Wishes And Pixie Dust

Follow the journey of a Wisconsin family of 4 who relocated to the Walt Disney World area in July 2011

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This ‘n’ That

We have been slowly moving along, and just wanted to share our latest thoughts and activities.

We did hear back from The Gardens at Citrus Tower, and right now they remain our #1 choice.  As we mentioned before, we really cannot apply until mid-May, so we are kind of in a holding position until then.  Our original plan was to apply at all three complexes in May, visit them all once we arrive in Clermont on July 25th, and then make our final decision. However, all three complexes do require an application fee, as well as a deposit.  The deposit is non-refundable if we choose not to live there.  In the interest of not throwing money away, we have decided to make our decision here in Wisconsin, without physically viewing the apartment.  We realize this does pose some risks, but we feel we can get a fairly good feel from the websites, we have friends in Orlando who have promised to scope out the area for us, and we go with the realization that we can always move in twelve months if we’re not satisfied with either the neighborhood or the apartment.  We will feel more secure leaving Wisconsin knowing that we have an address we are moving to.   We will probably have to stay in a hotel in the Orlando area for a few days, if for no other reason then we have to wait to get beds delivered.  We are looking for feedback on the best place to buy beds in the Clermont area.

We are slowly packing up our belongings, and our new goal is to pack one box a day.  If we do more, great!, but the minimum is one box daily.  We average about one Goodwill trip per week now.  Downstairs we are pretty well at the point where most of what is left are things we are bringing with us.   Mark is working on moving our music CDs over to our external hard drive, and we are both trying to duplicate our videos to DVD.  Our Disney videos we will need to make a decision on, as they are write-protected.  We may look into re-purchasing them over the next four months, and only saving the ones that are currently not available on DVD.

Our second car is listed on Craigslist, and we have an interested party coming by to look at it this afternoon.  If all goes well, this will allow us to pay off the loan on our other car, plus have a little extra to bank.   We’ll go back to being a one-car family, but with Mark working at home full-time, it’s not too much of an inconvenience for us, and it will save us approximately $150 per month.  It will also save us on our renewal fees for AAA, coming up in June.

It really is amazing to see how God is blessing our family with every aspect of this move. It’s exciting to see how all the details are coming together nicely, and at times even better than we expected.  We really feel Florida is where we are meant to be, and while we will miss certain aspects of Wisconsin, we are so looking forward to creating new memories and experiences in Florida.  In some aspects, it’s difficult to believe that two months have passed since we first made the decision to move.  It’s hard to wait four more months, but we both feel it will be here before we know it.

Thanks for following along,

Mark and Jen


Costco or Sams Club?

Although the calendar says Spring, it is definitely still Winter here in Wisconsin.  As we were trying to find something to do today that didn’t require spending time outside, we decided to take a research trip and visit Costco in Grafton, Wisconsin.  Up until January, we have been members at Sams Club for about 11 years or so.   It has served our needs, but we have heard that Costco is better.  So we went off to find out for ourselves.

We received a one-day pass which allowed us to look around, but not buy anything.  If we wanted to purchase an item, then we would have needed to purchase a membership.  The cost of memberships at Costco are $50, as compared to $40 at Sams Club.  Costco accepts cash, checks and American Express.   Upon reviewing their website, it also states that they accept debit/ATM cards; however, this was not revealed to us at the store.

The prices of the items are very comparable to Sams Club.  Mark noticed that the Costco brand, Kirkland, has a little more variety in the items offered as opposed to the Sams Club brand.  They seem to offer all the items that we purchase regularly at Sams Club.  There are two things we heard that sets Costco apart from Sams Club:  the meat department and the excellent customer service.  We cannot really speak to the customer service, as we really didn’t shop there, we just walked through.  The meat department, though, lives up to its claim.  The prices were reasonable, and the quality of the meat excellent.

Overall, we had a positive impression of our visit.  We did not purchase a membership, because we were not anticipating not being able to use our credit or bank cards.   At the membership desk the representative seemed to be encouraging us to apply for the American Express card, which is not something we want to do.  We are satisfied with the credit cards we have, and don’t need to add more credit to our financial situation.

We have decided to wait until we are settled in our apartment in Clermont, and see what kind of storage space we have available to us.  It makes no sense to obtain a membership if we have no place to store the items we buy.  We have found that in the past with our Sams Club membership it really does pay for itself, and we are certain the Costco one will as well, but we think it’s a decision best left until after we’re settled.

