The Migraine Sisterhood and Telling Your Story

I suffer from headaches and occasional migraines, as do many of my female friends in their thirties, forties and fifties. Some of my girlfriends fight the battle against chronic migraines, which affect their lives greatly. When we get together as a group, our planning often takes into account not only our family and work schedules, but our avoidance of migraine triggers.

Gone are our former Bridget Jones-esque nights of drinking too much wine and devouring wheels of fancy aged cheeses. The coffee bars have been replaced with herbal tea shops. Weekend nights of dancing until dawn under flashing lights to loud music? Please. Now you will find us in a yoga class. Our journey towards reducing possibility of a migraine is bringing us closer together (and healthier!).

Although I often use the word “migraine” to communicate when a headache I have is very painful, true migraines are a distinct type of headache. Migraines can be accompanied by several variations, and can include nausea, light sensitivity or sound sensitivity. Left untreated, migraines last four to 72 hours. One criteria for chronic migraines is when an individual suffers headache symptoms of any kind for 15 or more days of the month.

Because migraines are so common in my circle, I was interested in working with Med-IQ to help generate awareness around migraines and chronic migraines. Med-IQ is an accredited medical education company serving physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals. I had the chance to participate in a conference call with two Med-IQ neurologists who are focused on helping us live well with migraines and receive effective treatment for them.

Robert G. Kaniecki, MD, is the Chief of the Headache Division and Assistant Professor of Neurology at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Stewart J. Tepper, MD, is a Professor of Neurology at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. Although I was prepared for a plethora of neurological information that I would not understand, I was completely surprised:

The doctors shared that the most important item migraine sufferers can do to increase their quality of life is to learn to tell their story to their doctors.

Drs. Kaniecki and Tepper explained that a migraine sufferer has only a critical 15 minutes to inform their doctor of their exact migraine characteristics in order to receive the most effective treatment. Thus, we need to prepare for our doctor’s appointment in order to make the most of our limited appointment times.

Here are the three crucial information categories that you should be prepared to explain to your doctor when seeking migraine treatment:

  1. Time: How many days per month do you experience headaches? How long do they last? Go through your calendar of past months to provide as much data as possible.  
  2. Symptoms: When you experience a migraine or headache, do you have throbbing pain? Does nausea, light or sound sensitivity accompany your headache? Provide as much information about the characteristics of how your headaches feel.
  3. Impact: How does the headache impact your life? Does it inhibit your ability to move through your day? Does it prevent you from going to work or taking care of your children?

The doctors on the call stated that if we as patients arm ourselves with this information, we will receive a quicker diagnosis and clearer path to migraine relief. I found this information so valuable and helpful! The infographic at the end of this blog breaks it down for us, too.

What is YOUR experience with migraines? Med-IQ would love your feedback through this online survey about migraines. It will take less than 10 minutes to complete, and 10 survey respondents will each win a $100 gift card. (No personal information will be kept, sold or stored in the survey completion process.) Participate in the migraine survey for a chance to win. 

This post is sponsored by Med-IQ and supported by an educational grant by Teva Pharmaceuticals. All opinions and experiences are my own.

Discount on Disney On Ice Dare to Dream (and Giveaway!)

Disney On Ice Presents Dare to Dream skates into Fairfax at the EagleBank Arena this September 29 through October 8, 2017. Tickets for this show – featuring Moana for the first time on the ice! – are on sale now.

Hosts Mickey and Minnie bring audiences on an expedition across Moana and Maui’s raging seas, Belle’s exploration of the Beast’s enchanted castle and Anna and Elsa’s snow covered mountains in this action-packed extravaganza. Also featured are Rapunzel and Flynn Ryder, Cinderella and friends from across the Disney Kingdom who dared to dream in their much-loved stories. You and your family will be amazed by Disney On Ice’s second-to-none special effects, stunning set designs and breathtaking choreography on the ice.

