An Uncomplicated Life Blog: February 2017

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Kidz Katch Keeping Floors Clean

Kidz Katch is a new gadget every parent with a self-feeding baby needs!

This post is sponsored by Kidz Katch. All opinions are my own.

First off, can I just say it took every ounce of my being to not spell clean with a K to make my title catchier. It really did! But, SEO told me not to. Anyway, Kim from Kidz Katch reached out to me and told me about the product she had just created. I was so excited to see a mom launching her business and going after her dreams! Also, her product fit my needs perfectly: I have a 14 month old self-feeding baby. That means I have food being thrown on the floor constantly. CONSTANTLY. When Otto decides he's done, he "tells" me by throwing the remainder of his food on the floor. He also misses his mouth or accidentally drops food too. Meal times are messy with self-feeding babies, but that's where Kidz Katch comes in to keep your floors clean.

After Henry was born, we managed to still go out to eat at least once a week. We took him everywhere with us! He was a chill and content baby and was easy to take places. Plus, if on the rare occasion he did become a handful, one of us could still eat while the other one managed him. After Otto was born, we went out a few times and quickly learned that going out with two children is completely different than one. Like, a whole different level. My husband would manage Henry, who by this time wanted to spend his time walking around and exploring the restaurant while I stayed with Otto, trying to balance a bottle in his mouth while I attempted to eat my food before it got cold.

In those early months with Otto, it just wasn't worth going out. I don't even think my husband and I talked; we just jockeyed the kids. Enter the phase of our lives where we became take out pros. There was a solid eight to ten months when we never, ever went out; we would only order and bring it back to our home. That's a sad way to live, trust me!

Now that Otto is 14 months old, eating solid foods on his own and is walking, we've started to venture out again. And good news! It's fun again. Still not as easy as taking one kid out, but both boy's are fairly self sufficient, at least enough so that hubs and I can eat our food and maybe even have a conversation.

This adorable face has kept us home bound for too many months - time to break free!
What isn't fun is the mess we leave behind when we go out. Now, we only go to kid friendly places but still! It's like a beach of food bits where ever the boys have sat. We're mindful of how they behave but that doesn't stop the stray tator tot from falling, or a bit of grilled cheese from not making it into a mouth.

Kidz Katch works amazingly to "katch" all those flying food bits. It fits in my purse and then easily unfolds, slides onto the high chair (yes, even the ones they have at restaurants!). I had this thing on Otto's chair in less than 30 seconds. Plus the inside Velcros to the outer ring so that there is no exposed place for food to fall onto the floor from. It covers all your child's messy eating bases! We took it to our favorite taco shop after a yoga class, and Otto was able to enjoy his quesadilla in full force. And when we left, the wait staff wasn't glaring at us for how big of a mess was made! I just wiped it down with a napkin and threw away the food bits that dropped, then folded it back up and put it in my purse. It made going out to eat easy, fun, and mess free.

This will work on your high chairs at home too. It's so easy to take on and off, and folds up small enough for a drawer or can be put in a purse like I did to bring it to the restaurant with us. The waterproof material is easy to wipe down or to spray with a cleaner. It's so much easier cleaning up after a meal - I can take it to the sink and dump it down the garbage disposal as opposed to getting on my hands and knees and wiping up the floor.

Quesadilla success with Kidz Katch
Kids change everything. Including how and where you eat your meals! Babies can make a massive mess, and it's especially challenging (and embarrassing) at a restaurant, even kid friendly ones. Make life easier on yourself and tote along one of these Kids Katch food-catchers to keep your floors clean and messes contained.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Roasted Corned Beef and Cabbage

Try roasting your St. Patrick's Day corned beef and cabbage for more flavor

When I was in my 20's, St. Patrick's Day was all about day drinking. I went to graduate school in Savannah, GA, which has one of (if not THE) biggest St. Patty's Day parades and festivals, and we'd start at 7am and go until well after dark. I can't hang like I used to, so St. Patrick's Day has morphed into maybe (mayyybeeee) going to the Dallas parade where one or two drinks is consumed, making this roasted corned beef and cabbage recipe, and calling it a day. Oh, adulthood.

