Friday, July 27, 2012

The Health Insurance Dilemma

This is sort of a dull topic, but I'm reaching out to my Foreign Service friends for help. John and I have been very lucky not to have to think about health care for the past ten years. We've been mostly happy with Tricare, particularly since it's free. Even after I switched to Tricare Standard so I could choose my own doctors, the costs were minimal. I wish things were that simple in the Foreign Service, but unfortunately, they actually require you to make decisions for yourself. Well, some decisions anyway. This post about Drexel Heritage furniture makes it clear that there are some decisions that should definitely NOT be left up to the FS.

It seems like it comes down to Blue Cross Blue Shield and the Foreign Service Benefit Plan. If anyone has any input on either, I'm all ears!

Meanwhile, we are exactly one month from our move day. Excuse me while I go freak out for a moment.

Note to self: Avoid high ledges for the next 4 weeks. Photo by Sarah Joseph

Okay, I'm back. I hope to see as many of you as possible in the little time I have left here. Meanwhile, I'm off to meet my good friends' new baby tomorrow. Happy Friday!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Yeah Baby! Or, John Got a 3/3

Some of you who aren't Facebook friends with me might not have heard John's great news: he passed his Russian exam with flying colors, earning a 3/3 when he only needed a 2/2. For those who don't know how the scoring system works, it's on a scale of 0-5, 0 being me, 5 being what I *hope* I am in English. The two scores represent speaking and reading, and I can never remember which comes first. It usually takes 42 weeks to get from a 0 to a 3 in Russian. John was at 0+/1 when he started, thanks to two years of college Russian (of course that was ten years ago now), and it took him 20 weeks to get to a 3. So yeah, he's a rock star, in my humble opinion anyway.

To celebrate John's success, we hit up the Nordstrom Fall Preview sale today, because I've been hankering for some Russia-appropriate clothing and the prices are pretty damn good. I was disappointed that an adorable orange Kenneth Cole coat didn't come in my size:

I love you anyway, cute orange coat :(
But I found an awesome pair of waterproof leather boots that fit my scrawny calves quite well. They're from a Canadian company called Blondo:

And they're stretchy, too!

Not the cutest, I know, but if they can withstand the Russian winter, I'll take 'em! And they were $70 off. John got a new North Face jacket, a pair of North Face boots, and some Smartwool socks, all at great prices, and Jack got a submarine bath toy out of the deal. Tonight we're hitting up DC's authentic Russian restaurant, Russia House, to celebrate Russian style (i.e. with vodka). I hope everyone has a fabulous weekend!

Friday, July 13, 2012

John's Big Day

Many of you might think the biggest hurdle John has faced this year was getting into the Foreign Service. While that certainly was a challenge (although John made it look easy, as always), some of you might not realize that all this language training he's been doing for the past six months (and it's been a lot - I don't think I've ever seen John work this hard) isn't just so he can go to Russia and communicate. He actually has to take a test before we leave. In fact, we CAN'T leave until he passes. That's right, fail your test, and the State Department will change all of your travel plans and keep you here until you pass it. I can't imagine it happens a lot (we're talking about a ridiculously intelligent group of human beings), but it does happen. Anyone can have a bad day.

Now I'm not telling you all this because I think there's any possibility whatsoever that John won't pass. He will, with flying colors, I know. He only needs a 2/2 to pass, and I believe John has been at that level for at least a couple of months. (Not that I really know anything about how the test is scored - I just know John, and how many hours he's put into Russian, and the fact that he accomplishes everything he sets his mind to.) But I also know you can never have too much support or positive energy thrown your way in life, so I hope you'll all keep John in your thoughts next Thursday when he goes in for his test.

You can do it, sweetie! We're so proud of you!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Next Month, We'll Be Living In Russia

The title of this post is something John chose to say to me the other day, and I'm having a hard time wrapping my brain around it.

I feel like we're slowly making progress toward our move. We've got a working list of things we're getting rid of, taking, and storing, plus a very long list of things we need to buy. You know those families at Costco that load up an entire pallet like they're preparing for the apocalypse? That's going to be us pretty soon. If any of my FS friends have any suggestions, I would LOVE to hear about them in the comments. Supposedly we can buy pretty much everything we need in Russia, but there are certain things I'm not willing to take a chance on (my list includes things like deodorant and diapers; John's involves chia seeds and cheese-making supplies).

It all still feels unreal, to be honest, like it's happening to someone else, or it's not *actually* happening at all. I have a feeling it won't be until our house is packed, our cars are gone, and I've stepped onto the airplane that reality will hit, probably like a ton of bricks. And I am worried (justifiably, I think) that the fact that I can say raspberry and dill in Russian isn't going to get me very far, at least not outside of the farmer's market. I can't allow myself to think about how much I'm going to miss certain people here, because then my heart starts to race and my throat closes up and I run the risk of losing it.

But I also can't pretend that I WON'T be living in Russia next month. Because I will.

Ugh, that was serious. To lighten things up, help me pick what kind of mascot we should carry around with us on our travels and photograph in various places.

Garden gnome?

Cardboard cutout of Sarah and Minky?
I'm open to suggestions... Oh, and everyone wish John a happy birthday tomorrow!