Tag Archives: DIY

And Life marches on!


The summer continues to race by at a breakneck speed. I can hardly believe it is mid-July. It has been an action-packed summer with one big event following the next. I’ve been so busy living life that I often forget to sit down and record the happenings of life,

So here it is…

A quick update on the latest and greatest at Patchwork Farm.

Rusty returned from Scout Camp, having had an awesome week despite record high temperatures and an aggressive swarm of mosquitoes. He returned home looking like a victim of a smallpox epidemic, but was smiling nonetheless.

July 9th was Chick-fil-A’s “Cow Appreciation Day.”

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This is a favorite tradition in the McCleery household, offering up all our favorite things:

A solid theme, group costumes, and free food!


We have been enjoying this annual event for years…

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And this year was no exception.

But our numbers were down a bit due to kids’ work schedules and a resistant family member that looked at me, incredulous, and stubbornly insisted, “It would take more than a free chicken sandwich to convince me to dress up like a cow!”



But those who did choose to participate joined hundreds of other “cows” at Cranberry’s Chick-fil-A for a fun, festive, and FREE chicken dinner.

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Thanks, Chick-fil-A!

And while he had no interest in transforming into a cow for a free chicken sandwich, Braden has been busy with other transformative projects, particularly the loft outside his bedroom.

Last Saturday he approached Toby with plans to transform the sitting area outside his bedroom into a teen “lounge” for hanging out and playing games. He had a vision already in mind and money set aside from his paychecks to bring his vision to life. His plan: tear up the carpeting, lay down a wood floor and paint the current yellow walls a smoky grey. Impressed by his initiative to take on a home DIY project independently, and his willingness to fund the project, we gave him the go ahead. After a quick trip to Home depot, he and Toby began laying the floor.

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Two days later paint went up on the walls.

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The space is quickly transforming into what will be a fun, teen, hang-out area. I’ll post pictures at the completion of the room make-over.

One of the biggest events from the last week was the wedding of Gracie’s best friend and future sister-in-law, Stephanie. Steph and Grace became friends when they found themselves sitting side by side in a Sunday school class at age 10. Who knew 11 years later they would both be “brides-to-be” and soon-to-be sisters.


Stephanie and Gracie…4 years ago today! And look, Gracie’s future husband in the background!


The Tame and McCleery girls.

A year ago, before Grace and Zach were even an item, Stephanie asked Grace to be her maid of honor. What a sweet turn of events it is that she finds herself now engaged to Steph’s big brother.


The responsibilities of her role in Stephanie’s wedding has kept her schedule busy for the last few weeks, but Gracie has loved being an active participant in her friend’s big day and an extra set of helping hands to her soon-to-be second family.

The festivities began the week prior to the wedding with the bachelorette party. Molly and I were invited to join Grace, the Tame gals, and some of Stephanie’s friends for a night of creativity. It was a fun, festive celebration of the bride-to-be at a local craft studio called “Artsy Doodle.”

While there we each had the opportunity to make a burlap door hanging. There were so many cute choices but in the end the McCleery girls (and Melanie) each chose the pick-up truck door hanging.


It was such a fun evening and the finished results of everyone’s efforts were nothing short of charming!


One week later it was Stephanie’s big day!

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Grace giving her maid-of-honor speech.

I don’t think I have ever seen a more beautiful bride.


Stephanie performing a song for her groom.

It was a beautiful day filled with love, laughter, friends and family.


Next up: Gracie and Zach…Only 3 months until their big day!


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A Crazy, Quick Catch-up


The last few weeks have been a blur of end of the year busyness. In between the big events have been a gaggle of everyday moments…none of which warrant a post in and of themselves, but are a reflection of our life…thus worth recording. This blog is first and foremost a recording of our life. It is my journal, one of my forms of scrapbooking, and a legacy of love I leave for my family, that they might read my words and remember the crazy days of our life decades from now.

Last Saturday Toby had his spring metal detecting hunt with his Beaver County Metal Detecting Club. His club meets on the first Thursday of each month at Kings restaurant in Monaca where they eat dinner together and talk metal detecting. There are awards for best treasures found the previous month and they share tips and good hunt sites. Toby is one of the youngest members of the club with most of the members being retired men. He enjoys the company of this group of men that remind him a lot of his dad, and enjoys the big hunts they hold twice a year.

At the big hunts coins are buried in the ground ahead of time. Boundaries are laid out, a timer is set, and the race begins as 30+ members, with a metal detector in one hand and a hand shovels in the other, hunt for the coins that have been buried. In addition to coins, metal tokens are also hidden that correspond to prizes that are laid out on the table.

The hunt lasted most of the day by the time coins were hunted, prizes were distributed, and everyone showed off their loot.

Toby came home with a belt pouch full of coins, some specialty coins won by tokens, as well as a metal detector canvas storage bag.

The kids had fun helping Toby sort and count his loot.

Good job, Toby!

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For one on one time this week the boys had some special requests. One on one time happens each day from 5:00- 6:00. The kids are each assigned a day and during that one hour slot they get to pick an activity to do with Mom. Sometimes that time is used for a project, sometimes the kids just want uninterrupted time to have a heart to heart talk, sometimes we work on a school or church or scout project, and sometimes we just play. It all depends on the child and what they need that week.

