Monthly Archives: March 2019

It is Adoption Day!


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It was one year ago that we first received the call that began our journey toward adoption day.

It was a simple inquiry,

Testing the waters,

Feeling us out,

Posing to us the question…

“Would you be willing?”

Every great, life-changing moment of life begins the same way.

God extends the invitation to step outside of our comfortable life and leap in faith toward the unknown and scary,

Trusting Him to not only catch us, but to land us in a place better than where we stood before.

He doesn’t promise that the journey will be smooth, or without turbulence,

But He does promise that He will pilot us the entire way.

Braden has held a piece of my heart since first meeting him five years ago. There was something that occurred when I looked into his sad eyes and guarded expression that awakened within me feelings of motherly love and concern.

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That concern only grew. We watched from a distance as he continued to experience more heartache than any child should ever have to experience. We celebrated along with him as he received the unconditional love of an adoptive family after years of being shuffled through the system.

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We mourned with him when his new mother was stolen from his arms by the cruelty of cancer. We worried for him when we lost touch as a result of being shuffled though various placements following the death of his mother, and cried tears over the injustice of mortal life when his adoptive father was given a terminal diagnosis. We worried from a distance, praying for his well-being, never expecting we would be given the opportunity to do anything more.

Then God called,

And with more than one butterfly dancing in our gut, we answered.

We never expected to be asked to walk this particular road.

We weren’t actively looking to adopt again,

We certainly weren’t looking to adopt a hurting, 17-year-old teenage boy.

And on paper it didn’t add up.

In the eyes of the world it looked like a recipe for disaster,

But our God is a God of “Trust me” and “Watch this!”


For every argument of why we should say no, He showed us why we should answer yes. He promised that great blessings would come as a result of our obedience. He asked us to lessen our fearful grip on what we knew and what was comfortable, and jump. He promised to not only catch us, but deliver us to a place far better than the one we left.

We knew it wouldn’t be easy. The best things in life rarely are. They must be worked for…they must be fought for, but the rewards exceed anything that is sacrificed during the pursuit of God’s will.

After a journey that began with a simple phone inquiry 12 months ago, and a foster care placement seven months ago, today we make things official.


My heart was filled to overflowing when I woke up Braden early this morning with a whisper of, “It’s adoption day, sweet boy!”

Today we enjoy the fruits of our labor…

Not “labor” in the traditional sense,

But a labor far more intense.

Our labor began on August 22nd

Today is delivery day!

After 216 day of labor pains and deep breathing, our son is being delivered into our forever family!

Happy adoption day, sweet boy!

How blessed we have been by saying, “Yes!”

God is Good!


Sword Fights and Syrup


In the last two weeks we have had the pleasure of enjoying two unique outing experiences through Tyler’s cyber school.

The first outing appealed to the theatre-loving kids in my crew. On a sunny, weekday morning we traveled to Lincoln Park School for the Arts where we watched some very talented high school students perform, “The Three Musketeers.” Tyler dragged his feet to this outing, fearful it was going to be a bunch of prancing, singing students on stage. I tried to alleviate his concerns by letting him know that it was a “boy-friendly” production filled with action and sword fights. I knew he wasn’t completely sold on my argument when he muttered under his breath, “Well, they better not sing while they are sword fighting!”

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I’m happy to report there was no singing during the fight scenes…in fact, with the exception of one pub tune, there was no singing at all. The play was wonderful and everyone enjoyed the matinee showing of “The Three Musketeers,” starring the talented youth of Lincoln Park. It was funny, exciting and left us wanting more at the end of the show. Even Tyler enjoyed it and spoke about the humor and fight scenes the entire ride home.

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The next unique outing we enjoyed with PA Cyber was to Lutherlyn, a summer camp in Butler County, where we enjoyed an awesome day of maple syrup education. We weren’t sure what to expect from this outing, but the promise of a complimentary pancake lunch with real maple syrup was enough for us!

It ended up being one of our favorite outings of all time, with any of our cyber schools, present and past.

Because of the size of our school group, the crowd was split into 3 groups that rotated their way through different hands-on experiences as we learned the process of making maple syrup.

It all began with a little education before we headed out into the woods. We had an excellent ranger that taught us what we needed to look for in identifying a maple tree and determining its capacity to be tapped.

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Once we understood the science behind the syrup process, we headed out for some hands-on learning.