We’d love to hear your good/bad experiences with Sams Club and/or Costco!  Which one do you think is better, and why?


A place to live

After years of living in rental housing, we have decided that our first choice in housing once we move to Florida is an apartment complex.  We don’t want the responsibility of lawn care, and we have discovered that some apartment complexes do included utilities in the rent.  One thing that has surprised us is that the asking deposit is a lot less than expected: most only require $200-$300.  (Our current security deposit is equal to one month’s rent). Mark is the guru behind our apartment searching.  He has done all the research in finding different apartment complexes, through craigslist postings and internet searches.  We have narrowed our search down to three different apartment complexes, all located in Clermont:

Cagan Crossings

Cagan Crossings is an apartment community located four miles west of Walt Disney World in Clermont.  It offers a “town within a town” setting, including a library, restaurants, and even an old-fashioned ice cream parlor.  Everything is within walking distance of your apartment.  Utlities are not included; however currently they do offer either a flat screen TV or $500 off rent upon move-in.   A washer/dryer is not included but can be rented for $35 per month.

Village at East Lake

The Village at East Lake offers 3 bedroom apartments within walking distance of favorite stores and restaurants.  No utilities are provided here as well, but they do offer move-in specials.   Water and trash was estimated to be approximately $35 per month, which is a pleasant surprise:  we are currently paying $130 per month, and no we do not use an excessive amount of water!    The water rates here in Fond du Lac are outrageous.  Washer and dryers are included in every unit, and the website makes the claim that the laundry rooms for the 3 bedrooms are larger than in most homes.

The Gardens at Citrus Tower

The Gardens at Citrus Tower offer ceramic tiled floors, gourmet kitchens and valet trash Monday-Friday.   Washer and dryers are included in every unit, and their website offers a fun feature where you can virtually place your furniture into their floor plan to make sure everything fits.

All places state that we need to wait until mid-May before submitting an application.  We are waiting to hear back from The Gardens of Citrus Tower, but have talked with the other two property managers.  Both Cagan Crossings and The Village at East Lake do confirm that we will be able to move in early, before August 1.

We would love to hear feedback if you have personal experiences with these complexes, or know of one that we should consider.  We are not totally ruling out renting a home from a private party; we are keeping our options open, but we’re leaning towards one of these three complexes at the moment.

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As I listen to the freezing rain hitting against our house, it feels weird knowing that this is our last winter in Wisconsin.  While this is one of the awesome things about our move (no more brutal winters), it also hits home that we are leaving everything we know.  The second half of Ben’s IEP meeting was today, and as team members left, individuals I have known for years, it occurred to me that I would probably never see them again.   It’s a bittersweet feeling knowing that we are achieving our dream, but with it comes the cost of familiarity of our surroundings, in both material possessions as well as friendships.

We have set our itinerary for our trip down and wanted to share it here.  When we drove down to Walt Disney World in 2009, we had three drivers and looking back, we pushed ourselves by driving far more miles in a day than we should have.  In July we will be at two drivers, and because we are looking at this as an adventure and not a marathon driving experience, we will be taking three days to arrive in Clermont. All of our hotel reservations (except the arrival day in Orlando) have been secured, using our AAA discount.

Thursday, July 21 :   As the movers will arrive by 8am on Friday, July 22nd,  we decided the best option is to spend the evening in a hotel in Fond du Lac.  Today will be spend finalizing any last minute details.

Friday, July 22 :  Our goal is to leave Fond du Lac by 5:00 pm and spend the night in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin.  Our original thought was to spend a second night in Fond du Lac and leave early Saturday morning, but decided that this at least gets us to the Illinois border and a jump start on our travels.  We estimate the movers will be completed by 1:00 pm, and a 5:00 departure time allows us to make sure the house is in check-out condition, with still time to deposit the security deposit check in the bank (that we’ll get back from our landlord).

Saturday, July 23 : We will leave Wisconsin by 9am, travel through Indianapolis by approximately 2pm, and stay the night in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Sunday, July 24 :  We plan to leave Kentucky and enter Tennessee by 8:30am.  We hope to be able to stop along the way and take scenic pictures of the landscape.  We were awed by the beauty of the mountains, and are looking forward to this part of our journey again.  We will spend the night in Lake Park, Georgia.

