Different Kind of Easter

No new outfits.
No candy bought.
No fluffy bunnies in baskets.

The Cones experienced a different kind of Easter this year.

20140421 065004 Different Kind of Easter

We didn’t set out trying to make a statement.

After all, we just returned from the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, so it’s not like we’re depriving our kids by any means.

But perhaps that’s exactly why my husband had the brilliant idea of creating ‘Easter baskets’ from items my we already owned and/or the kids had just received while in LA.

This is the result:

20140421 064936 Different Kind of Easter

Yes, he took the time to set up an elaborate, Pinterest-worthy display of all the goodies we’d collected while in California and at Disneyland…some were free, some were bought with their own money and some were gifts we purchased for them…but all were new within the last week.

He also managed to drum up a basket FULL of candy simply from what we’d been given over the past month.

When we summoned the kids into the room, they gasped with glee for about 3 seconds, until they realized this was all ‘their stuff’.

While we weren’t trying to trick them, we were trying to prove a point: all these things that were awe-inspiring when received just a few days earlier had already become old news.

We’ve conditioned our kids to respond to this ‘new is better culture’ we’ve bought into with the monthly release of new gadgets, so the results shouldn’t be shocking…and yet, they are.

After all, we took them to a lovely Easter picnic and egg hunt put on for employees of Lipscomb University the day prior and even furnished our own family egg hunt on Easter morning (with coins replacing money in the eggs, which ‘cost’ us about $10 total).

Trust me, we’re not depriving our kids.

But at some point, the consumerism has to stop.

And even if you don’t share our faith values for why we celebrate Easter in the first place (that Christ was crucified on the cross and rose from the dead three days later), you should share a common desire not to raise spoiled kids.

It’s important that we show love to our kids, but that doesn’t mean buying them everything they want when they want it.

Does this mean we’ll never buy our kids Easter basket goodies again?

Probably not.

But what it does demonstrate is that we made a choice.

We chose to go on a trip and allocate our funds there instead of buying pink marshmallows, chocolate bunnies and stuffed animals that will never see the light of day after May.

Heck, I didn’t even buy myself a Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg this year! Not one! (And y’all know that’s the best candy EVER made…)

While we were easily able to use Easter as a vehicle to demonstrate this trend towards excess, I hope we’ll be able to keep the example alive in our kids minds well beyond this Spring.

And maybe, just maybe, they’ll be the ones coming to us saying that they have an idea for how we can celebrate differently next year…

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The Daily Dash: April 17, 2014 feat. FamilyLife Resurrection Eggs

On today’s episode of The Daily Dash, I featured the 20th Anniversary Edition of FamilyLife’s Resurrection Eggs:


resurrection eggs 20th anniverary The Daily Dash: April 17, 2014 feat. FamilyLife Resurrection Eggs

While I’ve known about Resurrection Eggs for years, I’ve never incorporated them into our family’s Easter routine until now!

While I wish I would have started earlier in the days leading up to Good Friday, our travel plans simply didn’t allow it this year.

However, there’s still plenty of time to enjoy and learn from the lessons packed into this age-appropriate tool.

resurrection eggs familylife The Daily Dash: April 17, 2014 feat. FamilyLife Resurrection Eggs

To learn more about and purchase Resurrection Eggs for your family, you can visit the FamilyLife website.

As you know, our family is HUGE fans of the ministry of FamilyLife, participating in everything from their Weekend to Remember marriage weekends to their Love Like You Mean It Marriage Cruise.

While FamilyLife did send me a set of the Resurrection Eggs to experience with my family, I was not compensated or coaxed in any way to write this post, nor are there any affiliate links. I just wanted to share a fantastic resource for parents wondering how to share the Easter story in a more tangible way with their kids!

If you want to know more about what’s going on around the world and in my life each day in under 3 minutes, then make sure you subscribe to my Daily Dash Playlist on YouTube!

pin it button The Daily Dash: April 17, 2014 feat. FamilyLife Resurrection Eggs

The Daily Dash: April 8, 2014

The Daily Dash: April 8, 2014

Find out everything you need from around the world and in my life in less than 3 minutes:

Love my custom laptop skin? So do I! You can get one from Zazzle too.

20140408 105850 The Daily Dash: April 8, 2014

In the news:
*Search for Malaysia Air Flight Box more difficult as they lose pings from Black Box
*Oscar Pistorius takes stand in his own defense
*UConn men win NCAA title over Kentucky; UConn battles Notre Dame tonight for women’s title

In my life:
*Teaching at Lipscomb University today
*Heading to Los Angeles for Disney Social Media Moms Celebration this afternoon!

