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Our First Month in Florida

Updated: 5 days ago

This is part of a series about leaving an unsatisfying job and moving our family with our three boys ages nine, five, and two from Buffalo, NY to Orlando, FL.

As living by faith goes, it is full of surprising twists and turns that are yet to be revealed.

To get the full context, read these first:

Gratitude. That’s the word we would describe how we felt when we moved down to Florida in January of 2022. We were so grateful for the sunshine and warmth. In a journal entry, I wrote, “To go somewhere outside in February without being cold tickles me pink. Overall what I love the most is being able to go outside.”

After being apart for almost two months, it was nice to have our family back together. I wrote in my journal, “Ralph has been home every evening but one. We have been able to go to a car show in February. We have gone metal fishing twice and the playground four times. It is not overcast all day. We have seen a peacock, chickens and a rooster in this busy parking lot, hawks, and other cool birds that we don’t know the names of. Science!”

(Our first night)

We were relieved to not be living in such an oppressive state anymore. Not only that, but it was evident that Florida’s economy was thriving. While driving on the interstate it is common to see cars from ten different states and countries in a minutes time. It’s fun!

We immediately noticed a difference in people. I wrote this in my journal, “The people seem happier and friendlier down here. They talk more in the stores. They interact with you more. I am glad I am not the only one in the store talking to strangers now. lol.”

We had been told by many people before we moved that the boys were at a good age. Any older and it would have been harder to pull them from friends. We still had a few struggles though. They did miss their friends and family. We all did. Devin was easily angered. Connor would say that he wanted to go home. Liam was petrified of all of the thunderstorms and missed our cat.

Spice had made it all the way down, but disappeared the night we arrived. He slipped through the fence and never returned. We walked and drove through the neighborhood, talked with neighbors, and put flyers in mailboxes, but sadly, we never saw him again. We believe that he may have gone off to die as he had a large abscess on his neck that we had been treating. Or perhaps someone liked him, too and took him in since he was such a sweet cat!

Spice was very good with the boys. It was hard seeing them miss him so much.

We all loved our Spiceroni.

(A few photos to honor our treasured and greatly missed cat, Spice)

Three days after we moved, Devin asked Jesus into his heart. As to be expected with a five year old, our conversation was all over the place, but I made it as clear as possible what he was choosing to do. He had made the most important decision of his life. How incredible for it to happen so soon after our move, in an almost empty rental house, 1200 miles from everything we knew! Here's a five minute clip from that special moment.

(Sweet Devin)

We lived out of our suitcases and whatever we could fit in our van for a week before our moving trailer arrived. My dad drove down to help us unload it. Even though he lived ten hours away, he was determined to still help us move. Three men, one teenager, a hundred pound woman, a nine, five, and a two year old unloaded that whole thing. Thank God for my dad! We were so grateful for his help and the extra time he spent with us.

(After the trailer was unloaded. We were in over our heads. ;) )

To be honest, I was not too thrilled about our housing situation and the boys constant presence was starting to wear on me. Instead of re-writing something, here is an excerpt from my journal entry written just sixteen days after our move down. I think it gives a good picture of where I was at the time.

“Things I didn’t expect in Florida since our arrival on January 29th:

It’s cold in the mornings in the house we are renting. My thermostat says 64 degrees. I just figured out how to turn the heat on.

There are single pane windows in this house…With these single pane windows come screens that either have tons of holes or giant tears in them…or no screens at all. That makes opening the windows for fresh air a challenge...

I keep saying to Ralph: We didn’t pick this place. God picked it. Aside from the outdated real estate photos we found online and a phone tour my brother gave to us the night before we arrived, we didn’t know what to expect until we pulled in at 10pm.

It smelled like old smoke or just plain dirty when we first walked in. The floors were covered with white dog hair and our vacuum cleaner was in our trailer that wasn’t supposed to arrive for another five days. Ralph was back to sneezing and blowing his nose the whole time he was home. We were not going to buy a vacuum cleaner for five days so we just dealt with it. We didn’t let anything touch the floor that we cared about.

The fenced in area was covered in giant dog poop. I spent an hour filling up two four gallon bags. It was discovered by Connor, my two year old who threw a piece into the pool. Lovely.

The latch to release the soap in the dishwasher is broken so we have been hand washing the dishes and using the dishwasher as a drying rack instead. That’s on Ralph’s list to do, but he has to remove the dishwasher door. He has also had to fix the toilet which wouldn’t stop running.

There were beautiful pink and red flowers in bloom all around the property. It was one of the first things that I noticed the first morning. Flowers in January. I love it."

(The flowers at the rental I was writing about.)

In our wonderful landlords defense, this was a rental. It is just not a common thing for people to care for rentals. Also, as mentioned in "The Journey" post, the people before us were going through a family crisis. There was very little time between when they moved out and we arrived. It was understood that this was an in between place until we bought a house that we actually could pick for ourselves. None the less, I was grossed out and documented.

