Thursday, December 11, 2008

Merry Christmas 2008

Well, another year, another Christmas letter – I hope this one finds you healthy and enjoying the real meaning of the holidays. Of course, if you are like us, it really finds you running around like crazy trying to get everything done! Hopefully you will find a little time for PEACE this year!

The year has really flown by, and the kids are changing by leaps and bounds. Amber, who was my shy seventh-grader last year, has lost all that shyness and is loving being an 8th grader this year. She is taking honors classes, and continues to amaze me with her musical abilities. She is still playing violin in the orchestra, but has now also learned how to play guitar and keyboards, and is constantly teaching herself how to play new songs.

Mitchell is now in junior high, too, and really likes the change from elementary school. He and Amber crack me up every day with stories about funny kids at their school. He is also taking honors classes and doing great. This year in football, he got to play quarterback in several games and was thrilled for the chance. Next season he is moving up to “real football” with pads and tackling, and can’t wait.

Dasha is having a great time in second grade. She has become an avid reader, and loves to read to me every day after school. She absolutely loves everything about school, and actually gets sad during school vacations. She has made a lot of good friends, and loves to play, sing and dance. That will come in handy when she tries her hand at ballet this year. She wanted to try something different than sports this year, and of course, chose the activity that comes with princess-like outfits! I’m sure she will make a beautiful ballerina!

Jacob is all boy, and has become a great athlete. He played Pop Warner football for the first time this year, and totally got into it. He, too, can’t wait to get to play in full pads and tackle next year. He also played coach-pitch baseball this year, and still pretty much believes that the Anaheim Angels are just keeping him on their farm team and might be ready to call him up to the Big Leagues at any time!

All of the kids’ sports have not passed by Jeff – he coached at least one team for 3 of the 4 kids this past year, sometimes more than one team at a time. He has really gotten into coaching, and it has been so fun for the kids to have him there. It is hard to tell who is having more fun at the games, Jeff or the kids! He also started with a new company this year, still in pharmaceutical research. Now he is with Allergan (he swears he can’t get free botox for me there – bummer), and is overseeing several global studies, so he is travelling more. Hopefully this will work into a few trips where I can tag along, too!

I am getting ready to make a huge change and stay home for a while. The hospital I am currently working for is closing in January, so we are going to take this opportunity to see if we can make it work with me at home. I pretty much have a full-time job just ferrying kids around to school and all of their activities already, so this will give us an opportunity to have a little bit of control in our daily chaos. After the last fourteen years of working and raising children at the same time, I am really looking forward to it. The kids are pretty excited about it, too, as long as I don’t turn into an embarrassing mom, as Amber says. Of course, to my teenager, everything I do is embarrassing, so oh well!

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas season and get the opportunity to spend time really enjoying your family and friends. Merry Christmas!


Kim, Jeff, Amber, Mitchell, Dasha and Jacob


Monday, October 20, 2008


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

An American Girl

I can’t believe it’s been a year since we lasted posted on the blog. Our family is doing very well. As you can imagine, a lot has happened in the last year. Dasha is doing great, we are truly blessed. Dasha started the 2007 school year in first grade. She was considered an English as a second language student. By the end of the year she was reading above average for her grade lever. Let that sink in…She was ahead of American born kids in reading and language skills in less than 2 years of being here. She’s now in the second grade, loves to read and loves school. I think there’s some comfort in school for her. In Kazakhstan, school was very important to the orphans and the kids were expected to study 2 hours each day after school. They wore uniforms and it was very strict. Dasha responds well to structure, especially in school. Last spring she played girls softball. She did very well, she is very good athlete and picked up the game very quickly. I was fortunate enough to coach both her and Jacob in a summer recreational baseball league. We were the Angel’s, and boy did we have fun. Dasha would dig in at the plate with her pink batting helmet, if she could wear pink everyday that would be just fine by her. The other teams thought, this girl can’t hit, but they were wrong. Dasha and Jacob both are great hitters, so they both went deep on quite a few at bats. By the end of the season, the teams began to back up when the pink helmet got to the plate. She was also a great infielder and threw out a lot of runners. In softball her nickname on her jersey was KGB, the kids didn’t understand it, but most of the parents did.

We are big Angel’s fans, and were able to go to quite few games this year thanks to Rick and Pam getting season tickets. The kids loved to go. Of course there’s a price as the kids mastered the concession stands. Jacob would argue every pitch that didn’t go the Angel’s way, and Dasha would cheer for her favorite player, Vladdy (Vlad Guerrero).

This year Dasha has decided to try ballet. I don’t know much about ballet, so I can’t coach that team or group or company or whatever ballet thingy….you get the idea. So I’ll have to watch from the stands or audience…I need to read about ballet. We just celebrated Dasha’s 8th birthday, which also happens to be the day she became our daughter, October 2nd. What a great day for us. Two years ago on that day, I sat in a court room in Kazakhstan and had no idea what was said, nor do I know if what I said was really translated, I just know I was told her new name was Dasha Katherine Werkmeister and she was our daughter and that was fine by me.

