Tag Archives: teenagers

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!)

Some other Stuff…


Before I blog about the next few big events in our life, I thought I’d blog about some of the little things that have filled our days  in blessed ways. This also gives me an excuse to do a photo dump and clear some pictures off my phone!


Here is the latest and greatest at Patchwork Farm…

Last week Molly received some unexpected, exciting news from her soon-to-be school, BYU-Idaho. As part of a photo challenge on Instagram, Molly submitted photos of her college decision announcement. Her photo was one of three chosen in the creative college announcement category. Her photo was featured on their Instagram page and Molly was the recipient of an prize package full of BYU-I gear. She was so excited!



The boys continue to be blessed by the effects of equine therapy. They all love it and the progress they have made therapeutically at Glade Run Adventures is astounding. Tyler, Ozzie and Braden now ride together in a group session once a week. It has been fun to watch their growth, both in the area of equine skills and coping skills.


Grace continues to glow, due in large part to the happiness she has found with Zach. We continue to see more and more of Zach, which is just fine with us. We love Zach and we love seeing Gracie so happy. 🙂


He continues to seek out opportunities to support Grace, including joining our family for Sunday dinner.

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He was joined by the two missionaries who have been teaching Braden as he prepared for his baptism.

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On the night Zach joined us, dinner was followed by a spiritual lesson and fun game of Pictionary that was used to teach Braden the 10 commandments.

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It was a fun evening!

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Grace isn’t the only McCleery girl with her mind on a sweet fellow. This past week Molly asked her best guy friend, Irvin, out to prom. This “promposal” has been months in the making. Her original plan was to get a photo with Rapunzel, while we were in Magic Kingdom, holding a sign that posed her big question. On our final day at Magic Kingdom she was prepared to ask him to be her prom date in a creative way. Unfortunately, we didn’t know that posters were prohibited in the park. Here beautiful sign was confiscated and thrown in the trash by security so she came up with a plan B. She had her picture taken with Rapunzel, using my old polaroid camera, and then made it into a card once she got home. Last week she mailed her “promposal”…


He received it…


And he said “Yes!”

She wasn’t the only one with a surprise up her sleeve, however. While her secret was playing out on this end, Irvin and her best friend, Tatum, had their own surprise in the works for Molly’s 19th birthday. Irvin decided he wanted to surprise Molly by driving the four hours from Gettysburg to take her out the day after her birthday. He and Tatum collaborated and planned a magical day for their best friend. I was pulled into the plan so that I could secretly get Molly where she needed to be for the big surprise.

I kept her schedule wide open (which is no easy task!) by telling her I made plans for us to have a mother/daughter date. We left Monday morning with a plan in place. Tatum met up with Irvin after he drove 4 hours to get to our town. They headed to Walmart to get into position to surprise Molly. With the excuse of needing to grab a few things before our date, I stopped at Walmart and led her to the aisle where her friends were hiding.


Needless to say, she was surprised and touched by their show of love.

Once I had done my duty and delivered Molly, they headed off in Irvin’s truck for a day of adventures.


They took Molly ice skating,


Went hiking at North Park,


Enjoyed a special picnic lunch,


And explored Oakland, before ending their day at the Cheesecake Factory for dessert.


Molly returned home beaming and feeling incredibly loved by the love shown by two of her besties. ❤

I am forever grateful for my children’s friends and the friendship they share.

Sometimes life is so full of big events, that it is easy to lose sight of all the small but precious moments  that bless our life and make it special. We are blessed.


Running the Race



It is funny how we tend to hyper-focus on the finish lines of life.

Every met goal is perceived as an ending, when in reality each ending is merely a check-point on the marathon we call life.

This is especially true when we are running a particularly hard leg of the race, like the one we have been running these last few months.

The road leading up to adoption day was full of potholes, pitfalls and roadblocks…far more than we shared with anyone who was cheering us on from the sidelines. It was a wearisome run and by the last mile we were crawling toward the finish line.

