Monthly Archives: October 2019

Another McCleery on the Road!



In the midst of so many exciting, life-changing milestones for the people of Patchwork Farm, we are thrilled to share another…

Rusty is now…officially and legally…a licensed driver!!

Woo hoo!

For the last year Braden and Rusty have been splitting time behind the wheel as I have been teaching TWO teenage boys how to drive. The time of reckoning had arrived and we would see how effective I was as a driving instructor.

Last week Rusty had an early morning appointment at New Castle’s DMV, and putting together his year’s worth of driving practice and practical knowledge,

Coupled with hours spent practicing the lost art of parallel parking,

(A skill most of us rarely use again once passing our driver’s test)

He passed!

He has the card to prove it,


And is now legally allowed to travel the roads unaccompanied by parental figures.

Just thought y’all  should be warned.


There is another McCleery on the road!

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And this momma couldn’t be more proud and more pleased to have another driver in the house after losing my two chauffeurs.

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Congratulations, Rusty…

And Happy Travels!

(Next on the docket: Braden!)

Love is in the Details


Once the wedding day came a close, and we bid the bride and groom goodbye for the night, it was time to turn my focus to the reception. There was much to do in preparation for the celebration that followed the wedding two days later. In an effort to plan an event that was both beautiful and affordable, we opted to make Grace and Zach’s reception a home-grown affair. Luckily this homey theme tied beautifully into Gracie’s vision for the day.

As we began making plans months ago, Grace shared her vision for her reception. She wanted a vintage feel that made guests feel as though they were coming over for a family dinner. Since we don’t have the space in our dining room for 200 guests, we opted instead to turn the church’s cultural hall into home through the use of decorations from our house and heirloom photos. The theme was “home is where the heart is,” and that theme was a joy to bring to life. I am a firm believer that love is in the details and it is our hope that through the details in the décor our guests felt loved and felt the love Grace and Zach share. Here is a sneak peek at the reception hall prior to the celebration.

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Using Toby’s trailer we loaded up furniture from home to transform the gym into a reception hall.

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Continuing with this “family dinner for 200” theme, we opted to serve different homemade soups, along with salad and bread.

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We used pumpkins to serve as signs to identify the various soup choices.

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In the lobby we set up the “guest book.” Using the beautiful antique desk given to Grace and Zach as their wedding gift from my parents, we created a homey little vignette to greet guests.

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The bride and groom opted to pass on a traditional guest book, choosing instead to purchase a family bible with note taking margins for their guests to mark their favorite scripture and pen a message of love.

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For our younger guests we prepared activity boards as gifts to entertain them during the ring ceremony. Each clipboard came with colored pencils and wedding themed activity/coloring sheets.

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Pittsburgh Cookie Table Sign

For those readers not from the Pittsburgh area, you might not be familiar with the traditional cookie table. This sign was displayed to explain why cookies are served in addition to wedding cake at most Pittsburgh wedding receptions.

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The cookie table as it slowly filled up with cookies donated by family and friends.

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“To go” bags were provided so guests could take cookies home to enjoy later.

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Grace and Zach wanted to make their reception as much about celebrating family as they did celebrating their own love. They accomplished this through a lot of thoughtful and personal touches, including incorporating loved ones’ wedding songs as part of the DJ’s playlist for the evening, and in doing so allowed couples the chance to enjoy a slow dance to their own wedding song.

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Apple cider was the drink of the night at their October reception.

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Their beautiful cake was made by our talented friend, Kelly. Gracie’s request was a “naked cake,” one that was thinly frosted and decorated with fresh berries. It was as delicious as it was beautiful!

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The couple opted to have a ring ceremony at their reception so that family and friends could witness the exchanging of rings. In creating a space in the reception hall for that to take place, we opted against a traditional arch and chose instead to create a “arch” using old ladders and vintage details to create a more unique “arch” for the ceremony.

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The head table where the bridal party would sit.

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The tables themselves were decorated with mismatched vintage tablecloths, framed family photos, decoupaged houses (lit from within to glow when the lights were lowered), and mismatched glassware with fresh cut flowers.

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In family-style serving, each table had a cutting board with a loaf of bread in addition to salt sticks to accompany the soup for the meal.

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Our “party favor” was an individual apple pie at each place setting, tagged with the pun, “Appley Ever After!”

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The table numbers were recreations of old library cards to tie into the antique books that were displayed as part of the centerpiece at each table.

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The finished effect made me smile.

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But it wasn’t until the overhead lights were turned off and the room was lit only with strings of mercury glass lights that the place really began to feel magical.

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Photos of the actual reception will follow soon.

We opted to hire our talented friend, Holly, to capture the evening through photos, thus freeing me up to simply enjoy being mother of the bride and enjoy the magic of the evening. As soon as we get those photos back I will share with all of you, but I couldn’t resist giving you a preview of our magical evening with Zach and Grace.

The Big Day!


We awoke Thursday morning, our hearts all aflutter…

It was Gracie’s wedding day!!

On Wednesday we headed out to Philadelphia where we would be setting up camp at a Home2 Suites. We booked two rooms for two nights and slept like babies upon arriving Wednesday night.

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On Thursday morning, after a tasty complimentary breakfast, we set to work, preparing for the day. While the boys enjoyed the hotel pool, the girls and I began pressing wrinkles out of wedding outfits and preparing for the day.


At 11:00 we began getting dolled up for the big event.


With the Mama Mia soundtrack serving as the background music to our day, we curled, pinned, and glossed our way into bridal beauty.

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Gracie’s heirloom engagement ring was beautifully complimented by the Color Street French tip manicure she gave herself the night before. A beautiful $14.00 manicure that looked like a million bucks!

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Final touches…

My already lovely daughters became show stoppers with the addition of bridal dresses and high heels.

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The beautiful bride and her maid of honor.

Then it was time for the boys to get gussied up. They all looked dapper in their matching ties, sewn by the bride and groom prior to the wedding.


The fathers’ ties were gifted with a personalized iron-in tag printed with a message of love to the dads from the bride and groom.

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The male relatives also all received a beautiful metal tie tacks in the shape of the Philadelphia temple to wear to the wedding, while the girls all received beautiful scarfs to warm them against the October chill of the day.

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The mothers of the bride and groom also received personal gifts. Gracie gave me mine at the hotel before leaving for the wedding and I’m so glad she did.

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As I read her note of love the tears began to fall…

I was a mess as I read the inscription on my wedding day hankie and the loving message she penned in my copy of “Love you Forever.”

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Zach’s mother, Sherrie, received her wedding day hankie from Grace and a matching book from Zach at the luncheon they hosted prior to the big event.

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After many tears and lots of loving embraces, it was time to go. We were meeting the groom at the temple at 2:00 for photos. We opted to do wedding photos prior to the ceremony, as their 7:30 pm wedding ceremony would mean it would be dark afterwards and make wedding photos more of a challenge.

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Grace asked me to take their wedding photos rather than hire someone else to do it, so with Molly’s help we spent the next hour capturing the love Gracie and Zach share.

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The biggest challenge was the wind. With 30-40 mile an hour gusts, we found ourselves battling the elements.

It was a good thing I used an entire packet of bobby pins in Gracie’s hair! Despite the winds, her hair didn’t move.

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Molly and I didn’t fare so well!


At 3:30 we strolled across the street to enjoy the luncheon  so lovingly put on by the groom’s family for the guests that traveled in for the wedding.

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The spread was amazing,

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And everyone enjoyed the time we had to celebrate the blessings of the day over good food and in the company of good friends.

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Following the meal, we took advantage of the beautiful courtyard that stands in the center of the church to take family photos with the bride and groom…

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Two families joined together in love.

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So much love in one place!

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Then it was time to stroll across the street to the temple and begin getting ready for the marriage ceremony. While the parents helped the bride and groom get ready, the siblings headed to the parking garage to decorate the “getaway car,” as Tyler called it.


The boys each made posters ahead of time,

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And packed balloons and window markers to decorate Zach’s car.


They did a stellar job with the help of Zach’s niece and some of his sisters.

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Then it was time for the big event, and it was beautiful! With tears of joy streaming down their cheeks, the bridcommitted themselves before family, friends, and Heavenly Father to love and honor each other from this day forward with a love that is never-ending and will endure into the eternities. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

They exited the Philadelphia temple to cheers of delight,

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As family and friends embraced them in love…

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Then it was time to say goodnight to the new Mr. and Mrs. Tame!

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Next big event: The reception!


Grace and Zach’s Wedding Pictorial


Until I can steal the needed moments to record the abundance of blessings over the last few days, a pictorial preview will have to do.

Grace was a stunning bride in her $100 clearance dress so lovingly and artistically altered for Grace as a gift from the talented Miss Wendy.  She took a beautiful dress and turned it into a walking work of art that was so very Gracie!

Her bouquet was one of our homemade wedding projects, with roses Grace dried from bouquets given to her by Zach over the course of their courtship.

They were married Thursday evening, October 17th. The day was filled with festivities and joyful celebration as we celebrated the union of two beautiful souls deeply committed and in love. Their joy was infectious.

Prior to their wedding ceremony, at the Philadelphia Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we met to capture photos of the happy couple. I took 800 photos that day, finding myself enamored with the beauty of the bride, the adoration of the groom, and the sweet spirit that permeated the temple grounds. Here is a small sampling of the day.

I promise a more wordy recollection when I recover from the week enough to pen something coherent.

It really was a perfect day!

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The Big Day is Here!


After months of anticipation the big day is here!

Grace is getting married to her sweetheart, Zach…


And in 12 hours our sweet Gracie will officially be Gracie Elizabeth Tame.

This is a love story that has been 12 years in the making. When Grace sat in primary opening exercises that first Sunday at church, after moving into our new home, she had no idea Zach Tame would become her future husband and these dear friends would become her future family.

God began writing their shared story a decade ago, and today the pages of their story turn to the next chapter as they commit themselves before family and God to love, honor, and cherish each other for eternity.

Today we give our daughter to the man who loves and adores her, and in turn gain another son (and an extended family of wonderful people.)

The blessings are simply too abundant to count and I find my eyes leaking with the fullness of emotions washing over me this day.

The turning of a chapter in the book of life always comes with a mix of emotions.

There is sentimental reflection on chapters past, as I think back on my favorite parts of our family’s story,

While eagerly anticipating all the possible blessings the next chapters hold.

It is no wonder my emotions are leaking out of my tear ducks.

All these feelings are a lot to carry in one’s heart.

The rush of emotions started pouring forth with the return of Miss Molly, who flew home on Tuesday night to be a part of the wedding festivities. As Gracie’s maid of honor, she wouldn’t have missed wedding week for anything!

Her journey home began at 6:00 am and consisted of a four hour shuttle ride to the Salt Lake City airport, two connecting flights across the United States, and a car ride home from the airport that ended at 11:30 pm with a hug from her big sister.


These two besties have missed each other greatly!

Yesterday we loaded up the car for the five hour drive to Philadelphia for Grace and Zach’s Thursday evening wedding.

We checked into our two hotel rooms last night.

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We spent the evening relaxing, enjoying family time,

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And doing our nails for the wedding.

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We woke up to the realization that the day we have been preparing for had finally arrived.

It is wedding day!


This is the day Grace and Zach will be sealed together for time and eternity in the Philadelphia LDS Temple.

What a wonderful page in our book of life!


What a “Field” trip!


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Last Friday we had the opportunity to join PA Cyber (Tyler’s cyber school) for a field trip to Pittsburgh. The agenda for the outing took us into Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers for the first half of the day, and onto the rivers of Pittsburgh for the second half of the day.

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In the midst of many task-driven days that filled the weeks leading up to the wedding, it was nice to take a break from all that needed done and simply spend the day playing with my boys. I thought it would feel weird attending an outing with just the boys, after a decade of “field tripping” with the girls in tow, but it was a really fun day. We were blessed with beautiful fall weather.

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Touring a NFL football stadium was more up Braden and Tyler’s alley than Rusty’s, but whether a sports lover or sport novice, it was a fascinating tour.

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We lucked out with a great tour guide who was as entertaining as he was knowledgeable, and I found I learned as much about Pittsburgh and its history as I did the Steelers and the stadium.

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We spent 90 minutes walking around the stadium,

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Gaining access to places like the press room,

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And the Steeler locker room.

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Our final stop was a stroll down by the field where we were able to appreciate the view as seen through the eyes of the players.

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It was pretty awe-inspiring.

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At the conclusion of our tour we strolled down to the river to board our Gateway Clipper ship that would take us on a river tour of our awesome city.

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While on our tour of Heinz Field Tyler made a friend. His name was Wyatt and he was delightful. He insisted on joining the boys in front of our riverboat for a photo.

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We boarded our paddleboat with our packed lunches and found seats on the top deck. For the next hour we enjoyed views of our beautiful city as we ate our lunches.

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What a delightful break from life’s neverending to-do list!

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Another child steps into adulthood


This week my third-born child stepped into adulthood…


With child #4 hot on his tail.

On Thursday we celebrated Rusty’s entrance into adulthood and in four weeks we will celebrate Braden’s big 1-8!

This means in a month’s time I will have 4 adult children, with one married and another successfully launched 2000 miles away. I am not quite sure how we arrived here from where we were a year ago, but somehow in the blink of an eye I have transitioned from being a mom to more adult children than underage kiddos.

Despite being up to our eyeballs in wedding preparations, I was determined to make sure that Rusty’s 18th birthday didn’t get lost in the craziness of life as we currently know it.

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With the living room floor tore up as Toby lays hardwood, and the dining room and kitchen filled with piles a wedding supplies, we had to be creative in finding an empty surface to decorate for Rusty’s party.

We pushed all our wedding piles to the outer edge of the dining room and set up the table with Rusty’s party decorations…

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Mickey Mouse themed, of course!

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And wrapped up the gifts for Rusty that were lovingly and thoughtfully purchased by his siblings.

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Rusty’s birthday morning began with early morning seminary…a high school religion class both boys attend every weekday from 6:00-7:00am. Because we have to leave the house by 5:30 to get them to class, and because waking Tyler up at 5:30 am is NEVER a good idea, we opted to wait for Rusty’s morning birthday cupcake and accompanying song until we returned home at 7:30.

Once home, Rusty was serenaded and blew out his birthday candle with Olive’s help.

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It is a tradition in our school-at-home family that on a child’s birthday they are exempt from chores and schoolwork and get to spend the day any way they wish. So while Rusty enjoyed his day off, the rest of the family spent the day at work or focused on school. Everyone arrived home by 6:30 pm, giving us plenty of time to open gifts before leaving for our 7:30 Escape Room appointment.

We began the gift giving, as is the tradition in our family, with the youngest child presenting their gift first, and concluding with the gift(s) from mom and dad.

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One of Rusty’s gifts from mom and dad was a beautiful CTR ring. It is tradition in our family that as a child moves into adulthood they receive one of these special rings to serve as a reminder of who they are, whose they are, and the importance of making the right choices now so that they can enjoy the future that they are striving for. CTR stands for “Choose the Right.”

Braden received his CTR ring a month early, as both rings arrived at the same time, so both boys were presented with their rings together. Each ring matches the man who wears it and will hopefully be a strengthening reminder of the effect today’s choices have on tomorrow’s happiness.

Once we were done unwrapping gifts we headed out for a night of fun.

Our entire family loves escape rooms, but none more than Rusty…our problem-solving, puzzle-loving kid. Gracie’s fiancé has class on Thursday evening so it was just the six of us trying to escape in under 60 minutes.


We tried out Operation: Escape Room in Monaca, and the theme of the room we booked was:

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While exploring an abandoned hospital, you are accidently locked into a patient room. You have 60 minutes to escape before you lose your mind and become a permanent patient.

We really enjoyed it. It was a fun theme, well played out in a room that bordered on creepy with its abandoned hospital décor. It wasn’t as challenging as other rooms we have done in the past, but it was well planned out and themed. We really enjoyed it!

And we escaped with time to spare.


We ended Rusty’s birthday evening with Chinese take-out in our pajamas while watching Wall-E.

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It was a perfect ending to a day spent celebrating Rusty and all the things he loves best.

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Happy birthday to the son who made me a boy-momma.


You paved the way and showed me the great joy that comes from raising sons. How grateful we are for the quiet strength you show in your daily life and the gentle way you bless the lives of those around you. You have grown from a delightful boy into a gentleman, and we couldn’t be more proud to call you our son!



Miss Molly


Well, it has been 3 weeks since we bid Miss Molly good-bye and left her 2000 miles away to launch into adulthood…

And she has taken flight beautifully.

She is loving college life, loving Idaho, loving her roommates, classes, and the multitude of college activities offered at BYU-I. As parents we couldn’t be happier to see her so happy. She is thriving in every sense of the word. Here are some photos of our sweet girl and her Idaho adventures:


The first Sunday in Idaho as Molly and her roommates head off to church.


While Molly was working at the tutoring center a kind lady was handing out cookies. It made her day!


Molly has been blessed with eight awesome roommates. Katrina, a fellow freshman at the house, is Molly’s closest friend.


Molly has enjoyed documenting her Idaho adventures with beautiful photos and thoughtful reflection on her Instagram account:  tripping_over_gods_blessings. 


While grocery shopping, the girls decided the house needed a house “pet.” They brought home this flora mascot instead.


Molly has loved living so close to a temple…something that is a rare treat when you were raised on the east coast. Determined to soak up the sweet spirit so readily accessible, she has set a goal of visiting the temple three times a week.


Enjoying a fun night out at a local soda shop.


The beauty found in the ordinary…as seen through Molly’s lens.


Molly at I-night…the weekend of social and service activities for the new freshman.


Enjoying the social side of college life.



Molly making friends at weekly devotional 😉 


Dinner time!



Molly and her roommates making Sunday dinner together.



Molly and her roommates making homemade bread to deliver to their landlord and other friends.



One night Molly and her roommates bonded over hair dye as they all colored each others hair. Here is Molly’s new look.

One week until we get Molly home for the wedding festivities. It is wonderful to see her doing so well in Idaho, but I’m looking forward to loving on her in person!

Young Love


Well, we are officially two weeks out from the big day!

14 days until Zach and Gracie are married and we legally gain another son into the family.

It is all very exciting and the young couple is brimming with happiness.

A few weeks ago they had the opportunity to have this exciting season of their lives captured on film by an amazingly talented photographer…

Who just happens to also be a dear friend.

Holly needed an couple to do a engagement photo shoot with for her business and asked if Grace and Zach would be interested. They jumped at the chance to work with Holly and the results were nothing short of stunning.

She brilliantly captured their personalities and the sweet devotion of their love.

The result was magical:


Only 14 more days until “I do!”

Walt Disney’s Hometown


After two weeks of slowing drawing out the recounting of our trip across the country to drop Miss Molly off at school, I write the final installment. It has been crazy busy at Patchwork Farm…as you can well imagine…and the task of finding stolen moments to blog has been especially challenging. We find ourselves neck-deep in wedding preparations, back to school busyness, and the craziness of large-family living, but I wanted to share our last road trip adventure before flakes of snow begin to fall and another month or two escapes me…

Back in 2016, as part of our epic six week bus trip around the country we made a special stop for Rusty’s 15th birthday. Per his request, we stopped in Marceline, Missouri to pay homage to Rusty’s personal hero, Walt Disney, and it was the highlight of the trip for Rusty!



Three years later, as we worked our way back across the country, passing through Missouri on our way home, Rusty asked if we could visit Walt Disney’s hometown once again. So we did…

This time with Braden!


The United States has three permanent museums devoted to Walt Disney. Each is terrific in a different way. In San Francisco, the Walt Disney Family Museum is the most spectacular—a real “E” ticket. In Central Florida, Walt Disney, One Man’s Dream, a “must see” attraction for Disney fans at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, is the most convenient to visit—at least if you’re a Walt Disney World guest. And somewhere near the center of the continental United States, the Walt Disney Hometown Museum is the most personal.

We drove into Marceline, Missouri (pop. 2230) on Tuesday morning, reacquainting ourselves with this small Midwestern town that seems trapped in time, looking much as it might have when Walt was a young boy walking down Main Street with his mother.


While there we drove over to Walt Disney’s childhood home.


Walt’s family came to Marceline when Walt was only 4 years old. They moved from Chicago in an attempt to keep Walt’s older teenage brothers out of trouble and live a simpler life on the family farm.

Walt’s father purchased a plot of land from his brother who owned land in Marceline and they proceeded to build a home and establish themselves in this small, Missouri town.

Walt lived here from age 5 to age 9. While not a long period of time, it was a time that greatly affected his life.

Behind this home sits another important part of Walt’s time in Marceline. This area is opened to the public. Just past Walt’s childhood home sits a small parking area with this sign:

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It was down a grassy path that we found Walt’s Dreaming Tree.

. Daydreaming under this tree, a young Walt would observe the nature surrounding him. He later called these adventures “belly botany” and drew from these moments in his early works. He apparently never outgrew his need for inspiration from his favorite spot. On trips back to Marceline, Walt always put aside time for reflection beneath it, spending hours alone with his thoughts, back under his Dreaming Tree.

The Original Dreaming Tree, the place where Walt sat as a boy and let his imagination take him on incredible adventures, was hit by lightning a few years ago.

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Instead we visited the Son of the Dreaming Tree, a sapling planted from a seedling of the original Dreaming Tree with soil brought from Disneyland and water from Disney World.

As we walked along the grassy path to Walt’s barn, we passed signs that gave us even more insight into Walt’s childhood there and the significance it had in his later life.

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In the barn, also known as Walt’s Happy Place, visitors are encouraged to sign the walls and leave messages of love and hope.

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By his own account, Walt’s happiest childhood memories were of his time in Marceline and the family farm there. Walt and his sister Ruth spent many happy hours playing in the Barn. Visitors from all over the world have come to Marceline to spend time at “Walt’s Happy Place”, located in its original place on the Disney family’s old farm in Marceline.
Visit this very special Barn, which was rebuilt by volunteers in 2001, and leave your mark among the thousands of signatures, messages and memories already there to share with the rest of the world. There’s no doubt about it, when you come to this Barn, you’ll feel a special heart connection to Walt.

When we visited the barn during our first trip, we found it incredibly moving to read the words of previous visitors, and witness the profound effect this humble, inspiring man has had on so many lives.

What a joy it was to add our own names to the thousands of admirers that had been there before us…

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Rusty adding a new signature to the mark he left in 2016.

And what a joy it was to reflect on that experience as we sought out our previous signatures from three years prior.

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And then Braden added his name to the barn beams.

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From there we headed to the Walt Disney Hometown Museum.

The visit to the museum began with a guided tour of the first floor, where the volunteer (who was a personal friend of Walt Disney) walked us through the story of Walt’s life in Marceline, beginning with his childhood in Marceline and ending with his visits back when he was an adult.

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The museum is housed in the town’s old train depot…


A fitting location for Walt’s museum since he was an avid fan of trains his entire life. In fact one associate said, “Walt got more joy from hearing the sound of a train whistle than he did from an arm full of Oscars.”


In the museum there are 3,000 artifacts from Walt’s life,

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The elementary school desk where he carved his initials “WD”:

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A car from the Autopia ride he had built in Marceline for the children of the town:

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The audio recording he made from the interview he did with his parents at their 50th anniversary party:


The Mickey Mouse dolls that were a gift to his parents on that anniversary:

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And the TV he bought for his sister, Ruth.

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When he invited Ruth to the opening of Disneyland she informed him that she didn’t like crowds, so he purchased a TV for her so that she could watch the opening ceremonies from the comfort of her own home:

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The first floor of the museum is filled with Disney movie memorabilia, hand written letters by Walt, receipts, and other family heirlooms. It really is a treasure for Disney fans!

The second floor of the museum contains:

A replica of Walt’s front porch and the story of him convincing his younger sister to paint the house with tar,


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A piece of the original Dreaming Tree,

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And a miniature model of Disneyland.

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Marceline, Missouri…the birthplace of Disney Magic.

I’m so glad we could visit again!