Archives for August 27, 2014

Lizard Island! New Game Teaches Children about Ecology & Science

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Lizard Island: Observation is the newest educational game creation of a group of biology-centric parents who became exasperated with the scientific inaccuracies in children’s books and games and decided to create their own.

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Hop in a canoe, cruise around Lizard Island, explore the environment, and catch some critters! 

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Children get to be ecologists! You catch a lizard by circling the animal on the screen with your finger.

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Then you can touch and drag a ruler and use other tools to take measurements and learn about your lizards.

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Touch an icon and it pops up questions or facts about the plant or animal.

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Each step adds new data to a field notebook and expands the number and type of tools available for more advanced research.


Catching more lizards allows access to the bigger islands where there are more creatures and more diverse ecologies.

We received a free download code to try this out and this is so much fun for kids and so educational! My son thought it was cool!

More information:

Lizard Island Observation

Dr. Kristine Callis-Duehl, Katy Castronovo and Karen Boley


$4.99 retail

Published by Budding Biologist.

Comes in both Android and Apple versions.

Available at the Google Play store and the Apple iTunes store.


Lizard Island is a tablet-based game designed for students from grades one through five, and is in line with the Next Generation Science Standards, as well as Common Core Standards.


Players search micro islands for brown anole lizards, which they must catch, tag, and measure. Along the way, players can tap on various island life to learn more about it. Facts, questions, and answers are recorded in a field notebook. The game is appropriate for non-readers or those with learning disabilities, as players have the option to have the text read aloud. The game is recommended for children in grades K-5.


The school version will also have lesson plans and assessment tools for teachers and homeschoolers.


Lizard Island: Observation is the first in a series of 3 video games created in collaboration with scientists at UC Davis, who have been studying the ecology of a series of micro islands in the Bahamas. These data have been used to make Lizard Island as scientifically accurate as possible.  The creators received a $150,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to support the development of the project.


For more information visit

About the Creators

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Dr. Kristine Callis-Duehl


Dr. Kristine (Kris) Callis-Duehl has a PhD in Biology from the University of Florida. She is a post-doc at the University of California-Irvine and conducts research at UC-Davis. She has been published in the academic literature for her research on plant-insect interactions and plant defense as well as on science education. She lives outside of Sacramento, CA with her husband and two young boys.

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Katy Castronovo


Katy Castronovo is an artist and mother. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting & Drawing from Ohio State University in 2007. Since graduating, she has been self-employed doing projects that range from graphic design to murals to illustration. She is delighted to be one of the founders of Budding Biologist, where she is the Illustrator and Art Director, and is grateful for the excellent team of collaborators that it has become! Katy currently lives in Gainesville, Florida with her husband and two young children.

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Karen Boley


Karen Boley is the education director at Budding Biologist. She has a BA in elementary education from the University of Mount Union and an MS in language education from Indiana University, with a focus on ESL and reading. She has over a decade of experience as a teacher and an administrator both in the U.S. and Switzerland, and is currently involved with the Beaty Biodiversity Museum in Vancouver, British Columbia, where she lives with her husband and daughter.

Self Disclosure: No compensation was received to feature. I did receive a free download code.

JOSH’S WALL by Cliff Ashpaugh Do Fathers Turn Their Sons into Bullies? Debut Novella Explores Father-Son Relationships & the Making of Men


