That's been the last couple of weeks here for me. Well - month, really, if you start from when my phone got water-damaged. However, there's a happy ending, if you make it to the end of this ramble.
About two weeks ago, on a Sunday morning, I packed the girls into our car so that I could catch my first weekend yoga class/gym visit in many weeks. Turned the ignition, only to discover the battery was dead. So I called roadside assistance from our (then) insurance company, and waited around for someone to show up and jump start things. A bloke did turn turn up, but he was hardly a knight in shining armour. Instead, he drove a hotted-up Suburu with portable flashing lights, spoke limited English and - keeping his earphones in the entire time - opened the car bonnet, jump started things with barely a word, hopped back in his car, and could not make his getaway fast enough. I did not even get a chance to ask him what might have caused the battery to drain (as far as I could see, no lights had been left on). Rude. Geico? I was underwhelmed. Being alone with kids for a few months, I need to know I can get better, more helpful service in an emergency. We switched insurance companies that same afternoon because of this guy.
The car was fine the next day, but on Tuesday, it had zero power - I was unable to even unlock the doors by remote. This time, I was about to take Miss Pie to preschool (which is, thankfully, walking distance) and the Faery to see a doctor because she'd been feverish with a sore ear. I'd actually spent half of Monday evening online and making phone calls to work out what our health care options were. Our health insurance had changed only days earlier (because of J's new job) and I was still waiting for documents and proof of membership in the mail. Our former doctor was no longer an option. The U.S. health care system? Ridiculously complicated... gah.
Anyhow, I rang the roadside assistance with our new car insurance company (AAA) and the service could not have been better, more helpful or friendly. The guy who came out tested a few things in the engine to see what could be causing the battery to drain so quickly (again, there was no evidence of lights left on). Unable to find anything, he concluded it was the battery itself so I asked him to replace it on the spot, for peace of mind.
Peace of mind was unlocked and achieved.
Until eight days later. Wednesday, the following week, we were getting in the car to head to school... once again, battery drained. We hightailed it from the underground parking to our apartment, where I grabbed the stroller for Miss Pie, and walked to the Faery's school - with her complaining bitterly the entire time that we were walking too fast. But hey, we made it just in time. As soon as I returned home, I had AAA come out again to jump start the car, then I went directly to the dealership where we got our car (much of its parts are still under warranty). I spent several hours waiting around - "fun" with a three-year-old - holding my breath and wondering if I was going to need to mess around getting a car rental, making phone calls to organise someone to pick up the Faery from school... basically, you get the idea of the hard knots of tension that were spreading across my neck and shoulders.
Eventually, a mechanic came and spoke to me. He wasn't entirely sure what the problem was, as all the tests were coming back fine, but had seen this problem in other cars that had the same make/brand of AC compressor relay (don't worry - I had no idea what part that was either. If you do, you're a champ). Apparently they could stick, which meant that even with the engine switched off, the AC compressor relay would still discharge the battery. Given the recent warm weather and lack of shaded parking in general, this theory seemed entirely plausible. My car's AC gets a very good work out. The mechanic replaced the suspected problem part, under warranty, and sent us on our way.
One sinus infection and hideous coldsore later (I may have been a tad run down), J finally arrived in LA for a weekend visit. After three weeks of him away, it had been the longest stretch yet. It felt so good to have him back. It felt right for our little family to be reunited - even if just for a weekend.
On Sunday morning, we all piled into the car for a morning out. One last day together, before he had to fly back to Seattle that evening. And... yep. Dead battery, fourth time.
This was the first time J had experienced this problem, but I was ready to curl up and start rocking. I was so over it. Being a Sunday, the car dealership's service centre was closed, so we knew there was no point getting a jump start or taking/towing the car in until Monday. I begged J to push his flight back a day so that I wouldn't have to deal with this, again, by myself. He agreed it was super shitty for all this to fall on me, so he stayed.