This week and last week Rusty was in the mood to be creative so we worked on some crafts. He wanted to make magnets to hang in his bed area of the bus. We had fun decorating rocks to turn into magnets.

During the previous week’s one on one time we had fun with an old tin of buttons. We worked on some button art to frame and hang in his room.

For Ozzie and Tyler’s one on one time we combined their time with Mom to do some therapy work. We are working with Tina on helping the boys see each other as companions rather than competitors, so I have been trying to create opportunities for them to play together without the influence of other playmates or older siblings. For their time we drove down to the park. We stopped at the little grocery store so they could each get a treat and then headed to the park for an hour of play. It was a beautiful day and the boys had fun playing as brothers and friends.

This week Gracie has been creative as well. The three older kids have a dance coming up later this week. The theme is Alice in Wonderland. Although they aren’t planning on going in costume, they do want their outfits to reflect the theme in subtle and whimsical ways. Grace created this necklace to wear as a nod to the Queen of Hearts.

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Beginning this week we have made some adjustments to our daily schedule. These changes are a result of  a family council we held last week. There have been some struggles and heightened emotions running rampant in our home the last few weeks. We felt the need to sit down as a family and reassess where we stood as a family, and refocus our time and energy based on current needs. The kids were given an open forum to air their grievances, share their struggles, and offer their suggestions as to what adjustments needed to be made as a family.

This time of year is when we start laying out our daily schedule for the summer months and look at how we would be best served to use our time. Talking with Toby and the kids is a great tool to measure what tasks need to be priorities as we budget our time.

One of the concerns that were a red flag as we talked as a family was a need expressed by the three older kids. All three expressed a desire for some time to be set aside for them to have time with Toby and I apart from their little brothers.

We came up with the solution of setting aside the hour after the little boys are tucked into bed as big kid time with the parents. The older three direct this time. Sometimes it is used to just visit, sometimes we will watch a show that might be too mature for the younger two, or just play a game together.

One night we had a “Just Dance” dance off. It was as fun to watch and photograph as it was to participate!

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 This week Grace, Rusty and Ozzie received their new belts in taekwondo. All three advanced to the next belt after testing. Rusty is now a brown belt, Ozzie is an orange belt, and Gracie is a yellow stripe.

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Friday night (after our big vertical adventure field trip) was the annual Father/Son campout for all the men and boys at church. The boys had a blast at camp Agawam. They eagerly shared that it was the best Father/Son campout in years. The boys loved the new campsite with its numerous structures to play on including a castle, a wooden fort, an underground bunker, and a wooden pirate ship. Add to that the campfires, sleeping outside, and s’mores and you have a little boy’s idea of heaven!


The girls and I enjoyed a relaxing girls’ night at home. We watched Call the Midwives on Netflix and the girls made ice cream sundaes. Then they did my hair.


There was a reason for the style choice.


No, not that… 🙂

The following evening Toby and I were invited to an 80’s birthday party and I needed an “80’s perm,” so the girls covered my head in dozens of tiny braids that we rolled into buns for maximum curl, as we watched our show.

On Saturday we worked on the school bus conversion (Stay tuned for updates) and then got dressed in 1980’s garb for our friend’s 30th birthday party. My girls had a blast helping me get ready. As they helped me do my make-up and hair I introduced them to the musical stylings of Tiffany and New Kids on the Block. We had fun looking up pictures of 1980’s outfits, hair and make-up for inspiration. The girls declared us 80’s girls to be “fearless” in our fashion choices. I thought “fearless” was a very generous word choice. 🙂

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We had a lot of fun at the party. There was much laughter, much 1980’s reminiscing, a round of M.A.S.H….I will be living in a shack with John Stamos….and a 1980’s music showdown between the girls and guys.

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It was a fun way to end a busy week!

School Bus Conversion Update!


Sunshine and warmer weather have finally made an appearance in Western PA,

the result of which is a sudden surge in bus conversion activity.

Last summer we purchased a used school bus at a school bus auction with the intention of converting it into a RV for our family of seven.

This family project came as a result of us trying to price out the most economic way for our family to do a once in a lifetime, one month trip around the United States to visit some of our nation’s National Parks. After pricing out the varying costs of renting an RV or renting two hotel rooms per night for 30 days we discovered that if we could find a used school bus cheap enough we could convert it into a family RV and use it to see the country for less than the other two options…

With the added perk of having a custom designed RV to show for it at the end for future family trips.

The renovation process began with Toby removing all the school bus seats and adding a hardwood floor.

I am blessed to be married to a man who is handy and renovates/builds homes for a living, so this project was right up his alley. In addition to being a capable handyman he also has been blessed with the talents of creativity and being able to think outside the box. He is a great problem solver and good at executing an abstract vision. He is also a master of taking other people’s “trash” and repurposing it into treasure, a skill which has served us well over the course of our marriage, not just with this school bus conversion!

