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9/30/2008 12:00:00 PM
All the news on the house, school, sports, visitors and trips of the last 6 weeks.
With a few of you I've been emailing in the last few weeks but many don't have a clue what has been happening the last 6 weeks, so here we go: (get ready for a loooooog one!)
Short description: our house sits on top of the mountain in Topanga on "Sandstone Ranch", approx 25 acres with 6 houses scattered around on the property. We have a view to the ocean and in about 7-12 minutes (depending on the car and driving style) we are at the beach! There is also a pool house with a big pool, whirl pool and sauna, that hardly anybody uses except us :o) At the main house (nobody lives there really, it is only used for parties by the landlords) the boys can use the big grassy area for playing soccer and we also have a big concrete parking lot for them to bike and skate board, a place for the trampoline as well as lots of wild land around (with coyotes, dear, snakes, bugs,...) The house is about 40 years old and hasn't been fixed up in a while... Therefore we were able to lower the rent and do some renovations ourselves. The big advantage to this place is "Alan", the caretaker of the whole place who has been living here for 30 years and knows each rock...
Robert has had the key since May and was able to start with the major work in May and June: new floor (old carpet gone - new bamboo installed), re-structure and paint the walls and doors, new bathroom, old kitchen out and lots of small things that I can't even remember. A young couple (Daniel and Amanda), who are friends of Alan's, did most of the work and have done an amazing job! Robert then moved in in June putting in most of our furniture and things that we had in storage for the last 5 years. When the boys and I came in early August we immediately ordered the new kitchen (Ikea) and I was happy to have been there for that, it is after all the place where I spend most of my time... It got delivered 10 days later and Robert and Daniel put it together in 3 (long) days, but it was totally worth it and I am super happy! It still took a while to get all the appliances hooked up so therefore we still had to eat out a lot, which we all got quite tired of... Hard to believe, usually I am happy to do so, yet after 3 weeks of living the "wild life" in Austria and then continue here, we all were ready to sit around the table with a home cooked meal and not order off a menu...
In the meanwhile we have also painted the house on the outside, installed window frames and light fixtures (in- and outside),... Again with a lot of help from Amanda and Daniel, who are both super nice and we also got to befriend them on a private level. They are very patient with the boys, answering all their many questions about the wild life, etc, also having babysat for us already. In between all that I have tried to unpack some of the boxes from storage and boat things from New Zealand. Between that, running errands and shopping there is enough to keep me busy. The container from Europe arrived finally last week and now I am trying to consolidate the 3 households, finding the right spots for each thing... There is a light at the end of the tunnel (and it's not the train! ;o) It is wonderful though to finally have everything together and live with all our stuff again! The boys finally got to sleep in a real bed after 5 weeks on a mattress...
Well this is a subject that did not go quite according to plan... The house we live in has a Topanga address but is located in the Malibu's school district (I only found out after I fell in love with the location of the house). However when I came on my 'scouting trip' in April I had put the boys on the waiting list at the Topanga charter school, with the principal assuring me that it won't be a problem.... I had send them an e-mail every month to keep them posted and last time I talked to them in June I was told to come mid August to settle all the paper work... It should have been clear to me all the time that something was up, they actually never replied to any of my e-mails, I only got to talk to the secretary and not the principal after my first initial meeting with him in April and so on. Anyways 2 weeks before school starts he finally gets in touch with me and informs me that the numbers this year have changed dramatically and that we are still on the waiting list with the numbers not looking good...! To make a long story short, a week later we got the definitive answer and it was not in our favor...! (or maybe it was...?!) Our alternative was to got to Malibu, which we all were not crazy about, because it is about 30-40 min in the 'wrong' direction further away from everything I actually would like to be around - surroundings and people. It also would have been difficult to get both kids into the same school just 4 days short of school start (Labor Day weekend, schools were closed). Therefore we held a family meeting and all decided that homeschooling was our best option. The boys were actually excited, they have said even in Vienna, that homeschooling was what they liked best so far. We will for sure do it for the next year and then see if it is something that will suit us a while longer or if maybe we will meet people who have kids at certain schools that they can recommend, have friends in,... So we'll take the time to look around and evaluate the school system. Right now we'll catch up on Sebastian's 6th grade (just a reminder, when he entered school in Austria we had put him a class back and therefore finished 4th grade in June) so that he can be with his own age group when going back to school, we will skip 5th grade and I am sure by doing one he'll catch up in no time. Benjamin is going to continue in 3rd grade, which is the class I had done with Sebastian on the boat, that should be no problem for Benjamin.
Like I said neither one of them was very disappointed about it and took it very well, much to my surprise and worry. Since this came quite unexpected and the house was not ready at all, which overwhelmed me a bit, we decided to extend our vacation a little longer. Now with the house almost done I am ready to order the school program and hope to begin within the next two weeks, certain that we will catch up on it soon. It probably was the hardest for me to adjust to this new situation and I was quite upset with the principal who was so 'matter of the fact' and showed very little sympathy. Yet I have to live by my life motto " Things happen for a reason" and who knows what will turn out because of this that we might not have gotten to experience otherwise!?! I do enjoy being with the boys and know they will be out of the house sooner than we like, so I'll just go ahead and take advantage of this year and exploring our new home area together. We are already in touch with other homeschooling families in Topanga at least per e-mail and hope to meet up with them soon. It'll all take time but I'll make sure these kids don't lack any social contact, no worries!