The art of making maple syrup is generally attributed to the Native Americans. Early settlers arriving in America learned the skill from them. They then went on to improve on the Native American’s techniques by creating devices for tapping and collecting the maple tree’s sap. These same basic devices and techniques are still used in America today to produce the maple syrup that we enjoy on our pancakes and waffles.

Anyone with access to maple trees, a few tools and equipment, and some basic how-to can make this delicious syrup.

Our first task was identifying the maple trees. Our mini lesson taught us how to identify a maple by its branches, since this time of year the distinctive leaves of the maple tree are non-existent.

We also learned to use our hands to measure the diameter of the tree to determine whether mature enough to tap for its sap.

The tree we selected for tapping could not be less than 10-inches in diameter. Smaller trees will not yield well and they may be injured. The greater the diameter of the tree and the spread of limbs, the more sap the tree will produce. A large tree can support two taps.

We were split into teams of three and were asked to be botanical sleuths. Once we found a tree we thought was a maple and big enough to tap, we called over the ranger who held the tools needed to get the job done.

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These tools included a hand drill, hammer, buckets for collecting sap, and a spile.

We began by drilling a hole 1½- to 2-inches deep at a slightly upward angle.

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As soon as the hole was drilled, we hammered in the spout, attached our collection bucket, and watches as the sap began to flow.

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Sap, itself, is a clear liquid that looks and tastes like water (with maybe a hint of sweetness) but is a far cry from the syrup we pour over our pancakes. We were able to take a taste of the sap running from the tree before beginning our count to calculate the rate of flow.

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As part of our tree tapping experience we had a science lesson on how to estimate the speed of the sap flow by counting the number of drips per minute.

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Our tap ran 116 drops per minute, which means for that particular maple tree it would take around two hours to collect one gallon of sap.

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 It takes approximately 50-60 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.

Which means if we only collected from that single tree it would take 120 hours of sap collecting to net one gallon on maple syrup. The experience left us more appreciative of the amount of work that goes into a jug of syrup and made me more understanding of why real maple syrup is so ghastly expensive.

From there we headed over to another section of woods where the trees were already tapped and collecting sap.

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Our next task was to collect the sap into buckets,

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and walk our filled buckets to the sugar shack,

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Where the collected sap was poured into storage tanks.

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Then we stepped inside the sugar shack and were treated to a tutorial on how the sap is turned into the sweet, sticky substance we know as syrup.

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Traditionally the boiling down of sap was done in a large kettle suspended from a tripod over a fire. Any source of heat will work, however, as long as it is capable of producing heat for a long time. The set-up at Lutherlyn was a bit more advanced and technical than a kettle over a fire.

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But regardless of how one chooses to heat their  sap, it takes about five hours to boil down five gallons of sap into syrup.

It was fascinating to watch the process and see the sap darken and thicken as it moved through the stages of boiling down into syrup.

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Once we had worked for our supper and earned our keep, we headed back to the main building where tables were set up for lunch. It was a generous spread with a wide variety of food to enjoy.

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There was fruit, yogurt, hash browns, sausage, but the star of the show were the pancakes, topped with homemade maple syrup from the very trees we helped with that morning.

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It was an awesome day and we left with a greater appreciation of all the work that goes into producing a gallon of our favorite pancake topping!

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Nailed It!


The girls and I have embarked on a new and exciting adventure together.

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A few weeks before we left on our Disney World vacation, a friend posted a video of her and her daughter applying Color Street nail strips, a product I had never heard of prior to that day. I watched in awe as she demonstrated the simplicity of the product and the video clip left me curious.


I went online to learn more and my time spent perusing the Color Street catalog led to my ordering some cute red and black polka dot nail strips for our Disney vacation.

We had a girls’ spa night days before leaving on vacation and applied our Color Street nail strips. We were amazed at the ease of applying the product and how pretty and professional the finished product looked.

We left on our trip and played hard for 3 weeks, amazed at the durability of our nails. There was no chipping and no wear. The only indication of use was the bare strip of nail that began to grow out at the base of our nails over time.

Short of paying for a professional manicure, we had never seen our nails stay so nice for so long, with no upkeep or maintenance.

Upon returning home, I order a few more sets, letting my friend, Erin, know that she had lifelong customers in the McCleery girls. She was pleased to hear how happy we were with Color Street and extended the invitation to move past being loyal customers to Independent Stylists, selling Color Street ourselves.