When we began the renovation we spent hours online looking at other peoples blogs, websites, and YouTube videos for blueprint ideas. The problem we ran into, however, was that most school bus conversion blueprints we found were meant for an RV that slept 2 or 4 people, not 7. So ultimately we had to start from scratch and come up with our own design, custom to our family’s needs.

We knew there were some non-negotiables with the design that we simply had to have. First and foremost we needed it to sleep at least 7 with a little wiggle room in case our family grows in the future.

We wanted belted seats for traveling. Rather than reinstall school bus seats (which wouldn’t be the safest or most comfortable for long distance travel) Toby instead found mini van captain’s chairs from a local junk yard that will be installed at the front of the bus.

I knew I needed a full kitchen for feeding my family three meals a day. With that I knew we would need a larger fridge and ample food storage. Adding a full kitchen (with a fridge, cook top and sink) will cut down on our vacation food expenses dramatically.

This need for extra storage is also what led to our decision to not install a shower. When drawing up the blueprints for the bus we knew that we had the option of a pantry/closet or a shower in the same spot. I opted for more storage space since we will be staying at KOA campgrounds most nights with showers we can use there.

We did choose to add a bathroom with a flushing toilet and sink. With this addition Toby had to install a white, grey, and black water tank beneath the bus.

Once we decided on the bus design Toby went to work. Much of his work over the winter months was necessary, but not photo worthy, behind the walls work like plumbing and electric, jobs that were time consuming, and taxing, but necessary. Now that that work is all done the fun, more visible and creative part of the project begins. Toby has now built all the walls, built all our cabinets (he is still cutting out all the cabinet doors) and has added the generator, finished all the lighting, and added the roof top air conditioner.

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The electric panel that will sit below/behind the shelving in our closet.


On Monday night, for family night, we spent the evening cleaning the bus, removing all the old bus stickers, and preparing the wood for staining. Everyone worked hard and the cleaning was done in about two hours. Cleaning the bus together allowed for a lot of trip discussion and got everyone excited for the completion of the bus and our big, cross country trip.

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Step one: Empty the bus out so we can clean it.

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Let the scrubbing begin!

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Grace removing all the old seating stickers.

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Tyler and Ozzie cleaned all the lower panels.

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Rusty helping Grace out by lifting her from cabinet to cabinet to clean window rims.

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Molly cleaning the top bunk (Rusty’s bed.) The wire and clips will be used to hang the privacy curtains that the girls are sewing for the bus.

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Toby’s seat. We manages to clean 10 years of grime from his dashboard. He is installing a co-captain seat next to his for me to sit in. The children’s seats will be in two rows behind us.

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The wood: sanded, cleaned, and ready for staining. I love the barn door design Toby came up with to build the bathroom, bedroom and closet doors. I think they are charming. 


Toby spent the remainder of the week  staining all the wood in the bus,

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IMG_0577 (2)The view from the back of the bus where our master bedroom is located.

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All stained! Isn’t it pretty 🙂


Welding a platform on the back of the bus to hold the generator,

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Installing the last overhead light and the air conditioner that will keep us cool as we explore the hotter southern states,

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The air conditioner being installed…

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The air conditioner (which he installed in the old school bus emergency exit hatch) and our new overhead light.



Storage containers were added to the outside of the bus,

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And our kitchen countertop has been installed.

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The progress is exciting and our school bus is looking more and more like a home.

Stay tuned as the school bus conversion continues!

“The Wheels on the Bus go Round and Round” (an update)


This summer we attended a school bus auction where we purchased a used 72 passenger big, yellow school bus that we are  converting into a RV for our family. Next summer we have a three-week trip planned for our family. We will be heading west and visiting many of the beautiful National Parks and historic sites our country has to offer. The school bus turned RV will be our home away from home for the trip.

(as well as for future vacations and camping trips)

We have been researching and are in the beginning planning phase for that trip as we make a list of the desired stops along the way. The kids have all been involved in the planning process and have made their wish list stops be known. Once we are done with research then we will map out our route and decide which places we will stop and see.

While the planning is taking place, Toby has been working on the bus whenever he has a spare minute or two. It is slowly taking shape. It is gutted (all the bus seats have been removed) and the floor is completed. Toby installed a beautiful hardwood floor, using wood we had on hand, and finished it with charming walnut plugs. The floor is now finished with stain and polyurethane.

IMG_3081 The next step was reconfiguring the steps. Because there will now be two “driver seats” for him and I

we needed the stairs to angle back behind the co-captain’s chair rather than go straight up toward the driver’s seat.


Toby did a beautiful job of making it look as though it was made this way.


 On the outside of the bus metal sheeting has gone up to cover some windows where the bathroom will be and the bunk beds for the boys.


IMG_3084He is now done framing walls. Once he runs the electric he will finish the walls. Here you can see where the master bedroom will be in the back, the bathroom (containing a sink and toilet) on the left, and the closet on the right.

Over the wheel hubs on the left will be the boys’ bunks (3 high) and on the right will be the kitchen with a fridge, stove top, sink, and countertop/cabinets.


Toby is doing an amazing job and it is fun for the family to be part of the transformation. Stay tuned as it continues to evolve from a school bus for 72…

to a home on wheels for a family of 7!