Tickets start at $20 and go up to $95 for the most premium seats. Use Ticketmaster’s interactive seat selector tool for Disney On Ice to compare the location and prices of available tickets. Due to the size and setup of EagleBank however, my family and I have in the past had a great view from all areas of the arena.

And there is a discount available of $6 off each ticket – enter code RILEY at checkout to save. (Exclusions may apply.)

Show Times:
Friday, September 29 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, September 30 at 10:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
Sunday, October 1 at 12:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
Friday, October 6 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, October 7 at 10:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
Sunday, October 8 at 12:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.

I am pleased to offer a family 4 pack of tickets to the opening night show on Friday, September 30 at 7:30pm at Fairfax’s EagleBank Arena on campus at George Mason University. Enter below for multiple ways to win!

Disney On Ice Dare to Dream 9/29 4 Tickets

Visionworks Eye Exams for Kids and PAW Patrol

At the top of my back to school to-do list? Taking the kids for their annual eye exams. As both my husband and I needed glasses at children, we believe monitoring our kids’ eyesight is essential. In fact, 1 in 4 kids has a vision problem.

Last week I took Alice to our local Visionworks for a just-for-kids eye exam. There Alice had a wonderful experience, thanks to the caring optometrist, Dr. Cypress, who truly reflected Visionworks passion for offering young children a positive and fun experience at the eye doctor. Alice says that she would like to be a doctor when she grows up, and so she peppered Dr. Cypress with many questions, all of which were answered with great information and kindness.

Visionworks’ current PAW Patrol theme for kids and back to school also helped make the experience super positive. The colorful decorations were familiar and festive, and now while supplies last kids get a free PAW Patrol gift with every kids’ eye exam at participating locations. In the goodie bag are PAW Patrol activities, crayons, stickers and a character mask.

For kids who need glasses, there are six brand new Visionworks PAW Patrol frames for kids. Alice’s favorite is the hot pink with teal sides, complete with a mini paw print as the side logo.

The PAW Patrol frames are an adorable addition to Visionworks’ massive selection of kids’ frames at everyday low prices, and our annual eye exam at Visionworks was an exciting and fun back to school outing for Alice. Find the Visionworks location nearest you.    

Dermatologist Sara Brooks of Montgomery Medical Clinic: Botox and Beyond

Parents in Silver Spring (and the entire DMV) are truly the best. Our fellow parent neighbors who we see wrangling their kids at the pool and pushing packed grocery carts next to ours are often complete rock stars in their fields.

Take my good friend Dr. Sara Brooks, Board Certified Dermatologist. We live in the same neighborhood, her four children attend the same schools and sports activities as my three, and she is always there to help with a kid pick up or community volunteer activity. She is also one of the DC’s areas top dermatologists, leading the lists published by The Washingtonian and elsewhere every year. When worried parents post on our local list serv about that weird growth or rash on their child, Dr. Brooks is readily available with her calming expertise.

As the McFaddens are a freckled, many moled, eczemaed, skin rash-prone and sun-damaged family, knowing that we can go to Dr. Brooks for skin checks and dermatology services is a huge blessing. Her bedside manner to my children, husband and myself is second to none.

And admittedly, as a forty-two year old woman with the high, furrowed forehead and deep-set, heavy lidded eyes of my Eastern European ancestors, it’s good to know someone who gives good Botox.

For the past year or so I have been embracing Botox about twice a year. And two weeks ago my friend and I received our latest Botox treatments from Dr. Sara Brooks…in my kitchen. I got hotter and did not have to leave my house.

Does mid-life vanity get any better than that?

My results are in and Dr. Brooks provided the best Botox ever. Subtle and effective. My deep forehead lines are mostly gone so I look improved but natural. My two angry wrinkles between my eyes are smoothed. My eyelids are raised to thirty-something levels and no longer rest on top of my lashes, smearing my eyeliner everywhere. My eyebrows are natural, lightly lifted but not oddly surprised. My face is still expressive. Nothing is scarily frozen. I look better but completely like me.

