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AN UPDATE (my health journey, new blog design, kids in school, & COSTUMES!!!)

Wow. I feel like there’s so much to catch up on and I’m not even sure where to start. 

I feel like I have moved to a new town and have been living there for the last year or two….and am trying to figure out a way to move back “home”.  I just don’t love this “new town” and nothing feels cozy or comfy about this place at all…….but I finally came to a realization the past while, that I first needed to figure out WHY I “moved here”, before I can leave.  But you guys, I think I’m finally figuring out what this “new town” has been trying to teach me about myself, and recently started packing up my boxes, because I’m ready to wave a friendly “peace out” to this place!

I know, that was kinda cryptic. Ha!

But I’ve had several things happen in this body of mine during the past 2 years and I’ve gone through a bunch of highs and lows of trying to figure out what’s going on.  In fact, the big running joke is that I feel like I’m 85 years old……because I seriously can’t keep anything straight in my brain and I forget everything.  This is due primarily to some autoimmune disorders that I’ve accumulated over the years, that have kicked my stinkin’ tail!!  My body has been attacking itself, not allowing me to keep up with all the things my brain has been desperately trying to do, and has left me with a whole lot of super confusing symptoms.  Boooooo.  But after a million appointments and a whole lot of research of my own, and trying to regulate my levels, etc……. I’ve been figuring out so much about this body of mine.  And am ready to move “back home”….to where I feel more comfy and fulfilled and energized.  You guys, I MISS BEING HERE!!!!  (I have shared so much more about this health journey of mine, over on Instagram Stories.  The video segments can be found HERE, and HERE, and then just a text entry HERE.)

So yes, moving “back home” means being here on the blog (and social media) way more, where I can get back to doing things that I really love!  Agggh…..so many plans I’m excited to work on and share!  So, peace out health problems! ;)

. . . . .

Okay, onto more updates that are way lighter….and much more fun to talk about!

A New Blog Design

Ahhhhh….this was long overdue, but I finally gave the blog a little makeover.  Instead of hiring someone, I decided to give it a go myself, and well, it took a lot longer than expected.  Ack!!! 

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I ran into some glitches and had to trudge through some muck, but at least the design is now up and running.  There are still some things that need to be fixed, but I’m getting there!  I’ll keep fixing as I go, I promise!  But it should work so much better on mobile (which, according to my analytics, is what most people are using when visiting my site these days)….so that’s a huge bonus. But if any of you notice anything super wonky, I would LOVE it if you sent me a message. :)

. . . . .

Okay, next item…

My Kids Are Back In School

What the heck???  Where did summer go again? 

Yeah, my kids have actually been back to school for a while, but I took some pictures of them on their very first day back to school to share here, just like I do every year.  But here it is, mid-October, and I’m just barely sharing.  Remember???  I’m like 85 years old….but working on it! Ha!  But good grief, it feels like all I’m doing is blinking and wow, they’ve gotten HUGE!

Ellie and Connor are now both in MIDDLE SCHOOL.  Just saying those 2 words terrifies me!  I remember being so anxious the morning I took these pictures, because this is such a hard year at school for most kids.  Please be kind middle-school, to these 2 kind-hearted kids! 

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Now, go find the kid who’s sitting alone…..and be the kind of friend you want to find in others!

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Ellie is now in 7th grade (she’ll be 13 in 2 months), and is turning into this little teenager.  She is gaining confidence, is learning social cues, and is starting to understand how to roll with punches….and be more patient with life!  Ahhhhh……there are definite perks once your kids are done with tantrums and learn to gracefully wait their turn!

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Oh, and having a babysitter is everything everyone has always told me to be excited for……..a TOTAL GAME CHANGER!!!!  No more hauling everyone with me to Every. Single. Dang. Errand. Of. My. Friggin’. Life! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!  (<—that is a big old happy sigh!) And I love that she actually likes doing it!

