For anyone in the Clermont/South Lake area, or who wants to come visit December 5-7 for this great annual event!
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.
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)
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.
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.
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!
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.