I guarantee that if I didn’t tell everyone I know via my blog and in person that I am a fan of Botox, you would have no idea. It doesn’t change my face, it just turns back the clock a few years to how my face used to look.

When I use the term “Botox” I am referring to the cosmetic injecting of the botulinum toxin (BTX) – most common commercial name Botox – into the face to cause temporary paralysis of wrinkles and areas that show facial aging. An expert such as Dr. Brooks knows exactly where and how to inject to achieve an improved, younger appearance. The injections are painless, as the very thin needle produces just a tiny pinch. The injected Botox’s freezing effects last three months or more, depending upon each individual and their goals. I personally like a pretty natural look, so twice a year works for me. The impermanent results take a few weeks to take hold after you receive injections, and then slowly loosen back to your natural facial state over time.

My friend Jessica is also a fan. She came over to receive her latest Botox from Dr. Brooks at the same time. It was a Botox party. We had a little wine, caught up on kids, work and life and did a little visage improvement. It was so fun and so convenient! This was the very best kind of house call.

I’d love to host a full on Botox party at my house for A Parent in Silver Spring readers this fall. Who’s in? E-mail me if you are interested! 

In the meantime, I highly recommend dermatologist Dr. Sara Brooks of Montgomery Medical Clinic for all your dermatology needs — medical or cosmetic. She is the dermatologist who treats my beloved children, husband and the rest of my skin (in addition to my accordion of a forehead).

Montgomery Medical Clinic also offers

urgent and primary care services
sports medicine
physical therapy
and various occupational health services

I know all three of the medical doctors in this practice and enthusiastically recommend them.

Montgomery Medical Clinic
800 S Frederick Avenue,
Suite 110
Gaithersburg,MD 20877
(301) 208-2273
Monday–Friday, 8 a.m.–8 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday, 8 a.m.–4 p.m.
After-Hour Calls Welcome

My friend and I received courtesy treatments. No additional compensation received. All opinions are my own. 

Coolest Back to School Items at School

I don’t want to go out physically shopping for the items on my kids’ school supply lists. Imagine Melisandre intoning “The summer is busy and full of errands” and you will understand exactly how I feel.

Rather, my kids and I can snuggle up together at home and choose all their necessary items for the 2017-2018 school year on School This site has everything we parents need to hunt down for our kids. The exact notebooks, paper, pencils, folders and more that your children’s teachers and schools have requested are all hanging out together on School Specialty.

School Specialty also has some exciting, innovative and out-of-the-box items for parents, teachers and students as we begin the new school year. I shared those favorite picks (with a little help from my daughter Eve) in our latest video.

I hope these idea bring some organization to your home and school parent life, some creativity to your teacher supply gifts and some creativity and fun for your own kids! And I hope you allow School Specialty to make your back to school supply shopping easy peasy. 

Washington Nationals’ Family Days on Sundays

We love attending a Washington Nationals baseball game as a family, but especially on Sundays! Home game Sundays at Nationals Park now throughout the regular season are official Family Days. There is a kid-friendly ticketing deal for families, Kids Run the Bases and a new Family Fun area, located inside the Right Field Gate.

On Sundays, kids 12 and under receive Nats Wiffle ball and bat sets at the end of the game, and this kids’ giveaway is in addition to the various other goodies offered to the first fans who arrive. This Sunday our kids received a Nationals coloring book set when they entered the stadium. Score!

Preschoolers through teens will love attending a Nats game. The rules are easy to follow. The players are iconic. Watching Bryce Harper at bat and Ryan Zimmerman score his 28th home run — the Washington, DC team record! — was exciting for all of us.

Of course, everyone adores those Racing Presidents. We loved watching them race (Abe won) and Teddy even hung in our section with kid fans!

When your child needs an any-inning stretch, the Family Fun area near the Right Field Gate is where to go. There is a jungle gym, Nats poster making station, inflatable t-ball game, a chalk art station, misting fan spray area, a wheel to spin for prizes and fun photo ops. When Alice got a little antsy after five innings, this area was the perfect chance for her to play with other kids.