At her birthday, Dasha was so grateful for each gift she receives. I’m so used to the other kids getting so much, but Dasha is genuinely grateful for everything that she gets.

Dasha is now a huge Hanna Montana fan, or as she says in her cute accent, “da Hanna Montana.” Her Uncle Jim gave her an iPod for her birthday and she has yet to put it down. Of course we loaded in with da Hanna Montana and she is very happy.

Jacob is doing great. He’s just finishing his first year of Pop Warner football, and has become quite a baseball and football player. I’ve been coaching or assistant coaching his teams. Funny, I never really played these sports, so I have to read books to know what I’m doing…pretty sad. Jacob is having fun, and so am I. I don’t know who has more fun, me or the kids. Kim has referred to my coaching as my midlife crisis. I’m just happy I’m able to share in these experiences with the kids.

I was also fortunate enough to coach Mitchell’s flag football team in the spring and we had a great time with that. Amber is continuing to play the violin and play softball. Amber would not let me coach her team, and made it clear I could not embarrass her. Both Mitchell and Amber are in honors courses in Junior High and doing great.

Kim is going to try and become a stay at home mom this next year. I think it will be great for us. She is currently working as a Director at Irvine Medical Center. Her hospital will shut down next year, so we decided to see how the stay at home mom thing goes.

I'm working at Allergan Pharmaceutical company and really enjoying it. Kim is mad that I can't get her free Botox, but that's another story for another time. I just spent 2 weeks in India and was reminded how blessed we are to live in the U.S. So much poverty, so many kids without hope. I think that's what inspired to write today.

There’s so many tales to tell, we’ll try and update more often. A few great memories and a few sad ones, but we are a happy family. Dasha is now an American, she is now a Werkmeister and is just another one of our great kids. I couldn’t ask for a better result. We (the kids and I) say our prayers every night, and her prayers are so honest and genuine, I often wonder what would have happened to this little girl, but it’s difficult as I think of the great kids we met back in Taraz at her orphanage. It’s a bit overwhelming to think of their future. I still pray for them. Kim is planning to really get involved with our orphan ministry at church. I suspect there will be quite a bit more here in the coming years.

Finally, I’ll share a funny story to give you an idea of how far Dasha has come along in the past 2 years. The whole family sat and watched the Olympics opening ceremony. It was a grand event and as the athletes carried out their countries flags. the Kazakhstan team came out, Kim said to Dasha, “look honey, there’s Kazakhstan’s team…” Dasha didn’t blink, she simply replied, “Mommy, I’m not from Kazakhstan anymore, I’m from America.” And true to her word, she cheered for Michael Phelps and all of the American athletes.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

One Year Ago Today, Part 2.....

I just spent the last 30 minutes going through a pile of girly clothes with a little girl who just couldn't make up her mind about what to wear tomorrow. "Should I wear the skirt with the cropped tights and cute shirt, or should I wear the new pants, or the shorts, or the dress, or...." You get the idea. By the end of the 30 minutes, we had a pile of choices from which to decide. I had to laugh when I thought back to one year ago when we met this little girl who had only one shirt and one pair of pants. And even those were not hers alone. She shared them with 7 other kids. She could have never dreamed of the world she lives in now.

Tonight at dinner we were reminiscing about that fateful meeting one year ago today. The kids all laughed as I described the stinky overnight train ride with the gross bathroom. Everyone laughed when I told them about poor Granny having to actually use the bathroom not once, but FOUR times. This was unlike any other trip to meet the newest family member. I told Dasha about being met at the train station in Taraz, Kazakhstan at 4:00 in the morning by our coordinators, Vera and Medet, and finally making it to our hotel that was to be our home for a month. I told her about waiting until the afternoon to finally get to go to the orphanage, where we met with the director and were told that we could meet with a sweet little girl. When I told her that I had never been so nervous in my whole life before I met her, she laughed. " No Mommy - I was more scared than I have ever been. I didn't know what was happening!" She wanted to know why I would have been scared, and I told her that I was really afraid that she wouldn't like me and wouldn't want to be in our family. She thought that was hilarious and then said something that makes me think maybe, just maybe we have done something right. She said, "But Mommy, I was in your heart, remember? You knew you were my mommy and you loved me." So maybe life in America and our family hasn't scarred her completely!

