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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The Place You Call Home

One of the biggest questions facing us when we decided to make the move was where we wanted to live.  We had narrowed down the city, but needed to decide between renting a house and an apartment.   We selected the apartment, and this post will talk about where we are with that.

One of our readers had commented that it doesn’t matter where you live, as long as you are near Walt Disney World.  Well, not quite.    There are a lot of areas we would never move to, even if it meant being close to the Mouse.    We wanted to live in a similar community setting as we had in Wisconsin, and while Clermont doesn’t quite fit the bill with that, it is a very nice area to live in.

Overall we have been satisfied with our apartment:  the office and maintenance staff are wonderful to work with, and it is nice to live in a place where we don’t need to worry about lawn care, or pool care or pest preventative treatments.  Over the past few months, however, we have been contemplating moving into a rental home due to a few different reasons.  We are hesitant, however, because we have heard horror stories regarding a few rentals here, and we don’t want to move from a good situation into a bad one.  It would also need to make financial sense; ie, we might pay lower rent, but we may have other expenses that we don’t here that would mean an increase in monies paid out.

So right now we’re kind of on the fence about it.  We currently have bad neighbor issues, but we’ve also had that experience when living in a house in Wisconsin, so moving doesn’t necessarily erase that issue.    We also would love more living space, as we lost approximately 700 square feet when we moved here.  We would love to find a four bedroom home here to rent, with the extra bedroom being designated as a guest bedroom/den area/craft room.    We don’t believe the electricity bill would rise significantly with more living space, as we need to run the air conditioner here more often than normal, as all our windows face only one direction, and unless its a fairly cool day, it doesn’t cool off the house significantly with no cross ventilation.

We have no regrets for moving into the apartments, as it provided security for us knowing that we had a relatively nice place to live.  Once we left our house in Wisconsin, we were technically homeless until we arrived in Florida, and that is an unsettling feeling to have, even though we knew it to be temporary.    Even if we do not make the move in 2014, we both feel that it be a change that will eventually occur, as we don’t anticipate apartment living for the rest of our lives in Florida.

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Apartment Living

The end of October marks the end of our current lease, and the beginning of our new one.  We have always lived in a house, both in Illinois and Wisconsin.  In Wisconsin we were so fortunate to have an absolutely fantastic landlord, and the last house we vacated, well, we really had a problem leaving!  It was the best house we have ever lived in, and we were voluntarily leaving it and heading into the unknown.  There are still times now when I really miss it, but I also realize that it is way too big for us now, as we have a lot less “stuff”.

We are generally happy with the apartment complex we chose, and apartment living in general.  Maintenance is fabulous with responding to service requests, even with items such as changing the fluorescent bulbs in the kitchen, and providing air filters for the air conditioning unit! These are things that we had always taken care of ourselves.   It is also so nice not to have to put forth the time and energy into maintaining the lawn and landscaping.

Recently we have started talking about making the move into a rental home, for a few reasons.  One, we miss the ability to grill whenever we wish.  Yes, there are both charcoal and gas grills available, but it requires a walk to the pool area and the hope that no one is using the grill at the moment.   Two, we miss our outside decorations for Christmas.  We had quite the extensive display in Wisconsin, but only chose to move two to Florida:  our countdown clock and Rudolph.  And three, we really could use a larger living space.  There are purchases we’d like to make but we really have no available space to place them in.  We really have to think out what we buy.  Not to mention the seasonal dilemma of where to place the Christmas tree.   In general I think one loses some privacy living in an apartment, and we’d really like to gain that back.

We don’t, however, foresee this happening prior to 2014:  our lease is up shortly before Thanksgiving 2013, and we have no desire to move over the holidays.  We have so been there, done that, and no desire to do it again!  There is also the question of the extra expenses required to maintain a rental home, including lawn care, pest control (we currently pay $1 a month for pest control, and I KNOW that would significantly increase), possibility of purchasing a washer & dryer (included in our apartment), and pool maintenance.  I think we would need to find a rental home that offers a significant savings over the amount of rent we pay, and of course it would need to be in the same school district for our children, as we refuse to have our daughter switch schools half way through.   Yes, there is school choice, but there is always the possibility it could be rejected, and we’re not willing to take the risk.  She needs the stability of staying at the same school with her friends.

We have no regrets about the decision to move into an apartment, and we really feel fortunate as the office staff really does cater to its residents, but we also recognize that this is probably not a long term situation for our family.   We will stay in the area as we love Clermont and what it has to offer.


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Happy Day!

