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Fish Extender Gifts Received Blog Logo

“The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there…” ~ Clement Clark Moore

Do you remember the Night Before Christmas? The children, all tucked in their beds (sugar plums dancing in their heads) as they waited with anticipation for the surprises to arrive the next morning. St. Nick arriving, his belly like jelly, trying to tiptoe so quietly around the house, delivering gifts for others to enjoy. Participating in a Disney Cruise Fish Extender gift exchange is similar: the preparation, the anticipation, the surprise.

(For those of you stumbling across this blog for the first time, you can catch up on the Fish Extender saga by clicking here, here, and here.)

Each morning as my children awoke, they jumped from their beds wanting to check their “stocking” to see if any treasures were left the night before. I reminded them that we weren’t officially part of the Fish Extender exchange, but participating as Pixie Dusters, so any gifts we received would be extras shared by generous families. Our purpose was to bless others without expectation of reward.

But oh, how we were blessed in return!

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Coloring books with crayons. Personalized drink holders. Flashlights. Stickers. Disney-themed toys. Luggage tags. Bookmarks. Mini game boards. Lanyards. Keychains. Candy. Cups. Lip Balm. Even detergent and stain remover wipes for any emergency laundry needs (which we needed, but didn’t have!)

We received handmade scarves that we wore almost every day. (We didn’t even think about bringing scarves on our trip to Alaska – genius!)

One family even surprised us with a handmade Disney bag which we used every day to carry our souvenirs, toys, and books from on-board activities and excursions.

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Sometimes the surprises arrived while we were sleeping; sometimes while we were eating meals. Each and every gift was appreciated, no matter the type or cost.

I was reminded again and again about the kindness of others. Such thoughtfulness was shared with our little family of five. Remember, we weren’t even supposed to receive any gifts at all! I connected with the Fish Extender Facebook group literally three days before we left. And yet… so many families chose to add us to their list and bless us as if we belonged to them from the start.

Even typing this blog post brings tears to my eyes, remembering the overwhelming feelings of love and gratitude.

The gifts continued throughout the week. I was humbled by the thoughtfulness and creativity of others. One family gave an open-faced locket filled with Disney themed charms. I literally gasped with awe when I discovered the jewelry hidden in my Fish Extender pocket.

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Another family blessed my youngest child with a handmade super hero cape and mask from The Incredibles which he wore, but refused to pose for a photograph. (“Mommy, pictures take away my powers!”)

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My daughter kept meticulous care of her gifts, choosing to empty a clothing drawer so her treasures would be safe throughout the voyage.

We were even surprised with strangers decorating our cabin door with handmade signs and magnetic whiteboards. (Did you know that the cruise ship doors and walls are magnetic?)

I simply cannot thank these strangers enough for the joy they added to our vacation. The entire Fish Extender experience showed my children first-hand the power of “give and receive.” We now have tangible treasures to remember your kindness and stories to share with others. You have woven your thoughtfulness into our family memories which will be retold for generations to come.

You have blessed us beyond measure!

If you are planning to take a Disney Cruise and love the idea of random acts of kindness, I recommend you to join the Fish Extender Facebook Group to get more information. (This is a closed group, so you will need to request to join.) The passengers on my cruise created their own closed group which allowed us to share information on a Google Sheet and post photos/memories from our trip.

A special thank you to the following families for all our gifts received (if I left anyone off the list, please let me know and I will add you!) You truly transformed an already fabulous vacation into something only Walt Disney himself could create.

The Johnson Family

The Miller Family

The Fontenot Family

The Green Family

The Adams Family

The Peauroi Family

The Hanks Family

The Mill-Nap-Hacks Families

The Kennedy Family

 

 

 

 

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As we boarded the Disney Cruise, we could barely contain our excitement – it was almost time to put up our Fish Extender (FE) and start giving our gifts away! (For those that are new to this blog, you can read more about Fish Extenders here.) We had a list of 10 families – 41 people people in all, and bags of small gifts organized by cabin number.

Since everyone’s luggage would arrive at various times throughout the day, we had to wait a bit before we could RAK the others. We hung our FE outside our door with hopes that someone would Pixie Dust us during the week.

Understanding that we were late to join the FE group, I had already prepped my kiddos not to expect many gifts. “Remember,” I cautioned, “This is more about giving than getting. We may not get anything at all, but think of how happy the others will be to receive our surprises!”

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Our family’s Fish Extender

We decided to RAK a few families each day and agreed that if their FE was filled by someone else we would try again when it was empty. Oh, if you could have been a fly on the wall to see us trying to hide our treasures as we walked through the narrow halls, always wondering if we were passing by the family we would soon bless. We felt like spies on a recon mission!

The first door we came to had a fun surprise for us – a magnetic scrabble board on their door! We added our word “fun” and filled their FE. Then we went up a floor and filled a few more.

The next morning, we grabbed a cup of hot chocolate from Deck 9 and laughed about how much fun it was to give to others the day before. We searched the faces of the passengers seated around us wondering, “Could this be the Mann family? Maybe that’s the Kennedy family over there…”

Walking back towards our cabin, we talked about who to RAK and made a plan for organizing their gifts. Then, as we turned the corner, we received our own surprise – someone had blessed US by filling our fish extender in the short time we were away! The kids were SO excited and couldn’t wait to see what treasures were hidden in their FE pockets. Little did we know, this was the first of many gifts we would receive throughout the week!