The girls and I discussed the possibility of being a mother/daughter trio and embarking on the adventure of running a small business together, in the midst of the craziness that is our life, and decided we would give it a go. Our thought was, if nothing else, we could supply our own habit in an even more affordable way (which is pretty amazing given how affordable Color Street is!)

If anyone is interested in finding out more about Color Street and the product we have fallen in love with, we’d love to send you a sample of the product!

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Here are 10 reasons why Grace, Molly and I have fallen in love with Color Street!

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 # 1:

The cost!

The prices range from $11.00 to $14.00 a set, depending on whether you are buying solid colors ($11.00), glitter, ($12.00), nail art ($13.00), or French tips ($14.00). From one set we can do both a manicure and pedicure or two manicures, reducing the price even more to only $5.50 a manicure!

# 2:

It is quick!

I love having pretty painted nails, but anyone who knows our family or reads the blog knows that we live a very busy life that rarely allows an hour of time to prep, paint and wait for nail polish to dry. Inevitably I get up and moving too quickly and end up with smudged nails and frustration over an hour of my life wasted on fruitless efforts.

With Color Street, there is no drying time! I don’t have to commit to a long chunk of time, waiting on paint to dry. Instead I can jump up, take care of a kid’s needs and return back to my nails without ruining the work I’ve already done.

It is an awesome product for busy moms who want to feel pretty and feminine but don’t have the time to get them done professionally or wait for them to dry when painted at home.

# 3:

They are long lasting!

Color Street advertises their product to last 14 days before needing attention, but aside from the effect of natural nail growth (our nails grow very quickly) we found little difference in how our nails looked on day one of the trip versus day 21.

This takes us back to the affordability. If your manicure only lasted as long as advertised by the company, you would still only be looking at a cost of $3.00/week to have pretty nails. Incredible!!

# 4:

It is easy-peasy!

Each set of nails comes with easy to follow instructions printed on the back. The process is as simple as:

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There is none of the overpowering, headache inducing smells associated with other nail products.

Although made from 100% polish, there is none of the smell or mess associated with bottled nail polish. This is done through a process where although the top of the nail strip is dry, the bottom is still moist, allowing it to be adhered to the nail.

This means that busy women on the go can carry a pack of strips in their purse and give themselves a manicure in minutes while waiting in a doctor’s office or sitting on a bus, without bothering those around them.


The girls and I love the wide variety of choices available.

There truly is a look to match every preference, and the inventory is always changing with new colors and designs being released on a regular basis. These 100% nail polishes provide base, color, and top coat in one strip in a variety of colors and styles.



With the introduction of new designs, comes another favorite thing we love about Color Street…

Their holiday designs!

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These festive nail strips that are released for various holidays throughout the year, are just the thing to bring a little extra holiday spirit. Gracie loves the St. Patrick’s Day nail strips we purchased earlier this month!

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Color Street is focused on charitable giving.

Color Street partners with various charitable organizations each year to design and sell nail strips reflective of that charity. A portion of the profits made on those nail strips are then donated to that charity. This is a win-win for these organizations, as it is a means of bringing awareness to the cause while also raising money for the cause.

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Healthier nails!

Another reason why the girls and I love Color Street is one not advertised by the company, but simply something we have noticed personally. We have found that by using Color Street, our nails break less easily and seem healthier. We aren’t sure what it is about the product that brings about this result but have found it to be an unexpected benefit of Color Street products.


It is made in the U.S.A.!

This has been our experience with Color Street, and these 10 reasons are why we have decided to embark on this small business adventure. If what we have shared intrigues you and you’d like to know more, we encourage you to check out our business page at:

Let us know if you’d like to try a sample!


Just for the RECORD…


Our Gracie girl is 21.

I can hardly believe it.

It seems like just yesterday I was celebrating my 21st birthday with baby Gracie by my side.

What a joy she has been and what joy she has brought into our family. She is the child that made us parents, and allowed us to learn to parent on her, graciously forgiving our missteps and ineptness.

We named her Grace Elizabeth in honor of two of her great grandmothers, giving her the initials G.E.M, and that is exactly what she is…a gem.

What a day we had celebrating our sweet gem turning 21. Here is a look at Miss Grace’s special day…

Grace lucked out this year with her birthday falling on a Saturday. Saturday birthdays always feel extra special, since the celebrating can begin from first wake-up and continue on throughout the day, without anyone having to break from the celebration for mundane tasks like school and work. Because Gracie’s birthday fell on a Saturday,  she was able to pack it full with celebrations on many fronts with all the people she loves most.