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We have actually worked out a system where we pay her when it’s for a date night (however, not a full wage….shhhh!) but she helps out without payment if I have to run an errand for the family, like grab groceries or take someone to the doctor.  (We decided to pay her for date-night babysitting so that she wouldn’t get burned out or feel overused or abused!  Also, so that she’d do a good job and be extra patient with her siblings!  It has worked really well….and she even puts kids to bed! Ha!)

Good luck in 7th grade!

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Connor is in 6th and is obsessed with reading.  He loves fantasy and Greek mythology of all kinds and can’t get enough of the super long books series!  He also loves playing sports….but isn’t super obsessed with any of them.  He just loves hanging out with his buddies and loves whatever sport he’s currently in.  He’s definitely a happy kid, who can hardly wait to start growing facial hair and beefing up his arms! Ha!

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Since Connor was really tiny, he’s had the the most sensitive soul.  He’s very aware of the people around him and just loves the heck out of people.  Please middle school, don’t take that away from him!

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Good luck in 6th grade kiddo….and no sneaking your novels on your lap during school instruction time. ;)

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Now, get to school…..you big bad middle school-ers!

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An hour later—-and it was time to take Chloe and Oliver to elementary school. 

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Chloe (8) is in 3rd grade and Oliver (5) is in Pre-K….and they were so excited it was time to leave! (Pre-K is funded by the governement here, so all of the elementary schools have a Pre-K program.)

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Chloe is such a fun ball of energy….and has been so excited for school to start because she’d be in the other wing of the school, with 4th and 5th graders!  She always wants to be about 5 years older than she really is….and it kills me a little inside. Aggggh! But dang it, she cracks me up!

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I’ve kinda been dreading 3rd grade for Chloe though……because I feel like 3rd grade is when the drama starts and kids start realizing they don’t have to be friends with everyone and all of the “mean-girls” start appearing.  And good grief, she’s already had some bratty classmates that have been using the phrase, “If you don’t do this-or-that, then I won’t be your friend anymore!”  Luckily, she’s very chatty and will tell me all the details after school (sometimes in absolute tears)…..so we’ve been able to talk about the word “manipulation” (grrrr!) and she’s been able to tell some girls at school, “that’s okay, I’m fine with not being friends! You don’t get to make my choices!”….and then finding someone else to hang out with!  For now, it’s working….but gahhh, this part of childhood is just the worst!

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Hang in there, cute girl!  And remember how wonderful you really are! :)

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Now for Oliver’s turn.  This kid has grown so much this past year.  He has a late summer birthday, so he could’ve technically started Pre-K last year….but he just wasn’t ready socially or emotionally.  It just felt right to wait one more year.

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And I’m so glad we waited because last year he told me he never wanted to go to school and always wanted to stay home with me….which didn’t really surprise me, as he’s probably the most timid of all our kiddos thus far.  He didn’t speak very early as a toddler and still has a hard time articulating what he’s feeling.  However, all it took was an extra year to develop…..and he was very excited for his turn to head off to school like the big kids!

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Okay, here’s the deal though.  Sending my kids off for their first year at school, is such a hard thing for my momma heart.  He was completely excited to go though, without any sort of hesitation. And he felt especially confident with his new backpack on.  Haha!

