Finding Magic in the Mess

Posted by Heather Krill in Life After Paralysis on September 22, 2022 # Lifestyle, SCI Awareness

Fall is our return to school and soccer season for each of us in different capacities, so all the bags leave with us as the day is long. Our kids play on their respective middle school teams now; I coach our daughter’s girls’ team, and Geoff is assistant coaching the varsity girls for the school where I am a high school English teacher. A fun fact about our marriage is that we first became friends while coaching varsity soccer together almost 20 years ago now. Yes, people with spinal cord injuries are able to coach people without spinal cord injuries. He is happy to be back coaching at that varsity level again, always has been completely honest about the fact that he lacks patience and understanding for younger ages. I’ve coached our children since the very beginning of recreational leagues when they were 4 and 5, not because I was particularly good with that age group, but because they needed a coach.

But now with both kids in middle school, they are responsible for both making their own lunches and doing their own laundry. Watching our 12-year-old make a peanut butter and Nutella sandwich is painful. His fine motor skills are still not awesome. He wields a butter knife as he might a broad sword. We supervise, as he is still more likely to use three times the amount of Nutella than peanut butter. Our daughter’s efficiency and healthy choices are impressive, but she hates remembering to take the lunch box out of her bag at the end of the day so the ice pack is ready the following day. While it would be easier some days to just do it myself, I’ve decided that independence is a more necessary life skill, even if it kills me.

And now that we are back in full swing, there is little time midweek to do the grocery shopping because working full time and coaching after school leaves just enough time to make dinner, help with homework, shower, and hit the hay by 9 pm before it all kicks off again. People ask moms like me how we get it all done, and the generic response is simply-- we don’t. Geoff is subbing at our school this fall as he is sort of between his professional gigs, and, well, we need the money and substitute teachers and paraprofessionals are needed in every American school. He has been a para in our elementary school, and the kids love him, although my guess is that our service dog Emerson elevates his teacher status.

Geoff and daughter

So, we do the best we can. But the truth of the matter is that our mornings are messy. We fight over the bathroom because Geoff’s morning routine takes longer than most able-bodied folks, despite our 5 am alarm clock. There is jostling for sink space now that there are more “primping” needs and counter space for sandwich building in the kitchen. There is arguing over soccer socks and water bottles and the “fun snacks” as opposed to the healthy snacks. There are reminders for deodorant, homework, instruments and whatever else needs to make it out to the car before I drive away at 7 am.

So, it is often a miracle that we arrive at school in working condition. This last Monday morning was extra messy thanks to a driving rain which had been with us since Saturday. I had expected for the system to have passed over us already, but it was stuck over our mountains just soaking the earth with steady, pounding rain for days, super helpful to those areas impacted by drought, but not super helpful to this mom trying to load the family into the car. Where are the raincoats? Where is the umbrella? And that’s when I saw her, our sixth grader, walking her dad out to the car holding the umbrella over his head; one moment when I was able to catch my breath, and this photo, and remember to find the magic in the mess.

Our son is sad not to be selected for the advanced middle school math class with his friends; he also may have confessed at bedtime that he had won a dollar from a classmate on a dare to pole dance at recess on the basketball court. But he can make his own lunch and do his own laundry and carry on a conversation with just about anyone. For able-bodied and disabled families alike, there is no perfection, so we do the best we can to be good people and to find the magic in the mess; perhaps it makes the messiness a little easier.

Heather Ehrman Krill is a writer- wife- teacher-mom who lives in the White Mountains of NH with her husband, Geoff, a paraplegic and professional skier, and their two children, Carver and Greta who are 12 and 11 respectively. Please check out her novel True North, website, author FB page Heather Krill, and @heatherkrill1 on Twitter.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.