The celebration began hours before Gracie’s morning wake-up when we snuck into the dining room to decorate for her birthday. Months earlier she made her birthday wish known when she asked for a record player. This gift became the kick-off for a really fun 21st birthday theme…

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You all know how I love a good theme!


This catchphrase became the theme of the party as her siblings wrote the 21 reasons they love Gracie on paper records that we hung around the dining room.

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Each statement of loving affirmation was endearing and so reflective of the child who decorated the paper record. Among the reasons Grace is so loved were these statements written by her siblings…


I love your selflessness.

I love your creativity.

I love your huge heart.

I love your confidence and courage.


I love your willingness to listen to whatever I talk about.

I love that we share a love for Disney.

I love that you are always willing to serve and give a helping hand.

I love that you put 100% into your hobbies.


I love you because you are there to talk to me.

I love that you love me no matter what.

I love that you are always by my side.

I love that you make me laugh.


I love how you are always happy.

I love your laugh.

I love your smile.

I love how you are so forgiving.


I love when you laugh.

I love your personality.

I love that you always play with me.

I love that you are nice.

The rest of the room was decorated to match our theme and the result was a charming birthday surprise for Grace who, after being awoken to our off-key rendition of “Happy Birthday,” came downstairs to open her gifts in the dining room.

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She loved the theme and took the time to walk around the room, reading the messages of love penned by her younger siblings.


Then we sat down, per Gracie’s request, so that she could open her gifts before the next adventure planned for her birthday.

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Our gift to Grace was the record player that sat as the centerpiece in the middle of the table.

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The kids went along with the theme, and had purchased in Disney World, two vinyl records from the parks. Rusty and Molly bought her the soundtrack to Pirates of the Caribbean.

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Ozzie and Tyler bought her the vinyl soundtrack to The Lion King.

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Braden was the only one who went in his own direction. He bought her an aloe drink, knowing how much Gracie likes them.

After a yummy breakfast of monkey bread, Grace and Molly began getting ready for the next adventure of the day. Grace invited Molly and Olivia to join her at the Sign-a-Thon held at The Mall at Robinson.


The Sign-a-Thon is a huge deaf event held every spring to increase awareness for and about the deaf community. As part of Gracie’s ASL class requirements she is asked to attend multiple deaf events each semester.


She was excited that this particular event landed on her birthday.


She decided to bring her celebration to the Sign-a-Thon  where she celebrated with Molly, Olivia, Zach, friends from church, and her closest friends from her signing classes.


They spent a few hours at the Sign-a-Thon, where Grace was able to share her love of American Sign Language interpreting with her favorite people, and then they enjoyed a birthday lunch at Plaza Azteca.


After a fun day celebrating her 21st birthday with her boyfriend and best friends, she and Molly returned home for our family celebration with Mimi Joy. For Gracie’s birthday celebration she asked if we could eat at Blaze pizza, our favorite new discovery.

We invited Mimi Joy to join us for dinner.

We arrived, each walked through the line,

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Creating our own amazing pizza,

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And feasted until we could feast no longer.

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We enjoyed an evening of good food, great company, and MUCH silliness, as we celebrated our first born baby’s 21st trip around the sun.

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Just for the record…

We think this girl is pretty grand!

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Happy birthday, Miss Grace!

A final New Beginnings


Sunday was a bittersweet day at Patchwork Farm, as Molly and I headed off to church in the evening for Molly’s last New Beginnings program with the young women at church.

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New Beginnings is an annual event that occurs at the start of the year. The purpose behind this social activity for the young women and their parents, is to welcome the young ladies who are turning 12 and moving into the young women program, bidding farewell to the graduating seniors, and to introduce the youth theme for the year.

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This year the theme is:


And the décor and activities of the evening revolved around this theme of love.

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I have attended many, many, many New Beginnings between Grace, Molly, and my years serving as Young Women’s president. I remember the bittersweet emotions felt at that first New Beginnings ceremony when Grace was welcomed into the Young Women program. I remember the feelings of sadness that she was old enough to be part of the teen youth group, and the feelings of dread that this was the beginning of the end. As I fought back tears over the fact that my baby was growing up, I couldn’t imagine the heartache those with graduating seniors must be feeling.

Now I find myself in their shoes.

After 10 years of complete immersion in the young women program, I find myself on the cusp of having no more young women in the house. As I sat there celebrating the growth Molly has achieved through the inspired young women’s program, I found my feelings were less sad, and more grateful.

