Tag Archives: chaos

Road Block Ahead


road block

This week was a big one at Patchwork Farm!!

It was graduation week for Miss Molly and her nearest and dearest friends, and we had a few action packed days planned for the graduate.

On Wednesday it was secretly decided that we would drive out in shifts; with most of us leaving to head east on Thursday, and Toby and Molly leaving bright and early Friday morning due to work conflicts that prevented them from leaving on Thursday. I knew this trip was going to be especially challenging for Braden. I anticipated the combination of heightened emotions, family togetherness, Ozzie’s absence, and Molly preparing to go away to college, would set off insecurities deep inside that might prompt him to flee rather than have to face Molly’s graduation ceremony… as this has been his pattern recently. My solution to scaling that possible roadblock: throw him off by eliminating the anxiety brought on by anticipation, and simply show up at school a day early with bags packed and jump right on the turnpike, travelling at a speed that would discourage passengers from jumping.

This plan was divinely prompted and it worked out perfectly. By not anticipating a Thursday departure, we were able to avoid the self-destructive behaviors that present during anticipation of upcoming family connection experiences,

And the unpredictability and adventure of an impromptu road trip fed his need for chaos and risk, in a way that was healthy and parent-led.

This plan worked perfectly.

At noon I stopped by the high school to sign Braden out. He joined Grace, Molly and Tyler in the car with all our luggage, we jumped right onto the turnpike. 3 1/2 hours later we found ourselves in Harrisburg for our first overnight stay. The juggling of multiple schedules required us to travel in shifts. My most pressing requirement was to arrive at a location that offered Pathway gathering classes so I wouldn’t miss out on Thursday night gathering points for my college courses. As I looked up Pathway gatherings on the Eastern side of the state, I decided Hershey/Harrisburg area was our best shot. It was timed out perfectly, allowing us to arrive, check-in, settle the kids into the hotel room with dinner and a movie, before I left for class.

My plans were thwarted, however, when we pulled into the Radisson that was to be our home-away-from home for the night and found it surrounded by armed guards, swat teams, local police and military.

My first thought was, “Oh, Crap…They must of heard we were coming.”

My second thought was, “Or maybe someone was murdered.”

It turns out that neither was true. The reason behind the walking/talking fire power was that the Vice President of the United States was spending the night at our hotel for a GOP convention.

Mr. Mike Pence almost lost me 60 points in class credit this week when the armed guards refused to let us through the barricade to check into our hotel. Lucky for my family, I have grown bolder and more fearless in recent years, thanks to MANY opportunities to grow those assertiveness muscles…

Needless to say, after all I have lived through in the last few years, armed soldiers with intense scowls didn’t scare me in the least.

They were simply just another roadblock that needed to be scaled as we moved toward a bigger goal.

I have come to appreciate the roadblocks of life.

They stretch us in ways that the easy seasons of life don’t.

They grow muscles that can only be built through adversity.

They give us a healthier perspective on life.

And they gives us the opportunity to fight for those things and those people who deserve to be fought for, despite the lies that have argued otherwise.

The road blocks of life allow us to prove our diligence, our courage, our tenacity, and the depth of our conviction for the cause we are fighting for.

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Road blocks allow our empty words to have a voice…

The powerful and resounding voice of ACTION.

After some sweet talk and then some straight talk, we were waved through and allowed to check in. I settled the kids in and left them with their faces pressed to the window in hopes of catching a glimpse of someone important, while I raced off to class. I arrived and was only 15 minutes late…a sure miracle given the obstacles we faced.

Everyone did exceptionally well in my absence despite disappointment that no one of note strolled by their hotel window.

On Friday we met up with Toby and Molly at the Home 2 Suites in Downingtown, PA, that would serve as home base for the weekend.

The first big event: Molly’s senior prom!

Stay tuned for pictures of all our gussied up girls!

Controlled, Creative Chaos


Chaos has taken over our home.

Living with a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder means explosive chaos constantly.

Recently we began seeing a new therapist (Whom I LOVE!) and she has given me a new insight into the chaos that has taken over my life.

At our last session I shared with her our latest crisis situation…

an evening of explosive tantrums, physical and verbal attacks that happened while I was driving, that resulted in this:

A torn tire, a crumpled rim, a broken bumper...*sigh*

A torn tire, a crumpled rim, a broken bumper…*sigh*

A bone jarring crash on the driveway,

a car stuck on the bolder that took hours to tow off,

$500.00 worth of damage,

children in tears.


She asked what Ozzie’s reaction was to the accident. I told her that he just smiled. He loved it. He wanted an emotional explosion and he got it…

He was the creator of chaos.

This story led to an insightful discussion as she explained why he creates chaos and why the chaos is necessary.

Kids who come from an abusive situations have a different brain chemistry than a child who has never lived in the turbulent, high stress environment of an abusive home. As a result they become accustomed, from a very young age, to a constant surge of adrenaline as they live in “fight or flight mode,” never knowing when the next strike will come.