Dear Wishes and Pixie Dust Readers:

It hardly seems possible that one year ago today we arrived in our new home state.   What began as nothing more than a dream culminated into major life changes and experiences.   While we absolutely love living in Florida, there is one thing we have observed, and that a friend mentioned as well:  there is no perfect place to live–there are trade offs in any location.   We’ll be talking about some of those trade offs in this post, and our overall feelings about our relocation.

Do we have any regrets, and would we do anything differently?  The one major concern we had was Ben’s schooling, and as it turned out, we had a right to be concerned.  We researched the schools, talked with the staff at the school prior to the move, and as much as we wanted to believe the schools would be comparable to Wisconsin’s, unfortunately they simply fell way short in terms of following the IEP and providing flexibility to his day.  We pulled him out of the public school after Christmas, and he is much happier with homeschooling.

Should we have waited to move until Ben finished middle school?  Maybe; but then we would have been pulling Catie out of high school mid-way through.  There really doesn’t seem to be a perfect time to uproot a child, and overall we think we made the right decision to move when we did.

One item that we didn’t move, that we now wish we would have, was our mattresses.  We went on the belief that we would be able to purchase mattresses at a fairly decent price:  Florida seems to be full of mattress places offering incredible deals.  However, we soon discovered that those “deals” were simply a means to get you to enter the store and purchase a more expensive mattress.    In this case we discovered you truly get what you paid for, and if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  We ended up spending more on mattresses than we anticipated and putting them on credit, but are happy to say our last payment is due the first week of August.

It was very overwhelming to walk into Target our first night here, knowing that we needed to buy EVERYTHING.  In retrospect, we should have kept a list of everything we discarded but needed to purchase again; it would have made shopping a lot easier.  We are still buying things for the house simply because they are items that aren’t used regularly so we don’t think of them when we go shopping.

One major regret we have is moving so far away from our son Nick.  We knew it would be hard, but that sure doesn’t make the reality of it any easier.  With the cost of airfare, and his limited availability due to work and school schedules, we only are able to see him two to three times a year.  If you have children, you realize how incredibly painful this is.  We were blessed with the opportunity to witness his marriage last month and attend the reception; but we weren’t as involved as we would have liked to be, given the distance between us.

So what’s good about Florida?  The sunshine, of course!  It is incredible to walk outside in February and have it not be blowing, snowing and bitterly cold.  This is our first full summer here, and it seems to flip flop from being incredibly rainy to incredibly steamy.  Summers are brutal, no doubt about it, but we’ve learned to adapt (massive amounts of air conditioning and drinking water) and just wait for the cooler months to come.    Honestly the only time it really affects us negatively is when we do Disney and/or spend any quantity of time outdoors, but we prepare for it, and really, it’s fine.

It’s incredible as well to be able to visit Walt Disney World on a weekly basis.  We know some people judge us on this, and think, wow, must be nice to always be on vacation.  Well, that would be nice, but it’s not our reality.  We tend to go on Wednesday late afternoon/early evening (due to Catie having early release at school) and on Friday night or Saturday.  We are not there every day, nor do we wish to be.  School and work priorities always come first.  We love being able to go for an evening, or an afternoon, take in a few attractions, and leave.

We absolutely love the city we live in, Clermont.  We researched the area, and knew that we wanted to be close to Disney, but not too close that we were experiencing the tourist mania that exists in Kissimmee and the surrounding areas.  Walt Disney World is approximately a 35-50 min drive, depending on traffic and which park we decide to go to on that particular day.

What do we miss about Wisconsin?  The food.  Florida seriously lacks a decent dairy department in the grocery stores, and we really miss the local restaurants that were a part of our lives for 13 years:  places that either have not made it to Florida, or only exist in our city of Fond du Lac.  We don’t believe, however, that food is a compelling reason to stay in Wisconsin, and it always gives us an excuse to return in the summer!  (Not that we needed one with Nick, but you get our drift!)

So overall, we feel we have adjusted fairly well to southern life, but it has taken most of the year to feel this way.  We renewed our lease for our apartment, so we are committed to stay until November 2013–look for a separate post on our lease renewal in the next couple of days.    Life in Florida has been an adjustment, but we are all happy  and feel that there are a lot more opportunities here given our children’s interests, and their abilities to pursue those interests.

Thanks for following along over the past year or so, and look for future posts on life in Florida!

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Happy Nine!

Today we are celebrating our ninth month anniversary of arriving in Florida as residents!  The interesting thing about a moving blog is that it gives you an opportunity to look back at your thoughts prior to the move.  On April 13, 2011 we wrote this blog: 100 days and we thought it would be fun one year later to take a look at a few of the items on our “Top 100” List to see how we feel about them now.