The Harris Teeter Family Fun Pack is such a super deal on tickets and concessions. Available on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays throughout the 2017 season, this pack includes a a game ticket, hot dog, chips and a Coca-Cola/Dasani beverage. You simply scan your ticket at any Nats Dog stand to redeem your concession items. You can choose from two pricing/seating area levels, but you will save $11.75 on every ticket. What a deal!

Sundays are the day for Kids Run the Bases after home games (weather permitting, subject to change), and Jr. Nats MVP Kids Club members get to be first in line. Jr Nats MVPs also receive a membership card and lanyard, ticket deals, coupon book and passport, MVP book bag, exclusive Jr. Nats Baseball Cap, MVP baseball seam bracelet, three Nationals team store coupons, a welcome or birthday scoreboard message, more Nats swag and a free meal at any Nats Dog Stand. All this good stuff in the Jr. Nats MVP Membership is just $20 for all fans ages 4-12!

And every DMV parent needs to sign their kids age 4-12 up for a Jr. Nats Rookie Membership — it’s totally free! Rookies receive a Membership Card and Lanyard, exclusive email offers, a newsletter and access to special meet and greet opportunities. It’s an easy, early step toward gaining #Natitude!

I encourage all DMV families to head to a Nats Family Day on a homegame Sunday. Check out the schedule for those Sunday home games and snag your Harris Teeter Family Fun Pack tickets on any home Friday, Saturday or Sunday game. We’ll meet you there!

We received family tickets for review (and Nats hats!). No additional compensation received.
All opinions, mine.

Feeding Birds, Not Children: Observe Classroom Routines when Looking for the Right Preschool


Today, I’ve asked mom of two and child development expert Kai-leé Berke to share some advice for parents looking for the right preschool. As CEO of Teaching Strategies, a Bethesda-based early childhood company that develops research-based curriculum and resources for educators, Kai-leé spends a lot of time in preschools and child care centers. In the post below, she offers up behaviors to pay attention to as you look for the right place for your child.  

Feeding Birds, Not Children: Observe Classroom Routines when Looking for the Right Preschool
by Kai-leé Berke
Special to A Parent in Silver Spring

When my son was a toddler, my husband and I began the daunting search for the right preschool for our family. I wanted to find a nationally accredited program, but at the time there weren’t too many of those within a reasonable driving distance. So, we decided to visit all programs within a five-mile radius of our home. Being a former teacher, I had a list of selection criteria that included things like quality of the curriculum and classroom materials; teacher-child ratios; and teacher qualifications.

On one particular program visit we happened to observe snack time in a toddler room. Two teachers were chatting with each other as the toddlers gathered, standing around a circular table. One of the teachers had a box of cereal in her hand. She reached her hand into the box, scooped up a handful of cereal and popped it into her mouth. Then, still talking to the other teacher, she reached her hand back into the box, scooped up another handful of cereal, and without looking at the children dropped it onto the table. The cereal scattered across the table and floor. The children scrambled to pick up the cereal and eat it. It looked like someone feeding a flock of birds, rather than a professional teacher caring for young children.

While I can never excuse such disrespectful treatment of young children, I do know that some teachers view routine times of day as boring, annoying, monotonous, time-wasting, or unpleasant. The same teacher who so carefully plans experiences for young children to create with art, enjoy stories and books or play with toys may put no thought into how she interacts with children during diapering, mealtimes or naptime.

Daily routines are one of the most important ways for teachers to put theory into practice. Nurturing routines support children’s overall social-emotional development. The way teachers handle routines can help children build trust and autonomy. Consistent, caring routines give children a sense of predictability about their day; this allows them to feel confident and in control of their emotions and behaviors. A teacher’s consistent and responsive care during routine times of day also helps children develop secure attachments with the important people in their lives. Those secure attachments lay the foundation for all of their future relationships. When you think of it that way, routines deserve a teacher’s time and attention.