Delicious finished product: Roasted Corned Beef and Cabbage

Here's the thing about corned beef and cabbage: It CAN be really, really good. But if you take the raw meat and put it right in some boiling water (the traditional way to make it) it's gross. When I told my husband I was going to make corned beef and cabbage, he wrinkled his nose and said, "Um, I'm not a cabbage guy", indicating he was not going to eat it. After I browned it, roasted it with some veggies for two hours, and then boiled it with the cabbage, he literally ate three bowls of it for supper.

This method of roasting your corned beef and cabbage really brings out the flavor! And the meat gets fall-apart tender. Make it this year as you celebrate the luck of the Irish!

Roasted Corned Beef and Cabbage
- Beef brisket with corned beef seasoning packet
- 3-4 red potatoes, cut into bite sized pieces with the skin left on
- half a head of cabbage, cut into large bite sized pieces
- 1 medium yellow onion, cut into large pieces
- 3 carrots, diced, or about three handfuls of the ready to eat peeled carrots
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- water
- salt and pepper

In an oven safe dutch oven (I use and LOVE this one - this is my most used pan in the house!), brown the brisket in the olive oil on high heat. Depending on how your meat is cut, brown as many sides of the brisket as possible. (I had three sides that were large enough to be browned on the cut of meat shown in these photos, for example.) Salt and pepper the brisket as you brown it.

Browned brisket about to go into the oven to roast with some onions
Heat oven to 325. Once the meat is brown, add the onion. It's ok to leave it in large pieces as it will cook down. Bake for an hour, then add one of the diced carrots or one handful of the ready to eat carrots, and roast for another hour.

Put the corned beef back on the stove after roasting for several hours
After it's fork-tender, add all the veggies

After two hours in the oven, put it back on the stove over medium-low heat. Dutch ovens are awesome for their ability to go from stove top to oven and back, right?! Add water enough to cover the brisket half way, and add the corned beef seasoning packet. Cook covered for another hour or two, until the meat falls apart with a touch of a fork. Once tender, add the remaining carrots, potatoes and cabbage. Cook until the veggies are tender, about 30 minutes.

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Roasting your corned beef before boiling it adds so much flavor!
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It's not a quick process to make this roasted corned beef and cabbage recipe, but the nice thing is that you can get it started, head out to a St. Patrick's Day parade, then come home and finish it up! The roasting adds loads of flavor and adding potatoes and carrots makes it a bit more substantial and more like a complete meal. Which may be necessary if you're pretending you're Irish for a day. Enjoy! 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

If I Could...

If you could have anything or do anything in a given situation, what would it be and what would you do?

Anytime I read a full blog post from beginning to end, I know it was a good one! I was reading my friend Tiffany's blog last week when she had this post idea up, and read through it all. It was so fun, I've copied it (Thanks for the idea Tiff - this was all hers!) DIY posts and how-to tutorials are all well and good, but it's also super fun to just read about people and learn how their mind works. This is what I would do if I could... And things like money, time, or reality didn't matter.

Travel anywhere in the world - I would love to go to Morocco or Istanbul. I've been to Europe several times and have been to the Caribbean plenty. I'd love to go right to the verge of the Middle East! When I lived in Paris (studying art history in college) I spent HOURS in the Middle East artifacts section of the Louvre. I was bored by the impressionist art that all my friends wanted to look at so I lone-wolf'd it to the more fascinating part of the museum. I'd love to see some more of it in it's city of origin!

Live in any city - New Orleans. I looooooove the food, I love that it's hot, I love that it's on the water, I love it's rich history, I love it's kinda freaky vibe (hello, Halloween is my favorite holiday!) and did I mention that I love the food? If my husband could get a transfer there, I'd be in my car making the drive without thinking twice.

Eat one thing for the rest of my life - This should be a hard one for me to answer since I'm a bit of a foodie, but no. I'd eat tacos. Street tacos, hard shell tacos, carnitias, barbacoa, veggie tacos, whatever just yes to all the tacos.

Drive any car - Hmmm. I feel like I should list some fancy sports car. But I'm just not into them. I hate sitting low to the ground and find them claustrophobic. I like my big mom SUV. My lease is up soon and we're looking into the Volvo XC90 or the Infiniti QX80 and I'm pretty sure either of those will be great. It's pretty awesome to have the ability to drive my "dream" car, but since I don't have insanely high standards, it makes the dream easier to obtain.