This probably was the most important thing for the boys! Again my prep work in April did not work out as thought, but got a turn for the better (as well!). First thinking they will join the AYSO and going for try outs we were told that they are too advanced for the system and they should play in a Club Soccer League... With the season already having started and no try outs it was almost impossible for that. The AYSO youth leader was kind enough to hook us up with "Real So Cal", a club 20-30 min in the valley. They have several different teams in each age group and after practicing and trying them all out for about 2 weeks we found our perfect groups! They had missed the first two games in the season but by now are integrated nicely and have showed already what they have learned in Vienna! Both teams are at first place at the moment, which will be a great motivation. Practice is twice a week (MO/WE) for two hours and on Fridays they have an optional skill training. With that the weekday afternoons are pretty much taken care of. Ever since the Olympics they boys are keen on gymnastics (rings, bars, trampoline,..), so we found a little gym where they have attended their first two classes, and enjoyed them tremendously. I knew Benjamin (our little monkey) would love it but also Sebastian has a blast and is quite good at it!
Right in the second week of being here the boys went to Barbie and Jimmy for 5 days, so that I would have time to unpack and organize myself a bit as well do some errands without the boys. They had a blast with them, doing so many things, just like "old times" ;o) Robert and I also took advantage and left for a short 2 day visit to Palm Springs, to relax and enjoy just time for the two of us, which we needed after the long pauses the last half year! Even with it being really hot (but dry), it was wonderful to sit in the warm shade with a good book, a nap,... One night we strolled around in down town (still being plenty warm outside!) and had a wonderful dinner. The only draw back was, that I pulled a nerve in my muscle the last day while packing which put me out for 3 full days... Not the best timing since the kitchen and new couch got delivered the next day! All I could do was stand around stiff like a stick, a very disturbing feeling, you think you can never walk or move normal again...
Robert was off that week and once most of the kitchen was installed we took the boys to Disneyland for 2 days. I did much better at least walking, sitting and lying down still were difficult. Nevertheless we had a lot of fun exploring the parks. We took a season pass (one advantage of living in Southern California - so much cheaper!) and hope to go a few times. Although I think there is never a day were there are no crowds, something to ignore and just enjoy the rest. With the new park "California Adventure" next door it takes a bit off the edge and we enjoyed that almost more.
Labor Day weekend we got our first visitors: Hemma, Christoph and kids came down from the Bay Area for 5 days. We had a great time! The weather was perfect and hot enough to go to the beach a few times to boogie and skim board. The kids also used the pool a whole lot with a few night swims. Like old times Christoph took over the cooking part again (and grocery shopping!) which is always great, like to have guests like that! Robert had to work pn Saturday (which usually never happens on the weekend, but they went life with their new program), and just that morning I actually got splattered all over my leg with bacon grease by a falling pan 'ouch!' - so I was out of order that day too, laying on the couch with cold wraps for 5 hours (which helped, I got no blisters and healed nicely). So Hemma and Christoph took all 4 kids and explored Santa Monica - how lucky are we?! One night we had a traditional Labor day bbq with some of their friends, that we finally got to meet. So even though we were not completely moved in, lacked a lot of furniture and the guest quarter was limited to a blow up mattress in the kids room it all went really well and everybody had enough space and fun!
The weekend after we took off to San Diego to join the wedding of our cruising friends Josie and Drude. We met at the dock of our marina where they lived as well getting ready to leave in November 05. We 'hooked up' along the way a few times (Mexico, Tuamotus,...) and haven't lost contact with them - they also came to our Austrian party in April, when I was here for the inspection trip. The ceremony and party was on the docked Ferry boat "Berkley" with all the tropical themes one can imagine, how appropriate! It was a great event and we were so glad to be there and see how happy they are! The boys stayed Saturday and Sunday with our friends Julie and Bonnie and had a lot of fun camping out in the yard with Phoenix and Griffin. Sunday we all got together enjoying a trip to the Science museum. Last time we got to see each other was during their visit in Austria at Easter! Yet again it felt like it was just the week before... ;o)
Again a week later on Friday night Melissa and Adam (daughter of Maura and Bob in Boulder Creek) came to spend a night with us, on their way to a friend's wedding close by. They both came to visit us last summer in Autria, where we met Adam, and we had wonderful two weeks together exploring Vienna! So the two of them are getting married as well in February, and it was an honor and great fun for me to join Melissa on Saturday for her bridal dress shopping. Unfortunately we did not have much time to hang out with all of us, but now that we are closer again I am sure there will be many more visits either way!
So you see, there is always something going on ("Schmid's like" - one of my friends in Vienna wrote back... ;o) Yet it took us a while to get down to the boat and take her out for the first time a few weeks ago. Daniel, Amanda, Kumar (a work friend from way back who happens to live close by), his wife Suzette and their sons (Roshan 10 and Nashant 14) came with us. The captain and first mate have yet to find their common way of communicating, but I know they did well before and it is just a matter of time that the boat and crew will run smoothly again ;o) It was wonderful to be on the water again and smell the sailing/sea breeze - we hope to go out there at least once a month and hopefully go over to Catalina for a weekend.
Well this report has gotten way too long again so I will hold off on all the news from the last few weeks and keep it at the "necessities" to get you updated again. Looking forward to some replies, questions, comments - hoping to answer back to you in a reasonable time, still a lot going on and sometimes I don't get to clean out my inbox for a while (still waiting to hear from me from the last one... Sorry!) I will guarantee an answer by the end of the year... ;o) Pictures will follow as soon as everything is in place and looks good, promise!
So long, dear greetings, hugs and love to you all Niki, Robert, Sebastian and Benjamin plus Matey as well as all our wildlife around (I can hardly hear the coyotes anymore at night...)
PS Matey survived the move well as well, but was a bit shy in the beginning, hiding often specially when we had visitors. Yet seems to have adapted well to the house.
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