You see, in my hopelessly naïve head I thought we just had to make it to adoption day. (You’d think we’d know better!)  Knowing most of the struggles with my three youngest were rooted in fears and anxiety about the adoption failing before it was finalized, I (coming from an untraumatized mindset) thought that the finalization of the adoption would bring feelings of security and felt safety. Exhausted and digging deep for that final push of energy needed to make it to (and through) adoption day, I thought that once we made it to Tuesday I could rest my weary self and enjoy the reward of a race well run.

What I discovered, however, was that as we finalized the adoption, and we prepared to break through the finish line ribbon to the cheers of celebration, the finish line wasn’t where I expected it to be. And I could have cried. Much like a runner who had paced themselves so as to ration out their energy down to the last mile, only to discover they had miscalculated and the finish line was actually five miles further down the road, we arrived home on Tuesday night to find that someone had up and moved the finish line ribbon and we had to keep running.

And we were all tapped dry.

There was nothing left in Toby and I.

I was weary to the point of tears when everything and everyone combusted in an explosion of hard emotions.

It was at that moment that I realized that despite the raw sores on my feet, the lack of tread left on my shoes, and the bone-deep weariness that consumed me, my race was not done. In fact, despite thinking I had reached the finish line, I had actually just begun the real race.

It is those moments in life that test our mettle.

Are we going to quit or will we choose to tap deep and keep running?

The days following our adoption hearing brought emotional “fall-out” as everyone dealt with the crash that follows highly emotional experiences. Tears came more quickly, anger was harder to manage, anxiety left family members doing whatever it took to survive the week, while others who couldn’t manage the heightened anxiety simply ran away.

They ran to prevent others from running first.

They packed their bags and walked out the door before they could be hurt by the actions of others…after all, that is what happened in the past.

I thought adoption day would bring feelings of security, but for a child whose joy following  his first adoption was stolen from him shortly thereafter by the destructive nature of cancer, nothing in this world feels safe or secure.

And if the threat of losing what you want most weighs heavy enough on your soul, you run. And that is what Braden did, and Tyler did, and Ozzie did…multiple times that week.

So, I did the only thing I could do…I followed.


It took nine miles and 2 1/2 hours of walking before he believed I wasn’t going to leave him or give up on him.

 I followed to show that we NEVER give up on family,

And to show them that if they chose to run, I would follow them…Always.

Much of my week was spent following runaways in my car as I drove at a snail’s pace behind them, with my hazard lights blinking to warn other drivers of their presence.

I followed for hours and hours and hours…

Testifying to them through my actions that we will never give up on them.

And by following them, I proved my love through my unwillingness to let them flee when family love gets uncomfortable or scary,

Because it will.

Being part of a family is the most blessed gift Heavenly Father has given us on earth, but that doesn’t mean it is always easy, or fun, or comfortable.

Being part of a family means that you choose to keep showing up, keep supporting, keep communicating, keep loving, and keep running the hard race…even when ever fiber of your being wants to quit.

Love is a choice. If it were a feeling it would be as intangible as a giggle or as untouchable as a rainbow, but true love…love built through dirty hands and broken nails and sheer grit…

Well, that is the type of love you can trust.

That is the type of love you build a life on.

That is the type of love our Father in Heaven shows us.

Life is not a sprint, and adoption is REALLY not a sprint. It is a long race, made up of lots of short stretches. Some are scenic, some are hard, and some will do everything short of breaking you,

But the choice to keep running is one we will all have to make time and time again in our lives.

When I find myself getting weary or wanting to quit, or discouraged by the finish line that never seems to manifest over the next horizon, I think of this story and draw strength from its message:

“During the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, John Stephen Akhwari placed last in the marathon, yet major sports magazines named him as one of two “top international Olympians” that year. While losing the race, Mr. Akhwari won the admiration of untold thousands because he embodied the spirit of a true Olympian as he finished despite setbacks.

Track and field athletes that year faced a common challenge when they arrived in Mexico City: its altitude. At 7,350 feet, it was the highest elevation at which any Summer Olympics had been held. From Mbulu, Tanzania, where the altitude is -3.85 feet, Mr. Akhwari suffered leg cramps early in the race. Yet he continued to run.

