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.  

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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!


Homeschool Evaluation

When we first withdrew Ben from the public middle school, it was intimidating to have the prospect of his evaluation hanging over our heads.  Florida statutes require the homeschooling parent to maintain a portfolio that contains two parts:  a daily log or record of activities and lessons, and sample work showing evidence of adequate progress during the year.

Ben had such a negative experience in the public school that we knew it would not be successful for him to enroll in virtual school right away .  He needed time away from the school environment to decompress and feel safe.  We were uncertain as to how homeschooling would develop-if he would thrive or if it would be a struggle every day.

We based his curriculum on what he would have learned in the public schools, in case we made the decision that he would return to public school in the fall.  We purchased the same textbooks that he was using for Geography and Science (approximately $125 for both), and pulled lessons off the internet based on Florida State Standards, found here.

As May approached, we made the decision to enroll Ben in virtual school for seventh grade, based on the concept that it would better prepare him for entry into high school.   Homeschooling families have one year to complete an evaluation from the date on the letter they receive from the county that states they are homeschooling, but we wanted his evaluation to coincide with the end of the school year, so we scheduled it for June.

We met with a licensed teacher at the Tavares Public Library, who reviewed his portfolio and chatted with him.  It was a very relaxed environment and we discovered it provided a nice way to give closure to the school year.

We did have a chance to talk with her about virtual school, and now we’re thinking perhaps it’s not the best way to go with Ben.  We have approximately one month to think about it, before we need to confirm his enrollment for the fall, but we’re thinking it may be a better option for Ben to continue homeschooling with our own curriculum.

Looking back, we don’t regret the decision to enroll him in public school.  If he didn’t have the experience, he would have wondered what he was missing out on, and to be honest, we as parents would not have believed how the school system works (or fails to work in this case).  It would have been an easy choice to keep him in the school system, because frankly, homeschooling is an intensive daily process and a huge time commitment.  However, we feel we made the right choice; Ben has really blossomed over the past five months, and we believe he has learned more at home than he ever would have in the public school.