She explained that the result of this is often children who NEED a constant surge of adrenaline to feel calm…normal…at peace. For some children the result is a fearless, risk taking, physical child who “self medicates” the need for the adrenaline rush by the choices they make…

For example: Tyler, who spends his days doing wheelies on his bike and flips off the trampoline.

“But,” she explained, “for a child like Ozzie who is not a risk taker or physical, he gets his adrenaline surge by creating emotional chaos.” (Like the car accident)

She suggested that we might see fewer emotionally charged tantrums if we find ways to feed that need for adrenaline in a healthy way. Ozzie NEEDS the chaos. He needs that surge of energy…the noise…the yelling…the movement,

so our job is to find ways to meet that need in a healthy, happy, PARENT LED way. We decided to give it a try, and family night seemed like the perfect opportunity.

So Monday night we declared war in our first ever,

“McCleery Indoor Nerf Battle!”

It was a blast!

We began with a gathering of weapons and ammunition:


Pick your weapon:


Then teams were chosen. Big kids vs little boys and parents:



Rules were established and bases were chosen:


Let the battle commence!


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The result was amazing. Everyone had a blast and the behaviors that followed for the next two days were astounding. I think our therapist is on to something!

The night ended with a treat. Candy guns:


Bad Momma Meltdown


Tis the season to be jolly…

It is the season of

 Christmas carols,

holiday greetings,



and of course the annual Bad Momma Holiday Meltdown.

A few days ago I hit “The Wall.” That invisible barrier that separates sanity from crisis. Every year I find myself flirting with danger as I creep closer and closer to the danger zone. It starts innocently enough with dreams of a perfect Christmas. My intentions are always noble but my expectations unrealistic. I take on weeks worth of good and worthy projects forgetting that I’m not filling in an empty schedule. Instead, I am trying to add all these holiday traditions to an already filled schedule. While I am trying to make homemade gifts and create elf magic my family still expects 3 meals a day and clean socks. As I try to bake 8 dozen cookies the school still expects me to teach my children. There are all the regular demands on an already full schedule and yet every year on December 1st I naively run full speed into the month tripping over my six-foot long holiday “to do” list which inevitably leads to our most beloved McCleery tradition…the Bad Momma Holiday meltdown. The trigger is different every year but the formula is always the same..

Unrealistic expectations + limited time + overly tired children + stressed out momma + 1 more thing being asked = MELTDOWN.

This year it was triggered by an innocent phone call by an unsuspecting woman from church asking me to do one little thing, but it was that proverbial straw.  I, of course, said yes in my appropriately cheerful holiday voice and then hung up. As I hung up  the phone disaster was looming in the other room in the form of an argument between the kids. It was then that I lost it. I stepped into the kitchen and informed my children that I was running away from home…that I was headed to Las Vegas to deal blackjack for a living and I wasn’t coming back.

Tyler quickly responded with, “Can I come with you?”

Frustrated by the lack of affect my words were having I tried again.

“Nice Momma is gone. Her evil twin has taken her place.”

“What does that mean?” Tyler asked

“It means things are changing around here. It means you will obey immediately, you will obey with a good attitude. It means more punishments and less second chances. It means…”

Tyler interrupted my lecture for clarification, “So evil Momma is kind of like Daddy?”

I quickly walked away so the kids didn’t see my smile. Evil Momma doesn’t smile.

I went into my bathroom and started the bath water. I turned off the lights and listened to the bath fill as I pondered my own inadequacies as a mother. Every year I tell myself that this Christmas season will be the year I find that balance. This will be the year that I will meet all those obligations and do so with a happy, humble, grateful attitude. This will be the year I will break the annual family tradition of the Bad Momma Holiday Meltdown but inevitably the stress kicks in, the list gets longer, the guilt gets heavier and world gets noisier. All I want is quiet. I crave the silent night that we sing about. And every year I break.

Then I cycle through the next series of emotions..

Anger + resentment + guilt + sadness = RENEWAL

I have my meltdown, I feel guilty that I am incapable of making it through the season without a meltdown, I am humbled as I am once again reminded of my inadequacies as a wife and mother and THEN I remember…I remember who can help. I remember who the source of energy and gratitude and Christmas spirit is. Somehow in the noise of Christmas I had shut out the voice I most needed to hear.

I needed quiet…I craved stillness…I longed for silence so I could hear my God.

In the darkness of the bathroom I slipped down into the bubbles of the hot bath. I submerged myself so only my mouth and nose lay above water. There in the cocoon of water noises were muffled. I couldn’t see the messes that needed to be cleaned up, I couldn’t hear the bickering of children.

I lay still and I found peace.

Perhaps I am the only one  out there who struggles with the annual Bad Momma Holiday Meltdown but if you find yourself teetering on the brink may I suggest submerging yourself in a hot bath. It is blissfully silent.

Just make sure you keep you nose above water.