Thursday, August 18, 2011

Goals for a new year...

Last week at this time, I was lying in what I thought was my death bed.  Although it was never 100% confirmed by way of spinal tap, I came down with what was expected to be one nasty wave of viral meningitis.  Not its scarier, more threatening, 'bacterial' brother, but still not fun, especially for a young mama who had hopes of enjoying her last week at home with her babe before beginning another school year.  I ended up in the ER on Sunday night, back at the doctor on Tuesday, and in bed the rest of the time.  Thankfully, after a shot in each of my hips to take care of my nausea and unrelenting headache, I was feeling back to myself by Thursday.  Now, a week later, I just finished my first day of school with students.  It's amazing what a week's time will do for a person...

Looking back on recent events, however, I've decided that being sick every now and then is about as important as having your heart broken.  While they suck at the time, they do allow you to appreciate life or love when it's good.  Just as having my heart broken allowed me to hang on tight to the real, life-long kind of love when I found it, being sick last week made me appreciate the remainder of my summer break on even a deeper level than I had experienced all summer.  I took Cruz to the park last Thursday and it was almost a euphoric experience.  Everything was highlighted.  The smells of the grass and the dirt underneath our toes, the sun beams shining through the trees, and the bright blue backdrop above.  Although I ended the week before school more unprepared than past years, I had a clearer mind and a clearer heart, not to mention well-rested and very appreciative of the help from Beau and my mom.  I couldn't have done it without them.

This is the attitude I need to have as I approach the upcoming school year.  A clearer mind, a clearer heart, and a clear focus on what my priorities are.  My fellow teacher friends out there know that it's so hard to follow the whole 'leave work at work' mentality.  Besides the lesson planning, paper grading, and email responding, there's a mental and emotional side of teaching that is difficult, if not impossible to abandon at the end of every school day.  Last year was a trial year for us, a half-year to 'practice' being a full-time teacher and a full-time mom.  Since my maternity leave ended in January, I think I was pretty much in a survival mode of sorts.  This year, however, I'm starting on a clean slate, an entire year to slide into this role of 'Working Mom,' and develop a system that works for the three of us.  I have goals, let me tell ya.  I have goals...

...To cook together and eat together.  Last year, we went out to eat...a lot.  Cruz was great to take to restaurants and because we always thought our days of eating out in peace were numbered, we took advantage of that as much as possible.  This year, we still want to enjoy a dinner out every now and then, but are going to view it as a reward.  If we can cook dinner and eat dinner at the table THREE NIGHTS each week, we will reward ourselves with a dinner out ONE NIGHT a week.  The other three days each week will be about leftovers, take-out, and easy, throw-together meals, but the other three nights will be the idealized, Leave it to Beaver kind of meals.  A set table, a well-balanced meal, conversation, and hopefully, a set expectation for Cruz to grow up with.  After all, I recently read that kids who grow up eating dinner around the table are 40% more likely to get As and Bs in school.  

So far this week, we've set the table and ate as a family two nights.  Tuesday, Beau had a late appointment, so Cruz and I shared a picnic outside.  There's something really nice about being in the kitchen together and preparing a meal that allows you to forget about the day's events and reconvene as a family.  We share in conversation without a computer screen between us, relax with a glass of wine, and reconnect after a day apart.  It's so important that we instill this family expectation (well, without the wine part) in our kids, too.  

Last night, we grilled Margarita Chicken.  It was delicious, especially paired with mango salsa.  Cruz had yummy bananas, a homemade, super easy form of banana pudding.  Both recipes follow...

Other than our family meal nights, I have goals to be present at home, to do my best to leave school work at school, and really concentrate on my boys at home.  I have plans to do a ten-minute pick up every night before bed, to put away my technology and focus on Beau after Cruz goes to bed, and make the bed every morning.  I have plans to keep up with laundry, send more cards, and remember birthdays.  

We've almost survived WEEK ONE!  Cruz is now a 'Scooter,' and has fully transitioned to a room of movers at daycare.  Needless to say, he's been a bit tired at the end of every day this week. We've had a hard time keeping him up past 7 this week!  I'm hoping this gets better as we get into the swing of things more.  8:00 would be perfect.  Other than that, he's loving the increased interaction at daycare, and I'm loving seeing his excitement when I pick him up after school.  

And of course, I couldn't help but take a 'first day of school' picture!

Margarita Chicken with Mango Salsa...


2 large limes
2 cups liquid margarita mix
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup cilantro
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground red pepper
3 Tbsp. tequila (optional)
3-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

-Cut limes in half.  Squeeze juice into a shallow dish or large zip-lock freezer bag.  Add squeezed lime halves to marinade.  Add margarita mix, next four ingredients, and, if desired, tequila.  Whisk (or seal bag and shake) to blend.  Add chicken; cover or seal, and chill at least 3 hours or overnight.  

-When ready to serve, grill chicken (about six minutes on each side).  Serve over hot cooked rice and with lots of mango salsa.
Mango Salsa:
2 mangoes, peeled and chopped
2 avocados, peeled and chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
3 Tbsp. vegetable or olive oil
Juice from one large lime

Chop and chill.  Easy.     

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