Thursday, June 26, 2008

Goodbye, Russians

I kind of hate to post these last pictures of the Russians because it means they're really gone. A few hours before they left, I started feeling this compulsive need to take pictures even though there was nothing exciting going on. I think it was my last "holding on with the fingernails" attempt to keep them here somehow...
Guess I got used to having 7 extra people around, because the next day it definitely felt like something was missing. Goodbye Russians, we'll miss you. And Ola, I really really really hope you will come live and study here next year.
Ola started tearing up at dinner and was blinking back tears for the next couple hours until the Bates came to take them to Salt Lake. She gave me a hug that lasted five full minutes - every time she'd pull away she'd start crying harder and then put her face in my shoulder again so no one could see. Kept saying "lubilu" (love you) As their ride pulled away she was drawing hearts with her hands and pointing at us....can't decide if that is a good memory or a bad one.
Andrew probably said it best "I think they're sad our week is over, but sadder that it's one week closer to going back to where they came from...."
So glad you came. Lubilu.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Russians Day 6

"What must it feel like to own a mountain?"
That's what Svetlana asked when she saw the Ranch. I thought that comment summed it up on so many levels...comparatively we have so much in this country that would be/is astonishing to much of the world.

I guess I just feel afraid I will forget and take it all for granted. Not recognize the blessings. Not help. I do take for granted. Without meaning to.

Before we left we asked what their favorite thing was and they all said the ranch.
They adored the 4 wheeling. I noticed how Americans smile and show teeth for pictures, where Russians stop the merriment and get very solemn looking for pics. And if they do smile, they definitely do not show teeth.

They thought the zip-line was fun ( at least to those adventurous enough to try it, which of course included Nastya)
Played games at the Cabin, this is Drew with Jula and Nastya, my cousin Rachel and her friend Tyler. (yes, he knows that his name is the same as our new nephew Tyler)Ate and chillaxed. I just said chillaxed.

Played with the nephews. Here's Katie's friend Mike playing with Cameron out by the creek/crik. Cameron found a wild wish to blow.
Here's crazy ball of energy Jakey, who at a young age discovered the most efficient way to get popcorn to your mouth. I am so proud of you, Jakey.
Here's the girls with beaded Cam and Jake, after we set off fireworks and played a rousing game of "sally walker." Svetlana German pulled out a full-on Russian folk dance for her "little -sally-walker-walking-down-the-street" trick. She is awesome.
Couldn't help feelin warm and fuzzy when I saw this sign. My grandpa used to always say touched you last when we said goodbye to him. We'd try to tag and run to sneak in the last touch But he'd even stick his hand in a moving car to touch you last, and he always won, no matter what. I feel like he's still winning, and still touching us last because of so many things he passed on, like a love for ice-cream and show-tunes, but I always feel particularly close to him when I go to the ranch. Felt grateful for the ranch, and for my grandparents and great grandparents, and it felt good to know that in a way, their legacy and hard work was now reaching not only across generations, but across oceans, when these Russian girls were able to come enjoy it.

I think Drew finally realized on the last day that he had a very captive audience with these girls. He made sure he rode right in between all five of them on the way home and ate up the attention. On the late drive home, Svetlana was in the car following mine. She saw camera flash going off in our car, and said "Tara must be taking pictures of Andrew among the flowers" (aka girls)

Yes I was. Because how can you resist documenting your 72nd time of listening to The Pussycat Dolls "Wichoo" in a week. Two hours up to the Ranch, two hours back, automatic repeat. I would try to switch it and Oksana would command "Tahra, buskot dol". I wasn't complaining because at least it wasn't rap. They don't speak no english, but they do be speakin' all the words to this song, be havin it memorize. Which is good, because now they can say the first English they learned was Ebonics. "Nobody gonna love me better, I'm gon' stick wichoo forever"
Here's Drew, with an exhausted flower on his shoulder:
Ola, you could not be cuter.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Rodeo (Russians Day 5)

Strawberry Days Rodeo in Pleasant Grove Utah.

'Twas a rootin tootin good time.

Russians Day 5

Went and toured Kohler's grocery store. Which was actually kind of dumb. But we did get to watch them decorate a cake to look like a giant hamburger

And they gave us free ice-cream.
And we got to see how they put saran wrap on the meat.
Then we went to Thanksgiving Point to tour the Dinosour Museum.
Ola being silly.
Svetlana loved how interactive the Museum was.

Our neighbors Taylor and Peggy Smith and my Mom and Dad wanted to buy the girls some clothes. This was exciting because they only own 2-3 shirts to rotate between.

So we went to Kohls. Nastya said "nyet" and laughed at just about everything I showed her. Eventually after walking through the entire store we found something that she liked. Guess I don't have a russian fashion sense.
Oksana with Peggy Smith
Svetlana with my Momma. Sveta is so darling, and gives kisses on the cheeks to say thank you.
Oksana with Taylor Smith

Taylor and Peggy Smith then took the girls to the grocery store and gave them each $10. He told them to buy candy or gum, but they bought essentials - razors, deodorant, and, well, mascara. Which I know is an essential.