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Oliver was the last of our kiddos to be dropped off on the first day of school and we chatted about everything he would do once he got into his classroom and if he’d find a new friend and where he’d sit, etc.  He had the cutest little hop in his step as we walked down the hallway to his classroom.  But as we arrived, we could hear lots of crying.  Uh-oh.  I kept telling him it was totally fine, trying to help him focus on all of the positive energy he’d been feeling all morning.  And even though I could see the confidence leave his entire body, he still went and hung up his backpack like directed, and tried with all his might to be brave.  However, the crying coming from other little Pre-K students only intensified, and it took with wind right out of his little body.  As he looked up at me with those sweet little eyes, I saw them fill right up with tears.  He immediately reached for me and then clung onto my leg……and begged me to not leave him.  Oh, good grief.  I absolutely hate when this happens.  So I knelt down on his level and tried my very best to give him the quickest pep talk, but nothing was working.  He was still terrified, and now had his arms wrapped around my neck.  Ack!!  Then suddenly, I remembered that children’s book where the mom gives her child a little heart to keep in his pocket on his first day of school and if he missed her, to just rub it, and then he could feel safe and remember how much she loves him.  Okay, good idea, Ashley….good idea!  So I quickly grabbed my purse, and told him I had something SO SPECIAL for him!  I rummaged through my mom bag, hoping to find something remotely significant, that he could keep in his pocket and hold onto when he missed me throughout the day.  You guys—my purse is always so full of so many things…..but could I find anything even remotely meaningful on this particular day???  Of course not!  In fact, the only thing that was small enough to leave with him (other than a granola bar), was a ponytail elastic.  Yep, that was it.  So I mumbled in a super upbeat tone, something about how special this bright teal hair elastic was, and how if he missed me or felt nervous after I left, he could put his hand in his pocket and feel close to me.  Did that great idea save the day????  I was sure it would.  But nope, NOT. AT. ALL!  Hahaha…..such a fail!  He just tightened his grip on me and began scanning the faces of the silent children over on the carpet, who also seemed equally terrified. Nope, no comfort for him there either.  Finally, one of the aides came over and told me she’d help him find a spot on the carpet to sit….and that he’d be just fine!  So I reassured him he was safe and that I’d be back really soon to get him.  Poor kid.  My heart broke for him that morning.

But wouldn’t you know…..I picked this kid up a couple hours later, and he was nothing but smiles.  He absolutely loved it and said he was for sure going back tomorrow!  And nope, not another tear since that day.  Whew!

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Enjoy your first year of school buddy!  (Yep, that’s zero fingers, for Pre-K……haha!)

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Good luck at elementary school, you two!

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Oh wait…..but you know we have a fifth kid, right?  Yep, Max.  And yeah, he was kinda ticked that we kept talking about all the big kids leaving and going to school without him. 

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However, once he realized that he now has my undivided attention each day—he soaks up EVERY OUNCE of it! 

Gah…..this kid is a funny one!  And thinks he rules the house!  Being the youngest and learning the skill of “survival”, is a real thing, you guys!  He definitely makes his presence known and can be a feisty little stinker.  But, he can be equally sweet and is thankfully a snuggly little kid……who loves putting his head on your shoulder, and nuzzling right into your neck.  Ahhhhh, the best!

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Okay, now that they’re all in school…..I’m able to get a little more done here at home.  Well, not really.  Max is still home…..but we try!

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Last item to chat about…

Halloween Costumes

Oh. My. Gosh.  If you know anything about me…..you know I LOVE making costumes each year!  And if you don’t know that, head over to see all the DIY Costumes on this site. I get such a kick out of making them!

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However, this year has been a tricky one…and I’m so behind on making them.  Every year, it always takes several conversations to finally figure out what my children want to be for Halloween and well, with so many other things going on this year (including trying really hard to figure out this health stuff I’ve been going through), time just hasn’t been my friend.  So, seeing as how it’s already October 21st, the original idea that we were going with…..is now out the window.  Mostly because rather than do a quick job and not do it justice, I’d rather save it and make them next year for my kids.  So this year, as much as I hate it, we’re going more simple this year. The costume idea is pretty darn fun, but just won’t be as detailed.  And that’s okay! 

I’ve been working on Chloe’s and will be sharing hers first….hopefully tomorrow!  So hang tight, I’m still planning on sharing this year, but just a tad late!