We hear the heart-rending news reports all too frequently about the consequences of children and teens mercilessly taunting and in some cases, physically harming others as a result of bullying behavior. 
What causes children, particularly boys, to act out with such violence and aggression? 
News reports suggest that parental involvement, especially that of fathers, could help solve this crisis. 
But what if the father-son relationship is the root of the problem?    
Set in the early 1960s in the wilds of San Gabriel Valley, JOSH’S WALL by Cliff Ashpaugh (Spout Hill Press; July 2014) is a coming-of-age story about a boy who wakes up to a world of bullies, liars, and strangers—including himself.  Told as a story—which the grownup Josh presents to his eleven-year-old son as a gift before disaster—within a story, JOSH’S WALL mixes fun reading with serious consciousness-raising.
At age six, Joshua Crass is reborn—after nearly dying from an allergic reaction to penicillin. Struggling with lingering anemia and amnesia, he leaves the hospital with three people—Mom, Dad, and brother Sammy—who might as well be Martians. Apart from his beloved Nanny (the only family member he remembers), Josh feels like an orphan in his own home. School is worse. Most kids avoid him; one boy—two grades ahead and a few heads taller—harasses and hits him. His teachers stick to textbook American history (which, as he learns after a bold trip to the adults-only section of the library, leaves out horrific truths) and grade on a curve of favoritism.
Josh’s strange new life takes a dramatic turn when he becomes a master at karate. His surge in power opens doors to financial success (as a pencil entrepreneur), romance, and controversy. After a life-shattering accident and a light-bulb flash of memory, Josh learns a huge life lesson: the ability to take down bigger bullies doesn’t make him a better person.                                                                          
I received this book and have found it to be an interesting book to read. I like that it teaches a valuable life lesson. See below for more info about the Author and questions and answers provided by the Author.
Josh’s Wall
Cliff Ashpaugh
List $8.99  Paperback: 198 pages Publisher: Spout Hill Press (July 1, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0615987729 ISBN-13: 978-0615987729
For more information visit :
About the Author
Cliff Ashpaugh grew up in the wilds of the 1970s San Gabriel Valley, dodging bullets while driving around in his 1964 Pontiac low-rider. Since then, he’s progressed from low-riders to motorcycles to airplanes to scuba diving to sailboats. You can usually find him today stretched out on the deck of his thirty-two foot blue-water sailing cruiser that he calls home, flinging a bottle of Martell XO Supreme around for all to partake. After performing his patriotic duty for six years in the Air Force, where he worked on nuclear minuteman missile silos in South Dakota, he returned to Southern California and school in the early eighties. He soon suspicioned he had a gift for writing after flunking his first attempt at Freshman Composition. Since then, he’s won a few literary awards, including five in the last year, has published in magazines, has organized and moderated writing critic groups, and has participated as a guest speaker at literary events.
Interview Questions and Answers — Cliff Ashpaugh, author of JOSH’S WALL
1.    Bullying is a big problem in our society.  How should bullies be confronted or stopped?
Views on bullying are as wide and varied as those in our political system. Solutions offered include everything from programs to teach children social skills to those that focus on learning how to fight back.  Some even think that bullies are helping by enforcing the rules of proper conduct on their victims, and that urging students to be accepting of those who are different is leading to the weakening of America.  When thoughtful and responsible people stand up and demand everyone be treated with dignity and respect we will begin to take steps forward as a civilization.  It happened in the free speech movement.  It happened in the civil rights movement.  It happened when we protested the Vietnam war. It can happen again with bullying.
2.  Parents are often times not aware that their own children are bullies.  What signs should parents be looking for?  Are parents the cause of their kids’ behavior?
In our modern world making life happen on a day to day basis often gets in the way of paying positive attention to our children.  There is the job, the house, the meals, the shopping, the homework.  Pay attention to your children.  Are they being exclusive?  Do they continue inappropriate behavior even when told to stop? Are they too concerned with being popular?  Do they frequently tease or demonstrate intolerance for others?  Do they play extremely aggressive games or hurt animals? If the answers to these questions are generally yes, then you just might have a bully on yours hands.
Parents can be a part of the creation of a bully by being too overbearing/strict as well as by being too permissive.  If parents solve problems by yelling at and pushing people then so will their children.  If parents are so strict that the child feels no independence, the child’s reaction can be to seek power in other ways like becoming a bully.  Children who have no limits at home can become out of control. This could mean a spoiled child pushing around smaller children to get their own way.  Again I say, pay positive attention to your child and be the kind of person they can admire.
3. You emphasize the importance of the father-son relationship and how fathers raise their sons to be men.  Do fathers perpetuate a culture of violence by encouraging and teaching their kids to fight and to not be “crybabies?”
I modeled Josh’s father after my own departed dad who I loved very much even though he smoked cigarettes like there was no tomorrow, guzzled beer like there was no today, and enjoyed flinging his favorite expression “Shit-fire” around more times than I could ever count. He was also supportive of my endeavors and raised me to believe that anything can be accomplished if you set your mind to it. He entered me into karate when I was having bully problems at school as if that was the only solution. That’s when I discovered that knowing how to fight doesn’t stop the fighting because there’s always going to be somebody around who thinks they’re better than you. Violence begets violence whether it’s passed down from father to son or peer to peer. As far as the crying goes, yes, it was looked down upon in my household, sometimes even punished. The problem is endemic because I doubt my father was unique in that regard.
4. Learning to defend one’s self is important, but is it an appropriate effective strategy for young victims confronted with a bully?
There are many alternatives, all non-violent, and all such paths should be explored before resorting to any form of violence to solve a problem. I didn’t learn this lesson until I entered my later teens when I got into a fist fight with someone who was twice my size. I got in a lucky punch. He fell and smacked his face on the curb, loosing several teeth and breaking his jaw. I sat beside him for many hours in the hospital after he got his jaw wired. That’s when I experienced an epiphany and decided there was enough pain and suffering in this world without me adding to it. We became friends and remained friends until I left for the Air Force.
5. You talk about the revelation children experience when they learn that adults don’t always tell the truth.  Should adults be more truthful to kids about the darker aspects of our society’s history, particularly in the classroom?
Education has always had as its goal the creation of a population of citizens that hold the beliefs, knowledge and understandings that foster loyalty to their country.  The same can be said of politics and religion.  That loyalty is often built on the version of truth that those in power have purposely fashioned.  Contrived truths form the basis of the conflicts we see unfolding on the world stage in the Middle East, the Ukraine and even with providing medical care to our own people. The unbiased truths can tumble walls.
6. You were formerly in the Air Force where you worked on nuclear minutemen missile silos.  How did you discover your gift for writing?
In the mid-1980s, I used the GI Bill to enter college after I finished my stint in the Air Force and then I flunked my first attempt at Freshman Composition. The problem was I found the class assignments to be boring and became too creative for my professor’s taste. The same papers that he’d given me Fs on I took to another professor who told me that they were A papers. It was too late in the semester to drop the class so I accepted the F and took the class again with a different professor, turned in the same papers as before, and got a B. I also took a creative writing course recommended to me by the second professor. Guess I had something to prove, so I entered some of the stories I wrote into the college writing contest and won a first place award. That was an up yours statement to the professor who flunked me. I’ve been hooked on writing ever since. 
Self Disclosure: No compensation was received. I received a free book to facilitate this feature. Info and Q&A provided for this post.