He collided with another runner and fell, dislocating and badly cutting a knee and injuring a shoulder. He got up and he continued to run.

By sunset, most of his 56 fellow competitors had finished the race. Wounded and in pain, he continued to run. Most spectators had left the arena where the marathon’s finish line was located.

Those who remained noticed lights flashing on a vehicle escorting a lone runner and cheered as the Tanzanian hobbled along the track in his own victory lap to cross the finish line more than an hour after the winner.

It’s doubted that anyone present realized they were witnessing a great moment in the history of the Olympics. Many journalists and people posting on various media have told the story of Mr. Akhwari’s personal victory. In a New York Times article upon the death of Bud Greenspan in 2010 is this account:

“Mr. Greenspan, an eight-time Emmy Award winner, often distilled his view of the Olympics into an incident from the 1968 Summer Games in Mexico City. He was shooting the marathon, which was won by an Ethiopian, Mamo Wolde.

“But what mesmerized him was John Stephen Akhwari of Tanzania. … When Mr. Greenspan asked him why he continued to the end, Mr. Akhwari was incredulous at such a question. ‘My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race,’ Mr. Greenspan often recalled him saying. ‘My country sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race’”

Robert D. Hales spoke of John Akhwari’s determination to finish his race: “He knew who he was—an athlete representing the country of Tanzania. He knew his purpose—to finish the race. He knew that he had to endure to the finish, so that he could honorably return home to Tanzania. Our mission in life is much the same. We were not sent by Father in Heaven just to be born. We were sent to endure and return to Him with honor.

I will choose to continue running the race God has put before me. Not because it is easy, and certainly not because it is always fun,

But because I was not sent here to start the race. My Father sent me here to finish the race.

I will run and run and run this race for love…

Love of my child, love for my family, and because of the infinite love shown to me by my Father in Heaven, who has promised that while this journey may not be easy, it is eternally worth ever step.


PS- This week’s stretch of road has proven to be smoother.

God is good…Always good!



I’ve Never met a Pumpkin I didn’t like!


I LOVE this time of year.

October has and always will have my heart.

I love the weather, the smells, the changing leaves, and the activities attached to this month…

And I tend to fill those 31 days to capacity as I try to fit in all the fall fun I can before the weather turns, the evenings darken, and the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season comes down upon us.

With the month of October comes my favorite holiday of the year…


It is with great enthusiasm we plan our costumes and decorate the house. One tradition that accompanies this holiday is the annual family pumpkin carving night.


This year I lucked out when I stumbled across an exceptional deal on pumpkins when driving past a country farm. Sitting by the roadside were HUGE pumpkins that were being sold for $2.00/ each, regardless of size. Well, who could pass up a deal like that?! Rather than simply buy the kids each a pumpkin like I usually do, I decided to go ahead and buy 8 so Toby and I could each carve our own pumpkin.


We decided Sunday night was the night.


We have reach the point of life where we rarely have a night where everyone is home together. As much as I hate it, the reality of this season of life is that school schedules, work schedules, church commitments, and social obligations make catching everyone at home, all at one time, a near impossibility. Because of this we have set aside Sunday evening as our family night. After dinner on Sunday we gather in the living room to calendar out our week as a family, hold our weekly family council, and enjoy a lesson, activity or game, and fun treat as a family. Even this commitment has become more challenging with Gracie’s YSA congregation’s meetings now beginning at 3:00 pm each Sunday. This means that Grace isn’t getting home until almost 8:00 on Sundays… but we are making it work. We just save our Family Night activity for 8pm on Sunday nights.

This past Sunday was pumpkin night.

As we prepared for Gracie’s arrival home we cleared the dining room table, covered it in plastic, and carried all the pumpkins in from outside. With the addition of empty bowls carving knives, and metal spoons we had everything we needed to create jack-o’-lantern magic.

When Grace got home we jumped right into the festivities. Everyone chose their pumpkin and began sketching out their design on their pumpkin. I love seeing how creative everyone is with their ideas. And it is always neat to see how reflective the design is of the carver who is creating it.

