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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!

 

As many of you know, our big vacation last summer was taking an Alaskan Disney Cruise. One of the awesome things about taking a Disney Cruise is this secret RAK experience called “fish extenders”, which I blogged about here. While that blog post gave an overview of the fish extender process and showcased the fish extender I made, I never told you what happened next!

Since I was late in joining the Fish Extender Facebook group, I was put on a list of “Pixie Dusters”, which meant our family would receive random gifts that others had as extras (we were too late for the official gift-swapping exchange.) I, however, had a secret plan of my own. I decided to RAK fish extender gifts to every person/family that “liked” my Pixie Duster post on the page.  We ended up with list of 10 families – 41 people in all.

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Did I mention that we less than 72 hours before our plane would depart?

We. Got. Busy.

My two boys found pictures of Disney characters online and started recreating them out of Perler beads. My daughter grabbed her paint brushes and started decorating picture frames. I headed to the store to see what small gifts and Disney-themed trinkets I could find. We spent the next three days making, organizing, printing, and gluing so we would be ready to give our gifts away.

We prepared memory-making gifts for elderly grandparents and baby-safe gifts for tiny infants. We bought sparkle nail polish for the teenage girls and painted Mickey Mouse ears on the side for fun. We had beads. We had stickers. We had journals, pens, and more.

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Once everything was spread out and sorted, we packaged the gifts in family bags with a personalized note attached.

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We even packed a huge bag of truffles to bless the Disney Cruise workers who would make our vacation so special.

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The next blog post will share all the fun we had blessing others – check back soon and feel free to share!

 

About a month ago, I blogged about the start of our family vacation. Since that time, my list of “must write” blog posts has expanded from a couple to more than a dozen. Egads! So many stories to share and not enough hours in the day! So rather than jumping in with current RAKs, I’m back-tracking a bit to make sure I capture all the stories from the past month, lest they dissipate like the morning dew on a hot summer day.

At the end of July, my family took a long-awaited Disney Cruise vacation to Alaska. I say “long-awaited” because it took us several years of planning and saving to make it happen. As our departure date grew near, I started perusing the internet for any last-minute insights on what we might see or do while visiting the various ports. One link led to another and I found myself on a Disney discussion board forum, reading the posts from other travelers.

I saw several posts titled “Fish Extenders” and I laughed at my own naivety, wondering why on earth any one would want to make a fish longer. Intrigued, I clicked on the link to open the post and -WHAM- I suddenly found myself caught up in this magical, wondrous world of Disney Cruise random acts of kindness.

A fish extender is a hanging pocket carrier that you create and hang from a fish hook outside of your cabin door. (All Disney Cruises have fish hooks for crew members to leave messages or other forms of communication.) There are Facebook groups that people can join to be a member of a fish extender group for a particular cruise. Once in a group, you share your information and agree to a form of  “RAK reciprocity” where you will give other members in your group a little surprise during the cruise and they will do the same for you. (That’s a VERY short summary – click here to dig deeper and learn more about fish extenders!)

Example of a Fish Extender

Now you can image how EXCITED I became when I realized 1) this type of RAK even existed and 2) I could actually participate! WOOOO-HOOOO! The adrenaline rushed through me so quickly, I knew I just HAD to jump in!

Then reality hit. This was Monday night. I had to be at work all day on Tuesday. That left Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday to pull all this together as our flight was departing first thing Saturday morning. Was it even worth the effort?

I don’t know when you last went on a family vacation, but the week before a trip is simply chaotic with all the planning, organizing, and packing. Add to that five family members, flying, with the goal of only 3 bags of checked luggage between us all. We had such limited time, but… but… but… how could I possibly resist the pull of a magical RAK?

I joined the FB group and added myself to the list of Pixie Dusters. (That’s a small group of people who join too late to be a part of the actual fish extender exchange, but would like to give/receive randomly.) I spent most of the day on Wednesday searching for a hanging organizer that would meet the length/width specifications as well as having enough pockets for my family of five, but after multiple store visits, I quickly realized I would have to make one myself. (Egads – I didn’t factor THAT into my limited timeline! I don’t even own a sewing machine!)

I bought some cloth napkins and a fabric table runner and got to work. It took almost the entire three days to complete the fish extender (we won’t discuss how many hours of hand-sewing), but it was finished in time for our trip! Yay!

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As I was making the fish extender, a dear friend from high school, Kim, noticed my posting on one of the Dis Boards. She reached out to me and asked if I would have any use for some crystal Mickey Mouse figures. I was so excited to accept her generous gift! (And it was awesome to catch up with her after so many years!)

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She told me she just signed a contract to teach first grade with a neighboring school district, so I grabbed some books of my son’s bookshelf to get her started with a classroom library.

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After she left, I added the crystal Mickey Mouse figures as well as a few more embellishments, then our fish extender was done!

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My next blog post will highlight the gifts we made over those three days to bless others on our trip – make sure to check back soon to read more!


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