A few years later, when we were in the process of looking for a preschool for our daughter, we remembered that experience. On each program visit, we made sure to spend time observing how teachers interact with children during routines. Are they treating routines as nurturing, learning experiences or as annoying times of the day to rush through? Do they smile at and talk to children while they change diapers? Do they treat children’s bodies with respect, explaining what they’re doing while they help children put on coats to go outside? Do they encourage relaxed, friendly conversation during mealtimes? Do they have soothing naptime rituals to help children relax before sleeping?

The quality of those interactions tells families more about overall program quality than classroom materials, ratios, and teacher qualifications ever can. They tell you how your child will be cared for; if he will always be treated with respect; and if he will enter the program each day believing that this is a place that he can trust full of people who will love him.

Kai-leé Berke is a lifelong early childhood educator, mother of two, and serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Teaching Strategies.

GIVEAWAY: Busch Gardens and Water Country USA Weekend Getaway!

Our family turned a free summer weekend into a majorly marvelous summer vacation, simply by hopping in the car and heading to Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Water Country USA. We spent a full day at each park, spending one night in Williamsburg in between, and we created a season’s worth of amazing memories with our children.

Water Country USA is just a few miles down the road from Busch Gardens Williamsburg and these two parks are the perfect pair for your summer getaway. Water Country USA offers fun for the entire family in a cool beach vibe, with resort-style amenities and a great selection of water rides and attractions.

Busch Gardens has dozens of rides in an array of thrill levels, as well as incredible shows, fabulous food and drinks. The park is divided into different European country-themed areas, and each section has great food, rides for all levels and is uniquely picturesque. It is such a gorgeous park!

Our crew was able to enjoy both parks thanks to the 2 Park Flex Deal which allows you to enjoy both parks as often as you like for seven consecutive days through September 10th — which saves you $50 or more per ticket! We used the Busch Gardens Vacation Planner to put together our fab mini break itinerary and make the most of our two day trip.

We opted for Busch Gardens as our first stop, arriving just as the park opened at 10 a.m. on Friday. We did not overheat thanks to Busch Garden’s very shaded campus. We also made sure to hit all of the sprayground areas (Alice and Eve are pictured above in the Land of the Dragons Brook Play Area with water buckets and jets) and water rides, which all five our family members enjoyed for both the easy thrills and the cooling splashes.

Another awesome aspect of Busch Gardens is their big selection of KIDSiderate (kiddie) rides and animal exhibits. Toddlers and preschoolers will have their own thrills and never be bored. We saw the wolf pack playing and receiving treats from their zoo keepers, admired the bald eagles and got to pet and greet the iconic Clydesdale horses.

During the hottest times of the afternoon, our entire family enjoyed the truly entertaining shows at Busch Gardens. Our family favorites are Pet Shenanigans – featuring hilarious and highly-trained rescue animals, Celtic Fyre with top notch Irish dancing and singing, and Britmania’s ’60’s British rock Broadway-style revue. There is also All For One, a Musketeers swashbuckling spectacular in the Busch Gardens open-air Royal Palace Theatre.

Our teen, tween and the parents enjoyed taking shifts on the thrill rides. We rode the brand new and newly-opened InvadR – the new wooden coaster, an awesome addition to Busch Garden’s collection of world-class coasters. This ride is so exciting, but it is very smooth and does not invert, so this was a favorite with our cautious 11 year old as well as the hard-core thrill seekers in our group.

The wild coasters were a hit with our 13 year old, and the parents took turns accompanying him on the take-your-breath-away Alpengeist, Apollo’s Chariot, Tempesto and more.

Thankfully, my stomach always recovered just in time for another libation or treat.

Although we were not able to make it through to the summer evening fireworks, after a full day of fun we checked in to our family resort hotel, the Williamsburg Woodlands Hotel and Suites. There the kids loved the salt water pool, the big splash pad and complimentary mini golf.