-Ashley

Ashley Johnston
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Ashley Johnston

Owner at Make It & Love It
Ashley Johnston is a professional DIY costume maker, sewist, crafter, and owner of Make It & Love It. She is a mom of 5 and a wife to a very patient (with my craft clutter) husband. In case you’re wondering, she always chooses crafting/sewing/designing over mopping/dusting/wiping base boards……but bathrooms/laundry/full bellies are always attended to. Whew!
An update  (my health journey, new  blog design, kids in school, & costumes!!!)
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Comments

  1. Celeste says:

    I’m so sorry for your health struggles! I went through something similar, but not nearly as intense as an autoimmune disease. I hope you find the answers you need. Mystery health challenges can be so discouraging. You know what you feel, and that it isn’t normal for you, but it’s hard to find health professionals who know what to do. As for your adorable back to school post, I feel like you’re speaking the words in my heart! My kids are all about your kids’ ages and I agree with everything you said. I am totally stealing your mantra for 3rd grade girl choices! And your 6th grader would be bffs with my Greek mythology crazy long book series loving 6th grader. Anyway. Long post to say, we’ve never met, but I’ve been following you for ages and I admire you a ton and really hope and pray all the best things for you and your beautiful family.

  2. Pingback: Rain & Storm Cloud Costume (NO-SEW) | Make It and Love It
  3. Camille says:

    Love your new makeover! I’ve followed in a few of your footsteps and you’ve been a TREMENDOUS help – we remodeled our kitchen right after you posted about doing yours and I used TONS of your recommendations (IKEA kitchen and all!). Then I’ve been rebranding my website (camillesprimaryideas.com) and noticed that you published yours a few weeks before I did mine (mine just went live today and I’m dealing with all the glitches right now – ugh!). I finally had to hire help out because I was about on the brink of a nervous breakdown. Anyway, thanks for being such a great inspiration in more ways than you know! LOVE that you are back and LOVE your new space!

    ~Camille

  4. Tenney says:

    So happy to see you, Ashley! I just figured with 5 children, your focus was not on the blog anymore! But I’m happy anytime you can share. I miss all the home improvements you were doing on the other house. I learned so much. Hang in there on the health issues – it often feels like the tests/cures are worse than the problem. I’m sure you are right that finding balance will really help. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your great family (look how they’ve grown – wow!). Take care – aloha!

  5. katiasafia says:

    really missed you too;can’t believe they have grown up and you have beautiful family .welcome back to school for children and great success in their studies hi you have made very nicel pictures

  6. katia says:

    i miss you too welcome back to school for children and great success in their studies.

  7. Leigh Anne says:

    So great to see a post from you pop into my inbox!! I learned so much and have received so much inspiration from your blog! I’m so sorry for your health struggles and hope you can feel more like yourself soon. My kids are similar ages of your kids (2 boys 12 & 10 and 2 girls 8 & 5). I remember reading your blog in my “blog reader” and our kids were all babies and I felt like I had no time to sew. I just knew when they got older I would have more time to sew. Ha!! Well, that’s definitely not the case and now I sew even less! But always have high hopes of getting back to it. When ever I do it always brings me so much joy! Blessings!

  8. Tiffany says:

    I’ve been following you since Chloe was a baby and I forget that my oldest girl is her same age! It is crazy to think that you almost have a teenager. I have loved following your family over the years. I’m afraid that my third grader is one of the bratty girls sometimes. :/ And my Kindergartner. It’s not for lack of trying, that’s for sure! I can’t wait to see your Halloween costumes!

  9. Kim N says:

    So glad to see you back, Ashley! I’ve been praying for you and your family, knowing from what you’ve said in the past how much joy it brings you to design and share your amazing creations. Your new layout is wonderful. (I thought you had paid someone big bucks to design it!) Thank you for sharing your struggles with us also. Others will be encouraged (ie, take courage) by knowing they are not alone in their own struggles.

    You have raised your kids to be empathetic and kind-hearted. As you help them navigate new territory, they will also help other kids who need a kind word and a friend.

  10. Dar says:

    Hi Ashley! It’s so great see a post from you again! I really missed you! Your kids have gotten so big! I now realize that I’ve been following you for a very long time ;-) Very happy that you’re back, and feeling better. I can’t wait to see you inspire me and others again. Take care!

