you let our coffee date turn into a playdate, thank you.

Thank you for loving my kids and if you don't thank you for pretending to love them so well for me.  Thank you for letting me juggle and helping me juggle. Thank you for living life with me when I don't get to have my own life.  It is hard, but I wouldn't change it for anything.

It is hard.  I'm so grateful I get to join you when I can and you don't get upset when I can't.  I'm so grateful you understand my life is not my own but you still want to be part of it.  I'm so grateful you bring part of me out from the inside.

You see I live inside.  I live inside this mode of "Mom." I love "Mom" mode but you so wonderfully know there is so much more to me than that but also understand that "Mom" is so much of who I am. I live inside of diapers, potty trips, spills, picky eaters, chaos, pink plates and blue plates, chocolate milk, runny noses, bickering, tickle fights, burps and "toots" (trains or gas, you decide).  Most often my "getting out" still brings my clowns with me and when it does you laugh and play and make us feel loved.  And when it doesn't, we laugh hard, make messes and act like clowns ourselves.

So thank you.  Even when I'm still inside you open the door just a crack so I can see outside. You let the sun shine in and let me stand, arms open, eyes closed and feel the glorious sun.

Someday soon I'll step outside with you again, always keeping that door in the corner of my eye.  And when you are ready to stay inside, I will be there to open your door just a crack so you can see outside and feel that glorious sun.


The Weeks Go On

It has been almost 3 weeks since Reesie-Roo's surgery and she is doing wonderfully.  Thank you to everyone who has been praying.  I'm so sorry it has taken this long for an update and thank you for being so patient, so for your kindness, here is your update.

The day after her surgery Kyle and I were honestly expecting to have a chill day at home watching movies and waiting on her while she was sluggish.  AS IF!  This girl was running around the house!  We decided to take advantage of a day with Daddy home and the older kids still at school, so we took the littles to the Como Zoo.

She had a blast and honestly, so did we.  We don't get to spend time with just the littles very often so it was a nice change of pace.  We even went to Mac's Fish & Chips for lunch.  That afternoon Kyle took Reese to her follow up appointment.  Dr. Soumekh checked her incision by her ear and gave us care instructions.  Twice a day, we were to use a Q-tip with hydrogen peroxide to clean out the lymph node, then use ointment on a Q-tip in the incision and cover with a bandage.  The first few days it was tough to get her to sit still for the "cleanings."  We started bribing her with ice cream.  Quality parenting right here folks.  After the first cleaning she didn't want ice cream anymore.

Earlier in June we had another appointment with Dr. Soumekh and everything was still looking good.  The bandage on her chin has finally fallen off so we are just seeing that for the first time.  It looks good but we'll probably be some essential oils on that to help with the healing.  The incision by her ear is so small right now but is healing as well.  She's still on antibiotics and we're not sure how long she'll have to be on them.  She has another appointment June 24th to see how she's doing.

The girl hasn't missed a beat.

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She's as sassy as every.
A photo posted by Eryn S (@estennes) on


Home Sweet Home

Today Reesie-Roo had her surgery.  She did great.

A HUGE thank you to everyone that helped and prayed.  I can't list you all!  From those that helped with the kiddos to those that kept us in their thoughts and prayers today.

Reesie had to be at the hospital at 10:30 and I'm pretty sure she thought she was just at a playground.

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Just to recap: Reese had two bumps that needed to be "dealt with" due to ATB (you can read last week's post for more info).  They removed the one on her neck (you can hardly see it in the photo below) and drained the on by her ear.  They let me come back to the OR when they put the mask on her to knock her out.  I'm so grateful she wasn't awake for the IV and anesthesia this time.  It wasn't horrible last time but I'm grateful we didn't have to do it again.  We were told the surgery would last about an hour but after about 30 minutes Dr. Soumekh came out and told us everything went well.

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They brought her to recovery and Kyle was able to get to the hospital (the whole 2 blocks from his work) before she woke up.  She was still pretty sleepy for a while but managed to force down 3 Popsicles and 2 cups of Jell-O.

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We'll see Dr. Soumekh tomorrow afternoon and he'll change the dressing for us (it looks absolutely nasty right now.  We warned the older kids about how it looked and they did great when they saw her.  We're so happy we didn't have to stay the night and that she gets to sleep in her own bed tonight instead.  She's doing great with pain so far. "No owies."  She does keep touching it wondering what is going on.  She hasn't seen it yet and I'm hesitant to show it to her until it looks a little better.

A photo posted by Eryn S (@estennes) on

Thanks again for all the prayers and messages today.  My brain was absolutely fried so if I didn't respond or if what I responded doesn't make sense, please forgive me and bring it up at a later date when we can laugh until we cry.



Mid to end of February we noticed some bumps on Reesie-Roo: one next to her left ear lobe and one on her neck.  Due to the location we assumed they were swollen lymph nodes and her body was just fighting and infection and they would go away.

Early in May we visited her pediatrician since they had not gone away.  Her pediatrician ran some blood tests to check for a few things which came back normal so she sent us to an ENT specialist.  The following Thursday we saw Dr. Christiansen who gave us a diagnosis of Atypical Mycobacterium (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1891767/).  Dr. Christiansen referred us to Dr. Soumekh who is a pediatric ENT specialist (We actually had a friend recommend Dr. Soumekh so the fact that we ended up with him was great).  Dr. Christiansen wanted Dr. Soumekh to confirm the diagnosis and recommend on a treatment plan.

The next day (Friday) we saw Dr. Soumekh. He was fantastic.  Dr. Christiansen had called Dr. Soumekh to tell him we would be coming.  These people are so kind!  Anyway, Dr. Soumekh did confirm the diagnosis, ordered and CT scan and an appointment for us to see and infectious disease doctor.  He wanted to see how deep the one by her ear was.  If it was too deep then we would run a risk of it being in the Parotid gland and having to remove that or scrap out the area, as well as nerve issues in the face.  If it was not too deep then they can remove both spots.

Reese had a physical/pre-op that following Monday (9:00) to give her an otherwise clean bill of health for the CT scan later in the day (12:00) at Children's.  She will be sedated for the CT scan.  Then her appointment with the infectious disease doctor at 3:30.  Full day of appointments but Kyle and I thought it would be better to get them all in on one day then drag them out over the course of 3.  Dr. Soumekh has been great and is really pushing for urgency with this.  If they can catch it before it grows into the gland all the better.  

Dr. Soumekh called us that same day to inform us the CT scan couldn't guarantee the growth wasn't going into the gland.  He recommended removing the lump on her neck (sending it for testing) and scraping out the one by her ear).  I trust his recommendation so we're moving forward with it.

Tuesday, May 26th at 12:00 Reese will have her surgery at Children's Hospital in Minneapolis.  She will be there overnight to monitor her and will have a follow up appointment with Dr. Soumekh a week after the procedure.  We've been told they will likely monitor her for a year but this won't cause any long term health issues for her.  She may have to go back if there are cosmetic issues but honestly it would only add to the Reesie-Roo roughness.

Reese was great for her CT scan and for all the appointments she's had. She's remained her sassy self and we know she'll do just fine with her surgery. Most of you have experienced this. If you tell Reesie she is a goof or funny or, really and adjective, her response is pretty much always, "No I not, I Reesie-Roo." Yes you are girl. There is no other way to describe her but "Reesie-Roo." She's been excellent through this so far. We are so grateful for the speed of the doctors and that this hasn't been something worse. We have definitely felt humility for those whose lives revolve around doctors appointment and constant questions.

Thanks for all your prayers.  We'll update after surgery next week.

Please pray she continues to be brave and that everything goes well during surgery. We know she's in good hands.