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel for more great videos and to make sure you won’t miss a single episode of The Daily Dash.

pin it button The Daily Dash: April 8, 2014

I am a Disney Social Media Mom

I am a Disney Social Media Mom.

disney social media moms logo I am a Disney Social Media Mom

What’s that? You ask

I’ve already talked about what the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration is and is not, but I’ve never looked at who a Disney social media mom is.

I am her. She is me.

Of course, over the years, there have been hundreds of us. But that by no means dilutes our uniqueness, nor does it necessarily help clarify what exactly makes up a Disney Social Media Mom.

Heck, there are even some dads in the mix, so if you were confused before, I just blew your mind.

2011 03 17 2011 03 27 Disney SM Moms Day1 047 1024x768 I am a Disney Social Media Mom

Ultimately, I believe that is the magic behind the moniker of Disney Social Media Mom: there is no stereotype, no one perfect mold.

Years ago, before I even knew what a blog was, friends would come to me for advice on how to make their Disney dreams come true…and I’ve been helping them do just that ever since.

You see, when our kids were young, we knew we weren’t going to live in Florida forever; so we wanted to maximize our memories in the land of the mouse.

Have you ever called to make a reservation at Disney World? Then you know that right off the bat they always ask how many times you’ve visited before. I can honestly say we’ve lost count.

But don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean that the experience ever gets old. Not at all. Only better.

Whether going for a family celebration or a business conference, each trip to Disney holds its own memories. Which is exactly the reason I wanted so badly to be able to help others make their Disney dreams come true.

What started as me helping my friends has now grown into an online megaphone for helping spread not just the love about Disney, but all the Disney deals, tips and tricks I’ve collected over the years.

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As someone who not only loves Disney, but loves sharing her #DisneySide with family and friends, I don’t believe there was a higher point in my blogging career than getting invited to the 2011 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration.

As fate and pixie dust would have it, I got invited back for a second time to the 2012 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration.

I did not receive an invite to the 2013 Disney social media moms celebration, which made me hit pause and reevaluate. While of course I was crushed (who wouldn’t be after experiencing that kind of magic firsthand), it forced me to go back and look at not only all I had learned from the previous two years, but what the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration was meant to be, which was what prompted this post on the topic.

You see, in the past, I would let the news of an invitation (or lack of invitation to an event) play a part in my self-worth as a blogger. If we’re really honest, it would affect how I felt as a person too.

I knew there were no guarantees, no magic formula and no prescription I could fill to obtain an invite. Instead, I had to be content knowing that I’m doing the best that I can in the present moment.

And yet, as the tweets started a few months ago, I felt that excitement, anxiety and wonder start bubbling up all over again…

And there it was.
“You’re Invited!”

 I am a Disney Social Media Mom

And so here I sit, proud to say that I am a Disney Social Media Mom.

After all, aren’t all of us who love sharing the magic and splendor of Disney?

We are wives.
We are mothers.
We are bloggers.
We are friends.
We are passionate.
We strive for our best.
We live in community.
We want to leave this world better than we received it
And ultimately, we want to see the world through the eyes of our children.

Walt Disney himself understood the meaning in the magic behind the power of a dream.

If you can dream it, you can do it. Always remember that this whole thing started with a dream and a mouse. ~ Walt Disney

May all of us who have lived the dream, and all of us who hope to one day do so, never forget the possibilities that lay within reach for us when we dream that the impossible can one day be made possible.

I’ll be traveling to Disneyland this April where the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration will be hosting its 5th anniversary event. You can rest assured that I’ll take you along ever step of the way with me – from the planning to the actual event itself.

In the meantime, I haven’t been to Disneyland since I was 5 years old, so I’d appreciate any advice you can offer in the comments below!

(Oh, by the way, we haven’t figured out quite how to reveal it to our kids that they get to go not only to California for the first time, but to Disneyland! After our Disney Cruise Line scavenger hunt last year, we have a lot to live up to…so please don’t spill the beans if you happen to see them in the next 2 weeks icon wink I am a Disney Social Media Mom

For more Disney Social Media Moms magic, check these posts out:

 

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Do You Make Time for Kid Dates?

making time for kid dates Do You Make Time for Kid Dates?

Do you make time for kid dates?

You know what I mean right? I’m talking one-on-one time with just you and one of your kids doing something THEY want to do, not just taking them along with you on an errand somewhere.

