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!