  11. Swetha says:

    Wow, I had nearly given up hope of ever seeing your post again and this hits me! You made my day. I’m so glad you are feeling better. Love to you all. Hope to see lots more of you and your sweet family going forward.

  12. Janice says:

    So happy to see your email! I too was wondering with concerns for you after so long with no new ideas in my inbox! I am sorry to hear of your health struggles, it is a difficult journey to navigate. You must be trying to take care of yourself so you can continue to be the awesome mom you are and it can be overwhelming, I am sure. We are two years into dealing with my husband’s pancreatic cancer, so I have some understanding of the struggles. Please know you are surely helping people just by sharing your personal story.
    Wowie zowie, your children are growing so fast, they are all so happy and ready to tackle the new year!! 😊 I love the advice “I don’t need to be your friend and you don’t make choices for me!” Such powerful words, good for Chloe for being strong enough to use them!
    My own little guy started college this fall! He is working night shift as a firefighter to help pay for school. I love watching him go after his dreams and grow into the man we have been raising him to be. Parenting is certainly rewarding.

  13. Lisa - Cucicucicoo Eco Sewing & Crafting says:

    Power to you, Ashley! I had been wondering what was going on and how you were doing, after many cryptic mentions of health problems. I’m so happy to hear that you’re taking charge of your life as much as you can. And I also say kudos to you in openly talking about what you’ve been going through because it’s really important to so many people.
    I looooove your new website, logo and everything else. Fabulous job on doing it yourself!!
    And also… holy moly! Your kids!! Especially your middle schoolers, having watched them grow up. They are gorgeous, and they all sound like they have gorgeous souls, too.
    Glad to have you back in your “home”, but especially glad to hear that you are powering on through! :) Lisa

  14. Irena says:

    I have missed you and your beautiful family. And your craft. Tutorials. Sorry to hear your health was not as it should be. Wish you. All blessing. Love from Australia

  15. Louise says:

    So glad you are back! I have been thinking about you. Your family is beautiful, can’t believe they have grown up, you had just had Chloe when I starting following your blog. Simple halloween costumes will work just fine, you have had such elaborate outfits in the past, take a break. Glad to hear you are feeling better, auto immune disease can do strange things to your health, listen to your body and allow yourself to rest and not feel guilty.

  16. Summer says:

    Ashley it’s so fun to see a post from you again! I was just on your blog recently (looks beautiful!) wondering where you’ve been! Your kids are adorable and so big!! Love the pictures. So excited that you are back, and feeling better. Autoimmune stuff is horrible!

  17. Danita Courtney says:

    You have been MISSED! So happy you found your way back AND a way through the murk of health difficulties! You are not alone! Your children look lovely as ever! I sub for middle school and can tell you I go in with an open heart and look at each child with a smile on my face trying to make their day the very best I can. I know how hard it is, and I try my absolute best to help each child feel welcomed and safe. I hope your children have many people in their school who makes them feel special too!

    As for me, my sewing skills have improved as I now try to sew for my grand kids and others almost everyday. I can never thank you enough for all you gave and taught me when I found your blog! I faithfully followed and applied what I learned. Your gift is incredible!

    All the best! Gentle hugs across the miles to welcome to back!
    Danita

  18. Kristen Lombardo says:

    How is it possible that your gang is as old as they are? I remember them all as babies.
    Then again, I have a freshman in HS and a 7th grader!
    Health issues stink… I’m goin through several at the moment as well….. I feel so old….. And I’m fairly certain I’m older than you. Good luck.

  19. Anna says:

    So glad to see you back on the blog and glad you are feeling better! I am kind of a silent follower most of the time, but what you said today touched my heart. I too am “moving back home” except my struggles have been with depression and bad habits that intensified the problems from that. I’m wishing you the best on your journey!

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Hi, I'm Ashley

Hi, I’m Ashley—the DIY-enthusiast behind this crazy blog!

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