Find My Shoes (A Tiny Shit Find-It Game)

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Step on a Lego lately? Tired of finding Shopkins wedged between the couch cushions? Got a few Barbie shoes hanging out in the bathtub toy net? Home overtaken by tiny shit? Hear ye, hear ye: a solution for all. Actually, I was trying to think of something fun the kids could make at Nella’s Barbie-themed birthday party and wanted to use up some Barbie shoes that are everywhere in our house except on a Barbie’s foot. And since I have a few minutes before the Never-ending After School Errand Adventure begins, I thought a short little post with our Tiny Shit Find-It Game might be fun. Except we won’t call it Tiny Shit Find-It Game this weekend. We’re calling it:

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You’ll Need:

16-oz Juice Bottles (one per kid) We used these ones.
Colored Rice, a little less than a pound per bottle (we just used regular food coloring to dye dried rice)
Tiny Toys. You can use Barbie shoes, Shopkins, Legos, etc. Just make sure they look different and you keep track of what’s in the bottle so kids know what to look for. We are making sets of 10 different Barbie shoes for each child’s game. Because these kids are preschool age, Lainey helped me make photo keys for what each child needs to find.

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Have kids funnel their rice into their juice bottle, pausing periodically to drop a Barbie shoe in until all of them have been placed. Fill the bottle almost completely with rice, but leave a little bit of space to allow movement/shifting. The more tightly the bottle is filled, the harder the game is.

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Secure the lid, shake the bottle up, and shift to find each shoe on the list.

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Found the green one!

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Nella loves it and quickly got the hang of how to move the bottle to find the shoes. Easy peazy. I wonder how many of these we’d have to make to clean out our junk drawer.

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Nella and Maude


From the day their little Amazon boxes landed with a thump at our doorstep, Kiki and Coco in Paris and Lulu & Pip have been Nella’s favorite books. Filled with gorgeous photographs of a girl and her doll and accompanying stories of their adventures together, both of these books have been well-read in our home–taking “first chair” in our bookshelf orchestra beside the bed and first pick for take-along books on trips. Our copies have withstood road trips and have entertained our kids from restaurants here in Naples to pre-bed rituals in Poppa’s Michigan cottage. Inspired by these books and Nella’s love for them, I’ve been wanting to do a personal writing/photography project and turn it into a book for Nella about her own adventures with a toy/doll. Christmas break finally gave us the time to do it, and it turned out to be one of my favorite projects yet. Lainey and I started with shooting around some story ideas, following the conflict/resolution pattern in Kiki and Coco and Lulu & Pip; planned what the story photos should look like; and then set out for several days around town, capturing our adventures and having so much fun in the process. Once we edited a slew of photos, we arranged them in photo editing software and began to add some meat to the bones of our story. It turned out to be a great writing exercise to share with Lainey and a meaningful gift for Nella. The entire family has been impatiently waiting for the final product, Nella & Maude, to hit our doorstop, and once we heard that thump? We ran.

The result? A happy girl.

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Several asked on Instagram if they can purchase this book. This entire project was a personal creative itch, an opportunity to make Nella really happy, and is inspired by another book and artist who already did this theme and did it well. So, I’d encourage you to buy Kiki & Coco or Lulu & Pip, read them with your kids and–especially if you’re a photographer–let them inspire you like it did us to create your own story with photographs of your kids.

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If you’re interested in doing a similar project, I’ll give you a few details and tips I discovered through making ours. There are several companies that can produce this sort of book. I chose Artifact Uprising for their quality, the size and orientation I wanted and the user-friendly book composition guide they offer. We made their 8.25 x 11 vertical hardback book (lemon yellow cover with a paper jacket), chose the 50-page option and cut it down to 40 pages total (based on several children’s books I researched, the amount of photos we wanted to use and the fact that this book option requires minimum of 40 pages). I did the layout and text myself for the cover, back and each page in my photo editing software so I could have full control of how it would look.

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I used a lot of vertical photos to fill one side of a spread, some horizontal to take up an entire spread as well as clusters of photos organized together on a page, leaving part of the page blank for text. When taking photos, I thought a lot about space and color. Leaving lots of negative space in a composition is great for text–dark space for white text, light space for black text.

Example: Putting Nella to the left in this composition and leaving lots of blue sky to the right created a nice space where lots of white text could be placed on the page.

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For one-photo full spreads like the one below….