Change one thing about my physical appearance - Now, I actually really like my physical appearance... But, breastfeeding has destroyed my boobs so I'd love to get those fixed. I could also do with a slightly smaller nose. There's NO WAY I'd ever get a nose job (have you ever seen a plastic surgery show where they take the chisel and break the nose in a nose job?! YIKES) but I am hopeful to get some work done on my chest as soon as we're sure we're done having kiddos. Kids do a number on your body, guys!

Change one thing about my personality - I'm pretty blunt and straightforward. And by pretty, I mean extremely. While I appreciate that quality in others, I know many people don't respond to it well. I'd love to "soften" my tone, as it were, and speak directly while maintaining a sense of kindness. It's not that I have mean intentions, I just think others can perceive it as unkind and I'd like to change that. Ahhhh, something to work towards, I guess.

Only spend one more day on Earth - I'm a beach and ocean type of gal, so I'd spend it in the sun, by the water, on a blanket laid out in the sand. Maybe with a few drinks with umbrellas in it, too. The sand in Aruba was amazingly white and soft, but Aruba was HOT. So I'm thinking a beach off the coast of Playa del Carmen would be about perfect.

Be someone else for a day - I actually had to think about this one for a while! I think it would be cool to be the president (not necessarily our current one, but any of them) just to see what all goes into such a high ranking position. It'd also be fascinating to be a historical figure, like Martha Washington, to get perspective on her life and history. But in the end, I guess I'd be a fictional character like Lady Mary from Downton Abbey. Mostly because I want to be served breakfast in bed every morning. Oh, the life! And I want her wardrobe.

It's fun to think about all the things we could do if time, money or this big thing called reality wasn't an issue, isn't it? Kinda like one big day-dream fest. If you could, what would you do in a given situation? It's pretty fun to think (and write) about!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Homemade Garbage Disposal Fresheners

Garbage disposal smelling stinky? Make these DIY fresheners to clean out that smell!

I have to be honest with y'all: This post was almost a complete fail and I thought I'd have to ditch the whole idea. I was following one of the post pinned recipes on Pinterest (with my own twist on it that shouldn't have effected the outcome) and they would not stick together! So FYI, if you're searching one of these on Pinterest and it's lemon scented with 75k repins, that recipe does NOT work. I pride myself on only putting DIYs on this blog that are tried and true. It took me three different times, but I finally got it! Low and behold, these awesome homemade garbage disposal fresheners.

An easy DIY on how to make garbage disposal fresheners in under 5 mins

I love my husband. We have a nonverbal agreement that I do the cooking and he either does the cleanup or takes the kids and gives them a bath while I do the cleanup. He usually does a pretty solid job... Except for the garbage disposal. There's always crud left in it! One time I snuck around a corner to watch him and he did a quick 3 second run of the garbage disposal after a sink full of pots and pans. Three seconds. That was it.

Word to the wise, you don't get all the food bits run through in only 3 seconds.

I've gotten pretty good about going in there before bed and running the disposal for longer to make sure all the crap gets cleared out, but sometimes I'm lazy or tired or had too much wine and that doesn't happen. Then the next morning, I smell it. Ugh! That smell! You know which one I'm talking about? I bet you do.

That's where these homemade garbage disposal fresheners come in super handy. You can whip them up in under five minutes, let them dry overnight, then store them right by your sink in a glass container. I used grapefruit as the citrus of choice since it's spring here in Texas and I really like it's clean, semi-sweet scent. You can also go with the classic lemon, lime, lemon/lime combo or orange (orange is really nice around the holiday season!)

Here's what you need:
- 3/4 C baking soda
- 1/2 C salt
- zest of half a grapefruit
- 1 tablespoon of grapefruit juice
- Optional (and highly recommended) about 30 drops of grapefruit essential oil (it's a super affordable oil!)

Mix together all the ingredients. The mixture should resemble cookie dough. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. You can either scoop the mixture into rounds, form them into mounds like I did, or get super fancy and use a silicone mold. Let them dry overnight, until hard. If you're making these in the humid summer, it might take longer for them to dry fully.