It was especially neat to watch Brandon as he experienced this family tradition for the first time. He is 16 years old and this was his first time carving a pumpkin, and as his mom this “first” was as delightful as it was watching it with my older kids when they were toddlers experiencing this tradition for the first time…

The only difference: Brandon was a lot less messy and a lot more capable of safely holding a knife.

Everyone jumped in to the task at hand and soon completed pumpkins were scattered across the table.

Tyler created a happy jack-o-lantern.


Ozzie paid homage to Gracie’s automobile with a Kia logo.


Rusty, our Disney fan, carved a delightful Winnie the Pooh pumpkin.

Molly, our rain lover , carved her pumpkin to reflect a personal delight- autumn rain showers!

Gracie’s pumpkin reflected her educational pursuit of sign language with an artistic carving of the sign for “I love you.”

And finally Brandon decided to keep his first jack-o’-lantern traditional, with a carved  face, cutting the eyes into hearts and topping his pumpkin with a crown.

Toby decided to carve his pumpkin into a night scene, complete with a shooting star.

And I transformed my pumpkin into Jack, from the Disney classic, “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”


The guts from eight pumpkins were sorted through, as we pulled and rinsed the seeds to prep them for roasting, and then we headed outside to light all the pumpkins from within and watch them glow on the front porch.


Standing back  and looking upon our completed creations made my heart swell with love and gratitude for the simple things in life that brings such joy.


They were simply magical!

For dinner we enjoyed Molly’s dinner creation of stuffed pumpkins. This is a recipe that was passed down from Toby’s mom after she made it for the kids one Halloween weekend when they were little.

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We felt it was time to resurrect this recipe and Molly took on the job of gutting eight pie pumpkins and helping me make the rice and ground beef filler that gets cooked inside. The finish result was delicious and festive…


A perfect ending to our fun, fall, family night!

Fandom Fun


Is there anything more thrilling than receiving a letter or a package in the mailbox, bearing your name? I sometimes feel like this novelty wears off as we enter adulthood and the anticipation of going to the mailbox is replaced with a sense of dread, but then unexpectedly you will find, sitting atop a pile of bills, a pretty pink envelope bearing your name in curvy script and those childhood feelings of delight return.

Kids love mail…at least mine do. Whether it is a letter from grandparents, a magazine subscription or catalog bearing their name, or even a college flyer, there is such thrill in knowing something in that metal mailbox is meant just for you.

This past week I have had two kids eagerly offering to make runs to the mailbox (located a mile away at the end of the road) to see if our mail carrier had arrived.

Both were anticipating packages and were as antsy and eager as a school girl waiting on a birthday invitation.

Both kids belong to monthly subscription “fandom” clubs. Gracie’s membership came as a Christmas gift from G.G., while Rusty has been picking up extra jobs here and there to fund his club membership. Both of their memberships involve receiving a monthly package packed full of their favorite goodies…and both their packages arrived this week.

Gracie’s package comes from the Fandom of the Month Club and contains a different themed fandom each month.

The fandoms range from Star Wars, to book series, to Disney movies. This month’s fandom revolved around “The Little Mermaid.”


In each fandom box subscribers receive the same sort of items each month but each month’s treats differ greatly depending on the theme. For instance, every month the box contains a postcard, magnet, and little zippered bag containing 3-4 pieces of jewelry reflective of that theme. This was this month’s Little Mermaid bag:


Here were all the surprises it contained:


Gracie was beside herself with glee.

Rusty’s subscription box also arrived. His subscription is through Gamer Block.IMG_1991

His subscription is similar in the sense it arrives monthly and contains surprises revolving around a center theme but Rusty’s themes are all video game related. His box each month contains a t-shirt, 2-3 additional video game themed gifts and a new release game for the computer.

Here are some of the goodies Rusty received in his fandom box:

This was Rusty’s first time ordering, and the fact he spent his own hard-earned dollars on it he was hoping he wouldn’t be disappointed…

And he wasn’t.

He too was thrilled by what he found in the box.

It is always nice to find that sort of mail in the mailbox!