After that conversation, we started naming all of the things that are different for her now compared to one year ago. She took great pride in naming many of the differences: "I had short hair and now my hair is long. I eat lots of different foods and I used to only eat soup. I don't get sick in the car anymore." Let me add some more: She had never seen a swimming pool and now she is a great swimmer. She had never heard of baseball and now she can run into a room, see the Angel game on tv and yell out the score. She is even excited to play softball this year. She used to think that teachers were to be feared and she now gives her new first grade teacher a hug each day. She used to be afraid to talk and now, well, lets just say our house is very loud. She used to not know how old she was or when (or what) her birthday was. Now we spend a great deal of time every day agonizing over just what kind of party she is going to have next month when she turns 7 - "Mommy - I would like a giant pool and a princess bouncy house in the backyard for my birthday." That was last week, the request changes daily. A year ago, she was so terrified to be away from my side. I really thought that I was never going to be able to leave the room without her again. She had no basis for trust and could not let herself believe that I would always be there. While that is a fear that we will always have to work on, it is barely evident now. She runs into Sunday school, first grade, and swim lessons full of confidence and without hesitation. She knows that I will always be there, but she still gets fearful if the routine changes a little. I saw a little bit of that fear yesterday when I was literally one minute late picking her up from school. I had to give her a huge hug and look her in the eyes and tell her, "Mommy will never leave you. Do you know that?" She shook her head yes, but needed a pretty tight hug for a minute. Then she was fine and went running to tell her brother about school.

One year ago she never would have dreamed of having siblings, or being a sibling. Now she loves being a sister, having a sister and having two brothers. She and Jacob are as close as they would be if they had been siblings their whole lives. They are inseparable at home (except during the regular sibling fights). He has helped her to develop a wonderful imagination. They put on shows for us daily and make us and each other laugh. Last week I overheard them talking when I was in the other room. Jacob said to Dasha, "You are my best friend, Dasha." To which she responded, "I can't be your friend, I'm your sister." Jacob explained to her that he could be her friend and sister. Then they had a philosophical discussion about the fact that they could be friends, but they couldn't get married. Then they would have babies with three heads. So then they each suggested potential mates for each other. It's never too early to start planning, huh?

Amber and Mitchell have really helped Dasha learn what it means to be in a family. They have been incredibly patient and loving with her, even in the most trying times. They have accepted her as their sister without question. She and Jacob both have learned what it means to be a brother and sister who truly love and respect one another by watching the example that Amber and Mitchell have set for them.

Most importantly, one year ago, Dasha did not know what it meant to be in a family, to have parents who love and cherish her, and to know that she was planned by God and matters. Now I get sweet kisses every day, huge hugs, and a sweet Russian-accented voice telling me that she loves me. To which I respond, "I love you more!"

Saturday, September 08, 2007

One Year Ago Today

It is hard to believe, but exactly one year ago today we boarded a plane bound for Kazakhstan. Well, actually, it was a plane bound for Frankfurt Germany, followed by a plane bound for Kazakhstan. The memories this weekend have been flooding back to me like it was just yesterday. At this time last year, I was truly terrified, not believing that we were actually going through with our plans and not sure why I would have ever gotten myself into such a situation. The trip was so long, it actually took three days before we even met our daughter. In that three days' time, we were thrown into situations I could have never imagined at any point earlier in my life. All I could think of at that time was how much I wanted to come right back home. Luckily, my fears did not get the best of me, because now when I look back on those things that terrified me, I am filled with fond memories. I actually grew to love the country of my daughter's birth. I grew to love the simple lifestyle, the beauty of the Russian language, and a town that loves its children enough to have a "bounce house" party every night in the town square.

Of course, when we first arrived in Kazakhstan, all I saw was the differences between there and my home. I remember waking up the first morning and going down to the breakfast buffet. I don't know about you, but "breakfast buffet" to me means eggs, hash browns, sausage - you know, that kind of stuff. The buffet we woke up to was made up of mostly food I couldn't even recognize. I remember being worried that I would not be able to eat again for the entire trip. Luckily, there was yogurt and something that looked like crepes. Jacob thought it was the best breakfast he had ever had. Many times during the trip, I had to look to my four year old to set my mind in the right direction. We were following God, our Father's guidance for this trip. I should have had the same mentality that Jacob did. He was just following his father's (and mother's) guidance. Since he was following us, he never felt worry or fear. He knew his father would never let him be harmed, and had a plan for a great adventure. I knew that God had a plan for a great adventure for me, too, but I just couldn't get past the fear. I had to remind myself of that many times during our trip and even during the first few months at home. A year later, I can look back on this adventure and truly see the hand of God in all of it. Our daughter was made to be in our family, and I was made to be her mother. On September 12, 2006, our lives changed forever when we finally met the girl who would be known from that point on as Dasha Kathryn Werkmeister. I will post again in a few days with a full update on our little Kazakh princess.

Friday, August 31, 2007


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Big Bang Friday...

It's been a long time since we posted, and a lot has happened. Today was an amazing day, as we went to court for Dasha's re-adoption hearing. Before I get into that, I'll try and catch up on our summer.