Monday, July 25 :  Our goal is to arrive in Orlando by 2:30pm.  We have not yet booked the hotel reservations for this night.  Our original intent was to stay at an extended-stay hotel for a week while we finalize our housing plans.  However, Mark and I have narrowed down three apartment complexes that we really like, and one in particular we may be able to move into before August 1st.  If so, this would affect how many nights we need to stay in a hotel, so we are waiting before securing those reservations.

We are really looking forward to the drive down to Florida.  As a family, we love taking road trips:  just driving to a new city within the state that we haven’t been to before with no expectations of what might be there.   We hope to be able to do a little more of it this summer before we leave Wisconsin, but we also have to be mindful of rising gas prices, and the upcoming expenses we will have for the trip down to Florida.

Thanks for following along!


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What a week!

Dear friends,

It seems that we were caught up in our daily life this past week and therefore didn’t put as much attention to our move as we would like.  Even so, we did manage to get a blog post out, make a run to Goodwill and donate two pieces of furniture to two different recipients in our local Freecycle group.  All in the name of progress.

I don’t believe we’ve formally shared this fact on our blog, but our youngest son Ben has autism. We wish to share this information to provide hope as well as information to other parents who may have a child with special needs, and are considering a long-distance move. When I refer to keeping things as normal as possible for as long as possible, he is the reason why.  We are acutely aware that this major life change, while good, will be hard on him especially.  Right now he is very excited to move to Florida; he has really embraced our dream, and it truly is a dream we all share:  Mark and I would not consider moving if it proved to be a true hardship for either one of our children.

On Monday, I met with his teachers and staff for his annual IEP meeting.   I have been very open with the school as far as our moving intentions, so they have been aware for a couple of months now that we are relocating.  We are moving forward with his IEP as if we were staying here, and modifying his curriculum to meet those needs.   Until we have our permanent residence, it is too difficult to guess what might happen in Florida.   The special education teacher has put in several phone calls to Clermont Middle School, all of which have been not responded to at this point, and I admit, it’s a little disheartening.  Our intent is to place Ben in public school, but I am also willing to homeschool/virtual school him if the public school district does not meet our needs.

Tuesday was our Ben’s 11th birthday.  We celebrated by going to Chuck E Cheese for dinner, and then back home for an ice cream cake and presents.

Wednesday was “spend a lot of money on car repairs” day.  :=)  We currently have two vehicles, but we made the decision from the start that we would only be moving one. Unfortunately, the car we are selling decided to have a flat tire, so we replaced that on Wednesday.  We also brought in our other car for a tune-up, as we had a $20 coupon to our favorite auto repair shop.  $700 later, our car is in tip-top shape :=).  We will be bringing it back in July to make sure there are no additional repairs that need to be completed.  We are using the sale proceeds from our 1st car to pay off the loan on our 2nd car.  We are excited to be able to begin our journey without car payments.  We considered trading in both our cars for a newer and bigger vehicle; we have our eyes on a Hyundai Santa Fe, but as long as our car is in good condition, we’re going to wait and save up money for a bigger down payment and look at buying a new vehicle in a year.

Thursday was St. Patrick’s Day as well as Catie’s orchestra concert.  The corned beef turned out delicious in the crockpot, and Catie played her violin beautifully.

Today (Friday) we sold a craft storage container for $5 on craigslist,  did some decluttering in the sunroom, and our Mayflower rep brought over a huge stack of boxes for us.  Right now the challenge is where to put the packed boxes.  We are still four months away from our move, and while we live in a fairly big house, there really is little available room just to stack boxes.  This is why we have started to donate/sell our furniture this early.   Catie has her solo ensemble choral performance tomorrow, but we are hoping to find time to empty out the secretary and list it on craigslist.  We are fortunate in that we have a small foyer by the front door, and this enables us to put our furniture or other belongings there while they await pick-up.    The area in which the secretary is in will allow us to place quite a few packed boxes there.

We also went to the local book sale at the Fairgrounds:  it’s our yearly tradition and we always spend at least $30 in books and magazines.  This year we spent $0.   Every book or magazine was looked at in the context of :  “Do we really want this bad enough to move it?” And the answer every time was “no!”.    It really wasn’t as enjoyable this year because of that.  While this transition time in moving is necessary and worthwhile, we also long for the day when we are settled in Florida and able to relax into routines, and yes, acquire “stuff”.  :=)

We appreciate your readership:  please feel free to add us on Facebook if you haven’t as of yet, and we love to read your comments about our adventure :=)  Some of our decisions have been made because of your feedback, so we do appreciate them all.

Enjoy your weekend!