SUMMER STAYCATIONS IN PHOENIX

Travel can be tricky with two kids under the age of 3, and navigating an airport with little ones is often more of a headache than a vacation. That's why I love taking advantage of the beauty of our own backyard and embracing staycations. Arizona is known for it's beautiful resorts, and you can score MAJOR discounts on rooms during the summer months. Yes, it's mostly because no one is crazy enough to travel here in this heat... but considering we're already here regardless, we might as well take advantage of the deals. Ha! No matter what kind of staycation you're in the market for, you'll find it below.

If you're wanting...

A great pool for the kids: Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak from $103

A trendy girl's weekend: Hotel Valley Ho from $79 (20% off) 

A swanky Scottsdale getaway: Fairmont Princess from $119 (61% off) 

A romantic experience: Royal Palms from $169 (15% off) 

To be pampered: Sanctuary on Camelback from $167 (20% off)

To golf: Scottsdale Links Resort from $79 (60% off)

To explore downtown: Hotel Palomar from $132

Photo by Rennai Hoefer

KID LUNCHES

Back to school is just around the corner, and I'm finding myself brainstorming new ways to make lunch fun and exciting for my picky eaters. Sandwiches get boring day after day, and it can be a struggle to keep coming up with ways to make fruits and veggies look appealing to a five year old. As per usual, I turned to Pinterest for some inspiration and found some amazing kid-friendly lunch recipes that I'm just dying to try.

What kid wouldn't be excited to bust out these awesome turkey and cheese "sushi" rolls from Weary Chef?! With carrots in the middle and a spinach tortilla, they won't even know they're being healthy while they're eating it. 

These apple and cheese rollups from Weelicious are a unique alternative to any sandwich. They encompass three different food groups and pair perfectly with any side of grain, like pita chips or some classic Goldfish crackers!

Every good lunch comes with a little treat, right? Instead of something completely sugary with zero nutritional value, try out these chocolate peanut butter granola apple bites from The Comfort of Cooking. The hardest part is restraining yourself from eating them all before they make it into the lunchbox... 

While all of these recipes are creative and delicious, there are bound to be days when you're crunched for time and a PB&J will have to do. You can still make fun by stocking up on some parent and kid approved lunchtime accessories. Click on the links below to shop my favorites! Also, if you live in the Phoenix Metro area, I'll be visiting Fox 10 studios to talk more about school lunches and Pinterest. Tune in on Sunday, July 24th at 7am on their morning show.

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NORDSTROM ANNIVERSARY SALE

It's that time of year! The Nordstrom Anniversary Sale is easily the store's best sale all year long, with major price cuts storewide. What makes this sale extra special is that all of the sale items are brand new arrivals. Pretty crazy, right? Since the sale hits at the end of summer, I always use it as a chance to kickstart my fall wardrobe. 

The sale's early access for cardholders started late last week, so I shopped the sale and rounded up some of my very favorite style steals under $100. If you aren't a Nordstrom cardholder, the sale will become available to you on July 22. However, I'd definitely recommend becoming a cardholder. Nordstrom has a great rewards program and even offers a debit card option, so you never have to worry about your shopping getting you into trouble. 

Some things that I've already picked up are this affordable and chic bag by Sole Society and these gold hoop earrings. Both of these accessories go with everything and they were at the perfect price. You can shop them below, as well as some other picks. 

Photos by Sarah Waggoner 

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REAL TALK REAL MOMS ON GROWING YOUR FAMILY

How do you know you're ready to have kids? I would ask that question of my friends that were moms before I became one, and they would always answer, "You're never ready for it." Now that I am a mom, I would say that's a very true statement. I think you just have to keep an open mind and have open hands to what life may give you. And then, if you have a child, the next question becomes, "When do you know you're ready to have another?" Although, for me, I always knew if I had one I would at least have two if I could help it. Here's why...

You see, I'm an only child, and I hate it. I've always felt this way about it and I still wish I could have siblings. It's lonely being the only kid. There's a lot of pressure with the role too.

These feeling are no surprise to my parents. However, they were very intentional about having only one. They came from big families of four and five kids where there wasn't a lot of money or opportunity to travel and have nice things. My parents, based on their experiences, didn't want that for me. When I would ask why they only had one they would say, "We wanted to give you the world." Their hearts were pure and good. They had a peace that their little family was complete, and that they were making the right choice. 

But, I want to take a moment to shine some light on why I really didn't enjoy being the only child. Everyone seems to think that we are spoiled rotten with toys and attention, however, most only children I know received less attention. Parents can't be playmates all of the time, and siblings often take on that role when you add more kids to the family. So what happens in a family where there's just one? Well, we become "responsible" earlier and we start "adulting" earlier because our friends are our parents. Or, we develop a very good imagination and start occupying ourselves. Either way we become very independent kids, so much so that as adults I often have too full of a plate and don't know how to just play and celebrate like the rest of the world.

I wish I had siblings to talk to about handling my parents or to share grief when loss comes. I wish my kids had aunts and uncles to love on them from my side. Only children often marry people with siblings and then have to learn how to become siblings half way through their life. It's really HARD. Not to mention, expectations of friendships are higher for only children because we look at our friends like family. Whereas our friends don't really see us like that because they have their own brother and sisters. It may be the only choice for many families or the financially responsible choice for families, but this is what I would say if you're thinking about only having one...

Be ready to play and spend even more time with your kids than the average parent. Also, live near family where cousins and grandparents can keep your kiddo company and give attention to them. Make sure they have a lot of friends to play with, and even invite a friend along on trips. 

And as for our family, the question just became, "When should we have another child?" For us that just happened to be exactly three years after Elle was born. I really love the age gap (not too far and not too close). I think the key question to whether or not you should have children or have more children is, "Is my family complete?" I promise that in your heart and your spouse's heart you'll know the answer. Our family is complete at two kids, and knowing that in my heart makes me savor everything even more.

To learn about other experiences and perspectives on this question of having more kids, check out these other stellar mamas' blog posts as part the "Real Mom Series."

The Refined Woman / The Effortless Chic / Apartment 34 / The Life Styled / Parker Etc / Sarah Sherman Samuel / Sugar and Charm / Could I Have That / Sacramento Street

CHIC SKETCHES

If you're on Instagram, you've probably fallen in love with a few fashion illustrations. These stylish doodles are popping up all over social media, and are the cutest way to document a killer outfit. Sure, superstar bloggers and celebs get drawn all the time, but I just learned about the coolest app that lets you become the star of your very own fashion illustration. Just download Chic Sketch in the app store, upload a photo, and you'll receive a one of a kind fashion illustration by the app's Co-Founder, Emily Brickel Edelson. How cool is that?! These would make awesome gifts, as well. 

I loved the striped summer styles featured in some of Emily's latest illustrations so much that I rounded up some similar pieces for you to shop below. Treat yourself to some new statement stripes, snap some #ootd shots, and prepare to see yourself as the CUTEST fashion illustration.