It is funny how the Lord prepares your heart for the transitions of life,

And those dreaded milestones that you live in fear of coming, turn out to be a celebration of growth when they arrive.

Those life events you feel incapable of handling years before they happen, would be impossible to embrace at that time, but God grows our hearts and prepares our children, and brings about a joyful acceptance so that when the day does arrive, you find your emotions have evolved and your capacity to celebrate the changes of life expand.

It is a beautiful testament to the Lord’s promise that if we live in today and not worry about tomorrow, He will care for us.

We arrived at New Beginnings 15 minutes late, due to a dinner and Braden’s lesson with our missionaries running later than planned. We got there just in time to witness the welcoming of the new 11/12-year-old’s who enter Young Women’s this year. They looked so little!

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And then Molly joined two of her dearest friends to be honored as graduating seniors. Each young lady had the opportunity to speak and share their testimony and parting words of advice with the younger girls. All spoke to the power of transformation that can be found in the young women program and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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As I watched them say good-bye, I was blown away by the growth and transformation I’ve had the honor of observing over the last few years.

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They have each grown into amazing young ladies that are more than equipped to head out into the world and change this world for the better…

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And I can’t wait to see what Heavenly Father has in store for them!

The remainder of the evening was filled with fun games, yummy treats, and a beautiful musical number by the young women.

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It was a beautiful night and my heart was filled with love for my sweet daughter, her dear friends, and the countless leaders that have been instrumental in molding her into the lady she is today.

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Here’s to New Beginnings…

May we embrace them for the divine adventure they are!


Molly is college bound!


In June Molly will join Grace as our second high school graduate from 21st Century Cyber Charter School, and with that exciting conclusion comes an even more exciting beginning.

The last two years have been spent exploring different post-high school possibilities. Molly has toured colleges both near and far, submitted applications, received acceptance letters, and prayed over those different options,

But we all knew where her heart was from the start.

Two years ago, when we loaded up our family for a two month long road trip around the country, we scheduled in a few college visits. We stopped to tour both Brigham Young University in Provo and Brigham Young University in Idaho. She wasn’t a fan of the Provo campus, but fell in love with the Rexburg, Idaho campus.

Since that time we have toured many other colleges closer to home. Some she liked more than others, but I saw she was comparing them all to BYU-Idaho and the special spirit and feelings of familiarity she enjoyed on that college tour.

We watched as she sought to find a college closer to home that felt as right as that one did, and while some came close, all played second fiddle to her experience in Rexburg.

The last month has been spent in reflection and prayer, as Molly has sought confirmation as to where God is calling her to go and grow.

This past week she received the confirmation she was seeking and has made a decision.

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Miss Molly is BYU-Idaho bound and will start her next adventure on September 16th!

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In the meantime we are going to soak up all that Molly-radiated sunshine while we have her home, and enjoy her excitement as she begins planning for her future.

Congratulations, Molly! We are so proud of you!



Extra, Extra…Read all about it!


In the excitement of BIG, life changing events here at Patchwork Farm, I have been less diligent in recording the daily living moments that are the molecules that make up our life. In an attempt to remedy this I downloaded all the miscellaneous photos captured on my camera and phone.

Here is the latest and greatest news at Patchwork Farm:

Tyler continues to receive extra reading help as he works to address the struggles associated with his diagnoses of Dyslexia. Currently he is receiving extra reading tutoring two times a week at the Children’s Dyslexia Center of Western Pennsylvania in New Castle, and Barton tutoring every Monday in Wexford. I have been amazed at his progress now that we are using a program created to address the way a dyslexic brain learns. With the help of Miss Jan, his Barton tutor, he just passed level 4 in the Barton program. We are so proud of his efforts and are thrilled to be seeing the fruits of his efforts!


Ozzie is now 15. I’m not sure how that is possible, but he insists that it is true. Because his birthday occurred while we were on our trip, and because there wasn’t a spare inch of room in the car to pack the birthday gifts that arrived in the mail from extended family, he enjoyed birthday celebration #2 when we arrived home. He was spoiled rotten by family that love him and know him so well. He couldn’t have been more thrilled with his surprises!

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Rusty received the exciting news, upon returning home from vacation, that his application for National Honor Society had been received, considered and approved for membership. He is very excited and we are excited for him. We will be traveling out to Downingtown (on the eastern side of the state) in a few weeks for his induction ceremony. This news is made all the more special by the fact that 21st Century’s NHS president is his own sister. Just as Molly was able to be inducted into National Honor Society by Grace, who was serving as the president of NHS at that time, Rusty will be welcomed into this academic society by Molly who is serving as president this year.

