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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Our Bucket List Revisited #1-50

On April 13 2011, at our 100 day mark, we put out a list of 100 things that we wanted to do as Florida residents.  See the original post here .  We thought it would be interesting to see what we’ve done so far- our comments will be in blue.  We’ll cover #1-50 today, and #51-100 tomorrow.

1.  Resort hop. We have only ever stayed at POR-Riverside as a family, and we really want to experience each resort on property.  So even though our current goal is to live 20 minutes away from Walt Disney World, we plan to do weekend stays at each resort, over the course of a year or two, and really take in the charm and uniqueness each resort has to offer.    Nope not yet.  This is something we still want to do.

2.  Enjoy a Dole Whip   🙂  We’ve enjoyed them at Magic Kingdom but we still want to experience them at the Polynesian where you can disperse your own.  

3.  Attend Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party  Our first time next year

4.  Attend Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party  No, we haven’t, but between the two parties we’d prefer to do the Halloween party first, as you can experience most everything the Christmas party offers on the week leading up to Christmas on a regular day in the Magic Kingdom- well except for maybe the hot cocoa and cookies!

5.  Go on a Disney Cruise!   Right now with living in Wisconsin, the price of getting to the cruise has been a huge obstacle for us.    We’re of the mindset that if we’re going to spend that much money, we’d rather spend it at WDW!    Cruises are really very reasonable as long as you don’t have to travel over a thousand miles to get to one.  Nope, not yet but still in the works!

6.  Explore Animal Kingdom Park. There are so many areas of AK that we have not discovered simply due to the intense Florida heat, or lack of time available to us.  We have done the basics, such as Expedition Everest, Kali River Rapids, Festival of the Lion King, Nemo & Friends and Kilimanjaro Safari, just to name a few.  (There are more).  But it seems that there is so much more to Animal Kingdom to take in, and we are looking forward to being able to do that in the cooler Florida months, when we have the time to dedicate to it.  We have not explored all that Animal Kingdom has to offer, but we have done more.  We find the cooler months are the best times to visit Animal Kingdom, and we tend not to even go in the hot, summer months.  Jen will be touring the backstage areas on Thursday through a special promotion with Disney Parks Blog, so check back later in the week for a special post detailing that.

7.    Go to Magic Kingdom in the evening just for the parades  We have not done this, primarily because although we only live 25 miles from the Magic Kingdom, it takes us approximately 45 minutes to reach the parking lot, and another 15 minutes or so for monorail/bag check time.  With the cost of gas prices, it is not cost efficient to travel two hours just to attend a parade.  

8.    Have brunch at Chef Mickey’s  🙂  One of Ben’s favorite spots to see his buddy Mickey!

9.    Ride the monorails, just for the fun of it  We do so once in awhile

10.  Start a new tradition of celebrating birthdays at Walt Disney World  This a wonderful perk of living so close to Walt Disney World.  

11.  Ride Splash Mountain at night during Wishes   We haven’t since moving to Florida- used to be a favorite thing to do while on vacation

12.  Ride Big Thunder at night during Wishes   See #11

13.  Listen to Lou Mongello’s audio guides while on Main Street/Adventureland/Fantasyland/Liberty Square and take the time to absorb all the details     No we haven’t but we should 🙂

14.  Have lunch at Le Cellier    Yes, one of our favorite places to eat in Epcot.

15.  Watch Illuminations on a winter’s night, enjoying the fact that it is warm & there is no snow on the ground   Yes & we enjoy the no snow fact not just at Illuminations but every month from November to May 🙂

16.  Go to Universal   Catie has been to Universal on a school trip but the rest of the family has not made it yet

17.  Go to Sea World   A few times- we especially love the new Antarctica attraction.

18.  Explore the beaches of Florida–kids have never been to the ocean before.  We plan to go to both sides of Florida:  The Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean    Yes and yes.  We’ve been to Anna Maria Island and Treasure Island on the Gulf side, and Cocoa Beach on the Atlantic side.  

19.  Dinner with Amy and Craig Petermann   No, it never worked out.

20.  Being able to meet Facebook friends who do not live in Florida but come to Walt Disney World on vacation.  Shelley Urick Jones , we look forward to meeting you!   This is another awesome benefit of living so close to Walt Disney World, the ability to meet up with our Facebook friends!  There are too many to mention here, but we love meeting up with you all!

21.  Lou Mongello’s WDW Radio Meets of the Month     We have been to some!

22.  Exploring the city of Clermont and getting to know our new home city    Yes we know our way around fairly easily.  We really like the area and enjoy living here.

