Second Empire 5K Classic

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Back to life, back to I'm back in Raleigh after spending a week in Pittsburgh for Christmas with the family.  We drove 8 hours back to Raleigh yesterday, so I'm a little exhausted.  And by drive I mean curl up in the fetal position under a blanket in the passenger seat while my boyfriend piloted my car through rain, snow, and freezing wiper fluid for the majority of the trip.  It's good to be back in the south. 

I wanted to let everyone know (very much ahead of time) about an awesome event to promote adoption coming up in Raleigh: Second Empire Restaurant and Tavern (yes, THE Second Empire) is proud to present the 10th Annual Second Empire 5K Classic.  The race date will be held Sunday, May 2, 2010 at 2:00 PM.  The event will feature the CU Fitness Center Pump 'n Run Competition.


The race will be celebrating adoption this year with proceeds benefiting NC Hopeful Parents. The mission of Hopeful Parents is to support, educate, and celebrate with members of the adoption triad. More specifically: to assist prospective adoptive parents in preparing to adopt, to provide community support for adoptive families and to honor birth families through charity.

This year’s event will include competitive and non-competitive 5Ks, a 1 mile fun run, as well as a kids dash. There will also be an expo area to learn more about adoption and supporting organizations.

For more information, visit the website at: and don't forget to become a fan of "Second Empire 5K Classic" on Facebook.

I was invited to serve on the planning committee for this event, and I've met some pretty cool people involved in the adoption triad.  It's kind of a neat story.  The owner of Second Empire, Kim Reynolds, saw the article in the News & Observer about our adoption this past Mothers' Day, and she contacted me about joining her in planning this event to promote adoption.  It's funny how things have panned out from there.  We have a Public Relations agency working with us, and I've learned so much about event planning.  If Kim hadn't read the newspaper that day in May, I would have never had the opportunity to plan such an awesome event to benefit a cause that I care so much about--adoption.  This was either a case of being in the right place at the right time, or part of God's plan.  I'm gonna go with option two. 

So come on, bust out the old running shoes.  Even if you don't live in Raleigh, make it a weekend trip!  I hope that you will support and celebrate adoption by participating in this awesome event.

Open Adoption and Christmas

Friday, December 18, 2009

This past weekend marked the first time that Robbie, Deanna, and I--just the three of us--got to spend some alone time together since Deanna was born.  As De pointed out, this time was (hopefully) much less stressful than the first time (in the hospital).  When Robbie and I arrived in South Carolina on Saturday afternoon, Don asked us if we would mind babysitting that evening while he took his wife out on a date.  Robbie and I have never babysat Deanna before.  I had no idea what to expect!

After Don and De left for their date, Robbie and I let Deanna open her Christmas presents.  Robbie got her a huge Tinkerbell craft set, a Cinderella blanket, and a Disney Princess sweatshirt.  I got her a storybook creator craft, a Sleeping Beauty snow globe, and a book called Pinkalicious.  We spent the rest of the night playing with her toys.  The Tinkerbell craft set that Robbie got Deanna was a hit!  It even came with a little paint-sprayer.  That gift required alot of adult supervision.  I was afraid Don and De's couch would be painted green by the time they returned home later that evening.  Deanna's fine motor skills are exceptionally advanced for a four-year-old, and she managed to keep every bit of paint on the paper.  Whew!

Then it was bath time.  After Deanna's naked lap around the house, we managed to contain her and get her settled into the tub.  Once she was actually in the tub, bath time was much easier than I thought it would be. She loves playing with her bath toys, and she even knows how to wash herself.  It was a piece of cake!  I still can't believe she's not a little babe anymore.  I laugh when she calls me "Amy Hutton."  Robbie is just "Robbie"  but I'm "Amy Hutton."  Isn't it funny that she calls me by my full name?  I think she thinks that I have a double-name like many girls in the South.

After bath time, we read three books (including the ever-popular Pinkalicious) and put her into bed.  Robbie laid beside her and scratched her back until he thought she was finally asleep.  As he quietly tiptoed out of her room, Deanna said quietly, "Goodnight Robbie."  