Ola was going to spend her $10 on razors and batteries. Taylor told her he had lots of those at home so buy something else...
Thanks, Taylor.
The girls came right home and changed into their new clothes. They got all gussied up to go to the rodeo.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Russians Day 4

Took the girls to get pedicures. On the way we stopped by Xenias house to see their quilts - the girls were ecstatic when they saw them. Their reaction made her tear up a little bit - I'm guessing/hoping their enthusiasm made her feel better about spending hours and hours and hours quilting 8 quilts!
Svetlana tried out the long arm quilter.
Oksana thought it tickled.
Alina soaked it all up.
And they all had very cute toes. And green flip-flops which they wore for the next several days, including to the ranch, and to church.

Then we walked around Roberts Craft Store. They had never seen a glue gun, and we got some for them to take back to the school in Russia.
Hamburgers for lunch - at Chadders.

Then to Costco: Free Samples

And lots of M&M's. When we took them to the candy counter at BYU on Monday we let them pick from the huge selection. They examined all of the candies and then four of them chose - - - - plain m&m's. We told them we would get those for them later. Good thing we did because they ate this huge bag in less than 24 hours.
Ola tried on my sunglasses and they totally dwarfed her. She's my favorite. Shh.

The Bishop's wife Jackie Whitlock came over to make cards with the girls.

And at night they watched The Devil Wears Prada in the theater room.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Russians Day 3

The girls spent the day at Girl's Camp with the ward in Alpine. I spent the day at work and got home just in time to see this: Ola came up the stairs and then dramatically dropped to her knees and crawled all the way from the stairs to her bedroom, stopping to "fall asleep" on the floor along the way, and saying "Spakonanoche" (goodnight). She chatters in Russian and acts everything out. It's so understandable I forget she's not speaking English. She's like one of those mimes at the circus only way way better.We were up until 2 in the morning one night watching her stories. She had us all in stitches. You listen to that husky voice and how she throws every ounce of that tiny scrappy body into acting things out how her eyes light up when she's telling you things, and how she makes you laugh because she's so clever and creative and you sort of fall in love with her. instantly.

Also tonight, Ben helped them all set up e-mail addresses so we can k.i.t.: They love Ben.

I seriously felt guilty being at work because I kept thinking about the girls and missing them, and thinking I should have just rescheduled the voice lessons for after they left. Oh well, tomorrow is another day.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Russians Day 2

On Tuesday we made 8 quilts in 5 hours. Marathon!

These girls are so focused. They were excited about the project and then stayed intent on it the entire day. They didn't want to take a break to go to the front of the room and grab a sandwich for lunch because they wanted to finish. Only 13-16 yrs old, and so determined.

This is my Aunt Kris. She teaches at a High School in Salt Lake and we went and made the quilts in the schools home-ec room. The girls hovered around her so they wouldn't miss a detail when she was giving directions.
Alina is so beautiful. She wore this cute dress and 3 inch heels to come quilting. Love her.
Some of Kris co-workers came and spent the day helping to make the quilts

Alina and Kelly
Sarah and Oksana
Nastia and Heather

Svetlana is the home ec teacher at the school in Russia. She was fascinated by the rotary cutters and wanted to take one back with her. She flitted around the room like she was in home ec heaven. Her quilt turned out beautifully.
Xenia, our very talented neighbor in Alpine, came up to help with the quilts. She took them home with her so that she could use her long-arm quilter to quilt all of them. So generous. She brought her neice-in-law Amy who spoke Russian with her.
Jennifer loves Ava. Ava is my Aunt Stephanie's mother, who as a child went to school where the orphanage is now. She came to help with the quilts. So did Ava's granddaughters Katie and Rachel.
We were expecting to have about 4 people to help with the quilts, and look at this roomful of generous women who spent the entire day helping.

Glad they can take those quilts back with them as a reminder of their time here. Thankful for art and self expression in any form, it uplifts the soul and gives something to be excited about, and a sense of self- accomplishment.

Ola is so artistic. She was going around the room showing people her quilt and talking about how she put the colors together and how she like the combination of dark and light colors. She drew a picture of Katie on the whiteboard:

Pretty good, huh?

After quilting we went Rock-Climbing:

Nastia was the best. She got all the way to the top, and kept doing climb after climb.
Ola was pretty good, too....

But the rest of us were so tired after one or two climbs we laid on the floor and watched Nastia, and talked to Stephanie when she called my cell. Stephanie is seriously a celebrity around here. I said hello, hi stephanie and there was a rousing chorus of "shtefaneee!" When I am driving around with these girls I listen to them chatter in russian and the one word I recognize and that gets repeated over and over is "shtefanee" which is followed only by "Jafe" (jeff) and Alaigsandra (alexandra, stephanie's daughter).
Then we went to Texas Road House for dinner. I can never predict what they'll like or not. I gave them a handful of peanuts in the shell out of the big bucket by the door and that brought a big round of excited "sank-you's" I thought they would love the chicken fingers with the dipping sauces, the bbq pork, the sweet potato with brown sugar and the mashed potatoes and gravy. They took a bite or two and then said they were "full". But when the plain roasted chicken breast got there, they devoured it. Same with the rolls.

The waiters had the girls get up and try country line dancing with them. It was Svetlanas b-day the week before, so the waiters did a round of happy birthday hee haws for her. They put her on the saddle and the entire restaurant shouted hee haw at her.
She is the most delightful person. Always pleasant, treats every new experience as an enchanting adventure she can't wait to try. That's probably why she looks like she's 25 even though she's 41. Hee-haw!