23.  Spending time in the Parks with Stephen and Judy Demeritt   We always enjoy spending time in the Parks with our friends.

24.  Meeting Marilyn Johnson in person!      Marilyn and her husband Dan were extremely gracious and made us feel very welcome after we first moved to Florida.  We’re blessed to have met them.

25.  Go to Gatorland      Still on the bucket list!

26.  Enjoy the Osborne lights at the Studios as many times as possible   These are incredibly awesome and guaranteed to instill the Christmas spirit in you!  We do try to go as many times as possible during the season.

27.  Enjoy making new friendships with all our Facebook friends who live in Florida  Absolutely!

28.  Walking through the World Showcase at Epcot while our kids are in school.  We have not been able to explore all the countries because of the kids not wanting to spend time there.    Exploring the countries is still on our bucket list.   We pulled our children from the public schools and homeschool them.  Can we say field trip!  🙂

29.  The various shopping opportunities, not only at Walt Disney World, but at the many outlet malls in Orlando and the surrounding areas.  Ikea!   Yes, IKEA rocks, and we love being able to visit any store we want to within a short driving distance.  We have discovered a few Disney Outlet Stores in the Orlando Area, which can be hit or miss on the merchandise available, but definitely worth checking into it.  

30.  Just enjoying the whole adventure of relocating to a new state!    🙂  🙂  

31.  Day trips to explore Florida:  cities in particular that pop into our heads for no particular reason are Tampa, Naples, St. Augustine, and Jacksonville.    We have not yet had any day trips, but two that may happen in the next year are St. Augustine for the historical aspect of it (another field trip!) and Naples…..can we say Culver’s!    Ok, that is not the only reason to visit Naples, but it’s definitely an incentive!

32.  Shelling at Sanibel Island        We have not done this yet; we have heard it’s not as good as it was in years past, but we would still like to visit.

33.  Chuckling to ourselves in February when the temperature is 80 and sunny, knowing that back in Wisconsin it is probably blowing and snowing and bitterly cold.  Will we miss snow?  No we will not!   We apologize to all our Wisconsin friends, but yes we do chuckle 🙂

34.  Taking in Bob Jackson’s show at the Port Orleans Riverside resort!   We haven’t, but the main reason is the noise level is just too unbearable for Ben.  He has noise sensitivities and he can’t tolerate it.     

35.  Staying at the Port Orleans Riverside resort for old times sake!     Definitely on the want-to-do-list SOON!  We have eaten in the food court a few times.

36.  Christmas shopping at Downtown Disney    Every year- we love the atmosphere at Downtown Disney!

37.  Riding down the Sassagoula River from Port Orleans Riverside to Downtown Disney (and vice versa)    No not yet.

38.  Exploring the cities of Lake County    Yes, we’ve visited Leesburg, Fruitland Park, The Villages, Mt Dora, Eustis, Astatula, Tavares, Lady Lake, Minneola, & Groveland

39.  Visiting Celebration for leaf drop (to replace the Fall we will be missing in Wisconsin)  No not yet

40.  Being there for opening day of the new Fantasyland   No, but we were for opening weekend 🙂

41.  Resort hopping at Christmas to see all the different Christmas decorations   This is in the plans for this year.  We have been to the Grand Floridian, to view the Gingerbread House and the Christmas decorations, which are incredible.  

42.  Counting garbage cans to make sure the Demeritts caught them all  😉   No.

43.  Trying on every hat that is sold on Disney property    We’ve given up the practice of trying on hats, after a cast member friend of ours mentioned how everybody tries on hats and do you really want to put something on your head after hundreds of people have put it on their head?  Um, no.

44.  Food and Wine Festival  🙂

45.  Enjoy a carrot cake cookie  No, but we have enjoyed a Butterfinger cupcake.  Actually it was too rich for our tastes, would not buy it again.

46.  Visit Star Wars weekend  Yes

47.   Dinner, lunch and/or breakfast with Lou Mongello     Not yet, hoping to one day!

48.   Movie at the Downtown Disney AMC theatre    We saw Wreck It Ralph there before it was released, courtesy of a special meet-up with Disney Parks Blog.  

49.  Trying all 500 flavors in the Coke Freestyle Dispenser  Not all the flavors- that would take gobs of money & tons of time.

50.  DisneyQuest   We love DisneyQuest.  It was the main reason we renewed our premium passes this year.  


A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes

As we usher out the old year and ring in the new, we thought it a perfect time to update our readers on our life in Florida.  It seems unbelievable that last year at this time we had no idea that we would be spending our next Christmas as Floridians.  It’s funny how a dream seems to kick into gear just when you least expect it to.

