With just a few words, a stranger in a foreign land at the US Embassy sealed the deal..."Your adoption is now complete..." and with that short but powerful statement we officially a family 7, and just counting the hours until we can introduce you all to Hope Mahlet and Zak Sitota in person.
We awoke this morning after a good rest for everyone (except for Candi, who got about 4 hours sleep, which doubled the number of hours for her over the previous 2 days). Zak, Hope, and I slept in the bed and Candi slept on the couch. We went to bed around 7:00, and they are on a tight routine and were out by 7:15. Zak continues to cry for a good bit, but his number of crying spells was only about 3-4 today, and they were much more controlled and didn't last as long, so he is obviously able to cope much better even after just 24 hours. Zak managed to fall out of the bed in the middle of the night - quite impressive given he was in the middle of Hope and I and he had to either roll over or around her to make it to the floor with a rather loud thud on the hardwood floor. Even more impressive is that he wimpered a little, but was so far asleep that he didn't even wake up and was back asleep in no time. (note to self - ask Mimi and Papa to lower Zak's bed off the risers at home and to get some bed rails before we get home if possible).
Just after breakfast we got our first bit of good news from our Agency - our afternoon Embassy appointment has been moved to 10:30, so we leave in just a half hour - so time to get ready. So we get Hope and Zak dressed and try to pack our itty bitty diaper bag with everything we need for what could be a few hours away. We got our ride about 10:00, and headed into the Embassy, which we figured out when we arrived is the largest and nicest Embassy in all of Africa. They are serious about their security, so no phones, cameras, or pictures, but after only a 45 minute wait, Hope Mahlet and Zak Sitota are officially ours, and we can't wait to share them with you, as we are already love them just like Sarah Beth, Haley, and Carter, and they are very much now a part of our family.
On our way home, it was apparent that the excitement of the day had gotten the most of Zak Sitota, as he fell asleep sitting up in the seat right next to me in the middle of a bite of animal crackers, and at the same time, he gave us some hope that our plane ride home may have some promise! We got the back to the hotel, and laid Zak down in his bed and there he slept for nearly 4 hours!!! Candi got a much needed rest as well, as I took Hope to lunch downstairs and we had a little father-daughter bonding. We are glad to have several families with children our kids ages here this week, as Hope was able to join a friend and their family for a little play date while mommy slept and daddy was off trying to get our bags cleared through customs (long story and I need to know the punchline before I share the story). I return from my journey after about 2 hours and come to the room next door where Hope is, and as I walk in, I see her face light up, jump out of bed a give me the biggest hug that a new dad could ask for...bigger indeed as there are plenty of walls that Hope has put up, and it will be a slow methodical process to tear down those barriers and get her to love and trust us as we already do her.
This day was again a day of firsts, and I suspect that with each coming day both we and Zak and Hope will be experiencing things for the first time...some of which invoke some anxiety and fear, and some that will simply be the first of many joyful experiences that we are able to now experience as a family. As I mentioned, Zak had his first great nap, and he cried MUCH MUCH less today. Hope had her first sip of juice through a straw - and we got a great video of the look on her face - PRICELESS. She also got to experience the automatic flusher while she was on the potty at the US Embassy - it truly is the little things, but she has no idea of the new things she is about to experience, and it is up to us as parents to prepare them as best we can to ensure that they can embrace these new things and grow with them rather than live the next several months in fear of the unknown.
Can't wait to get home...dying to Skype with Sarah Beth, Haley, and Carter, but our window to talk is very short, and it's been impossible so far. Mommy and I love you all dearly and can't wait to talk on Thursday morning - so make sure you are up and ready :).
We are not quite homesick yet, as we are having so much fun getting to know the nuances and quirks of our children...but we'll be there around hour 14 on our flight home. For those of you who can join us at the airport on Friday (3:22 on Delta coming in from ATL), we will be a little delirious, and the kids will undoubtedly have some shell-shocked looks on their faces, but I assure you that they and we are doing very well, and we can wait to see you all.