We are so blessed to be able to experience Deanna this way.  I realized after Deanna was asleep, just how much work it takes to raise a child.  It's 24/7!  While I enjoyed every second of our visit, I was exhausted!  We played and played and player some more.  And I noticed something when we were playing.  Deanna loves playing with baby dolls.  When we were playing with her dolls, she would say to me, "Pretend you're the big sister."  This happened a few times throughout the weekend.  I think this is significant because my guess is that as Deanna gets older, she will probably start to identify with me as being more of a sisterly figure than a motherly figure.  After all, we are only 18 years apart.  As she gets older, I hope she feels comfortable enough to tell me anything and everything that you would normally disclose to an older sister.  Yeah, we've got a great relationship now, but I'm excited to see what the next few years of our lives will bring.

I'm not sure whether we will continue these Christmas visits or not, but as long as Deanna, Don, and De are happy seeing us, we would love to make visiting South Carolina every December a tradition for many years to come.  Aside from watching Clark Griswold flying down a snowy hillside on a sled coated with non-nutritive cereal varnish every Christmas, visiting Deanna last week has been my favorite Christmas memory yet. 

This post was written for Open Adoption Roundtable #11
"Write about open adoption and the holiday season."

Blonde Moments and Christmas Visits

Friday, December 11, 2009

I had an interesting morning.  It started with me running late...and it ended with me burning my hand.  Okay, I'm embarrassed to admit it, but sometimes I can be a bit ditsy.  When I was in 6th grade, I asked my mom how to make popcorn.  She said, "take it out of the box, put it in the microwave, and press the popcorn button." (in a slightly sarcastic tone that meant I should have known how to make popcorn by age 12).  So I followed her instructions exactly.  But she never mentioned anything about taking the popcorn out of the plastic bag!  It became known as the infamous popcorn debacle of 1999.  Our kitchen smelled terrible for days, and I was banned from cooking for the majority of my adolescent and young adult years.

Then, a few years later, I became a member of Team GAP.  That's right, I worked my way through college by constantly tidying piles of messy clothes and convincing customers that they needed to purchase that amazingly colorful cable-knit.  I hated it.  When I first began, they put me in charge of cleaning out the fitting rooms.  The fitting rooms were always messy, and I dreaded it.  One day, in the midst of the holiday shopping season, I was in extreme stress mode.  I walked into a very messy fitting room, grabbed three pairs of pants that were strewn about the floor, walked out of the fitting room, folded each of them and put them back neatly on the shelf.  As I was folding the last pair, however, I noticed that they were exceptionally warm, and they necessarily didn't look like the style of jeans that we typically sell.  Not thinking much of it, I lackadaisically placed them on the jean shelf.  Moments later, I noticed a man modeling a pair of jeans for his girlfriend outside of the fitting room I had just cleaned.  SHOOOT!  I had a moment of panic as I realized that I had folded the pants that the man came into the store wearing.  I had just put his own pants on the shelf to sell!  Wallet, keys, and all.  How in the world could I be so clumsy???  I raced across the store, grabbed his pants off the shelf, and hastily threw them back into his fitting room before he returned from modeling the jeans for his laayyydayyy.  The man never noticed, but my co-workers never let me live it down.

Okay, so back to how I burned my hand this morning.  As I was rushing to get ready for work, I grabbed the pants that I planned on wearing today.  But the pockets on the rear were sticking straight up!  Darn.  I didn't have time to heat up the iron downstairs, but hey--wait a minute!  My curling iron was still hot.  I put my pants on the toilet lid, and pressed the hot iron over the first pocket.  Yes!  It worked.  Then, I moved to the next one.  I pressed the iron over the second pocket.  But this pocket was being stubborn.  So I tried to strategically "roll" the curling iron over it.  Bad idea.  I looked down and realized that the most vulnerable and tender part of my hand was pressed firmly against the hot curling iron. YOOWWWZZAAAAHHH!   Yes, it hurt.  Anyways, long story short, even though I may seem wise beyond my years, I still do have the occasional ditsy/clumsy/blonde moment many years after the infamous popcorn debacle. You may have noticed that in my blog description I have the words, "accident-prone" in describing myself.  Now you know why.