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This has been an exciting year for Miss Molly who finds herself in the home stretch of her high school journey. This has been a great year for Molly, who has kept busy juggling the multitude of activities and responsibilities associated with senior year. She continues to work part time at Subway with Grace, co-runs the school’s American Sign Language club, participates in debate club and the school’s literary magazine, and is president of NHS. She does this while continuing with her commitment to Ready Yourself Youth Ranch where she volunteers two mornings a week with Grace and Rusty, as well as participating in church activities and early morning seminary.

This year has definitely given her a taste of adulthood and the juggling act that accompanies the privileges of all that freedom. We are happy to say she is balancing it all with great grace.

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This year has been one of great introspection and exploration as Molly has visited and applied to many colleges and prayed about where Heavenly Father would have her go upon the completion of high school. A decision has been made and we will devote our next blog post to that exciting news!

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Grace has served as a great example to Molly, as well as Brandon and Rusty (who will be entering their senior year) on how to navigate the transition into adulthood. She is very happy and we are happy for her, despite the fact we only see her in passing. Grace’s schedule is packed to the max with her American Sign Language classes, part time work, church activities and callings, as well as being a rock of stability for our family.

Currently in her ASL classes she is learning protactile interpreting. This form of sign language is used to interpret for individuals who are both deaf and blind. It utilizes a variety of methods to communicate a message and the surrounding atmosphere to a deaf client who is visually impaired.  The methods taught vary, based on the specific needs of the clients. To put this teaching into practice, Gracie’s professor had each of the students bring in an old pair of sunglasses that were altered to mimic different forms and degrees of blindness. The students donned those altered glasses to practice protactile interpreting. This is one of Gracie’s favorite forms of interpreting and she had really enjoyed strengthening this skill. It is neat to see her so engaged and loving this program.

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In addition to being so happy with her educational pursuits, much of the reason behind her beautiful smile has to do with this young man:


Grace and Zach have known each other for more than a decade, having grown up together at church and having spent much time with the Zach’s sisters who are besties with my girls. It wasn’t until recently that they saw each other through fresh eyes. It didn’t take more than a few dates before they knew they wanted to see more of each other and they have been wearing these sunshiny smiles ever since. We couldn’t be happier. It is always a blessing to see your children happy, and all the more blessed when they find happiness with someone so kind.


This Saturday we celebrate the happiness Grace so freely shares with the world as we reflect back on the last two decades and celebrate Gracie’s 21st birthday!

I have no idea where the time has gone but what a joyful journey it has been!

Last Saturday we got a jump on her birthday celebration when Zach joined our family (minus Molly who was working that night) for an escape room adventure. In December a deal popped up on Toby’s Groupon feed for an out-of-this-world deal on an escape room in the North Hills of Pittsburgh. He jumped on the deal while it was offered, knowing we would be able to use it for an upcoming birthday celebration. The plan was to make reservations for Grace’s actual birthday, which falls on a Saturday this year, but when we went to book it we discovered it expired the weekend before. Being experts at “Plan B” adventures, we quickly adjusted schedules and headed there last Friday with Zach, to celebrate part 1 of Gracie’s birthday…a week early.

The hours leading up to our escape room date were fraught with high emotions and angsts, and I wasn’t sure if our whole crew was going to make it to the adventure. The heightened anxiety associated with fears that Braden’s adoption day won’t come to fruition have left everyone on edge and extra sensitive. Blow-ups and melt-downs are a regular occurrence and an expected reaction to the anticipation associated with adoption day. Having done this twice before, we are well familiar with the heightened emotions and extreme challenges that accompany the news of an upcoming adoption, so we brace ourselves for the storm. We’ve learned the best strategy is to tighten our life vests, pull the sails taut, and ride the waves till we see land.

We managed to get everyone to the activity, and by the end of the escape room challenge everyone was in a better place emotionally.

It was fun having Zach join our crazy crew as we tried to unlock the mysteries of the space ship we were trapped in, and make our way back to Earth in the 60 minute time frame.

We escaped with time to spare and had a “blast!”  *hee hee*


So, there you go. Consider yourself up to date and “in the know” with all the news to be told at Patchwork Farm.

What’s in a Name?




Well, friends, we just received the exciting news of Brandon’s adoption date.