Is Florida life everything we expected it to be?  Yes and no.  The weather is as incredible as  we imagined and knew it to be, and really, the weather in late July and August is not unbearable.  There’s something very satisfying knowing that the temperatures will not drop into the 60’s in August.  Wisconsin summers can be very fickle, with 90’s one day and 60’s the next.  We have definitely been enjoying the ability to walk outside and not worry about grabbing a coat.

We approach visiting Walt Disney World differently as locals, rather than tourists.  There is no need to visit every day, nor attack the parks commando-style.  When we go, it is at a leisurely pace and we simply do what we want to that day.  We’ve learned that it is not necessary to go when it is raining, or when it is crowded, because the parks will always be there for us to enjoy.  This week in central Florida all the theme parks are extremely busy, and have even closed due to capacity issues.   We originally were thinking of attending this weekend, but have since reconsidered.  Why put yourself in the middle of the insanity if you don’t have to?

So what’s there not to like about Florida?   We have been struggling with the school system with both our children, but most specifically our youngest son.  We’ve discovered that there is very little tolerance here for children with special needs.   One of their beliefs is that the student needs to adapt to the classroom environment, and there is no consideration for accommodations being made for the student by having the classroom environment adapted for the student.  Any kind of physical contact is prohibited and results in instant suspension.  High-fiving another student will result in a week long lunch detention.  Hugging another student is considered sexual harrassment.  And in Ben’s case, if you involuntary swing your legs in the classroom and unintentionally kick another student, it is considered careless and malicious intent.  We have discovered that even with an IEP, parents have very little leverage in the process, and we feel right now it’s best to remove Ben from public school and homeschool him the rest of the year.  This was not a decision we took lightly, but at this point in time we feel the public school is doing Ben more harm than good and he definitely needs to be removed from that environment.  We’re not sure what the next school year holds, if we will try public school again, but we have time to make that decision.

We were blessed that our oldest son Nick was able to fly down and visit with us for a few days over Christmas.  It was very hard to say goodbye, however.  The past couple of days we have been questioning our dream, if it was worth it, with the issues with the school (none of which would have happened in Wisconsin), and the heartache of having Nick leaving and not knowing when we’d see him again.  There have been other smaller concerns not discussed in our blog (mainly because they were to some point expected and not a major concern for us, such as the lack of dairy items in the stores and the higher cost of living) and it all kind of struck us at once.

We have come to realize that our dream did not end once we arrived in Florida.  Our dream was not to move to Florida and enjoy Disney.  Our dream is to move to Florida, enjoy Florida and live our lives out here.  It would be easy to give up now, justifying moving back to Wisconsin citing various reasons.  However, God did not move us to Florida for a few months to enjoy Disney.  His plans are purposeful, and as much as we love Disney, we’re fairly certain that’s not the reason we’re here 🙂  A dream is not always a bed of roses, even when you live 22 miles away from the magic of Walt Disney World.  Life still happens, and not how you planned it.  You can either embrace it, or you can run away to where you feel safe.  We are still in the adjustment period, and it may very well take another year before everything seems normal.  Our mantra is to embrace what we have, enjoy life to the fullest and erase the doubts.  We will always look back to Wisconsin, because we have friends and family there, but Florida is home now.

We will be shutting down our Facebook presence on December 31.  We will be keeping our blog open here and posting occasionally.  A huge thank you to all our readers who have followed our journey and supported us through the planning of the move and the relocation itself.  We have been blessed to meet a few of you and make new friendships; it’s nice to know we’re not alone.  (Sometimes it sure feels like it!)  May God bless your families and give you a prosperous and healthy New Year!  Y’all are in our hearts.

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Four Parks, One Weekend

When we were first planning our move to the beautiful state of Florida, one recurring theme that kept surfacing was the anticipation of being able to visit the parks at a moment’s notice.  As we’ve mentioned before, what we envisioned as a short drive to Walt Disney World can actually take us anywhere from 35-55 minutes to arrive, depending on traffic.  We try to schedule our Disney trips in on Wednesday afternoons/early evenings (kids have early release from school) and the weekends.  School and homework commitments always take priority over our fun time at the parks, and there really isn’t sufficient time on a normal school day to drive over two hours round trip for an hour in the park.  This past weekend was a three-day weekend (end of the first grading period for the kids), so we were able to squeeze in an extra day at Walt Disney World.  It was not our intention to visit all four parks this weekend; just happened to work out that way!

We rely on the WDW Lines app (downloaded to our smartphones) when we decide which park to visit.  (Please see touringplans.com for more information).  It is an excellent resource and well worth the small investment:  it rates the individual parks based on how crowded they are expected to be, list show times, and estimated wait times for all the attractions.