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Check back tomorrow to see a sample of the FE treasures we received – it was like Christmas morning each time we returned to our cabin!

 

For those who know me in real life, it’s no surprise that I’m a photo freak.  I take photos of EVERYTHING!  In fact, years before digital photo albums became available, I used to be a Creative Memories consultant, teaching others how to safely preserve and share their photographic memories for generations to come.  I have albums upon albums on my bookshelf documenting milestone events such as birthdays, graduations, and vacations.  For me, photos are the keys to our past and the joys of our future.

Keeping that in mind, can you imagine just how many photos I take while on vacation? It’s crazy!  I am the person who annoyingly asks, “Can you take a picture of us?” to the chagrin of my family members.  I might also be the gal who sheepishly admits to taking not one, not two, but quite possibly twelve (12!!) photos of a gecko who just happened to meander near my sandals.  Yes folks, I am a photo freak by every definition of the word.

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Last month our family took a week long Disney Cruise, a vacation we’ve been saving up for over the course of several years.  I could not WAIT to take photos of the islands we would visit and embrace the colors, sights and sounds of a new culture.   Such joy!   One of our stops was the beautiful island of St. Thomas; 32 square miles of lush tropical paradise with crystal clear water and bright, colorful flowers.  We planned to take our children on the Skyride, a cabin-like closed compartment with windows that travels up a mountain, allowing you to see the island from an aerial view as it rises 700 feet in the air.  Unfortunately, the Skyride was closed the day we arrived, so we had to change our plans while there.

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It was hot.  Scorching.  The moment you stepped on the white cement, you could feel the heat radiating from the ground through your shoes.  Thankfully there was a gentle ocean breeze and several open shops that provided cool relief from the heat.  After about two hours of walking around and taking photos, we decided to head back to the ship.  In order to gain entry on the boat, you had to pass through an entrance area barricaded by a chain link fence.  You had to show a photo I.D. and your boat’s key card as well.  Depending on the time of day you returned, you could be met with quite a line at the re-entry spot as every single guest on the cruise had to pass through this security clearance area.

Once past the chain link fence, you walked towards the ship’s boarding gangway where you stood in yet another line, waiting for your ship’s key card to be swiped.  Did I mention how hot it was outside?  By mid-day it was brutal!  Even though the lines moved forward at a decent pace and the security officers were friendly and kind, it was still a draining process.

My daughter and I were patiently waiting to proceed through the second set of security clearances when I overheard a woman behind me speak with despair in her voice.  “Oh no……,” she moaned “I totally forgot to take a picture of the St. Thomas sign!”  I turned my head at a 45 degree angle to see a dark haired gal pointing to the long “Welcome to St. Thomas” sign on the other side of the chain link fence.  Even if she held her camera high above her head, there was no way for her to take a picture of that sign without an ugly metal fence obstructing her view.

“Would you like me to email you my photo?  I just took one with my daughter right before we got in line.  I even took one WITHOUT my daughter, so you might like that one instead!”  She paused for a split second then grinned from ear to ear as she replied incredulously, “Are you sure?  You would do that for me? That would be wonderful!”  I had to laugh at her shock.  “Of course!  I’d be more than happy to do that!  No big deal at all!”  She gave me her email address and I typed it into my phone.  I even joked that if she sent me a photo of her kids, I would Photoshop them into the picture and no one would ever need to know.  We laughed at the idea and continued chatting through the clearance area, into the elevator and all the way up to our separate floors.

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It wasn’t until I exited the elevator and was halfway down the hall, heading back to my stateroom, that I realized I had completed another RAK.  My business cards! In a moment of sheer panic (which is silly to remember in retrospect – who on earth panics about RAK business cards!?!?), I ran down the hall and up a flight of stairs, hoping to catch her as she exited on the 7th floor.  Sadly, I wasn’t quick enough to tell her about my 26 acts, but I figured if it was meant to be for her to know about my mission, then I would see her again before our vacation ended.

Well, see her again I did.  That night before dinner there was a hypnotist show and who would be one of the people chosen for the show?  Yep, yours truly.  (That, my friends, is a WHOLE separate story right there – oh gracious!)  Following the end of the show, as we were making our way through the crowds of people, I saw her.  Right about the same time, she turned her head and saw me, too.  “It’s you!  It’s you!” she said as we both made our way towards each other.  We hugged like long-lost friends, laughing and sharing stories about the show.  I reached into my purse and handed her the business card, explaining that I had tried to find her after I got off the elevator.  She then touched my heart as she said my kindness reminded her that there is still good in this world.  Priceless.  Humbling.

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This Random Act of Kindness is dedicated to sweet Ana Marquez-Greene, an adorable child who loved to sing with her brother at the piano. In a statement the Greene family made in December 2012, ” [Ana] routinely committed selfless acts of kindness: every drawing or craft project she began was envisioned not for her own enjoyment, but as a gift for another. She often left sweet notes that read, ‘I love you Mom and Dad,’ under our bedroom pillow – not on special occasions, but, rather, on ordinary days.”

While taking a family vacation on a cruise ship to St. Thomas may not count as an “ordinary day”, this RAK was selfless, an offer made as a gift for another.  I’m sure had Ana been standing in my shoes, she would have done the exact same thing.

Be blessed my dear friends and keep paying it forward!


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