On March 26th at 9:00 am we will go before the judge who will legally confirm the bond that has already occurred in our hearts, naming Brandon as our son in the eyes of the law.

It is with great excitement that we count down the minutes to our big day.

With the impending adoption comes some big decisions, as Brandon decides what he wants to do about his name. Having been through the adoption process twice before, we are well familiar with the logistics of the legal process. At the adoption ceremony the adopted child can choose to change their last name (or not,) as well as make additional changes to their given name.

This was a special experience with both Tyler and Ozzie, who chose to not only take on our last name as their own, but also change their middle names.

When we approached each of them with the decision to alter their names, we talked about what is expected of us when we, as Christians, take on the name of Christ and what His name brings to mind. We then talked about taking on our father’s name and how a last name is a legacy that our fathers and grandfathers pass down to us and what responsibility comes with that surname.

We spoke of how taking on the name McCleery grafts them into our family tree in a way that is indistinguishable from those connected through blood, giving them all the same rights and responsibilities of being a member of the McCleery family.

As we discussed the changing of Ozzie’s and Tyler’s middle names, we approached it with the same joyful anticipation that we approached the naming of each new baby in the family. With great excitement and delight we pulled out the baby name books and looked up the meaning behind our favorite names. Then everyone wrote down their 3 favorite names anonymously, along with the meaning behind those names, and we pulled them from a bowl reading them out loud.

Then each of our sons had an opportunity unique to them because of the means that they were joining our family, and got to personally choose their new middle names.

It was a special experience for our family and one of those cherished memories I will forever associate with the beauty of the adoption journey.

Tyler chose to change his middle name from Jordan to Jacob, and Ozzie chose to change his middle name from Emlyn to William. His unique middle name had strong ties to family and he was eager to shed that connection with his abusers.

When we were approached to begin the paperwork for Brandon’s adoption hearing, we had to fill in what he would be known by from that day forward. That simple question led to a deep discussion. When we approached Brandon, we were uncertain if he would choose to change his last name. His situation is very different from Tyler and Ozzie’s in that this is his second adoption, not his first, and he is 17-years-old. There is a deep connection to his adoptive mother who died of cancer and his adoptive father who is fighting his own cancer battle, and we weren’t sure what he would want to do.

He has decided to take on McCleery for his new last name and honor his adoptive parents by hyphenating their two last names (they weren’t married) and make that his middle name.

When he told us that was what he’d like to do, we were touched and moved by his choice. What a beautiful way to honor all the parents that have loved him.

Then he asked if changing his first name was an option as well. This question took me by surprise. It wasn’t something we had ever considered for the other two, just for the sake of continuity and preservation of who they were despite the huge life change they were experiencing. I wasn’t sure how to respond. It didn’t matter to Toby and I personally, but I wasn’t sure from a therapeutic point of view whether it was an emotionally heathy choice or one that would cause issues or regret later. Rather than answer him, I suggested we bring it up to his trauma therapist at our next appointment.

I gave Miss Tina a heads-up so that she could give the question some thought before meeting with us and at our next session Brandon explained what he wanted to do and why he wanted to do it

He told her very thoughtfully that “Brandon” had lived a life full of unspeakable horrors, neglect, sadness and loss. He explained that after a lifetime of bad he was ready to have some happiness and a fresh start and didn’t feel he could really start fresh while continuing to hold onto a name that had experienced such bad things.

“For this reason,” he explained, “I want to change my name from Brandon to Braden. I’m ready for a fresh start to my new life.”

She listened thoughtfully to his thoughtful explanation, and exclaimed to me that she thought that his desire to change his given name was not only healthy but showed great maturity and thoughtful consideration, and then concluded by expressing that there is no one she works with whose experiences justify the need for a “clean start” more than Brandon’s.

So, in 19 days Brandon Chesney will become Braden McCleery.

The transition from Brandon to Braden has required thoughtful effort on our part, and we recognize it will be a transition for all of you as well. We have begun that transition at home and from here on out we will be referring to our son as Braden.

He, too, is experiencing the struggle that comes with transition, as he has come to us, expressing the desire to begin calling us Mom and Dad, rather than Toby and Kate. We are all working through the adjustment of catching ourselves when we slip up and get used to the feeling of unfamiliar names rolling off our tongues, but it is with great joy in all of our hearts that we are getting used to these changes.