I met our landlord who invited us over for dinner that evening. We met some of their family too which were all super sweet to our kids. It was nice to start connecting with people in that area. Our friends that brought us down had a lot going on so we scarcely saw them. I was on my own finding new friendships.

Continuing my journal entry...

“Things for me specifically haven’t changed much since we have gotten down here. I told Ralph that my responsibilities haven’t changed, only my environment. I still have to keep these kids alive every day. Ralph would say to me before he left for his 3-11 job, 'just keep them alive.' He was being funny and serious. It’s truly an accomplishment with three boys.

Here’s one example: Connor fell in the pool last week. He held his breath until I got to him which was very impressive. I was hanging up clothes in that area and he wanted to be out there with me. He was bending down by the steps and lost his balance. He couldn’t stand himself back up. That’s not a pleasant sight. It was a great lesson for him and for the older two.

I am exhausted every day physically, emotionally, and mentally. I am even sometimes exhausted when I wake up because I don’t get to sleep well most of the time. Connor comes to our room at some point every night and usually more than once. I think it’s important for his emotional development to be able to come to us when he is in need. The other two get up sometimes in the night too for various reasons…

Even though having boxes, totes, and other stuff all over the place wears on me mentally, I am trying to ignore it and working towards just having some sense of normalcy for our family. Add to it having three young boys that rarely leave my sight and their usual messes. I am just still putting one foot in front of the other trying to give myself grace and reminding myself that my responsibilities haven’t changed."

(Our bedroom and living room the first few weeks)

"I have the most difficult, endless job that I take very seriously. That is to raise these boys in a home that is full of the love, truth, and grace of Jesus. It’s exhausting mentally, physically, and emotionally. I have to tell myself every day that it’s not forever. That my time is short even though it feels long.

But the love in this home is mind blowing. Devin comes up to me constantly, hugs me, and tells me he loves me. They all climb into my bed every morning. Liam still wants to snuggle. They want me to see their creations, drawings, cool moves, funny videos. The farting noises though are making me crazy. I have been cracking down on that more.

(Photos all taken within the first month)

“Three tornadoes in my house” is what I have been calling them. I can’t think of a better word for them right now. I have also used the words “uncivilized cave men.” Either way, I think the visual is the same.

I have to manage them all day, every day. It’s no easy task. Not only do I have to have the energy to manage their craziness, but I want them to be in a home where they have fun, too. Finding that balance is hard. If I can say, “yes,” I will. Even if it means I have to die to myself. Honestly it’s all I feel like I do, but that’s a whole different writing.

(I did end up doing a writing about this nine months later:"

"They are all doing well...They love being outside. They love the pool even though they haven’t gone in it for longer than a few seconds at a time because the water is too cold still. I know they will be in that a ton when it gets hot enough outside consistently to warm it up."

(Funny video from the day after we came down)

"Devin struggled with going in his class the first Sunday we went to church, but it was a great opportunity for me to share with him how he is putting into practice the first bible verse he memorized (Joshua 1:9- Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.). We are very proud of him."

(All photos taken within the first month of moving down. Devin lost his first tooth!

"I am so grateful to have been able to write this morning. It’s 10:42 and we haven’t done our reading in the word yet so I have to do that. That’s just about my only priority on a daily basis. Keep them alive and tell them about Jesus. Repeat.

So that’s how they have been doing school since we moved down here. I did unpack their school boxes last week making us one step closer to doing some book work again. Today, I chose to write. Mommy needed a mental break.

Learning is caught not taught anyway. We all know that. So why do we send them away for ten hours a day, five days a week, ten months a year and for thirteen years? I mean, I know WHY. I can’t say that I blame a single person for sending their kids to school. lol.

It feels as though no part of what Ralph and I choose to do is easy. I digress again.

It’s Valentine's Day and no one has even acknowledged it. lol. I am going to get dressed and try and make something for all of my boys, including the extra big boy that’s living with us now. I did manage to get the Valentine's decorations up in the house a few days ago."

"I still feel like I didn’t cover it all, but this was FAR more than I expected to write so I’ll take it!

This time is a time that I don’t want to forget. God is at work. He has done a big thing and I will have to keep fighting to write about it all.”

(Valentine's Day-Ralph came home with flowers for me and I managed to make a treat like I had journaled about.)

Six days after I wrote that and only three weeks after we moved, my sister, Danielle and niece, Sami came to visit for the first time. It was Sami's first trip to Florida. The boys were so happy to see them! The house was an absolute mess, but we paused and played for a week. It was much needed and so nice to have more family visiting so soon!

I am thankful that you have chosen to read about all that God has been doing and is still doing in our lives. When you let him lead, it brings forth lots of surprises AND challenges your faith. That's why we want to share.

(Photo taken at Apopka Lake Wildlife Trail. Can you spot the gator that swam across just for me?)

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