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I had to cut the original photo in half and place each half on one 8.25 x 11 page. Again, that big span of blurred-out negative space on the left creates a great place against which text can stand out.

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As for writing the story and putting the layouts together, it helps if you have lots of photos to work with. If you’re taking pictures of a scene at the ice cream shop, think of ALL THE THINGS. Take close-ups of the ice cream, get wide angle views, use different perspectives, take pictures of the ice cream being scooped, your kid looking through the glass at the flavors, the scoop that fell on the floor. They make for great engaging photos for kids and help illustrate your story well.

Fun writing lessons for incorporating older kids in the process:


Lainey was great at adding adjectives and describing scenes. I had one sentence that started with “Nella dipped Maude into the water…” and Lainey pointed out, “you didn’t describe the water.”

“Okay, how should I describe it?” I asked.

“You could say salty water.”

“Very well, then. Salty water it is, dear editor.”


Switching Overused Words.

She was also great at suggesting other words besides “says.” Exclaims, adds, asks, whispers, announces. Now if only I can get her to edit my use of “beautiful” and “little” :o)

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My dad called while we were working on the book and insisted it include onomatopoeia because “kids love that stuff.” So we dug through the text and looked for a good place where it would fit. We ended up finding a place where Nella was walking in the water along the beach, and Lainey suggested her feet made a “slap, slap, slap” sound. Very well then, dear editor. Slap, slap, slap it is.


Story Lines and Directing Scenes.

When we were thinking of what we could do for conflict in the story, I suggested something at the beach because–well, that’s what we have for location shoots. Lainey decided Maude should drift out to sea and be rescued. “And I can be the lifeguard who saves her because we have that lifeguard boogie board!”

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I won’t bore you with the entire book, but I’ll give you some of my favorite shots in it:

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Lainey has a serious problem with these next pictures in the book because it’s supposed to be a night time scene, and we shot it during the day for light. “Nobody’s going to think that’s really night time,” she’s pointed out numerous times.

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And my favorite scene in the book…

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This was such a fun project for us, and the kids are already planning sequels–Nella & Maude in Michigan–and other combinations for each of them–Lainey and her blanket, Dash and his dinosaur.

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And while this won’t be a published option for children’s books for me, it did scratch an itch that’s turned into a massive creative rash…something in the children’s literature theme is calling.

A Room for a Boy, A DIY Project for a Girl


As our family and children’s personalities have grown and changed over the years, we’ve switched up our kid spaces many times, mostly for practical reasons (new baby, the need for an office, changing sleep habits), but also just for fun (creative itch, changing kid interests). There are lots of spaces in our home that make me happy, but my kids’ rooms have always been places where I especially love to nest, the ultimate goal this cozy vision of tucking them in at night amid warmth and comfort and all the little things that say “You are loved” and feeling like these little spaces are colorful reflections of each child. It also helps if toys and books and all their little treasures have a place so that rooms stay somewhat orderly.

Dash’s space was in limbo for a while as we knew he wasn’t going to be in a crib much longer and we’d eventually switch things around when the girls got bunk beds. This room that once was an office and then Lainey’s nursery has been a pink baby/toddler sister room for Lainey and Nella, a shared baby/toddler room for Nella and Dash, a shared big kid sister room for Lainey and Nella and now, finally, Dash’s boy cave. I love the outcome.

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Using mostly what we have allows us to switch things up. Instead of all new bedding or furniture, we save a lot of money by switching less expensive things that still add a lot of character–pictures on the wall, a coat of paint on an end table, a little D.I.Y. project and new sheets.

The D.I.Y. project in this room is the peg board on the wall, something I’ve been wanting to install for a while. Total cost with paint, peg board and materials was around $40.

What I love about it:

1) Display. It goes all the way to the ceiling, breaking up the wall a bit bit yet still keeping the large open feel to the room. I’m no minimalist and have a hard time deciding what stuff gets displayed and what doesn’t–I love it all! There’s no way I could have displayed all these beloved treasures with no peg board and maintained any kind of order. Containing it all to the pegboard creates an organized display that not only has character but functions as an extra place to put things. Which brings me to….

2) Extra Storage! I can hang hats, toys, pictures, kid art, etc. We can also easily create a few small shelves here later if we want to add more storage.

3) Changeability. We love to switch things around a lot, and now we can do it without hammering more nails into the wall. Simple move a peg, slip in another hook and Voila!

