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September 17, 2009: Yikes! It's been too long since we updated!! We've been home just a little over four months now. Sarsina is doing so well. We started homeschool a month ago and that is going really well, too.. We are getting into a rhythm. The summer was pretty mellow and time is going by extremely fast. We just got back from visiting friends and family in Grand Junction, Colorado. It was a GREAT vacation. Many of my friends and some of family had not yet met the girls. I was able to spend time with my Grandma and really enjoyed seeing her. We also spent time with Patterson's sister and my neices. It's been a while since we have seen them. It was so great to see the all the cousins together again. We went up to the mountains (my favorite place in the world) and on the way home we hit the Arches National Park. I'll post pictures here in a few. We have A LOT!

Sarsina and I are going to have visitors today! Another adoptive mom, whom I have kept in contact via email, is bringing her daughter over today. They live in Colorado but are here visiting Susan's daughter who lives in Portland. Sarsina and Mekdes met while in Ethiopia and have been talking via the phone for several months now. It will be fun to meet Susan and fun to see S and M together. They have plans to do each other's hair, nails and, of course, we must make a Peet's run. Can't do hair and nails without coffee...

I'll post pics of our visit later today.

June 18, 2009: We have been home for almost six weeks already. I have had a lot of people asking me how things are going with Sarsina. I have meant to post several times about how things are going, but it just hasn’t been able to come out in words… at least not anything beyond, “It’s going great!”
Sarsina loves flowers! I saved planting my flower bed and vegetable garden for after we brought her home. She and Jeremiah planted the vegetable garden. We’ve also discovered she loves running. She brought us her book and showed us the word “marathon.” We bought her a pair of running shoes and boy does she run. She loves it. Patterson likes to run too so I am so glad they have something that just the two of them can do. She works hard on her English and is saying more and more every day. She also likes to clean and doesn’t like sitting around doing nothing! She keeps me going and going!
There were many nights I lay in bed at night thinking about her before we left for Ethiopia. When I would pray for her, there was a faith that ran so deep in my heart for her that it was as if the Lord said, “You don’t even need to ask. It is done.” She was born the same year as my first-born son. Little did I know that, in Ethiopia, there was also a newborn baby girl who would someday be mine. She has been through so much grief and loss. The Lord must have had his mighty hand surrounding and guarding her heart and spirit. She is an incredible girl. She has a sweet love for Jesus and her heart is so precious and full of joy. Her smile lights up the room. In some ways she can be like a little girl and then she goes back to being a young woman again. I am teaching her many things but in the process God is working on me. Being in a place where I realize I so desperately need the Lord has been so good for me. Some days I so easily forget how much I need Him. His glory and power has certainly been evident in the transition time these last few months!
To my sweet Lord, thank you for showing me this new level of love… for your lovingkindness and patience with me. Thank you for answering the prayers of our hearts for our family. You have knitted our hearts together like only you can do. From Francesca Battistelli’s song, “From the bottom of my heart I’ll sing to you, from the depths of who I am I love you, with everything inside I run to you because everything I’ve become I owe to you.”

June 7, 2009: Another weekend come and gone! Jennelle came to visit and yet another series of firsts ensued, most notably Sarsina had her first Chinese food and expiremented with chopsticks. She did not care for the wok-seared lamb but loved the spicy chicken. As you might notice from the flickr photos, we put beads in Sarsina's hair...yes "we." I helped and discovered newfound talent. I'm considering moonlighting as a professional bead installer. Sarsina fixed us another delightful ET meal but this time let Rachelle and I try our hand at cooking up some injera. Rachelle's looked lovely. Mine looked a bit like modern art. I offered it to Rosie (our dog), but she wouldn't eat it. Oh well, guess I'll stick with hairdressing.