Taylor Schilling – Laura Mercier Makeup Look Taylor Schilling 66th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards August 25, 2014 Look by Tina Turnbow for Laura Mercier


Makeup artist Tina Turnbow created an “ethereal and angelic” look for “Best Lead Actress in a Comedy” nominee, Taylor Schilling, at the 66th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards.  Turnbow was inspired by the sparkle and creamy tones of Schilling’s Zuhair Murad couture gown, and complemented the gown with a combination of a “sultry” copper eye and strong brows.


FACE: Glowing, ethereal skin






EYES: Sultry, mysterious copper eyes



  • Next, she brushed Laura Mercier Caviar Stick Eye Colour in Cocoa, $28 onto the back of her hand and applied it with a fluffy brush to give a wash of colour over the eyelids. She swept the shade out from the crease and applied a little to the outer corner of Schilling’s eyes to elongate and provide depth.





BROWS: Strong brows framed the face



  • She then rolled a spoolie into the Laura Mercier Brow Definer in Warm, $20 and brushed the colour onto the eyebrows, which gave Schilling’s eyebrows extra thickness.



LIPS: “Bitten” lips




BODY: Illuminated Skin


  • To give the final touch of glamour to the look, Turnbow applied Laura Mercier Foundation Primer – Radiance, $33 on Schilling’s shoulders and back, which helped to tone down unevenness and provide luminosity to the skin.


Credit: Laura Mercier. No compensation was received.

Walk Across America-Celebrate Discover Your Optimal Health Day (September 4th)


National Discover Your Optimal Health Day was started by leading weight management company, Take Shape for Life, in an effort to encourage those across the country to stay active and give the gift of health to themselves. This year, Take Shape for Life has organized nation wide walk aiming to reach 3,300 miles walked in one day (the distance across the United States).

GeoPuzzle World by Geotoys LLC is fun and educational! A great way for your child to learn Spanish!


Looking for a fun way to have your child learn some Spanish? Does your child like puzzles? I know my son does so we were thrilled to received this GeoPuzzle World puzzle  (or El Mundo).  All country and other labels on the puzzle are in Spanish so this is a perfect way to teach Spanish and is also perfect for those who already speak the language. It is also a great way to teach geography! My son (who is 10) quickly put this puzzle together so it will be easy for older children but I like that he is able to learn Spanish. This is perfect for children of all ages! You can find on Amazon!

We have teamed up for a giveaway! One winner will win the same puzzle! To enter, leave a comment below telling us why you would like to win! It’s as simple as that! Deadline to enter is September 3rd, 2014 at noon PST. One winner will randomly be selected from all entries.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Back-to-School Deals that Give Back To Your School! Check out!

It’s back-to-school time for many and we start next week! Looking for back-to-school deals? lists all the best deals at more than 5,000 stores AND up to 20% of what your readers spend goes back to their children’s schools or more than 110,000 other good causes.

Goodshop’s top Back-to-School coupons that earn donations (click on the store name to grab and share the URL):

Macy’s – Kids’ Back-to-School favorites, plus free shipping at $50

Expires: 09-15-2014. 1.5% Donation

SearsUp to 50% off Back-to-Campus essentials

Expires: 09-01-2014. 2% Donation

 Office DepotGet $10 off $50+ purchase

Expires: 09-15-2014. 3% Donation

 Toys R UsSchool Rules Sale – free lunch kit (up to $9.99 value) when you buy any backpack priced $12.99 or more

Expires: 09-01-2014. 2.5% Donation

Old Navy – Earn $10 for every $25 you spend

Expires: 08-24-2014. 2.5% Donation

PBTeen – Save up to 40% off backpacks, lunch bags, and more for Back-to-School + free shipping

Expires: 09/01/2014. 2.5% donation

Nordstrom – Shop for Back-to-School clothing! Select styles start at just $16 and free shipping and returns on every order

Expires: 10-01-2014. 7.5% Donation

Kmart – Back-to-School apparel: extra $10 off of $69+ or extra $5 off $39, and free shipping on orders $59+

Expires: 09-06-2014. 2% Donation

Bloomingdale’s – Take 20% off when you buy 1 pair, 25% off when you buy 2 pairs, and 30% off when you buy 3 or more pairs of almost all regular-priced kids’ shoes

Expires: 09-01-2014. 2.5% Donation

 Scholastic Teacher Express– 10% off orders over $20

Expires: 09-30-2016. 4% Donation

L.L. Bean25% off deluxe bookpack now $29.96

Expires: 08-25-2014. 2% Donation 

Self Disclosure: No compensation was received to post and is not affiliated with SoCal City Kids. Credit: