Monthly Archives: March 2020

We have New Neighbors!



What a bizarre reality we find ourselves living in. A month ago feels like a lifetime ago. It is hard to believe that just two months ago we were cruising the Caribbean and now we find ourselves locked down at home for the next five weeks (or maybe longer). Things that were consistently “normal” in our daily lives are now absent and we are slowly finding our new normal in the midst of a worldwide pandemic.

We now have everyone except Ozzie back at home. Molly, who was scheduled to fly out to Utah on March 27th is now home for the next month as she does her missionary training online in her bedroom rather than at the MTC. Daily anchors in our weekly schedule have been lifted. Trauma therapy, equine therapy, tutoring, sports practices, visits with Ozzie, family therapy sessions, shopping, errands, and even work for Toby has been canceled. As a construction worker his business is considered “non-essential” by the state of Pennsylvania, which means he, Zach and Molly are now home all day.

On Saturday the stay-at-home order for our county was extended from April 6th to April 30th. This news led to Grace and Zach making the decision to move into the bus for the next 5 weeks (or at least until they get sick of us)! At their little apartment they just aren’t set up for an extended lockdown. Their apartment has no laundry facility, and as newly weds they don’t have the food storage, supplies, or even outdoor space to make living under quarantine doable/bearable.

On Saturday they called and told us their plans and we got to work getting the bus ready for occupants.

“Bus?” You ask. Let me explain…

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Four years ago our family purchased a used school bus at a school bus auction with the intention of taking it on a 6 week tour around the country. We gutted the inside, removing all the seats within, and over the course of a year (as Toby had free time) we turned the bus into an RV.


The inside offers all the comforts of home including a master bedroom, extra bunk beds, a kitchen with a full size fridge, microwave, and stove top, a bathroom with a toilet and sink, as well as plenty of seating for our family.


Once completed, we used our bus to carry our family on the road trip of a lifetime from one side of the country to the other, hitting all the major historical sights and national parks along the way. It was the ultimate home-schooling fieldtrip.

(If you want to read more about our adventures check out the blogs written from August 2016-September 2016. Here is the link to the first of that series:


It was an amazing trip and our converted school bus, which we christened “The Rolling Gnomes.”


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Now the bus is parked in the yard and is used for local camping excursions as well as being our guest house when company visits.

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The bus is now Grace and Zach’s home away from home during this pandemic.

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It is an ideal set up, as it allows them to choose how much family togetherness they want. They have their own space to lock themselves away, have quiet time, watch a movie alone, or cook their own meals, but when they are craving more contact they have a house full of people to visit just across the yard.


As for the rest of us, we have been filling our days with schoolwork and projects, trying to balance the gift of rest and downtime with productivity.

In the next blog I will share our “Coronacation” schedule so that you can see how we are using our time at home, and what a “typical” day in lock-down looks like at Patchwork Farm.

Church at Home



What interesting times we are living in!

Three weeks ago our church declared a worldwide halt to Sunday meetings at our local chapels for the safety of congregations worldwide. This meant no more midweek activities or Sunday worship services until it was safe to gather in large groups once more. The email we received, stating that we were now to worship at home as a family, was the first of a long line of emails from many groups we belong to who were choosing to close their doors in light of a worldwide pandemic. Sports seasons were cancelled, dentist and orthodontic appointments were rescheduled for May, even the boys’ weekly trauma therapy sessions were moved to online video sessions. The result has been two weeks of quarantine at home.

How grateful I am that the leaders of our church have equipped us with the tools needed for such a time as this. Thanks to the Come Follow Me curriculum for individuals and families, we are able to continue our Sunday studies at home. We have also received permission from our local bishop for the sacrament to be blessed and passed in the homes where there is a worthy priesthood member. Last Sunday was our first Sabbath service at home, and what a blessing it was!

Prior to the weekend, Toby assigned the task of speaking to Molly, who was grateful to use the assignment to do some gospel teaching practice before she leaves on her mission. He also assigned other Sacrament meeting responsibilities to other family members like the invocation, benediction, leading the music and choosing the hymns, and preparing, blessing, and passing the sacrament.

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We creatively repurposed mini muffin trays and medicine cups for our sacrament trays.

On Sunday morning Grace and Zach, who have temporarily moved into the bus (more on that in the next blog,) joined us for Sacrament Meeting. We all dressed in our Sunday best and gathering in the living room for our Sunday meeting.

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Grace led us in singing hymns. Zach offered the opening prayer and then Rusty and Braden blessed the sacrament, with Rusty blessing the bread and Braden blessing the water.

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Winnie carefully observing!

This was Braden’s first time blessing the Sacrament since being baptized and receiving the priesthood, so it was an extra special sacrament meeting for our family.


Then the time was turned over to Molly to share her prepared thoughts. She taught about the Godhead, and led a discussion about what truths we know about the three members of the Godhead. We discussed the characteristics of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost, as we looked up the scriptures that Molly assigned us to read.


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It was an unconventional Sacrament meeting talk, as Molly had prepared handouts, object lessons, and had clipboards for each member of our “congregation” to use for notes.


One object lesson Molly used as part of her lesson was the analogy of the egg, as a means of teaching about the Godhead. Here is what she shared:

“A hard boiled egg represents the Godhead.

The outside shell represents the Holy Ghost. It is white and pure. To connect and understand Jesus Christ and God, we must go
through the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is a spirit which allows it to
communicate with our spirits and testify of Christ and God. If we desire to
get to know Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father,  we must be willing to communicate with the Holy Ghost.

The next layer is the egg white, which represents Jesus Christ, our beloved
Savior and Redeemer. As we get to know Christ we need to humbly allow the
Holy Ghost to teach us of Christ and through the Holy Ghost Christ can
teach us, deepening our connection to Him. As we get to know Christ through
a sincere desire to draw closer to him, and our personal efforts with scripture study, prayer, humility, service, etc.  we also come to know God, our

The third and last layer of the egg is the yellow yoke in the middle. This
 represents Heavenly Father. He is the master, our God, and our loving Father. We come to know Him through Christ. As we come to know Christ we also come to know God.

The Godhead is three separate beings. As you take an egg apart you can
clearly see them as separate components but unified and one in purpose. They all
testify of one another and work together to ” bring to pass the immortality
and eternal life of man.” Moses 1:39″

Winnie was enthralled with her teaching style…

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Ellie…not so much!

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We closed our Sunday services with a hymn and with Grace offering the benediction.

Then, while I prepared lunch, everyone sat down and penned letters to Ozzie and G.G., who are both currently in facilities under lock-down, unable to receive visitors or venture out. Half the family wrote letters to Ozzie and half to G.G., with the plan being to switch pen pals next Sunday when we do this again.

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It was a beautiful Sabbath service. How grateful I am for the ability to worship as a family. In the midst of so much confusion and uncertainty in the world we can lean on the certainty of Jesus Christ and find peace in His word and unwavering joy.


Happy “Gotcha” Day!!


It is hard to believe it has only been a year since Braden officially and legally became our son.


On March 26th, 2019 we drove down to Washington County, where we were joined by many family and friends, to adopt our 17-year-old foster son, making him forever a part of our family.


It was a day filled with blessings and great joy as Tyler got to make his biological brother an official member of our clan.


Braden already had our hearts, and in every way was already our son, but this sealed the deal, granting Braden the security that we were sticking around forever.

It was one of the best days of our life.

Every year, as the anniversary of Tyler, Ozzie, and now Braden’s adoption day comes close, we make plans as to how we are going to celebrate that special day when they were “born” into our family. Much like each child’s birthday celebration, the celebrated child gets to pick a special meal and activity for us to do as a family. Past “gotcha day” celebrations have been as varied as our adopted children. One year Ozzie chose to visit car dealerships to “window shop” for cars for his “gotcha day.” Another year Tyler chose a family tennis tournament at our local park with ice cream to follow.

As we began discussions about how Braden wanted to celebrate his first “gotcha day,” he told us that he really wanted to go to a trampoline park, like the one we visited for Tyler’s 13th birthday. He loved the trampoline basketball court where he was able to get major air and slam dunk the ball repeatedly,  thanks to the high flying action offered by the trampoline.

He also requested sweet and sour chicken with rice and egg rolls for his “gotcha day” dinner.

A few weeks ago I was prompted to look ahead on our calendar to all the birthdays, holidays and celebrations that were up coming and shop for those meals and gifts ahead of time. A week later, as businesses began to shut down across the state and lock downs nationwide went into place, I was grateful I had followed that prompting to plan ahead, because we were able to have Braden’s “gotcha day” meal request without having to go to the store.

God is good!

Molly took on the task of creating a special dessert for Braden’s special day. She baked a cake and decorated it for the occasion.

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It turned out great and made the day feel even more celebratory!

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Braden’s hope of spending the evening of his “gotcha day” at Urban Air was smashed in light of the non-essential business shut down across the state of Pennsylvania. So, in typical McCleery fashion we came up with a Plan B!

Knowing that the main reason Braden wanted to go to Urban Air was for the trampoline basketball court, we recreated it to the best of our ability at home. Toby and Tyler dragged the basketball hoop over to the trampoline and we all headed outside for a showdown of skills.

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The kids played DUNK (similar to HORSE) and had to copy each other’s unique and BOUNCY shots in an effort to not be the first player to earn all four letters.

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It made for a fun and unforgettable evening.

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I think it is fair to say that Braden will never forget his first “gotcha day,”

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And as a result of plans being changed, everyone got to discover the joy that can be found in making do and embracing the Plan B’s that come with life!

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We ended the day with a hearty rendition of “Happy Gotcha Day to You!”

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We love you, Braden…

And are so glad you are forever ours!





Happy Birthday, Miss Gracie!


Somehow, in the midst of everything else going on, I forgot to post pictures of Gracie’s 22nd birthday celebration two weeks ago.

As I reflect back on that celebratory day it is hard to believe it was just 15 days ago. It feels like a lifetime.

This birthday was an unusual one, as it was the first time I haven’t had a child home on their birthday. Our normal tradition of waking up with birthday kid with a song and a cupcake didn’t happen. I didn’t think Zach would appreciate us climbing up through their bedroom window in “I Love You Forever,” Robert Munsch style, with a cupcake in hand…


So we left Gracie’s birthday morning wake-up to her husband, and instead delayed our well wishes for later in the day. I did, however, wake that morning with a feeling of panic over forgetting to wake up Grace with her birthday song, until the cobwebs cleared and I remembered Grace no longer lives at home.

Gracie’s birthday celebration took place that evening in Cranberry. When we asked Grace what she wanted to do for her birthday she requested a family dinner at Blaze Pizza. Blaze Pizza is a favorite eat-out spot for our crew. Everyone loves the novelty of building their own pizza, and we love the vast number of toppings to pick from. Rusty describes it as Subway for pizza.

We all arrived at Blaze Pizza at 5:00 with gifts in hand. Everyone was coming from different directions so our group of eight people took up 5 parking spots in the lot. Tyler and I came straight from his dyslexia tutoring in Wexford. Molly and the boys drove over after their dentist appointments in Monaca. Grace came from her home in Ellwood City, having taken the day off work for her birthday. Toby and Molly drove up from the construction site in Toby’s truck, and Zach came from the site in his car. It felt a bit obscene when we realized we had five cars for eight people.

When we got inside we decided to start with dinner and save gift opening for the end.

Everyone got in line to build their pizzas.


The results of that effort was nothing short of delicious!! Yum!


Then it was time for gifts. Grace requested camping gear for her birthday with hopes that she and Zach could enjoy some inexpensive vacations once they acquired the gear necessary to go camping. She had already received a hand-me-down tent from my parents who also gifted her with a Coleman lantern for her birthday gift. From Toby and I she received a two-man sleeping bag and camping cooking utensils.


Molly and Rusty pooled their money and bought Grace a Dutch oven. They laminated a homemade  camping cookbook of Dutch oven recipes that they had printed offline and attached to the Dutch oven with a carabiner.


Tyler and Braden went in a different direction with their birthday gifts to Grace. Braden bought Grace a beautiful book and Tyler bought Grace a t-shirt that read, “Kind People are my kind of People.” He thought Grace would like it because it reminded him of Mr. Rogers, who is a personal hero of Miss Gracie. When he found it at the store they only had it in a large. I was concerned that it would be too big on Gracie’s petite frame. Tyler tried to quell my concerns with the logic we use when clothes shopping for him. “It’s ok, she will grow into it.” I hated to burst his bubble but Gracie’s days of gaining inches with each passing year are long behind her!


After we were done at Blaze Pizza we headed over to the Milkshake Factory for Gracie’s birthday dessert. In lieu of cake, Grace asked for milkshakes. She and Zach had discovered the Milkshake Factory and were eager to introduce the rest of us to this yummy place.


We arrived and began perusing the menu, trying to decide which shake we each wanted to try.


It was a tough choice, as they all sounded delicious, but everyone finally settled on their picks. Grace and Zach were right…Milkshake Factory shakes are amazing!!


After enjoying Gracie’s birthday dessert, we said our goodbyes and headed back towards home. That night just happened to be the night of Braden’s end of the year basketball banquet.


So, we kissed our 22-year-old daughter good-night and headed off to the next celebration.

How grateful we are to call this talented, kind, diligent, thoughtful, generous, wise, patient, faithful, forgiving, beautiful young lady our daughter.


We love you, Miss Grace, and hope this year is the best one yet!!

(It is certainly starting out memorable!!)



Just by the Skin of our Teeth


It is crazy how much life has changed in the last few weeks. So much is uncertain right now, including Molly’s mission plans. So much is up in the air. For this reason we are grateful we got so much visiting squeezed in over the last few weeks.

Originally, Molly was to be set apart as a full time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints this coming Friday…as in 4 days from now. Tickets were purchased for us to fly her out to Utah this Saturday, with plans to spend a few days together in Utah before dropping her off at the Missionary Training Center on April 1st.

Currently the plan is for her to be set apart as a missionary on March 31st with her period of missionary training to begin April 1st in the comfort of her own bedroom. Her MTC experience will be virtual, with her training taking place for 6 hours a day through a virtual classroom. She is scheduled to head to Utah on April 28th to begin her mission, but with things changing worldwide by the hour, we will see where things stand a month from now.

Despite a worldwide pandemic delaying her departure, we are grateful we planned on her leaving at the end of March, because she was able to see many friends and say her good-byes to many loved ones before we went into self-isolated lockdown. Our last few visits were cancelled due to closures that came down the pike over the last week. Our scheduled trip to the temple with Mimi Joy was delayed due to temples being closed. A final visit with Ozzie and G.G. were also delayed due to their facilities locking their doors to visitors. We are hopeful Molly will be able to squeeze those visits in before she leaves…

Whenever that may be.

Here are some of the final visits she was able to enjoy before the world got sick:

On the Sunday before our church canceled meetings and Sunday services, Molly was able to visit the Single’s Ward in Pittsburgh for a final time to say goodbye to friends there:


On the following Friday Grace hosted a farewell party for Molly with all of Molly’s best buddies from co-op… those childhood friends who are her nearest and dearest soul sisters. They enjoyed an evening of good food, crafts, and time spent reminiscing and loving on each other before a 18 month separation.


The next day Molly headed to Zach’s family’s house to visit Heather. Zach’s younger sister, Heather, is one of Molly’s best friends and she wanted to make sure they fit in a visit before she left for Utah.


On Monday we met up with Aunt Beth at Eat n’ Park for breakfast and a catch-up. We all adore Aunt Beth and don’t see nearly enough of her. Molly wanted to make sure we could get together with Beth so she could say good-bye.


And of course we had our last trip to the Homestead before we went into lockdown. While we were out there we celebrated Gracie’s March birthday and Molly’s April birthday with Mimi and PopPop.  Here are some additional photos of our time in Ohio eight days ago:


It is crazy how much things have changed in a week!

We are still not sure what will happen over the next month or two with Miss Molly. We will be sure to keep you in the loop. Her uncertainty about upcoming plans is certainly being mirrored by the uncertainty we are all feeling as we navigate unchartered waters,

But we are grateful for the visits she was able to squeeze in before we all hunkered down.

Stay safe, friends!


There’s no Hitting the Brakes on Braden’s Future!


For the past four years we have had senior after senior graduating from our family. In 2017 Grace graduated from 21st Century Cyber Charter School (21CCCS) before heading to CCAC to pursue a degree in American Sign Language Interpreting. We took 2018 off, but in 2019 Molly graduated from 21CCCS and headed to BYU-Idaho to pursue a degree in environmental science before taking a sabbatical from school to prepare to serve a full time mission. This year I find myself with two more graduating seniors, bringing our grand total to four graduations in four years.

When Braden moved in 18 months ago, Toby and I became parents to “artificial twins.” Rusty and Braden are only 33 days apart in age. This has created an interesting dynamic in our home. It has not been without challenges and we have had to be mindful as parents in addressing the emotional and social effects of adopting a child out of birth order and so close in age to another child in the home, but it has also come with great blessings.

As a result of Braden’s adoption one year ago we find ourselves parents to two graduating seniors!

Their senior year, which started so typically, has ended up being one for the history books. “Normal” senior milestones like Prom and senior trips have been placed on hold in light of a worldwide pandemic. Both boys attend 21st Century Cyber Charter School, and despite the fact that their schooling already occurs online and within the home, they are both currently off school for the time being as part of the statewide shut down of public schools. At this point we are uncertain if they will finish out their senior year, experience the remaining senior milestones they were looking forward to, or even have a graduation ceremony. But despite all of that uncertainty, they have remained optimistic. They both have their eyes firmly set on the future and the exciting times that follow high school.

Rusty continues to be duel enrolled in our local community college where he is pursuing a degree in drone aviation. His classes have all been moved online for the time being. Upon graduation from high school he will finish out his degree with the goal of obtaining full time work as a drone pilot.

The discussion about Braden’s hopes and dreams for post-secondary life has been a priority this year, as we have worked to help him adjust to his new life as a member of the family, while also encouraging future planning…a skill that is hard to develop when you have lived a life of day to day survival. For a good portion of his life Braden hasn’t had the luxury of dreaming about what he could be or what he could do with his life in adulthood. He was too busy trying to survive his childhood. Now that he has been able to transition out of “survival mode,” he finds himself facing a future he never planned for. We found him to be overwhelmed with the thought of growing up, moving out, getting a job, making plans, and choosing a future for himself…especially in light of the fact that he only got to start being a kid at age 17. Knowing all this, my goal for his senior year was to slowly start exploring possibilities…helping him to discover his God-given gifts, talents and interests, while exploring possible degrees and occupations that are compatible to those gifts, talents and interests.

Over the course of his senior year Braden was able to conclude that he wanted to continue living at home for the time being, while pursuing a degree from a trade school. He is a kid who would much rather learn a skill hands on than to read a book about an obscure concept or theory. With that realization in mind we began looking into local trade schools near us.

Braden has now made a decision about his post-secondary plans…


He will be attending New Castle School of Trades to pursue a degree in automotive technology:

“Automotive technology is a course that focuses on automotive repair. In automotive technology you will learn everything “bumper to bumper” including but not limited to – engines, transmissions, brakes, suspensions, exhaust systems, and electrical systems.

An emphasis is placed on computer diagnosis and electronics due to the sophisticated nature of today’s technologies. We have recently integrated service desk training to prepare our graduates for the customer oriented side of the industry. Technical hands on training coupled with classroom theory makes for a great entry level journey into the automotive workplace.

Graduates of the Automotive Technology Program will be qualified for entry-level employment opportunities as automotive technicians in any of the nine ASE automotive repair categories.” -NCST website

Two weeks ago we set up an appointment for Braden to take the admission exam and to register him for the fall semester.


He is officially accepted as a student for the fall 2020 semester in the automotive technology program…and he is so excited!


As we exited the appointment, Braden shook his head, stunned by it all. “I just can’t believe this is my life,” he kept saying. “I just never thought my life could be like this. I mean, look at me…I’m part of a family. I can drive. I have a job. And now I am going to college!”

As we walked back to the car his smile was contagious.

How grateful I am for this young man and for the great blessing of being able to call him my son.

Watch out, world! This boy is going places!

Big Changes


mary poppins

When I first began this blog, with the purpose of recording Tyler’s first year with our family, I discovered quickly the importance of recording the moments of success as they happened, because the tides could turn without notice. That first year was everchanging and the atmosphere could turn from calm to volatile with little to no notice. I found if I delayed recording the simple joys they would soon get buried under piles of raw emotions, simmering resentment, or feelings of defeat. If I waited too long to blog about little successes those stories would lose their relevance in light of the bigger issues that had taken hold.

In much the same way I have found myself uncertain of what to record about the last month of life here at Patchwork Farm given the worldwide crisis we are facing. It seems frivolous and irrelevant to post pictures of our latest craft projects in light of a worldwide pandemic sweeping across the land. Much like those first months with Tyler at home, I find myself avoiding blogging, as I don’t even know what to write in light of all that is changing day by day…minute by minute.

It has been a crazy 6 days. On Friday the girls and I made preparations to head out to Ohio to visit my parents for our annual girls’ weekend. At that time my parents commented that it was probably our last visit for a while. It all seemed a bit alarmist at the time.



Who knew that in a matter of days schools would be closed, food shortages would be seen across the country, restaurants and entertainment venues would be shut down, and gatherings of people would be restricted.

The numbers changed daily.

First we were told no more than 250 people could gather, then 50, and now 10. Day by day new emails are coming through, canceling all upcoming events and regular commitments, wiping my calendar clean. No physicals for the kids, orthodontist appointments postponed, tutoring on hold until future notice, no therapy, no church…no need to leave the house.

Ozzie is currently on lockdown at his facility. None of the boys are allowed to leave the facility for home visits or even day passes, and no family is allowed to enter. My weekly therapy appointment and visit with Ozzie is now happening over the phone.

G.G. is also on lockdown. My Grandmother wasn’t able to join us girls for our girls’ weekend activities, as her home was proactive in locking the doors early in light of this global pandemic. All residents are being kept safe through isolation from any outside visitors. Employees are interviewed and checked for symptoms and fever before entering the facility.

Grace is now out of work, as the daycare she is employed at has closed in accordance to the latest restriction on gathering.

It is all a bit surreal.

Even Molly has felt the impact of the pandemic in her plans to serve as a full time missionary. The Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah, where she was scheduled to do her training in the weeks leading up to her heading out into the field, has been shut down. Molly will now be set apart as a missionary on March 31st only to do her training at home and online. Our home will become her MTC. Here at Patchwork Farm she will be serving with a companion across the globe that she will study with remotely through the computer. She will attend classes and devotionals online six hours a day, all while observing the rules and standards of missionary life (no tv, movies, secular music, etc.) She is navigating the mixed emotions that have come with the news, bracing for the possibility that her service to the Lord may be delayed even further in light of the daily policy changes being issued by government and the church, and trying to figure out how to manage it all in a home environment with five other people who are also living a sequestered life.

I think we are all still trying to figure it out, as I’m sure you are too. We are living in unusual times, historic times, times that will alter our trajectory as a nation…

And in the midst of it all we are trying to individually figure out our new “normal”, in the midst of an every changing world.

As uncertain and ever-changing our lives are at the moment, I find myself shying away from blogging. I find myself struggling to find the balance between acknowledging the crisis that is overtaking the globe, while sharing the daily details of life. I am trying to figure out how I do that without it seeming frivolous and out of touch with so many people’s current reality…especially in light of the many readers who are spread across the globe. I don’t want the daily fluff of my life to seem dismissive to those facing true and heartbreaking hardship at this time, so I find myself shying away from writing anything at all.

But perhaps what is needed more than anything in the world right now is connection and feelings of normalcy. Maybe the stories of every day frivolity are what we are all craving in the light of so much darkness. At the very least I feel convicted to record this season of life, as it is part of our story. This blog has served as a recording of our family’s history through the high moments and some very low moments,  will continue to share the moments of life here at Patchwork Farm…the good, the bad and what could be very boring moments of self isolation.  I hope that you recognize it for what it is: my efforts to maintain connection with friends across the world, to hold onto some semblance of normalcy, and as a means of sharing light in a season of darkness…

Certainly not a dismissiveness of the tragedy that surrounds us.

So, to my friends near and far:

Be safe.

Stay home.

Wash your hands.

Rise up.

Be a blessing.

Find the good.


Share with others.

Hold onto hope.

Much love to you all, from Patchwork Farm!


Bouncing Baby Goats



A Time of rebirth,

Of renewed Hope,

Of life pushing through the shroud of death,

Of green replacing the brown of winter,

And new life bursting forth in a flurry of baby animals in the fields.

Two weeks ago we had the opportunity to head out to the Homestead for a visit. My aunt and uncle were in town. The had traveled in from Alaska to visit my grandmother, and plans were made for a mini family reunion at the Homestead.

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Everyone was excited to see Jill and Paul, as well as Mimi, Pop Pop, and GG…

But the most eagerly anticipated meeting of this day trip to Ohio was with the Homestead’s newest additions…

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The Homestead has two new bouncing baby goats:

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Wilma and Betty.


And the kids were over-the-moon excited to make their acquaintance.

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Especially Molly, our resident goat whisperer!


Toby had no sooner stopped the car before the kids piled out to run and meet the new babies.

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Everyone took their turn loving on Wilma,

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And Betty.

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And the babies loved the attention…

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Showing off their awkward baby jumps and kicks for a delighted audience of admirers.

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Mimi generously held off on their noon bottles so that her guests to have a turn feeding the baby goats…

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A chore we all happily volunteered to perform!

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It was a wonderful day catching up with family from near and far away, as we  enjoyed the promise of spring and the blessing of new life at the Homestead.

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February Fun


The shortest month of the year flew by at a record-breaking speed, despite that extra day tacked onto the end. Here is a look at the moments that filled the last 29 days…

Valentine’s Day was a low-key event at Patchwork Farm, but we did celebrate the love of family with a fun dinner at home. Two days before Valentine’s Day I made a stop at Dollar Tree to pick up white plates for each family member.

Using a black Sharpie I personalized each dinner plate with adjectives that best describe them and then baked the plates in the oven to set the ink permanently.

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It was a fun gift to prepare for my favorite Valentines.

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That night the table was set with everyone’s personalized plates and dolled up for the holiday with a bag of chocolates at each place.

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How grateful I am for these people I love!

Not long after that holiday… one filled with expressions of love and gifts of chocolate… I found myself with sweet treats on the brain once again…

It was Bake-off time! 

This past fall a family from church organized an ongoing social event that pitted bakers against each other. Those interested in competing were able to sign up and were given a date and time for their showdown against another family from church, but those who just wanted to enjoy an evening of taste-testing and talking could come out for the fun and help choose the victor. Winners from each round then would move on to the next round where they’d compete against other winners. 

Last week we found ourselves competing in the semi-finals with a peanut butter ice-cream cake paired with homemade hot fudge.


It was a fun evening that catapulted us into round three of competition.

Molly now finds herself in the final countdown as she prepares to leave for 18 months to serve a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. These last 30 days are quickly filling up, as we work to accomplish all the tasks on her “to do” list while also trying to fit in visits with family and friends. 

A few weeks ago we traveled out to Ohio to visit my parents at the Homestead. While we were out there we also met up with my grandma for a visit. It has been such a treat having her so close. We are able to see her a lot more often than before and our visits are always a blast. How grateful I am for this special lady!


We have also been able to fit in multiple temple trips. We set the goal of visiting the temple every other week. Often our temple trip is paired with a visit to Erie for Ozzie’s weekly family therapy session. From Erie we just keep heading north to Palmyra, NY temple for an evening session. 

On weeks that we can’t fit in 10 hours of driving, we will head to Columbus, Ohio.


This past Saturday the youth had a temple trip scheduled. Molly and I joined Rusty for a day at the temple…and it was wonderful!


Molly has also kept busy working and earning money for her mission. Rather than return to working as a waitress, as she did prior to college, she decided to work for Toby’s construction company as a laborer. It has been such a blessing for her. She loves the extra time she has had with her Daddy. They enjoy spending their days working side by side, and in the process she has learned some great skills, saved up the money she needs for her mission, while also freeing up her evenings for family time. In addition to Toby she also works with Zach, her brother-in-law, and two other great guys, Fernando and Hoggin. Here is Molly’s work family. She loves these guys:


And every day she has a lunch date with this kid:


While Molly was in Idaho Tyler struggled with her absence. His feelings of loss made talking to Molly on the phone too hard, and he chose to avoid all contact rather than feel the sadness that came with hearing her voice and missing her.

While Molly is on her mission we will have the opportunity to video chat with her every Monday (in addition to exchanging letters, packages, and emails.) This knowledge hasn’t helped Tyler accept her leaving for 18 months because he is certain he won’t be able to handle video chatting with her, even if she is allowed to call home every Monday.

So, to help him get more comfortable conversing with Molly in this way the two of them have started chatting every day during their lunch breaks via Facebook Messenger. The ability to use fun filters to talk face-to-face has lessened Tyler’s anxiety and helped increase his comfort level with video chatting. The hope is that by the time Molly leaves, this form of communication will feel comfortable and even natural, thanks to exposure therapy.


Tyler is also keeping busy with some new gals in his life. These ones are of the four-hoofed variety. In addition to participating in equine therapy each week at Glade Run Adventures, he has begun working there as a volunteer. This is something he sought out independently. He wanted more time at the barn while helping out with the animals. Last month he completed his volunteer training and this month he began volunteering. He volunteers at the barn every Wednesday, prior to his therapy.


He has been given a specific assignment at the barn. He is in charge of caring for the three little girls that call Glade Run Stables home. Every week he must walk the three mini residents in from the field and groom them. His three girls are Beauty (a mini horse), Bobbie Socks (a miniature cow), and Enchilada (the miniature donkey).


He brings them in one at a time, grooms them and tucks them into their stalls for the night…

And he loves it! It has been a fun responsibility that is his alone and he does a great job.


So, there you go…just a small sampling of the comings and goings at Patchwork Farm this past February.

Now it is time to welcome in March!





Over the Falls


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Our jaunt north to visit Ozzie for his birthday was extended to include a trip abroad. Since Ozzie’s birthday falls on President’s Day weekend we had Monday off school. This allowed for an impromptu trip over the border. With Molly leaving in a month, and everyone itching to get a little more use out of their passports, we made plans to head to Canada, following our visit with Ozzie. Ozzie didn’t have permission for an overnight excursion and Braden didn’t feel capable of managing the emotions of the weekend, so that meant we were down to four family members for our impromptu adventure into Canada.

We had 24 hours free to explore this neighboring nation and planned to make the most of this mini vacation.

After dropping Ozzie back off at his residential facility (following his 16th birthday celebration in Erie) we drove two hours north to Niagara Falls, New York. We found a motel for the night with plans to cross the Rainbow Bridge in the morning.

The next day we headed across the border, ready for some fun on the Canadian side of the falls. I must admit that the trip across the border was met with some anxiety… anxiety that was justified given my last Canadian adventure with Toby three years ago. For those who’d like to relive that excitement see the link below:

This wasn’t our first time visiting Niagara Falls, but it seems that no matter how often I visit, it takes my breath away. No picture or video does justice to the overwhelming sense of awe that you feel as you stand beside this magnificent wonder of the world.

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The roar of falling water, the spray of the mist, and the view of millions of gallons of water rushing over the edge of the rock face is powerful and it soon becomes evident why this view…this experience…draws 12 million visitors each year.

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We decided to start our day at the falls, enjoying it first from the front, and then from the back.

By signing up for “Journey Behind the Falls,” we were able to take an elevator down 125 feet to explore the 130 year old tunnels that run behind the falls.

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The lower observation deck was closed due to ice,

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But we were able to get a great view of “the backside of water” through the viewing portholes behind the falls.

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It was a wet excursion, and we were grateful for the complimentary ponchos we received.

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As we walked along the underground corridors we were able to learn more about the history of the falls thanks to the informative signs posted throughout the halls.

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Here are some fun facts about the falls:

  • Niagara Falls is comprised of three waterfalls, from largest to smallest, the Horseshoe Falls (also known as the Canadian Falls), American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls.
  • Niagara Falls’ vertical height is over 176 feet in some sections.
  • The American and Bridal Veil Falls were turned off in 1969 by the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers to study the effects of erosion. There are plans to “turn off” the Falls again to rebuild two, 115-year-old bridges.
  • Niagara Falls’ current erosion rate is approximately 1 foot per year and could possibly be reduced to 1 foot per 10 years due to flow control and diversion for hydro-power generation.
  • The water that flows over Niagara Falls is at 25-50% capacity at any given time.
  • The first person to go over the Niagara Falls in a barrel was 63-year-old school teacher Annie Edson Taylor. She is buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Niagara Falls in an area called Stunters Rest, along with other Niagara Falls daredevils.
  • Cave of the Winds, located at Niagara Falls State Park is torn down and re-built every year.
  • The birth of Niagara Falls can be traced back more than 12,000 years to the end of the last glacial period.
  • Despite myths to the contrary, Niagara Falls does not freeze in the winter. However, the flow of water was reduced to a mere trickle for a few hours on March 29, 1848 because of an ice jam upstream in the Niagara River.
  • During periods of peak flow in the summer and fall, more than 700,000 gallons of water per second pour over Niagara Falls.
  • Four of the five Great Lakes drain into the Niagara River, (Superior, Michigan, Huron and Erie) before emptying into Lake Ontario. These five Great Lakes make up almost one-fifth of the world’s fresh water supply.
  • Niagara Falls is not the tallest waterfall in the world; however, the beauty of the falls comes from the height and the incredible volume of water running over the falls at a given time.
  • Fish travel over Niagara Falls and most survive because of their ability to flow with the water

When we emerged back at the surface, we headed outside to get some pictures by the falls. The blowing mist made photography a challenge and our efforts resulted in some cold fingers and noses!

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But we were  blessed to catch a glimpse of a spectacular rainbow that had formed as a result of the sun shinning down on that blowing mist.

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From there we headed over to Clifton Hill to spend the remainder of our day, before our four hour drive home.


We started with a stop at the Hershey Store…

Which we found to be a bit anti-climatic after our visits to Chocolate World in Hershey, Pennsylvania, but we were able to nab a picture with Kiss in front of the falls.

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Before we began exploring Clifton Hills, we stopped for lunch. In addition to Subway sandwiches, we order a bowl of poutine and a Mr.Big bar to share as part of our Canadian cultural experience.

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Then it was on to Clifton Hill!

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 Clifton Hill is one of the major tourist promenades of Niagara Falls, Ontario. Reminiscent of Las Vegas, this street contains a number of gift shops, wax museums, haunted houses, video arcades, restaurants, and themed attractions. Unlike the Vegas Strip this touristy street is completely G-rated and popular with families.

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Although this area of the falls is touristy and tacky, there was something fun about strolling among the neon lights and crazy buildings that made us feel like we were on vacation.

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What drew us to Clifton Hill was a coupon we received for a discounted Fun Pass. This Fun Pass offered admission to six different Clifton Hill attractions for $25.00, an incredible discount when compared to the cost of paying individual admission prices. 

One of the attractions that was included was the Movieland Wax Museum.

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The laughs we enjoyed at the expense of some very sad looking wax figures made the cost of the passes worth every penny.


I don’t know when I have laughed so hard.

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While there were a few realistic representations of famous stars,


Most of the wax figures were only recognizable because of the signage or the staging.


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Our next stop was The Great Canadian Midway where two more of the attractions included in our pass were located. The first was the Wild West Coaster, which was a fun 4D ride.

We took our seats. This unique theater had seats that moved with the 3D cartoon, taking us on a rollercoaster ride with a cowboy and his horse on a cute and kitschy adventure through old abandoned mines.

Also located in the midway, on the opposite side of a room filled with hundreds of arcade games, was Ghost Blaster.


This was an actual ride. We climbed into our cart and entered a world of black lights and glow in the dark ghosts that we had to shoot with our laser guns. Our ride kept track of the points earned by each target we successfully hit with our laser beam. 

Our next stop was the Niagara Skywheel.

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The Niagara Skywheel, which opened in 2006, stands 175 feet tall and offers visitors magnificent views of both the Horseshoe Falls and American Falls.

We got in line for one of the 42 enclosed passenger cars. I am terrified of heights and there is no amusement park ride I hate more than Ferris Wheels. I will ride the most thrilling of coasters and love them, but that slow crawl of a Ferris Wheel passenger car up to the heights of this one, terrifies me…

But the promise of amazing views and great photo opportunities, propelled me to set aside my anxiety and climb aboard. Molly and Tyler were excited by the prospect of the thrilling views and exciting ride, but Rusty was firmly seated in my camp, wondering if the views were worth the anxiety…they were!

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The views were even better than promised.

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And because my heart health hadn’t been tested enough on the Skywheel, we decided to elevate my heart rate even more with the final experience included in our Clifton Hill Fun Pass…

Zombie Attack!

This, like the Wild West 4D show, involved sitting in a moving seat that took visitors on a ride while immersed in a 3D movie. This experience differed a bit though, as we were also armed with laser guns that allowed us to interact with the 3D movie on another level as we battled zombies that were popping out of the screen at us.

I know it sounds horrid, but as a closet fan of zombie thrillers, I LOVED this attraction. It was like stepping into The Walking Dead.

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I can’t handle most horror movies. Zombie shows are the only horror films I can handle, and only because I believe that zombies are one threat I could actually outrun. 😉

It was a blast… by far the highlight of the day for me.

We competed against the other visitors that filled the theater. Rusty represented magnificently, earning 1st place in the tally of zombies killed.

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I spent more time screaming than shooting and came in second to last, earning a score only slightly better than an 4-year-old boy whose hands were pressed against his eyes the whole time. 😊

It was a magnificent day of fun in our neighboring nation’s backyard!