I have some great news that doesn't involve burnt popcorn, warm pants, or scolded palms.  I'm going to be driving down to South Carolina with Robbie tomorrow morning to visit Deanna.  I'm so excited!  Robbie and I decided that since we both really wanted to visit Deanna and the Dollars before Christmas, we might as well make the 3-hour trek together.  We're going to give Deanna her Christmas presents too.  This is the first year that we'll be able to see Deanna open her gifts, so I'm really looking forward to seeing that and spending some alone time with Don and De.  They're such great people.  Check back soon for pictures and updates on our fun-filled family Christmas visit.

Here are Deanna's latest gymnastic pictures...

Can you believe how big she is getting?  She's such a sweet pea.

"Save the Neck for Me, Clark"

Monday, December 7, 2009

I have the best job in the world.  Seriously.  I can't tell you exactly what I do or I'd have to kill you....and because that's not really the purpose of my blog.  However, the trade show in Chicago was AMAZING!  And I even got to catch up with my good friend Billy.  I love what I do, and I love the people I work with,.  How many people can truthfully claim that????  Yes, I am blessed.

I often find myself wondering how I landed such an awesome job fresh out of school.  I think alot if it has to do with the fact that I always want Deanna to be proud of me.  I worked my butt off in school, in my extracurriculars, and in every single aspect of my life after the adoption.  I really did.  Because when Deanna gets older, I hope she looks back at all of the things I did with my life, and I hope she sees that I truly made something of myself.  She's my motivation.

Here are some pictures from Thanksgiving and Chicago...

Caitlin has been my best friend since 1st grade.  We used to take our "first-day-of-school" pictures right here in front of my fireplace.   She thinks little babe looks just like me as a child.  Fun fact: Caitlin and I both had mono at about the same time...but we never came in contact with each other!   We're so much alike.

This is my dad and I on Thanksgiving.  My dad is the 7th of 10 children.  For coming from such a large family, he's surprisingly even-keeled and extremely easygoing.  And he can fix anything.  When I found out I was pregnant, my dad gave me a big hug and told me I was really taking the hard way.  But he stayed calm, in even the most intense and difficult situation, and I'm so thankful for that.

I'm so thankful for my grandparents.  This is my grandma and I on Thanksgiving.  She's stayed youthful and spry, despite double knee replacement last year.  And she absolutely loves playing Wii Fit!  Last year, she made Deanna a pillowcase with her name on it and Deanna loves it.  Deanna calls my grandma and pappap to talk every once in a while, and I'm thankful that they are able to maintain a relationship with their favorite (okay, and only) great-grandchild.

My family likes to hold an extreme talent show and play charades after Thanksgiving dinner...What, your family doesn't do that too???

I'm hoping to make a trip to South Carolina soon to see Don, De, and Deanna before Christmas.  I'll keep you all updated.

"Save the neck for me, Clark!"
-Cousin Eddie, Christmas Vacation

Signing off, I'm Amstel Light.  That's all folks!

Chicago, Here I Come!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving break was so incredibly relaxing.  Besides visiting family and friends and doing a little shopping, I did close to nothing and I absolutely loved it.  Sometimes I forget how to stop working, writing, perfecting.  It's nice to be able to put away the old laptop and cell phone and just relax  :)

On Thanksgiving day, we went to my uncle Marty and aunt Sue's house.  There were a ton of people there!  I'd say at one point there were at least 25 people in one house.  We stuffed ourselves silly, held a huge family talent show on the piano, and played charades and trivial pursuit. Then we watched Brian Regan stand-up comedy.  What a way to end the night!  "Ohhhh, show horses!"