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Once hard, store in a glass container either on your sink or under it. Run cool water, turn on your disposal and use one or two of the fresheners to clean out any funky smells that have accumulated in your garbage disposal. It's a super easy, insanely cost effective homemade DIY that freshens that stinky garbage disposal.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Best And Worst Day In Elementary School

Remembering back to the best and worst memories from elementary school

I think it's fun to think back to memories made, months, years or in this case, decades ago. With the new Secretary of Education in place, I've been thinking a lot back to my years in grade school. What it was like for me, and what it will be like for Henry, who will be going off to kindergarten in just two more years. There were some really great times in elementary school! And also, some buzzkill days. And so I start a series: The "best and worst days" in various time frames of life. If you like reading short stories, enjoy! I'm starting at the beginning, elementary school. Because do you have real memories earlier than that? I have about two.

Kindergarten Paige in a party dress and full on mullet status

Let's get the bad stuff out of the way first. Ahhhh, the worst day. It was in 3rd grade. Now, I was always a pretty popular girl and made friends easily, which is semi-surprising because my entire mid-section was covered in a back brace from severe scoliosis. I had my first crush, named Andrew. Back in the 90's, we walked in the hallways in a line, silently, when we had to go from our classroom to the lunchroom or the gymnasium. But, being in third grade, those rules were hard to follow!

We were walking back from somewhere, when my sweet crush came by my side to chat. I look over to him with big googly brown eyes and smile. But instead of chatting with me, he knocks on my hips, which are covered in the plastic of my back brace, and says, "What are you, growing your hips out or something? They're huge! And hard. What's wrong with you anyway? Are you a turtle? What's with the stupid shell, turtle?" 

I was so taken aback by his mockery! He was normally so sweet and nice to me. Before I knew what I was doing, I wound up and punched him in the face. The line we were walking in stopped and half the class gasped and pointed at us.

Me circa 2nd or 3rd grade. How could that sweet face punch someone? Don't be fooled, I'd kick your ass.

Little did I know, Mrs. Finch, our teacher, had swooped in on our conversation to silence us and our rule breaking. She witnessed the whole thing! I looked at her with fear in my eyes, because I was NOT a rule breaker and knew punishment was coming my way. But she just gave me a stern look and told Andrew to get back in line. Later, she called me to her desk and I thought the punishment was inevitable. "Paige, you cannot hit people. Andrew deserved what you gave him, but that doesn't make it right. If you get made fun of again, please come tell me and we'll manage it together, okay?"

That was the one and only time I was ever made fun of for having a back brace. I don't know if rumors spread that if you made fun of me, I'd deck you - and I was easily a head taller than everyone, so getting decked by me would knock a kid straight over - but that was the one and only instance of a kid being rude to me for my scoliosis. After that, I was back to the popular girl and teacher's pet.

The best day is hard to choose from! There were so many great memories. In 5th grade, we got to go to a Harriet Tubman play at the children's threatre and I was absolutely fascinated with history. It was my favorite subject, and getting to go to the play was the cherry on the cake! I also was put into a gifted and talented class where I was able to research a topic and present my findings to my class. I researched historical fashion from colonial America to present day and loved every second of it. (Who loves research projects in elementary school?! Me. I do. I did.)

Denim on denim on denim, FTW. Also, I'm the younger sister. Now we know how I could kick ass {literally}

But the most recurring favorite memory was Track and Field day. Do kids still have those?! They were the BEST. Each class would put forward a team for all the different events and compete against each other for a school trophy. I learned early on that I was a fast sprinter and good at just about every event at Track and Field. I went to a small elementary (shout out to Cedar Manor!) and quickly developed a reputation for being the fastest girl. I secured the trophy for my class in fourth and fifth grade.

On the first day of sixth grade, I was transferred into a "team class" where you started it in 5th grade and kept the same class and teacher team for 6th. I'm not sure why I was put in that class, it's probably where they had room, but I was the only new student who hadn't been in the 5th grade class. The teachers were going over things together and making announcements. Mrs. Bramwell, my teacher, concluded by saying, "And welcome to Paige! She wasn't in our group last year, but is this year and we're so happy to have her. We're gonna get that track trophy this year, whoohoo!!" And the whole class cheered! I don't think teachers can even say things like that anymore, but it sure made me feel good.

