Of Home Studies, Home Runs & Home Movings

I remember as an 18-year-old writing about what life would be like at 30. Though I usually am pretty darn amazing at taking tests, I totally would have flunked this one.

I did not anticipate falling in love with a former enemy and getting married so stinkin’ young, as I once thought was the forte of women who couldn’t hack it in school. I never saw any career other than classical pianist in my future. I never guessed I would have graduated from a place that has the ugliest football field in the world. I never foresaw living in Europe, or having more than one child, or having any in my 20s, or running marathons pregnant, or parenting a teenager who was only 11 years younger than me.

I never planned for graduate school partially at Oxford in something that wasn’t piano or journalism!

And I definitely didn’t see this one coming: hosting a random American guy from Germany at my British house so he could judge my fitness as a parent to an Eastern European child whom I’ve never met.


Nick, Avinly and I with Randy Barlow, our home study agency head hauncho

So here’s the deal: one of the first major steps to any adoption is the home study. Basically, you fill out a small book about every detail in your life. Ever. Like, what was the most traumatic part of your childhood? What five words would you choose to describe your father? What does a typical fight between you and your husband look like? Does your pet harbor violent fantasies against other species? How ’bout them Dodgers?

After talking about yourself, your spouse, your children, your family and your neighbor from the second grade, you gather 10,000 documents. Pretty much, if someone somewhere has written anything about you, your spouse or your children, the home study agency wants to see it.

Then, a man flies in from another country, examines your home and talks to you. A lot. He determines how many children you will be able to adopt (for us: one) and what sorts of special needs they might have (we checked off a whole laundry list of conditions we could or could not live with). Because we have our eye on our girl already, that was relatively easy.

A few minor background checks (or, if you’re military, the same amount as the freckles on Jack’s face) later, and you’ll have a completed home study.


We are waiting on Washington to run my name through the system from my freshman year of college and say, “Nope, she doesn’t even have a parking ticket.” Apparently, that takes over a month. It doesn’t help, either, that the Air Force lost a very important packet of notarized paperwork concerning our background checks. So that’s already set us back at least a month.

Once you have a completed home study, you can turn in your i800 form to the States. This is pretty much permission from the government to adopt from another Hague Convention country. Once we have that, we can turn in our dossier to Abigail’s home country. And once they accept that (typically between three to six months), we can visit our girl!

In other words, Washington, we’re waiting on you. Get your act together.


Jude, meanwhile, is waiting on his 21st birthday and first marathon, apparently.

In the meantime, we’ve been fundraising. First, with an online auction that my Eugene friend (GO DUCKS!) Jennifer organized. Then, with a  Father’s Day photo shoot where each family got a 30-minute session for 20 pounds (a little over $31 at the moment) at a local park. I shot seven families in two days, and some of them were so sweet!

Babies with bubbles, little boys with their dads, and future track stars = all photogenic home runs, in my book.

The third fundraiser, just one week after the photo shoots, was a garage sale. The less said about that, the better.

Even so, we’ve had some incredibly generous friends who have just wowed our socks off in the last month.

I’ve been in the adoption community for a long time. And it’s quite common for a family to “go solo,” AKA raise every penny themselves with nary a single donation from anyone, even family. While we totally understand that you can’t give to every good cause out there, it still sort of shocks us when we hear stories like that, especially from Christians who’ve been attending their church for years, even decades.

Thankfully, that has not been the case with us. We haven’t made any outright requests, and yet people have been giving. Many of the donors haven’t even met us in real life, or in one missionary family’s case, only for five minutes at Heathrow. Still, friends and blog readers have been messaging us, saying, “We feel that God has called you to this, and we want to join in.”

As someone who hates asking people for help or money, I can’t even begin to tell you how many times over the last few weeks and month I have been humbled to the point of lump-in-throat (because, as my Aunt Penny likes to remind everyone, I only cry at sporting events).


Adoption is a roller coaster. But Avinly likes slides better, so here you go.

Besides having lumps in my throat, I’m guessing I have a few knots in my back. This last month has been crazy-stressful.

Compiling dossier documents. Two local fundraisers, including a massive garage sale that required dozens of hours of sorting and the help of some awesome (forgiving, too, I might add) friends. Shipping items from the online auction. A fatty 3,000-word article due. Several queries turned in. My phone is dead. Nick had minor surgery on Tuesday which requires him to be on bedrest for three days. Except we moved the next day to a house on base (FYI to my Americans: our PSC address is unchanged). And now I’m looking at mountains of boxes, knowing they have dozens more cousins arriving this afternoon, and that they expect to be unpacked. Part of me wants to blast them into smithereens, or at least ignore them forever, but I suppose that’s not good box/military/moving etiquette.

Did I forget to mention that we have a 24-hour travel day to America next week with three small children and a layover in Iceland? In one week?

I’ve been repeating Proverbs 3:5-6 a lot to myself the past two months: “Trust in the Lord with ALL YOUR HEART and LEAN NOT ON YOUR OWN UNDERSTANDING. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” (The capitalized bits are usually where I raise my voice to myself, along with a little, “So quit freaking out, Crystal!”).

So if you sense a little tension in me, you know what to do. Pray that Washington’s check gets back (!) very soon. Donate to our fund, if you feel led. Brainstorm fundraising ideas with me. Once my phone gets fixed, call me and speak in soothing tones, as you would to someone about to jump off a cliff while sleepwalking. Email me with bits of gossip from back home.

Send me chocolate. Like the color of her eyes — the girl whose existence is making every moment of panic and “I just can’t DO THIS ANYMORE!” worth it.

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