Tomorrow morning I'm heading to Chicago for a radiology trade show for work.  Then I'll be going back home to Raleigh on Thursday.  I'm looking forward to working hard during the day, having some fun at night with my colleagues, and visiting one of my very best friends, Billy.  Billy and I swam together since middle school, and we have remained good friends. He's working in Chicago, and we're planning on meeting up at some point while I'm there.  I'm looking forward to catching up with him and reminiscing about old (good) times during swim team and such.  Like the time we were life guarding a rec swim together and we couldn't get the attention of an older gentleman who was still swimming laps when it was time to shut the pool down.  Always resourceful, Billy conjured up a large poking device from pool noodles and after several unsuccessful attempts, we finally prodded old man swimmer hard enough to get his attention so we could go home.  I think that story pretty much sums up our relationship. 

Chicago, here I come!

Back to the 'Burgh

Monday, November 23, 2009

I'm flying back home tonight for Thanksgiving break.  Back to good old Moon Township, Pennsylvania.  I'm super excited to see all my crazy/wonderful/amazing family and friends.  But at the same time, I still get apprehensive about going home.  The truth is, when I go back to Pittsburgh, it brings back so many memories from my senior year of high school.  And I don't like those memories.  I don't like them at all.

I left Pittsburgh when I was 7 months pregnant, moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, had the little babe, and I never looked back.  Okay, I'd like to think that I never looked back, but I actually did. The first time I went back to Pittsburgh after Deanna was born, I was really nervous.  I went back in September of 2006 to give my crown to the next Homecoming Queen.  I knew that people were going to bombard me with questions about what had happened.  Remember, I left with a baby in my belly and I didn't return with one.  I can see how that might pique people's curiosity.  I remember walking around at the homecoming football game, knowing there were a lot of eyes burning through me. So I put on a smile and kept it all together.  But inside, I knew that things weren't really all together.  Things weren't really okay.  I was depressed and very sad about my loss. I had lost a lot of weigh and I was still struggling with transitioning into being a college student after going through the entire pregnancy and adoption.  But my pride got the best of me, and I made sure nobody ever knew that I was struggling.   I'm doing great, everything is fine, and I'm very happy in Raleigh.  I love college, my daughter is great, and I couldn't be happier.  Thanks for asking. 

People can be so cruel.  There were people in my high school who, I believe, took pleasure in my unfortunate circumstance.  They pointed, they stared, they gossiped.  They were happy to see me quit swimming, to fail.  There were people who made unpleasant remarks, people who asked very inappropriate questions, and even several teachers who told me what I should or shouldn't do regarding adoption or parenting.  A figure of authority at school even suggested that I have an abortion. It was horrific.  I couldn't take it any longer.  I left school when I was four months pregnant to be home-bound tutored.  During this time, three of my teachers came to my house once a week.  I only had three classes left to graduate.  It was nice to be out of the spotlight and to be able to concentrate solely on graduating and my decision, but it was also very depressing because I was home alone for most of the day.  My parents were at work, my sisters were at school, and I was home alone with a growing belly. And the women on The View?  They became some of my closest friends. How I loved watching Elisabeth Hassellbeck and her growing belly.  I envied her excitement and how she had done things "the right way."  Aside from going to a bi-weekly appointment at our local crisis pregnancy center and visits from Robbie and my close friends, I experienced very little social interaction during that time. Memories.

As I've gotten older, I've become more confident and comfortable with the decision that I made.  For me, our open adoption just gets better every day.  So this week, I'm going to try really hard to push aside the bad memories and to just think about all of the good.  Because there really are so many great memories that I have of my hometown. (And there's nothing better than the Pittsburgh Steelers!)  My family and friends are a huge part of why I am where I am today, and I'm going to really enjoy the time that I have to spend with them this week.

When I go back home this time, I will still tell people the same thing I said four years ago--I'm doing great, everything is fine, and I'm very happy in Raleigh.  I loved college, my daughter is doing great, and I couldn't be happier--but this time, I will actually be speaking the truth. Now that's something to be thankful for.  Steel City, here I come!