This was in 4th grade, spring break trip to FL. Can we talk about how I wore SOCKS with my BIRKENSTOCK'S to the BEACH? Overall game on point though 

And better believe I got that track trophy in 6th grade, too. And I did it in my back brace to boot.

Elementary school was full of so many good memories for me. It was my favorite time growing up. My sister and I were best friends, I had tons of friends at school, and I was an A student. Sure, there was the occasional crush that needed a punch to the face, but I didn't let that get me down for long. And you always need a few worst days to appreciate the best days in elementary school, right? 

Monday, February 6, 2017

How To Wear Cheap Jewelry When You're Allergic

If inexpensive jewelry makes you itch or break out in a rash, you need this simple trick

I was stupid enough to go to Anthropologie three days before Christmas. My sister and her husband were coming and getting her a gift had been on my to-do list for about two weeks. But I hate the mall and I hate shopping, so I put it off until I couldn't anymore. As I was standing in a checkout line that went all the way to the door with every other last minute shopper in Dallas, I had plenty of time to check out the jewelry they strategically place near the checkout line. I immediately loved these antique pearl studs! And two pairs for $38? I decided to get a gift for me, too. I put them on in the car and by the time I was home (we're talking a five minute drive) my ears were red and itchy and I had a headache to boot. If this sounds familiar, read on for how to wear cheap jewelry when you're allergic to it.

How cute are these? I had to get them. Well played, Anthro. Shop this pair or this pair of pretty studs

I've been allergic to inexpensive metals for as long as I can remember. When I got my ears pierced at the age of six or seven, I got real gold studs. After they healed, I headed over to Claire's (who remembers Claire's?! Is that chain still around?) and spent some of my allowance on trendy, cheap earrings. Shortly after that, I learned that cheap earrings were a no-go for me.

It's gotten worse as I've gotten older! Within a few minutes, I can tell if a pair of earrings are anything less than 14k gold. I can't even wear 10k gold - there's too much nickel mixed in. I should have known when I got these that I'd have a reaction. Anytime an earring has a back like this, I find I'm instantly reacting to them. Fun fact: I'm so allergic to metals, when I had scoliosis surgery at 13, they had to use titanium. My back is now full of tens of thousands of dollars of titanium!

Backs like this almost always mean I'll be allergic to the earring

Not only is it expensive to only buy nice jewelry, but you also miss out on the fun trendy stuff! I love a good diamond stud, but c'mon. I want to mix things up a bit. I remembered a trick my aunt told me about way back when I was just figuring out that I was highly allergic to most metals: Paint the earrings with clear nail polish to coat the metal and protect your skin.

Use a clear top coat so that the nail polish isn't visible. Paint the stud and any of the metal that might touch your ear. I even coated the whole little pearl in polish since it wouldn't show and odds would be good whatever the "pearl" was made of would irritate me too. Don't put too thick a layer on, or it will be too hard to get the back of the earring on. paint the backs too - anything that might touch your skin needs a coat of polish.

Let dry until hard. Voila! You can wear trendy, cheap jewelry even if you're allergic. You'll likely have to touch up the coats of polish several times a year (depending on how often you wear the earrings, perhaps more often) to keep the cheap metal fully coated. But using this trick, you CAN wear inexpensive jewelry.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Time I Didn't Miss My Kids

So many articles and blog posts have you believing a misconception about motherhood

This post has been on my mind for a while now. It's been in my heart for several weeks, but it's been in my mind for years, actually. Ever since I became a mom and started reading "mom articles", for lack of a better term. I'm nervous to write it and have it forever stored in the dark corners of the Internet. I'm worried it will get taken the wrong way, and I'm not a worrier. But this particular narrative is one that's missing from the masses of "mom articles" so here I am, attempting to be bold enough to write it. There's a narrative about motherhood out there, and it's just plain false: That as mothers, we're always supposed to miss our kids. Always.

My children spent nine days in Arizona with grandma and grandpa. And I didn't miss them. Not even once.

I face timed with them! I wanted my mom to send me photos of them, and updates on how and what they were doing! But I didn't miss them.