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I’d also love to brag report that this pegboard work is all mine, no help. I’m all for a good D.I.Y. when it comes to glue guns and paint brushes, but power tools and accurate measurements? I’m out. Which is why I asked my dad and Brett to help me with this one. Thing is, I got tired of waiting and, like many other projects in my brain, wanted it done yesterday. So I girl powered through this one and found myself in the lumber aisle of Home Depot, feeling like a complete fraud, but doing my best to pull off Legit Home Improvement Lady by myself. I only felt like an ass once when I pointed out the pegboard sheet to the burly guy in the lumber area and asked, “Think this will fit in my minivan?” And he answered, “I don’t know, M’am. I’ve never seen your minivan.” So I winged it. Loaded this thing out on a little scooty cart, only crashing into a curb twice. And then? Delivered a 15-minute free comedy performance to the people of the Home Depot parking lot which, might I add, none of whom offered to help. Don’t ever underestimate the weight or awkwardness of an 8-ft. sheet of pegboard. Just ask my bloody shins or the cut between my thumb and forefinger or maybe my ass as it was hanging outside the end of my van while I hoisted this thing up enough to clear the back seat head rests. Ask the man in the truck two parking spots over who watched while I ran back and forth–side seat, back seat, front seat, side seat–pushing, pulling, lifting, cursing, wedging, pleading the girl power gods to please let something loose so I could at least say I bought a piece of pegboard by myself and carried it home. I called Heidi TWICE from the parking lot with a “Sweet Jesus, so help me God if you don’t have to come up here and help me shove this mother $#&er in this van so I can get it home without Brett telling me, ‘I told you to wait for me.'” Let me tell you this: the girl power gods are alive and well. We cleared the head rests. We shut the door. We brushed the blood off our shins and we drove home with 180 degrees of blind spot, singing GLORY BE. We spread drop cloths out on the driveway and had this thing painted before Brett could say LUNCH BREAK. And when he got home that evening? He just smiled. Nothing else because he knows and I know and we all know how this story ends. This pegboard is going up on the wall tonight and it might be crooked and it might be a little jagged and it might have some blood germs on it, but I’ll be damned, this project is getting done. NOW.

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I’ll admit, I took his help for one little thing–I needed an extra hand to hold the board when I used the electric saw (NOTE: I USED AN ELECTRIC SAW), and I needed an extra hand to hoist the board when I screwed it into the wall with a power drill (NOTE: I SCREWED THIS SUCKER TO THE WALL WITH A POWER DRILL). Also and perhaps most important, I used a stud finder. Like took the time to borrow one from the neighbor and put batteries in it and actually read the directions on how to use it. And measured where to put the screws instead of drilling holes all over the wall on the off chance it might land a good spot. I’m LEGIT HOME IMPROVEMENT LADY now who does things the proper way!! (For how to install a pegboard, follow these perfect and easy directions). The bottom is only a teeny tiny bit crooked, but I will proudly point that out to my kids with a “Your mama is imperfect, but she tries!” And when it was all said and done, Brett loved it too.

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Moose Head Wall Hanging, Rainbow Trout, White-Tailed Deer, Black Bear

My favorite thing on here: the teeniest tiniest pair of red Keds from when Dash wasn’t 8-feet tall and didn’t have Michael Jordan feet.

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And without a crib, we now have the loveliest space for play and cubbies for all the toys. Nothing new bought here–just gathered some crates and baskets together.

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Sheets, Discover Pillow

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I dug up an old white matelasse coverlet we already had and added the sweetest camp badge sheets from Land of Nod.

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I think sheets and pajamas are my favorite thing to buy for my kids. If you’re budgeting for new bedding, get a white, versatile comforter. You can change the entire look of the bed over the years without switching the comforter by getting new sheets, adding a blanket, changing a toss pillow. I love these sheets so much. They match my wild and adventurous boy and with the soft edges of the bed frame, it’s a perfect mix.

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The black and white stripe blanket is an IKEA throw.

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Wall Color: Behr Opal Cream, Pegboard Color: Behr Durango Blue

It’s Dash’s pad, but all the spaces of our home belong to all of us, and we often find ourselves piled up–the entire family–on this bed. Feels refreshing to have some new creative flavor in this room and space carved out for his next boyhood adventures. Not to mention some girl power under my belt…oh the places this power drill will take me!

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