Amber started playing softball in the spring. The whole family participated. The kids went to every practice and every game. Dasha learned all about baseball. Amber had the biggest cheering section, we're kind of a mob where ever we go.

At the end of April, our friend John West gave us tickets to the Angel's Game. These weren't just any tickets, but seats right behind home plate about 7 rows up. It was also a Friday night, and every Friday after the game, the Angel's put on a spectacular fireworks show, "Big Bang Friday." This was Dasha's first Major League game. We could not only see the players, but even hear them talk, it was awesome! Jacob, who loves the Angels, remember the kid that wore an Angel's hat every day we were in Kazakhstan, was in heaven. The Angels won and then it got dark, Dasha was very nervous...then boom! The fireworks started. It was a great show. Dasha was scared at first, she'd never seen fireworks before, then she was cheering, laughing saying, "mommy did you see that..." It was so cool.

Jacob started T-Ball this summer, and we've practicing in the backyard almost every night. Dasha has incredible strength and coordination. She can hit, throw and catch. She will play softball in the spring like her sister. It's fun to watch the kids play together.

As summer approached, and school was coming to an end, we started going to the pool. Dasha so desperately wanted to swim, although she had never swam before. Think about it, six years old and never swam. She was very excited to swim, but once she was in the water, she was terrified. She would hold onto Kim or my neck and was panic stricken, and yet excited at the same time. It's hard to explain. This went on for almost a month. She and Jacob enrolled in swimming lessons. Now Jacob couldn't swim either, but he was fearless, he would jump off the diving board or in the deep water and fight his way to the top but needed help. They both needed to learn to swim. It's strange, I taught lessons for years, swam on the high school and college swim team and was a rescue swimmer in the Navy and I couldn't team them. So, they took lessons and still are. Now they can both swim across the pool by themselves. I'm so proud of both of them as they have worked so hard. Now we're working on surfing, because that's what we do at the Werkmeister house. Although Dasha has become a good swimmer, she won't go far into the ocean. Jacob on the other hand jumps right in, scares Kim to death. This summer I've been taking him out on the front of my 10 foot surf board we paddle out into the lineup and catch some waves. Kim was not too happy about this, as I snuck him out the first time when she wasn't looking. I think we'll get Dasha out soon, when Kim's not looking.

There's so much that's been happening, and Kim is a better writer than I am, so I'll let her fill in the blanks in the next entry. We are getting ready for school to start in three weeks. Amber starts seventh grade, Mitchell sixth, Dasha first grade and Jacob Kindergarten. The kids are excited as Amber looks forward to Junior High, Mitchell will be king of the school, Dasha gets to be in the class as her friend Delaney and Jacob finally gets to go to big kid school.

Now for court today. Our good friend and attorney Bill Crowe took care of all the legal documents and set our court date. The re-adoption process allows Dasha to have a U.S. birth certificate. Currently she has a Kazakhstan birth certificate that is hand written and in Russian. This would make getting her registered for school, a driver's license, marriage license etc. difficult, so it's pretty common for kids who are adopted internationally.
Bill has been so helpful and we're lucky to have good friends like Bill and Tricia Crowe. Anyway, it was quite an event, Rick and Pam (Kim's folks) and Barbara (My mom) attended. We went to the family court house in the city Orange. We went to our court room, which was for adopting families, there were at least 10 families there. It was nice to see so many people adopting kids. We had to wait for almost two hours before it was our turn. The deputy/bailiff was very nice and funny. When we entered the court room, the judge was so nice. Dasha was very nervous, not really knowing what to expect. The proceeding took less than 10 minutes, we had to sign the adoption paper work and then an amazing thing happened. Kim and I had both said less than 5 words, Bill took care of the details, but then the judge began talking to Jacob. The deputy had asked if there were any brothers or sisters of the adopted children. The deputy handed us a piece of paper. It was for the sibling. It said To Dasha Werkmeister, Name Jacob Werkmeister,

WE/I Accept as our/my responsibility and promise to be a loving and caring Brother.

The judge held the paper and began to ask Jacob questions. What is your name? I'm pretty sure we all held our breathe as Jacob is pretty shy around strangers. He instantly said, "Jacob"
Next, how old are you, "I'm five" The judge then began a series of questions, will you be a good brother? "Yes" Will you take care of your sister forever? "Yes." I can't remember all of the questions as some sort of dust or something was in my eyes and throat. I can tell you that Jacob did a great job, he spoke so well, and we were all so proud. Dasha was so nervous, and Jacob seemed to know he needed to stand up for his sister. Finally, the judge asked Jacob to sign the document, Jacob wrote his name on the line, he wrote slow and all of the letters were correct, sometimes, his "C" is backwards, not today. The judge took the document had the document stamped and shook Jacob's hand. Now Dasha will have her own birth certificate and promise from her brother that he will always love and care for her.