On Monday morning, we got AAA to come and jump start the car, anticipating a lengthy day of waiting around at the car dealership. Immediately, he spotted the cause... and man, did we feel stupid. There was a light on, in the boot (trunk). In my defence, I've never used that light - I didn't even know of its existence. It is, however, within perfect reaching distance of Miss Pie as she climbs out of the car. Either that, or the mechanic accidentally left it on last Wednesday when he was doing all the spot checks.
So at this stage, I think the first three times were due to the AC compressor relay sticking, and the fourth time was just stupid, extra bad luck. I hope. All I know is that every morning now, when I go to start the engine, I hold my breath.
Silver lining? We got an extra day of family time together. I can't really complain about that.
* * *
Another positive to come out of the last few days is that we have a home lined up in Seattle for us to move into.
J was looking online when he was here on Sunday morning, saw it, and contacted the agent. That afternoon, the agent called back and offered to give us an iPhone FaceTime tour of the place. Ain't technology grand?
It's a townhouse, and everything about it ticked all our boxes. We plan to keep the girls sharing a room, but still wanted a spare room that could be for visitors, and maybe a study too (which could be used for guests too). This townhouse has not only a third bedroom, but it's on a lower (split) level with its own bathroom and another living room that opens onto a garden. Perfect for overseas visitors! In terms of size, it's double our current apartment. There's also a study, a lot of storage space, and the double garage has internal access. No more struggling with groceries and a preschooler from an underground car park to a second-floor apartment - you have no idea how much that excites me.
The timing of it is perfect too. Our current lease takes us to the end of June, and the townhouse won't be available until then anyway. We weren't expecting to be able to move without having to double up on rent at each end for several weeks, so this is a bonus.
Based on the location, size, layout and availability, we applied immediately. On the way to drop J off at the airport on Monday evening, we heard back - unofficially - that the townhouse was ours.
After work on Tuesday, J swung by the townhouse. The agent had organised for the current tenants to show him around, and he kept sending me gobsmacked text messages. He was impressed, and said all the compromises we've made with rental homes in the past are history with this place. It's on a small, quiet cul-de-sac that's surrounded by cedars, in an area that we were quite taken with when we last visited Seattle together. The waterfront of Lake Washington is about a fifteen-minute-walk downhill, and the local elementary school has good ratings and reviews, with a school bus route that the Faery will be able to use. So far, so good. Even better, there's a direct 30-minute bus route to the heart of downtown Seattle - perfect for exploring with the girls over summer.
J met with the agent today to finalise some of the paperwork, and she told him that we'd beaten ten other applicants. Holy moly. Apparently she'd formed such a good impression of us from our FaceTime tour that she pushed harder for us over the other applicants. I call that a technology win.
* * *
I'd been feeling a bit flat about this move in recent weeks. Despite the annoying business with drained car batteries and sickness doing the rounds here, the kids and I have had a pretty full social calendar. Lots of play dates, kids parties, and the odd spot of hiking and eating out with girlfriends. Each time we hang out with friends, I'm increasingly aware of how time is drawing to an end in L.A, and it makes me sad. I'm so glad to have met the people who have been part of my life here, and dislike the idea of putting a large geographical distance between us. It was always going to be inevitable that we'd leave L.A, but somehow I don't feel ready. It's not the city itself that I'll miss, but the friends.
Learning that we've now got a place to call home in Seattle has helped to knock the edge off this sadness for me. Already, I'm Google Street-viewing the shit out of the neighbourhood. Looking up the parks and playgrounds. Working out the best ways to drive to Trader Joe's, Whole Foods and Target (all a bit further away than the ones I currently shop at). Working out the Seattle equivalents of Ralph's and Vons supermarkets. Most importantly, I'm mentally arranging our furniture into a townhouse I've yet to set foot in, and planning what extra furniture we'll need to get - now that we'll have more rooms to make use of. Crazy, right?
I think it's what I need, though. A little distraction, because I hate goodbyes.
This move to Seattle has just got real.