It’s hard to believe that it’s been two and a half weeks. In some ways, it seems like Masha has been here forever, and in other ways, time has flown. For Masha’s final day, Mark and I both scheduled time off from work to hang out and enjoy our time together. Our first trouble came when Masha came wandering into my office with a post-it note stuck her her finger. Fun Spot. Originally scheduled as a field trip for the day camp, the afternoon at Fun Spot in Angola was cancelled when the Vice Consul announced a surprise visit during the first week of camp. Not thinking too far into the future, we had moved that note to the side and did not worry too much about rescheduling. It was only when we discovered that Fun Spot is only open Saturdays and Sundays that we realized we had a problem.
Mark did some research into various options and we arrived at go-karts! We first went to the outdoor go-karts near Putt Putt. Despite their posted hours showing they opened at 10, we discovered that since school has started, no one will come in before noon. We moved to the indoor go-kart track up the road. We bought one ride to see how she would like it. We began the process by strapping Mark and Masha into individual go-karts; one lap around, Masha missed a turn and ran head-on into the track railing. She wasn’t going fast, but it scared her. We extracted her from her car and let her ride a few laps in the double-car with Mark. When she realized how to operate the car, she got more excited, and decided to take a shot at driving again.
About the same time, Lisa and Khrystyna arrived, we belted both girls into cars, and off they drove! It’s a good thing that the guys running the track were able to limit the speed on the cars, as we’ve discovered that Khrystyna’s role model must be Danica Patrick. Her foot was nowhere near the brake, even around the hairpin turns. Masha was driving a bit more conservatively, but she still kept up pretty well. As the first ride for each of them wrapped up, the girls hopped out of the cars screaming “again! again!” We called a five minute break, strapped them back in, and turned the speed up a little bit.
We had originally planned to take Masha to Taco Bell for lunch, but since Khrystyna is a more choosy eater, we elected to go to Doggie’s for gourmet hot dogs…her favorite. Of course, the moment we walked in, she decided she really had a hankerin’ for a sandwich. Masha chose to order two sausage dogs, and then loaded them up with a variety of very strange toppings, including more mayonnaise than I’ve ever seen on anything! Oddly, the girls also decided that they did not want their photos taken, and hid behind single-serving chip packets.
As soon as lunch disappeared, we piled the girls into the car and took them to the DeBrand factory, where we met Fred for a factory tour. We thought this would be a great time for the kids, knowing how much they like chocolate. The video, however, did not impress them. Further, there was very little going on in the kitchens. They enjoyed the samples very much, but the tour was a bit of a bust. The girls horsed around a bit, and all the parents focused on keeping them from running over the elederly folks whose tour we were tagging onto.
We came back home for a final evening together. It seemed so wrong to have to send her back when she was really starting to settle in and open up. She was just beginning to horse around, doing gymnastics in the basement and climbing up the stairs feet first. She discovered the dartboard, and played around a lot with Simon. We did pop out to WalMart to pick up the final set of photos and we stopped next door at the dollar store to grab an extra small photo album in which to store them. She loaded up the album as we drove home.
We quickly shucked three ears of the sweetest sweet corn we have tasted in a long time, and gobbled it up along with a salad and some leftover pasta. Masha then wrote up thank-you notes for all the people who helped us out during her stay. I started out a list of two or three people, and she began adding names to it and writing them on cards. She even kept at it when Khrystyna called her from Cracker Barrel to chat. Masha was cradling the phone on her shoulder and continuing to write cards until Mark showed her the speakerphone. Relief flooded her face as she set Khrystyna down on the kitchen table and kept working!
After dinner, we called a translator to talk about the logistics of packing and meeting back up for the return trip. Masha’s biggest concern was for her new earrings! We explained to her that we would divide the stuff in her room into three categories: 1) The items that had been borrowed from other people, 2) items that are hers to take back with her, and 3) items that are hers that we will keep here for when she returns. She quickly got the concept and threw all of her favorite clothes into the America pile!
We had also learned that the kids would not be allowed any carry-on luggage for the trip. This presented a bit of a challenge, as we had already given Nataliya the larger of the two suitcases that we planned to send back. We only had a small rollaboard suitcase for Masha, and were really counting on her backpack to carry a couple sets of clothes as well as Barbies, coloring books and colored pencils and markers to keep her occupied on the long trip back. We got everything crammed in, with only Sloan the Elephant left to carry! I just hope the zippers hold!
In the middle of all of this, we ran out to Ritter’s to meet Mark’s family for final goodbyes. Masha ordered the granddaddy of all cones…a chocolate dipped waffle cone with multi-colored candy sprinkles. She had it filled with peanut butter frozen custard, and promptly emptied it! She played with the Maxwell kids, and we all posed for many photos before the hugs began.
When we finally made it back home, Masha took a shower, climbed into her jammies, and joined the family for the first Harry Potter film. Yes, we know we watched them backward, but that logic was not of critical importance to Masha. Masha settled into our bed and watched while Mark and I took care of a few final details, including writing a letter for her to take back home with her. Everything finally finished, we joined Masha for the end of Harry Potter, and then tucked her in for the last time.