My husband few with them out to Arizona, as he had a work conference in the same city. I was supposed to go with them, but this year, his company cut spouses from their annual meeting (jerks). So we changed my flight to head to the east coast to visit dear friends of mine who I hadn't seen in nearly three years. I helped my husband check the car seats and baggage, kissed them all goodbye at the security check point, and had to hold myself back from dancing all the way to the car.

Free at last, free at last, God Almighty I was free at last!

I went home to a QUIET house. I packed my things for my trip without having little hands unfolding and unpacking my things, nullifying any progress I made as I went. I took an hour long shower. I went to bed and slept soundly, knowing there would be zero chances of any cries waking me up in the night. I woke up early for my flight and actually had time to curl my hair. I put on a full face of makeup, something I haven't done in over a year. I sipped HOT coffee.

And then I realized: This was the first time I slept by myself, alone (ok, the dog was with me) in my own house since 2013. I have not been alone overnight, in my home, in YEARS. There is always someone with me, and odds are about 99.99% that it's a little person who's needs always trump my own. This was the first time I didn't have to wake up hours early to get everyone out of the house; I could sleep until just I needed to get up to get ready. I wasn't going to be derailed by dirty diapers or someone else's hunger or realizing I forgot a beloved toy.

My trip only lasted the weekend, then I returned home to have the house to myself for the next five days. Five days! My husband thought I'd for sure go crazy and miss the kids. I did too. But I didn't. And every narrative or article on motherhood I've ever read told me I SHOULD miss my kids. But I just didn't feel that way. My mom friends who were at home with their children all said, "Oh my gosh, I bet you're having the time of your life!" And I was.

I worked on blog posts. I went to fitness classes. I was able to attend my first paid event! Had my kids been home, odds were good (as in, VERY good) I'd have had to decline that event, as I've declined EVERY paid event offered me, because I'd be home with the kids. I was actually too busy prioritizing myself and my work for the first time in years to have a second to "miss" my kids.

So many articles, blogs posts, op-eds, you name it, about motherhood will speak to the challenges of it. But they all seem to end with, "But it's SO worth it!" and whenever a mother travels away from her kids, she feels the need to insert, "But it was SO hard! I missed my kids SO much!" Well, I'm here to tell you I didn't miss my kids. I'm around them all the time. I knew they were coming back. I was glad they'd be coming back! But no. I didn't miss them.

And that's ok! It's ok because when mothers work or go on vacation, it seems like society guilts them into tacking on a clause about how much they miss the labor of motherhood. "I'm going on a girls trip to wine country, but leaving my family was soooo hard!" Ummm, really? Because if I was going on a girls trip to wine country, I'd skip out of the house in rapid speed.

Why do women feel the need to tell people how hard it is to be away from their families? Men never do this. My husband never has to qualify his business trips with, "I'm at this conference, but man I wish I was home with snotty noses and poopy diapers! I'm missing those goofy smiles." Sure, he likes to be with his family, but his time away isn't wasted trying to prove to everyone how good of a dad he is by telling colleagues how much he misses us.

But that's the thing. The false modern mother narrative found all over the internet and in print tells us that if you're a work outside the home mom, you spend all day missing your kids. If you're a stay at home mom, when you do get a break, you struggle with it because you SHOULD be missing your kids.

And that's just not true. My mom told me that when she went back to work as a nurse, working was her break. It was her adult time. It was her free time. When I got my time off from motherhood, I was able to focus on my business. I got things done at a reasonable pace instead of rushing around everywhere. It was great! And the strange thing is, this narrative seems to only exist in media. If you talk to a fellow mom friend, she'll congratulate you on getting away. In person, moms can talk about how they truly are thrilled at the chance to get away and get some time to themselves, but in the media? Oh no, we have to talk about how hard it is, how worth it it is to spend all our time with our kids and how guilty we feel to get away. What rubbish!

So there it is. I didn't miss my kids. It's a break to get away, and all moms need a break! I wish I'd read more motherhood narratives that said, "heck yes I got away from my kids and it was awesome!" Because it is. Moms, it's ok to not miss your kids. Nobody, at least not me, is going to think you're a bad mom. And if they do, who cares? It's not for them to judge. You know your relationship with your children. So let's stop talking about "how hard" it is to occasionally break away from our families, and start rewarding moms who take time for themselves instead.