10.  Start a new tradition of celebrating birthdays at Walt Disney World

This is an awesome tradition that we have started and will continue.  In February we purchased the Tables in Wonderland card and we anticipate that we will not only receive back the membership fee, but also extra savings above and beyond the initial cost.  We purchased our card from Guest Services at the Magic Kingdom, and received our card immediately.

14.  Have lunch at Le Cellier

Reservations are set for August 8!

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.

Done and done!  We have been to Anna Maria Island and Treasure Island on the Gulf side and Cocoa Beach on the Atlantic side.  We definitely intend to schedule in more beach days this summer.

22.  Exploring the city of Clermont and getting to know our new home city.

We haven’t done this as much as we expected to.  We even missed the annual festival Pig on the Pond due to inclement weather, something that we had been looking forward to ever since we made the decision to move to Clermont.

26.  Enjoy the Osborne lights at the Studios as many times as possible.

We never tire of this.

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

We really have enjoyed meeting y’all and we feel blessed that we are able to spend time with two different couples who we consider good friends of ours.   Facebook is a really great way to connect with people to begin that friendship.

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!

Yea, we’ve done that 🙂  Although we feel it is ironic that Wisconsin had a mild winter this year.

34.  Taking in Bob Jackson’s show at the Port Orleans Riverside resort!

35.  Staying at the Port Orleans Riverside resort for old times sake!

We have not done either one of these yet, but it is definitely in the works.   We’d like to stay in one of the new Princess rooms.

37.  Riding down the Sassagoula River from Port Orleans Riverside to Downtown Disney (and vice versa)

See above!

40.  Being there for opening day of the new Fantasyland.

We were not there for the soft opening of Storybook Circus.  The crowds were absolutely packed in, and we’ve discovered as residents, it’s simply not worth it.  We went a couple of days later when it was not as busy.

50.  DisneyQuest

Yes, we’ve done this a few times, and thoroughly enjoy ourselves every time we go.  It’s a great alternative to a rainy day.  Our philosophy is that we do not go to the parks when it rains- it’s simply not worth the hassle of dealing with the ponchos.  We have been a couple of times, and it does detract from the magic of the parks.

54.  Flower and Garden Festival

We are not garden people by any means, but walking around Epcot looking at the various topiaries and displays was enjoyable.

66.  Take a family Christmas picture at WDW

Hmmm.  We did not do this at Christmas; may be a new tradition we need to start.

69.  Move in to our new apartment in Clermont

It was quite exciting to have that newness of being able to discover everything and experience many “firsts” but it was also overwhelming  to not have the basic necessities with us those first weeks.  While it is fun to buy all new items, it can be scary to walk into Target knowing that you need to buy “everything”.   Nine months later there are still a couple of pieces of furniture that we need to purchase, and a few assorted kitchen items, but we want to let our readers know that everything does not need to be purchased right away.  To do so requires gobs of money or extending yourself on credit, the latter being something we would never advise.

70.  Find the best pizza places in the area.

We have found two good pizzerias, and this is a goal we are still working on!

71.  Our first Saturday library visit to our new “home” library.

We still regularly visit the library every Saturday.  The kids are currently into the ‘Harry Potter’ series, and we pick up other books as well.   It is not as nice, nor as big, as our library back in Wisconsin.  There are no tables and chairs to sit at, and the kids used to enjoy doing that.  So consequently, our visits are shorter.

88.  Swim with the manatees.

We have not swum with the manatees, but Ben has become a huge lover of manatees, loves to visit them at Epcot, and we all are looking forward to visiting Sea World for the first time.

89.  Explore Florida’s state parks.

Between the poisonous snakes, alligators, bears and black panthers, this is not something we are so eager to do anymore.  🙂

96.  Enjoying the scenery of Florida, knowing that it will stay green year round, and not become brown and dead for six months out of the year.

This is still huge for us.  Love, love, love seeing all the palm trees, and it is so nice to see flowers in bloom in January!   Yesterday and today it was cool enough to open our lanai doors and let the fresh breezes blow in.

99.  Take a yearly family picture in front of Cinderella Castle.

We have not done this yet, but will need to do soon!  Another new family tradition!

We had heard prior to our move that it may take as long as one or two years after relocation to adjust fully to our new environment.  We still feel that we are in the adjustment process, but that it gets better every month.  We couldn’t have picked a better apartment complex to move into, for which we are very grateful. The cost of living is higher here than in Wisconsin; but we knew it coming in.   The only negative thing to report is the school situation for Ben, but we know God is in control with it and he will lead to us to the right school or option for Ben.


6 months & counting……..