As a mother who has walked both roads of growing a family through birth and adoption, I can honestly say that as thrilling as it is to hear your baby boy call you “mama” for the first time, it doesn’t hold a candle to the first time your grown, adoptive son calls you “mom.”

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Fun with Science!


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On Thursday we headed into Pittsburgh for our first school outing since returning from vacation. This trip was organized by 21st Century Cyber Charter School, which is Rusty, Molly and Ozzie’s cyber school.

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We were excited that a break in Gracie’s crazy schedule allowed her to come play with us for the day. After bidding Toby “goodbye” and dropping Brandon off at the bus stop, we ventured south to play for the day.

In addition to meeting up with some of the teachers from 21st Century Cyber Charter School, we were also joined by 75 other students & families. It was the biggest turnout we had ever seen for a local outing with 21cccs. Among the numbers were quite a few familiar faces, and it was fun to catch up with friends after being away for the last month.

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The first half of the outing was spent in the science center where the kids explored the various exhibits and enjoyed the hands-on learning available over the four floors of fun.

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Some of the favorite exhibits include H2O!:

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“Our bodies are marvelous machines! BodyWorks uses brand-new interactive exhibits, live shows, and demonstrations to explore the blood, guts, bones, brains, senses, and mechanics that make us  us!

The exhibit explores our Muscles and Bones, Heart and Lungs, Digestive System, Brain and Nerves, and Body Basics.

Learn about the fluids that fill your body, the limits of the human form, and what parts of you can be replaced.

Come pump a heart, stretch your intestines, fool your senses, make your skeleton dance, see actual preserved human organs, and more!”

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Welcome to roboworld®, the world’s largest permanent robotics exhibition! Learn how ‘bots sense, think, and act and explore dozens of interactive exhibit stations in this one-of-a-kind robotics experience. It’s the ultimate robot gathering, right here in Pittsburgh! Are you ready to go robotic?

At roboworld®, explore hands-on robotics exhibits – and even challenge a robot to a game of air hockey! Roboworld highlights the amazing technology that enables robots to sense, think, and act.

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And the Miniature Railroad & Village exhibit which highlights landmarks around the Pittsburgh area:

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“Take a walking tour of western Pennsylvania at the world-renowned Miniature Railroad & Village®.

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This beloved exhibit’s story began in 1919 with a man named Charles Bowdish of Brookville, Pa. Originally a holiday display on the second floor of his house, it moved to the Buhl Planetarium in 1954, and ultimately found its final home at Carnegie Science Center in 1992.

The Miniature Railroad & Village® features hundreds of wonderfully realistic animated scenes that illustrate how people lived, worked, and played in our region during an era spanning the 1880s to the late 1930s.

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More favorites include the Primanti Bros. restaurant in the Strip District, Westinghouse Atom Smasher, Crawford Grill, Fallingwater, Forbes Field, Punxsutawney Phil at Gobbler’s Knob, Luna Park, Sharon Steel Mill, Manchester Farms, and a historic Pittsburgh incline, to name a few.

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Mr. Roger’s house. The only building in the miniature village that isn’t a real place. Can you spot Mr. Rodgers and Mr. McFeely?

The Miniature Railroad & Village® features: 105 animations, 250,000+trees, 14 aircraft, 85 automobiles, 1 Incline (Monongahela Incline), 60 trucks, 22 horse-drawn vehicles, 23,000 fans in Forbes Field”

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At noon we all gathered in the lunchroom to eat our packed lunches before heading over to Sportsworks, the second building included with our cost of admission, where the kids enjoyed more hands-on fun.

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This building’s exhibits focus more on the human body, heath, and fitness, with various challenges that allow guests to put the marvels of the human body to the test.

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Among the challenges were a race track, climbing wall,

And the most recent addition: a ropes course that sits high above the other activities below.

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“Learn about the science behind the climb, such as center of mass and inertia, as well as the physiology of fear and thrills and perception.

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Located in the middle of SportsWorks, the Ropes Challenge consists of 11 elements, such as walking a rope bridge, balancing on rolling logs, and climbing across a horizontal net, before reaching the zipline.”

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This exhibit was added since our last visit, and as a result was the first thing the kids go in line to try.

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High above my head they climbed, balanced and zipped through the course, enjoying the novelty of perceived danger without actually being in danger of falling to their deaths.

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As I stood below, capturing their adventure on film, I wasn’t sure if the strangled screams were expressions of delight or terror.

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In the end the consensus was that the new ropes course was a fun addition to the science center.

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It was a fun day with a fun group of friends.