The funny thing is, when you take the time to study your children and then intentionally invest in their lives on a one-on-one basis, the return is immeasurable icon smile Do You Make Time for Kid Dates?

Making time for kid dates these days can be difficult, especially when you consider that it’s tough for moms to even go to the bathroom by ourselves.

But I’m here to plea with you to consider doing exactly that.

Sometimes I get really creative with our kids’ dates, like when I came up with an American Girl Doll Scavenger Hunt to surprise my daughter with the new Saige doll or when I planned a “Girl Mom Weekend” to Atlanta to spend time together and talk about the transition from little girl to young woman.

KidDates Do You Make Time for Kid Dates?

Other times I keep it simple and just take my son on a picnic to his favorite tree near our home or we catch a movie and grab some ice cream afterwards (and yes, even though I love my kids, I still find a deal, take them to a matinee, or use my rewards points so it doesn’t have to break the bank).

Regardless of whether you have one child or seventeen, finding those moments to spend individual time with each child has a multiplying effect.

However you decide to spend time individually with your kids, never forget the immortal words of Nike: “Just Do It!”

Here are just a few simple ideas for your individual kid dates:

  • Take them to dinner at their favorite restaurant (even if it’s not as healthy as you’d like)
  • Learn a new hobby together
  • Get rid of all technology and spend time alone in nature together
Do you set aside time each month for special time with your kids? If so, I’d love to hear some of your kid date ideas below!

To read my full post on Making Time for Individual Kid Dates, head on over to the Wishing Well blog.

pin it button Do You Make Time for Kid Dates?

Danielle Smith Interview: Social Media Engagement for Dummies Author

When I had the chance to sit down with my friend Danielle Smith, co-author of Social Media Engagement for Dummies along with Aliza Sherman, I jumped on it.

Of course, it happened to be in the corner of a restaurant in the process of closing while we were both at the BlogHer blogging conference during the summer of 2013 in Chicago, but I think you’ll forgive the sound quality in light of the interview quality icon smile Danielle Smith Interview: Social Media Engagement for Dummies Author

Danielle Smith Interview: Social Media Engagement for Dummies Author:

Click here to buy Social Media Engagement for Dummies on Amazon.

 Danielle Smith Interview: Social Media Engagement for Dummies Author Danielle Smith Interview: Social Media Engagement for Dummies Author

If you’re a mom in business, you’ll also want to check out Danielle’s other book, Mom Incorporated.

 Danielle Smith Interview: Social Media Engagement for Dummies Author Danielle Smith Interview: Social Media Engagement for Dummies Author

What has been your biggest question when it comes to social media engagement and how it relates to your blog and/or business?

pin it button Danielle Smith Interview: Social Media Engagement for Dummies Author

How to Live a Prioritized Life in 2014

how to live a prioritized life How to Live a Prioritized Life in 2014

The New Year isn’t even here yet, but it’s already EVERYWHERE.

You know what I’m talking about…that word…that unobtainable ever evasive word: BALANCE

Weeks ago, I started praying about how I could live a more balanced life in 2014.

But that’s when it hit me: balance is a facade!

Why are we trying to achieve the unachievable? Let me explain and expand.

Balance means that all things are equal. Is everything of equal importance in your life? I certainly hope not.

So instead of striving for balance in 2014, my family is focusing on a new word: Prioritized.

Voila! It makes so much sense! Everything in our life does not have to balance on a see-saw equally, yet there does need to be a pyramid of importance by which we measure everything against, including our time, resources and talents.

For me, my priority pyramid looks like this:

Sami Cone Priority Pyramid 2014 How to Live a Prioritized Life in 2014

Click here for your own 2014 Priority Pyramid for free!

If you too want to know how to live a prioritized life in 2014, keep checking back – I’ve compiled some great resources to help us in our major areas of struggle that I’ll be sharing throughout January and linking up here (links will become live once post is live:

January 2014: How to Live a Prioritized Life

* MONEY: Reduce Debt (with the best money tracking solutions)
* HEALTH: A Healthy Morning Routine in 3 Simple Steps
* FASHION: How to Transform your Wardrobe with One Fashion Piece
* FAMILY: Starting Your School Day off Right: 4 Quick Tips
* FOOD30 Meals for under $30
* HOME: Minimize your routine for maximum results
* TRAVEL: Scale back and save for later 

Who’s with us? Will you fight the losing battle for balance once again, or will you join us in re-prioritizing for good this year?