We decided Saturday to visit the Animal Kingdom.  Believe it or not, this was our first visit to AK since our move in July, mainly because we didn’t feel a need to roast ourselves in the hot Florida sun.  For us, Animal Kingdom is by far the hottest park.  We know others may disagree, but we knew there would be plenty of cooler temperatures in the upcoming months, and we were fine with delaying our visit.  We were thrilled to see how close the parking lot tram brought us to the entrance, as we were used to quite the hike when we stayed on property and used Disney transportation.

[As a side note, one of our ‘wants’ is to stay on Disney property at each of the resort hotels.  We have decided that when this happens, we will use our own vehicle and not the Disney bus transportation service.  We much prefer using the parking lot and trams:  it is more convenient and less stressful.]

Ben faced his fear of Expedition Everest:  he first tried it in 2007 and quickly placed it on his list (of things he was afraid of!).  It is now a must-do attraction at Animal Kingdom!  He absolutely loved it!  Yay Ben!

Sunday was a Magic Kingdom and Epcot Day:  Epcot, because of Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, MK closes at 7:00.  We chose to take the monorail over to Epcot for a couple of hours.  Magic Kingdom is by far our favorite park, and while it can be an inconvenience to have to take a ferry boat or monorail from the TTC to the Magic Kingdom, most days we enjoy the magical approach as the way Walt Disney wanted it to be.

Naturally, this left Disney’s  Hollywood Studios for Monday; this is our second favorite park:  Rock N Roller Coaster, the Tower of Terror and Star Tours are absolute must-dos. We went into the 5 & 10 store on  Hollywood Boulevard for the first time ever, and discovered a lot of things that we would love to have for Christmas…:=)  Thought you might want to take a look too!

Toy Story Mania is also one of our favorites:  we always joke with Ben that he so needs to stop coloring on the walls, and that we’re going to have to take his crayons away :=)

We have been asked:  what is the best thing about going to the parks now that we live here?  We would say the ability to enjoy the parks and really take in the theming of the attractions and surroundings, without feeling the need to rush around and do it all.   Walt Disney World isn’t going anywhere, and neither are we–we have plenty of time to explore and enjoy everything it has to offer.




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Fall & Halloween Doings

Welcome Fall!  I love this picture, because it reminds me so much of the season of Fall in Wisconsin.   At one of our houses we had huge trees just like this in our front yard, and when I say there were leaves to rake……..we had piles of leaves four feet high!  I miss the smell of crunching leaves underfoot as you walk along, and the distinct fall aromas:  the leaves, the cool crisp air, the bonfires at night, that if close enough, fills your house with a smoky smell.  We always went to The Little Farmer at this time of year to pick out our pumpkins, apple butter, muffins and pies, and go on a hayride.  I will definitely miss the hayrides through the woods, even though it seriously messed up my allergies.  There is nothing like a fall forest hayride in Wisconsin.

This picture was taken last fall, before we knew we were moving.  Little did we know it would be our last trip there:

If you are fortunate enough to live in an area where you can witness the fall colors, enjoy it a little extra for me 🙂

There are several different farms/orchards in Lake County that appear somewhat similar to The Little Farmer, which I’ll list here:

Long & Scott Farms in Mount Dora

Santa’s Christmas Tree Forest in Eustis

Stanley Pond Adventure Pond in Astatula

Uncle Donald’s Farm in Lady Lake

Right now Santa’s Christmas Tree Forest in Eustis seems to be the best option to try.

We’re not sure what we plan to do for the day of Halloween this year, even though it is only a couple of weeks away.  We’ll do the traditional pumpkins, of course, but I’m not sure if we’ll participate in trick-or-treating.  We have discovered that there is no set time or day for trick or treating in Clermont.  In Wisconsin, we always had trick or treating the Sunday before Halloween, from 3:30 to 5:30, followed by pizza and hot chocolate (because it was always invariably cold outside).  We will buy a couple of bags of candy to give out to our neighbors’ children, but I think this year we’re going to be winging it.  Our original plan was to attend Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, but due to unforeseen circumstances, our budget will not allow for that extra expense this year.   I did win an Event Party Music CD from the Disney Planning Blog, so at least we’ll have the music to listen to!  Walt Disney World is not going anywhere, and neither are we; while we would have liked to attend, there also isn’t an urgency to do everything as soon as we possibly can.  There’s always next year, and we’re fine with that.

As always, thank you for following us.  We do plan to put out an update post soon describing what Florida life looks like to us three months after the move.

~♥~ Jen~♥~