Last year, My sister Michelle and I spent Thanksgiving in South Carolina with our aunt and cousins.
Here are some pictures we took to mark the occasion...

Hank & Bear, Trip to the Dentist

Friday, November 20, 2009

Well, it looks like Bear and Hank are getting along very well after all...
See how well our family members and pets are able to integrate? :)

Breaking News! Deanna had her first big trip to the dentist...

"No cavities here!" -De Dollar.

Sunday Afternoons, Adopting Pets, and Pink Phones

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

This past Sunday, Don, De, and Deanna stopped by my new house for the first time!  Don called me on Sunday afternoon because they were in town for the NC State football game and for Deanna's cousin David's baptism.  On their way back to South Carolina, they first stopped by Robbie's house because they agreed to adopt his dog, Bear.  Robbie has been keeping Bear at his house in Raleigh until his family gets settled in their new home in Dallas, but he can't take care of her anymore because he is constantly working, traveling, coaching, etc.  So Don and De agreed to "adopt" Bear until the Leonards are all moved into their new Lone Star State home.  Kind of ironic, isn't it? 

After picking up Bear, Don called me to see if they could stop by to see my new house.  He told me that Deanna had been asking to see "Amy Hutton."  That made me feel really good.  So, a few minutes later, the Dollars arrived at my house.  Deanna ran up to me and gave me a big hug.  She told me about how excited she was that they were taking Bear and how she thinks Bear will really like their dog, Hank.  I laughed.  Hank is a 150 lb Great Dane who's very mellow and likes to spend his days lounging on a big blanket in their garage.  Bear is a young, female Black Lab with loads and loads of uncontrollable energy.  I'm very interested to see how the dogs will adjust to living together.

So I gave Deanna the grand tour of my house, and I brought her upstairs to see my room.  My room is actually a bonus room that was refinished.  It takes up the entire upstairs, so it's pretty big.  Deanna exclaimed, "I want to have this room someday!"  I told her, "If you study hard and go to NC State someday, maybe your dad and mom will let you live in this room when you're in college!"  I could see the wheels turning in her head, as she excitedly thought about the possibility.  She quickly turned her attention to a picture on the nightstand next to my bed. "That's me!" she said excitedly.  I walked across the room and picked up my huge photo album.  Together, Deanna and I sat on the floor and we looked at pictures from the day she was born.  That was the first time I truly knew that she understood our families' evolving relationship.  She loved seeing pictures of Don, De, Robbie and I together at the hospital.  Deanna has an amazing memory, and she remembered every person I pointed to in the pictures, including people she hasn't seen in years.   

Then her attention turned to a small box under my desk.  Precocious little thing pulled it out and began sifting through it.  It was full of random junk that I still hadn't unpacked yet. Her eyes got wide as she reached in and pulled out my old pink cell phone.  I haven't used it in years, but I always saved it just in case.  She asked if she could have it.  I asked her why she needed it, and she told me matter-of-factly, "because I want to play mom and dad."  Sold!  After Don and De said yes, she was absolutely thrilled.  Of course it doesn't work, but she loves that thing.  De sent me an email today that said,

"You should have kept the mobile phone until Christmas - that has been the best gift!  Deanna has called you 1,000 times, along with everyone else we know. She even puts it beside her bed like she expects a call!"

While our afternoon encounter only lasted a short while, it's one of those fun little memories that I'm going to remember for a long time.  Open adoption doesn't have to be a forced, awkward relationship.  It has the potential to be something so much more!  Whether it's a long weekend at the beach or just a quick visit on a Sunday afternoon, open adoption is fulfilling and constantly-evolving.  I think every time I spend time with the Dollars I feel even more blessed to have them in my life. Open adoption is the process of learning to become a part of something that is so much greater than yourself.  

My relationship with Deanna and her parents probably doesn't seem very normal to most people--but when you're a birthmom, this is what normal is.  It's just another story of a day in the life of an incredibly blessed birthmom.  And yes, it's still 100% worth it--even if it means sacrificing my beloved pink cell phone...