728x90 How to Live a Prioritized Life in 2014

20% off entire online purchase with code WELCOME2014 at Gymboree!

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Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Journey #FollowTheBox #OCCEcuador

Operation Christmas Child Shoebox  Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Journey #FollowTheBox #OCCEcuador

If you’ve been following my Operation Christmas Child shoebox journey during my recent trip to Ecuador, now you can watch the entire process, from packing to distribution, in just minutes!

I met Stefania on top of a mountain over 11,000 feet in the air on our very last distribution. Though we’d already been to two orphanages, a church and a school, I hadn’t felt right about handing out our family’s shoebox until that exact moment.

My daughter had prayed the box would go to the perfect person, and while every child was more than deserving, the moment was right when Stefania and I met. In total, over 700 shoeboxes were handed out on our Ecuador trip, but more are needed for kids ALL OVER THE WORLD!

Even if you’ve yet to pack a shoebox, it’s not too late! @OCC_Shoeboxes are actually distributed throughout the year and can even be built online. Won’t you help ensure that no child goes without this Christmas?

You can also read my #OCCEcuador trip reflections

pin it button Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Journey #FollowTheBox #OCCEcuador

Why you wont be getting a Christmas card from us this year…

I thought it only fair to give you a heads up as to why you wont be getting a Christmas Card from us this year…

After all, I consider myself a direct human being and I don’t like beating around the bush.

It’s because you unfriended me on Facebook…

No, not really (if you couldn’t tell, I don’t really use my personal Facebook page anyway; if you really want to keep up with my family and our adventures, I suggest you follow us here or on Instagram).

But that brings up a good point, if you do know anything about me beyond 140 characters, you already know that this year has been a tough one for me and my family.

Collectively, we’ve gone through some marriage issues, job loss and even school changes.

To say 2013 was a time of turmoil and upheaval would be an understatement (in my modest opinion).

So as the time came to take the obligatory family picture to stamp upon dozens of Christmas cards, something just didn’t seem right.

Don’t get me wrong, we were going to do it, but things kept getting in the way: rainy weather, hectic schedules, the inability to find coordinating outfits… (I know, first world problems…).

We even went on different photo sites to try to pick out what template we liked, but we just couldn’t get everything aligned.

So as November crept into December, we stopped and took a step back. Could we sum up our family’s year in one picture? On one card?

All of a sudden, it seemed so inauthentic (like those Facebook friends that you approve even though you have no idea who they are, yet you continually share the deepest, darkest details of your life with, but I digress).

And I’d be lying if I didn’t say vanity played a part in our decision either. If you count the weight I lost during the first few weeks of our crisis in February, I have put on 40 pounds since then. I honestly don’t fit in much these days and I wasn’t about to go out and spend money on a new outfit to fit a body I don’t like and then take a picture in it for you all to display on your fridge for God knows how long!

Just keepin’ it real.

I know, I know…I’ve probably given many of you a hard time for not sending me a photo Christmas card over the years. I LOVE THEM! I’m one of those crazy people I just alluded to who not only waits for them, but displays them until the last possible minute in January. THEN, when etiquette dictates that I take down my Christmas card display, I turn them into clever memories like a Prayer Poster or put them on an O-ring and hook them onto our fridge so we can remember and pray over you all on a daily basis via our Family Prayer Shield.

But 2013 just wasn’t our year. Not for one of those cards.

In fact, I felt a Christmas letter would be more appropriate…but I’m not a Christmas letter card enclosure kind of girl…but I am a blogger!

So that’s when it hit me. I could save printing, shipping and postage by simply sharing my heart with you all on here.

And while I do want to wish each and every one of you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, I felt it MUCH more important to encourage you not to take any moment for granted, to cherish each opportunity that comes your way, and to try to make a difference in at least one person’s life each day.

I also felt it important to tell you that we’re on a good path. While Ricky and I still don’t feel it’s the right time to share the details of our story, we do feel confident sharing that we are moving towards the same goal hand in hand.

I think it’s important to remember that anything can happen to any of us at anytime. What you need to look deep down and discover is simple: How will you respond and who will you turn to?

For me, even amidst the hurt, shock and disappointment, I quickly realized that all of us are sinners saved by grace and none of us are immune from the enemy’s evil schemes. What happened to one of us could just have easily happened to the other. No person is perfect just as no marriage is perfect.

Instead of looking at how fast we could fail, we focused on how hard we could fight. Luckily, we both wanted to fight for the same thing.

So fight we are and fight we will: for our faith, our marriage, our children, our family and our future.