May 31, 2009: We had another weekend full of "firsts!" Sarsina prepared us our first authentic, home-cooked Ethiopian meal: injera, shiro and collard greens! With the help of a makeshift mitad, aka Heritage Lefse Grill from Target, a 16" wok lid from Amazon, a 25-lb bag of teff from www.teffco.com, some spiced shiro from ET, and a little patience (as it took three days for her to prepare the injera starter), we had an incredibly tasty spread. Check out the pictures on the sidebar or at flickr. We also visited our next-door neighbors, who have been anxious to sit down and chat since we returned from ET and, lo' and behold, John had fixed up Gayle's old Schwinn for Sarsina! He was so proud and Gayle was so pleased, stating emphatically that she had saved the bicycle for years for some inexplicable reason but that now she knew why. It was so incredibly kind and thoughtful of them. As we walked the bike home I asked Sarsina if she knew how to ride a bike. She shook her head and said, "no!" She then looked at me, said "teacher" and hopped on the bike! She is nothing if not a courageous soul! So we went up and down the street a few times until she was out of breathe...ok, that's a lie. Her "teacher" was out of breath from running alongside of her straining to make sure no mishaps occurred. It was delightful. I got a few very odd looks from passersby, gaping at the panting, sweaty white guy pushing a vintage 1950 Schwinn down the street with a beautiful Ethiopian teenager perched atop trying to figure out how to peddle! Good stuff. We then retired to the living room, sat on the couch and perused the Amharic phrase book. I learned to say, "I believe in God," but of course promptly forgot. We then spent a precious half-hour going line by line through several pages of the book with Sarsina saying a word in Amharic, followed by a pathetic attempt on my part to repeat her, followed by me saying the word in English, followed by Sarsina repeating me. We laughed a great deal, mostly at me, as I apparently have a propensity for inserting extra syllables into Amharic words. It wasn't exactly a conversation, but I liked it a lot. Who knows what might happen tomorrow!?

May 30, 2009: Make sure and check out the new "home" page for our site, as we updated photos. You may want to hover over an image to see the "real" us! Click on Sarsina to get back to this page.

May 28, 2009: By far the most frequent question I get as of late is, "How is Sarsina adjusting to life in America?" It is frankly a difficult question to answer as our communication is so limited at this point. However, she is ever quick to smile and laugh and seems outwardly to be very happy and adjusting marvelously. She was able to speak with her cousin, Josh, last night. He is 12 and lives in Missouri. Josh has been in the US for about a year and speaks very good English along with Amharic. I chatted with him for a few moments and he asked how Sarsina was doing. I told him we thought she was doing very well but that it was difficult to communicate and so, asked him how he thought she was doing (this was their second time talking on the phone since we brought Sarsina home). He said, "Well, she seems to be doing better..." followed by an ominous pause, I thought to myself - oh no, here it comes! My imagination spun wildly for those terrible miliseconds: she probably told him that her new dad is a goof or her new brothers smell bad (she would have a valid point on both counts, after all) or Lord only knows! Fortunately, Josh went on to say that, "Last time we talked, she wasn't speaking any English, but she seems to be doing much better this time!" Blessed relief! I chuckled, "Yeah, she is doing better." Josh told her that she needed to speak to him in English. Gotta love that boy. Anyhow, everyday is a new adventure in learning and discovery for all of us and we continue to be humbled and awed by God's grace and goodness and mercy.

May 18, 2009: So we went to the doctor yesterday. As we left the house, we realized we left behind the Amharic dictionary! No problem, right? The word doctor in Amharic oddly enough sounds pretty much like "doctor," and we figured we could pantomime anything else. When we arrived at the doctor's office, Sarsina was visibly nervous and we did our best to be lighthearted and jovial about the whole thing, that is until the doctor arrived. I don't know if she had a migraine, had just come from a Medicare audit or just hated my shirt, but things got off on the wrong foot! She began to ask inappropriate and inconsiderate questions about why we were adopting an older child and about when we were going to put Sarsina in "regular" school instead of home school. We tried to redirect her to the point of the visit: physical examination of Sarsina and help with TB testing, but she seemed lost and clueless! TB testing? Blood tests? Immunizations? "Well, I could look it up on a our chart and see what immunizations she should have but is she allergic to anything? Can I see her medical records?" It should be noted at this point, that she asked for Sarsina's medical records precisely 327 times in less than 30 minutes time. Apparently she didn't understand the phrase, "We do not have any medical history!" She refused to give Sarsina any immunizations until we could find an interpreter and quiz her about her medical history. I tried to gently explain that she had no medical history but to no avail. She then kindly asked us to return with an interpreter, at our expense, and to schedule a follow-up appointment...thank you very much. We retreated to the lobby to regroup and, within mere seconds, I managed to embarrass my wife, horrify my daughter and alienate a couple innocent bystanders. Yeah, I was mad. Much to my wife's dismay, I marched back in and had a little chat with the doctor. Lets just say we will be looking for another doctor. When I returned to the car, my wife was a tiny bit dissatisfied with me and Sarsina looked about ready to burst into tears. I don't know what she was thinking, although it was pretty obvious that we were unhappy. When we arrived at home, Rachelle and I continued our "discussion" in the driveway while Sarsina went inside. When we finally concocted a game plan for explaining to Sarsina what had just happened, we went inside only to find that she had gone to her room and taken a nap. So we waited. I felt a lot like I used to feel when my mom would say to me, "wait til your father gets home," and had to wait ALL afternoon for his return and the impending consequences! Finally she woke up, Rachelle and I went to sit with her on her bed, and we explained that we had had a disagreement with the doctor, that Sarsina was fine, in fact miraculously healthy, and that sometimes mommy and daddy have disagreements but that we still love each other. She seemed to understand and we hugged and smiled and thus ended our first communication crisis.

May 14, 2009: Just wanted to write an update on how things have been going this week. In one word: Amazing. Sarsina has adjusted so well to everything. She has faced so much with such courage. She has a great sense of humor and can be so silly. She fits right in. The boys just love her and she has just jumped right in and taken her place as a sister, daughter, and granddaughter. We are a very physically affectionate family and I wondered how she would do with that. The first morning we were home, she climbed in bed with me. She has been so loving, freely giving hugs, kisses and snuggles. I love it because I've missed 14 years of hugs, kisses and snuggles. God is giving me make-up time. She kicks me out of the kitchen and insists on doing the dishes. She helps me do everything. Saturday we are headed to the nursery to pick out flowers. I saved all my gardening for when she was home. There are so many "firsts" that we are having. We made a chocolate cake yesterday, she had her first squirt of whipped cream out of a can right into her mouth,and her first bit of ice cream. When we were in the store yesterday she picked up hot dogs and wanted to know what they were. Patterson and I tried to tell her by saying all different kinds of animals in Amharic. It was hilarious. She looked at us like we were crazy and then burst out laughing. I think when we said, "dog" (wusha in Amharic), her eyes got wide. Well, they are hot dogs... who knows what's in there. I'm not sure she will try them now. Oh well. Seriously, she is quite the young lady. I am enjoying watching her be a girl, too, as she chases her brothers around with a nerf gun, blows bubbles and seeing her walk in the garden, touching flowers and plants, with a look on her face as if, "Hmmm, wonder what these are?" Tomorrow we head to the zoo. The boys are so excited to show her everything. Thanks to all of you who have prayed for us. God has truly blessed us beyond all our expectations - R.

May 13, 2009: We have begun to chronicle our trip in detail on the Travel Log page.

May 12, 2009 B: Click here for a photo slideshow (Windows Movie) of some of our Ethiopia pictures!

May 12, 2009: It's official: my crash course in parenting a teenage daughter has begun. Yesterday we went to Kohl's in search of jeans and tennis shoes. I didn't much like it. I found myself repeating the following phrases: "don't they make them baggier than that?" - "have you considered www.MennoniteClothes4Girls.com?" - "does she really need to go out in public?" I know what some of you are thinking, "welcome to my world!" But you are missing one extremely important point: my daughter is better looking than yours. My heart breaks every time I look at her. When she smiles at me, I want to put the entirety of Kohl's on my credit card. I asked Rachelle while we were shopping if there was anyway to make Sarsina uglier...she thought I was joking. One thing is clear, after having watched young men watching Sarsina...I will be in jail soon, having beaten the life out of some hormonal teenage boy. I'm seriously considering renewing my concealed weapons permit...maybe you should pray for me.

May 11. 2009 B: Click here for the updates we wrote while in ET.

May 11, 2009: We are home. We were obviously not able to update the website while we were there. We will post our updates here that we wrote while we were there in a little while. We had an awesome trip. Sarsina is doing so well. She has attached marvelously and is affectionate and so sweet and eager to please. She is quite the young lady. This morning she came in and climbed in bed with me!! She has so much to learn and soak in with all her new surroundings. The boys just love her. Rebekah ran to her at the airport and hugged as if they were long lost sisters. Well, there is too much to say. I think we will start with posting the updates we wrote and go from there. God did some amazing, miraculous things while we were there. I just can't thank Him enough for what He has done - Rachelle

May 1, 2009: And they're off!!! All packed, well-rested (yeah right!), nothing left undone (except that one thing, whatever it was?), the very epitome of optimism (our flight out is only "slightly" delayed this morning)! Seriously though, we feel your prayers (please don't stop!). We were able to do a last-minute re-arrange and get seats together on our flight out, which was a definite answer to prayer. We had a minor technical crisis last night. I'll spare you the details, but by the grace of God, we arrived at miraculous resolve! A friend asked me last night if I felt truly ready, heart, spirit and mind, for this adventure. My confession was that there are times in life were I am tempted to try to accomplish things in my own strength, on my own initiative and that this is NOT one of those times. We feel such an extreme dependence upon God and, I think in part because of the extremity, I feel largely at peace. How can we possibly be prepared to walk into a shack in Ethiopia and meet our new 14-year-old daughter?!? I haven't a clue! But we're about to find out! In the poignant and apropos words of Helen Keller: "Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing!" I vote for adventure!

April 29, 2009: My co-workers threw us a "teen" shower for our new arrival: potluck and presents and decorations and all! It was extremely thoughtful. They like to see me open girl presents. They think it makes me embarrassed...but I've got 'em fooled. Truthfully I was turning red from Betty's salsa. Seriously. Anyhow, the support and encouragement was tremendous. I opened one of the cards and read "Instant Teen!" - pretty much sums it up.

April 24, 2009: What an incredible whirlwind of emotions: standing in Walmart, wandering the clearance racks trying to make the donations we have received stretch as far as possible - children's vitamins, boys sweatshirts, etc. There are so many, many "things" at Walmart, overwhelming; so many "things" that we take for granted. It was tremendously humbling and such an immense blessing to fill a cart with important things for orphans on the other side of the world. In the course of visiting a few stores, I was able to share our story (it's your story to you know!) with checkers and clerks and cashiers. "School shopping?," some would ask. "Nope, these are for an orphanage in Africa," I would happily reply. "Wow! Incredible! Wonderful!," was the general consensus. I got lots of help and even some discounts. Like I said, humbling, heart-breaking, great and glorious fun all rolled into one! Thank you to all of you who helped via donations, prayers, moral support and otherwise. So here is what we have contributed thus far: two dozen shirts, a dozen pairs of pants, over a dozen pairs of shoes, a half dozen sweatshirts, two dozen bars of soap, 1000 children's vitamins, two reams of drawing paper, 150 crayons, five backpacks, two stethoscopes, two otoscopes, 48 AAA batteries for the otoscopes, fruit snacks for all of the orphans, four large bottles of antibacterial sanitizer, 12 pillow cases, stickers for all of the orphans, 48 mechanical pencils, stretchy bright-colored assorted little animals for all of the orphans, and we think we will be able to take close to another $200 or so to Ethiopia to purchase food for the orphanage! Now just pray that we can get it all into our luggage!

April 16, 2009: We are leaving in two weeks! While in Ethiopia, we will be taking Sarsina and Jeremiah to visit Kingdom Vision International's orphanage. You can visit their site at www.kingdomvisioninternational.org. When we went to the China, we had the privilege of visiting Harmony House, which is a severe special needs orphanage. We took supplies to them and it was a real blessing to deliver the donations.

We are going to take as many supplies/donations as we can get in our luggage. If you would like to help donate items or send a monetary gift to help purchase items, you can do that via PayPal by sending funds to adoption@thecakefamily.com. Here is the latest list of things they need:

Diapers

Baby wipes

twin bed sheets

pillowcases

Lacing cards

bars of soap

backpacks

We are going to have to get these things together quick! We will also be taking fun things/food to hand out to the children when we arrive. We will make sure and take a lot of pictures and share them when we get home!

 

April 13, 2009: We got more pictures! The family that traveled sent us some more pictures this morning. They also have a video that we should be getting soon! We heard yesterday that the agency is not moving Sarsina to the transition home. She will stay in her home with her older brother until we arrive. We feel this will be so much better for her. It will just be one less transition she has to make, especially because we leave in 17 days. We have been in contact with a few families with whom we will be meeting while in Ethiopia. The boys and Rebekah will be spending the week with my parents. They are headed to the beach in the RV and have a lot of plans. They will be leaving the same morning we are so everyone is very excited. I'll post more updates as I get them.

April 1, 2009: Yee-haw!! We have our itinerary and got some awesome info on Sarsina today. Here's a little exerpt from our friend, who visited Sarsina a few weeks ago.

Sarzina was very quiet, so it is hard to know how much English that she knows. She acted much like our girls in that I think that a good respectable girl doesn't say much. She made us tea and gave us some bread, she had a darling little kitten that she held on her lap and fed some bread. She waited on us and her brother and uncle. She did all of the cooking of the water and set out the food for us.She seems like she is really ready to come to the US and live with you. She laughed at the story of your daughter calling her the Mei Mei. She was pleased that you were a christian family. I really think that she will do well with you and that she will be easy to love

Rebekah calls her sister, Sarsina, Mei Mei. That is Chinese for sister. She says she is going to talk to her Sarsina all day and all night. I believe she will! She asked if she could sleep in Sarsina's bed with her. I told her no; she shrugged her shoulders and continued on with all the other things she will do with her. I don't think Rebekah quite understands how much older Sarsina will be than her. She brings me clothes that are too big for her and tells me her Mei Mei can wear them. It really is sweet.

We went shopping tonight to pick up a few things for the trip. It is already so much fun to get ready. Jeremiah is insanely excited to go. We will be visiting a few orphanges and taking donations. It will the trip of a lifetime for him.

I'll keep adding pictures as we get them.

March 31, 2009: We got an embassy date for May 6th. We will be leaving May 1st and returning on Mother's Day, May 10th. We fly from Portland to the Netherlands and from there to Addis Ababa. It's amazing we got a flight with only one layover! We got new pictures this morning of Sarsina, too, which we will post later tonight!!

March 27, 2009: We are FINALLY the official parents of Sarsina Elizabeth Cake!!!! We can say her Ethiopian name now on our website!!! I got so tired of updating lousy news. I just couldn't bring myself to type anything. We had a court date in January but we didn't pass. The judge wanted more information on the death of Sarsina's father. We were then given a new court date for February. On the week of that court date, we found out the Ministry of Women's Affairs (they represent the Ethiopian childn in court) decided to move so our court was cancelled. At that point they moved our court date to seven weeks later. We were so devastated. That court date was March 26th, which was yesterday. We are so thankful that we have finally made it 16 months later, almost to the day. We will find out our travel dates next week. We are hoping for early/mid May. To say that we are relieved is a major understatement. Even though we have had many disappointments, God has been so faithful and He has walked with us through everything. We love Him so much!!! We've had three families visit Sarsina in Ethiopia for us. They have all said she is incredibly sweet and shy. We know she must very nervous and scared about the changes that are coming. Pray for her!!! Pray that the Lord will comfort her and bring peace to her heart and mind. She is loved SO MUCH already by so many people. We are believing for a miraculous adjustment for her!!

January 7, 2009: We have news of Elizabeth!!! Our friend Holly is in Ethiopia and took the time to see Elizabeth. As she is still living in her late grandmother's home, Holly had to have someone take her to Elizabeth's home. She emailed me from Ethiopia to let me know she found her!! This was the best birthday present. I have been praying for several weeks that God would make a way for us to hear about Elizabeth and that He would send someone to see her and check on her. Holly emailed me last week out of nowhere and told me she wanted to find Elizabeth and visit her for us while she is in Ethiopia!! What a blessing! Holly lives in Texas and I've never even met her! Here is what she wrote:

Merry Ethiopian Christmas! I come bearing gifts.... Mia and I got the awesome pleasure of meeting Elizabeth yesterday! I have been dying to tell you, but the internet was down until just now. Rachelle, she is a great girl! She seems very responsible and happy. I didn't have my video camera because I gave mine to Donna to use, but Mia and Adrian did, so we videoed an interview that Ayele, our driver, interpreted for us. I can tell you her favorite color, subject in school, sport, dreams, etc. We'll burn you a disk as soon as we get home. Oh, and we also left her a monetary gift for Christmas. You are very blessed!

We were so thankful and grateful to the Lord and to Holly!! Thank you, Jesus, for Holly!! Thank you, Holly, for finding our daughter, for taking video and leaving her with money. I know she must need it! We have two weeks until our second court date. It couldn't come soon enough.

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