We passed the one year anniversary of our decision to move to Florida a couple of weeks ago, and it felt a little strange that we didn’t even think to recognize it.  We now have been residents of Florida for six months, so in recognition of both anniversaries, we thought it a perfect time to update our readers on how life is progressing for us now.

We love the city of Clermont.  It has everything we need within a five-to-ten minute drive, and the people here are very friendly and welcoming.  I don’t believe we have encountered one rude person here yet.  We love our apartment complex; it was a little unnerving when we first moved in, because we have always rented houses in Wisconsin, and were a little concerned about noise and privacy issues.   However, we never hear our neighbors, so it’s totally not an issue at all.   We really have embraced apartment living–we love not having the responsibility of lawn care and pool upkeep, and maintenance is extremely efficient when it comes to repair issues.  The apartment is a little smaller than we’re used to, but we have plenty of room for the four of us, and when our lease is up in October, we plan to renew.  We may consider purchasing a home in the future, but for the time being, we are content here.

A favorite saying of ours is “Toto, we’re not in Wisconsin anymore”.   As much as we love the area, it becomes obvious that there are definitely different attitudes and experiences that are prevalent here.  Some experiences are very good, such as 80 degree weather in January.  What northerner wouldn’t absolutely love that!  We’ve had a couple of chilly evenings (30s and 40s), and cooler days, but we’re proud to say that we have not yet turned the heat on, nor have we needed to use a winter coat.

Unfortunately, the middle school experience we have to put in the negative column of attitudes and experiences.  The school Ben attended is very strict, and really not supportive of children with special needs.  It was so detrimental to him that we made the decision to pull him out and homeschool him the rest of the year.  It was very discouraging to us to think that all schools in Florida may be similar, but we recently learned of a middle school in Orlando that is autism-friendly, so it really gives us hope that not all schools are deficient in addressing the needs of students with special needs.  We will not be able to send Ben to this school next year; it would require a three hour daily drive just to take him and pick him up, and that’s simply not feasible.  We are in contact with another middle school in Clermont, and we are hopeful that it may give him a more positive school experience for seventh grade.

Another regional difference is the availability of our favorite foods.  In Wisconsin we shopped at one store, Festival Foods.  In Florida, we shop at five different stores:  Publix, Sweetbay, Winn-Dixie, Super Target and Walmart.  Each store offers something unique that the others don’t, in terms of products and specials.  Prices on groceries do tend to be higher here than in Wisconsin.  Our most-missed snack products from Wisconsin, apart from the variety of cheeses available in the dairy department, were bagel dip (from Festival), Baker string cheese and Johnsonville Summer Sausage.   Festival Foods, bless their hearts, gave us the recipe for bagel dip, we’ve discovered certain brands of string cheese that are an acceptable substitute, and we believe we may have found a store that sells Johnsonville Summer Sausage.  We will say that the Florida citrus is amazing!  We’ve never cared for grapefruit, but when it’s fresh off the tree, it’s a whole new experience.

You may be wondering if we have any regrets.  We need to be honest with our readers and say yes, there have been regrets.  It was extremely hard to say good-bye to Nick at the airport after Christmas.  We know that Ben would have had no issues with the middle school back in Wisconsin, and he would have been successful there.  It’s very difficult to walk away from what is familiar, and it is very easy to look back and say “what if”.

However we wouldn’t trade the moving experience for anything in the world.  Nothing can recreate the atmosphere in the car as we drove through the state of Florida towards Clermont.  It was absolutely amazing.  The kids are settled and happy, Ben a lot more so now that he is away from the negative school environment.  Really, who suspends a child for being autistic?  They have a lot more experiences here available to them:  we’ve been to both the Gulf and the Atlantic Ocean, Walt Disney World numerous times, a Disney Cruise is in the works, as are passes to Sea World and Lego Land.  It’s been amazing to meet people we’ve known only from Facebook, but meets are so hard for our son Ben that we don’t make as many of them as we’d like.

Will we consider moving back?  For us, it’s not an option.  We believe that when you allow it to be a possibility in your mind, you always have one foot in the past and one foot in the present.  You will not make a concerted effort to acclimate yourself totally, and eventually will rationalize the move back.  Will we look back on Wisconsin?  Of course, we have friends and family there, and it was our life for several years.  However, we are Floridians now.  We embrace the Floridian life, all that it has to offer or not offer.   We hope our blog provides some insight and perhaps even wisdom as to what a relocation a thousand miles away looks like, and we hope our readers know that even though our posts are now infrequent, we still welcome any questions regarding the relocation process.  Thanks y’all for reading and following along!