We are beyond grateful for the people that came alongside us and stood for our marriage in a time when neither of us could see the light at the end of the tunnel.

In the end, you may not be getting a Christmas Card from us this year, but I ultimately hope you will receive so much more as the result of this blog post. If you absolutely can’t move forward without a picture from us this year, then we couldn’t think of a better one to sum it up than this:

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Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

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My Operation Christmas Child Ecuador Distribution Trip Reflections

operation christmas child ecuador distribution trip My Operation Christmas Child Ecuador Distribution Trip Reflections

I tried to post while I was on my Operation Christmas Child Ecuador distribution trip (#OCCEcuador), really I did…

I wanted to post all the pictures I took…
I wanted to share all the emotions I felt…
I wanted to tell you about the faces I saw…
I wanted to recap the moments the kids opened the boxes…
I wanted to make you feel like you were on the trip with me…

but I couldn’t.

It was just too much.

First of all, I was just plain exhausted; I know I have no room to complain after what we saw there, but it’s just the God’s honest truth. The physical and emotional toll of 12 hour days with 3 distributions each day proved to be more than I anticipated and by the time we got back to the hotel and had dinner, I was ready to crash.

And yes, I did feel guilty about even sleeping in a hotel after some of the conditions we saw in Ecuador.

Operation Christmas Child Ecuador praying My Operation Christmas Child Ecuador Distribution Trip Reflections

In fact, I couldn’t even talk without crying upon getting back on the bus after our very first shoebox distribution:
I felt guilty about not bringing more to the kids.
I felt guilty about swooping in and out of their lives so quickly.
I felt guilty about going back to my ‘normal life’ while they remained in the same circumstances (though after I learned further about the FULL scope of what Operation Christmas Child and Samaritan’s Purse does throughout the year to disciple and assist these families, my entire outlook changed – more on that later…)

but for now, back to my list…

Second of all, I was afraid I couldn’t do the experience justice. As much as I wanted to give you the play by play, moment by moment, I couldn’t. Not only did I not have internet access during the day, by the time I did get back to WiFi in the hotel, the thought of boiling down my 12 hours into just a few photo words and images seemed daunting.

So I waited.

And I waited some more.

But after sitting in the Miami airport for about 6 hours on my journey back home, I think I’m finally ready to share the essence of my trip. As I tried to re-cap the highlights in my own journal, this is what flowed from my pen:

* 5 Shoebox distributions in 2 days
* 1 church, 2 schools and 2 orphanages
* 725 shoeboxes handed out to children of ALL ages
* Traveled over 2 miles up a mountain on a bus (one of the few places in the world where you can do that!) and nearly flipped over on our way down (check out the video below)
* Walked on the Equator
* Ate 2 crepes in one meal (one sweet and one savory…of course I ate dessert first!)
* Tried new food (the shrimp ceviche and Aji sauce was my favorite!)
* Shared my testimony at an orphanage
* Learned Ecuador is the world’s leading exporter of roses
* Forgot all my Spanish once I arrived; remembered it as we were leaving
* Danced with clowns
* Held 3 babies I didn’t want to give back
* Bought local coffee and chocolate in a supermarket
* Used several public bathrooms without toilet paper (you have to pay for it there)
* Went through 6 major temperature swings in a day
* Cried… and laughed until I cried
* Successfully delivered the shoebox our family packed across the ocean to a precious girl named Stefania!

I’ll have much more to share over the coming days and months, including the full video that follows our shoebox from packing to hand off.

 My Operation Christmas Child Ecuador Distribution Trip Reflections

For now, I hope this provides just a glimpse into this once in a lifetime trip I got to take AND encourages each of you who packs shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child to know that your box makes a difference in the life of a child.

If you want to hear first hand the difference a shoebox can make in a child’s life, listen to this testimony I filmed in Ecuador:

That one box changes a life…and we may never know the impact on that child receiving the box this side of heaven.

And when I mentioned previously how I felt guilty that we were just dropping off a shoebox and leaving, I learned that the shoebox provides an entry point; most kids don’t even know they’re getting them when the come to one of the programs. The journey just begins with the shoebox, but the ministry continues long after. In the words of Amy (one of our trip coordinators), “We know that God takes a little box and does big things with it.”

And if you’ve yet to pack a shoebox, it’s not too late! @OCC_Shoeboxes are actually distributed throughout the year and can even be built online.

Stay tuned for more…

pin it button My Operation Christmas Child Ecuador Distribution Trip Reflections