We had a wonderful meal at the on-site Huzzah’s Eatery, where Chris and I ordered wine and fresh seafood while the kids crafted their own pizzas to be fired in the pizza oven. The next morning’s breakfast buffet was included for all hotel guests, and the kids chowed down on fruit, bacon and Belgian waffles.

Saturday, our second day in Williamsburg and included in our 2 Park Flex Deal, was all about the swimsuit-clad adventures at Water Country USA. Due to the nature of walking around in my suit all day without a pocket or a magically waterproof iPhone, I was not able to capture as many original photos to show you. Here’s my last one, snapped by Chris at the Surfers Bay Wave Pool that was our family’s “home base” at the park, before putting the camera away.

But the kids LOVED that Mom and Dad were not able to access our phones! With our lifelines to work and parent photography stashed safely in a locker, we gave Charlie, Eve and Alice our complete and undivided attention as we hurtled down slide after slide with them. Hitting a water park with the kids means you have completely unplugged time with them, which is rare and a bonding treat for everyone.

There are more than 20 different slides or water activities at Water Country USA. Unlike other amusement parks that may have simply a small water slide section, Water Country USA is huge and completely dedicated to water-centric fun.

Our favorites included racing each other as a family down the Nitro Racer, cruising in pairs down the Malibu Pipeline, and watching Charlie brave the big drop of Vanish Point. Colossal Curl, the newest thrill raft ride, is brand new and so exciting! The ride starts with a funnel feature that swishes and swirls your raft of up to four people, before whisking you through the ride’s enclosed colorful tubes on to a wave element high above the park.

All five members of our family had a completely glorious time at Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Water Country USA. And the folks at the parks would love to invite YOU to experience it too! One lucky A Parent in Silver Spring reader will win a family vacation including….

  • Four (4) 2 Park Flex tickets for Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Water Country USA

  • One hotel room night’s stay at a Busch Gardens partner hotel (exact location TBD based upon date of travel)

  • One parking pass

This prize is valid to be redeemed through September 10, 2017. One winner will be randomly drawn through all forms of entry in the entry form below. Enter multiple ways to increase your chances of winning! 

Busch Gardens Williamsburg Vacation!

Disclosure: My family and I received the same items for review as included in the giveaway package: park tickets, one night hotel stay and a parking pass. All meals and other expenses covered by me. All opinions are mine. 

The Aquabats Concert at the Fillmore Silver Spring + Giveaway


The AQUABATS! are a band of costume-clad crime fighters who “battle all things lame in the pursuit of ultimate radness” and produce some very entertaining and kid-friendly rock and roll, as well as a wacky TV show you can catch on Netflix and Hulu. These five singing superheroes are bringing their celebrated family rock show to The Fillmore Silver Spring on Friday evening!

The AQUABATS! are led by the fearless MC Bat Commander (Christian Jacobs, co-creator of the hit children’s television series Yo Gabba Gabba!) and their new album features guest vocals from Biz Markie, Strong Bad and more. Check out some of their songs and videos here.

The AQUABATS! at The Fillmore Silver Spring on Friday, July 21 

Get Tickets! 

Door time: 6:00 PM

Show time: 7:00 PM

Support Acts: Reggie and the Full Effect, CJ Ramone

Premium Services: Want to skip the line, get in early, or reserve a seat in advance? Call Matt Harris at 301-960-1912 to learn about your options!

Enter to win 4 free tickets to the show, thanks to The Fillmore Silver Spring! One winner will be randomly drawn from all forms of entry.

The AQUABATS Giveaway for 7/21/17 Fillmore Silver Spring Show

Badlands Playspace Rockville Rocks!

The most beautiful open gym and playspace my family and I have ever visited in the DMV is – hands down! – the new Badlands Playspace on Randolph Road in Rockville. This nature-inspired play space and interactive environment was designed with the goal of creating an interactive environment where “children can take risks, succeed at challenging themselves, and find their own way.”

Targeted to children ages 2-13, Badlands offers many diverse areas for learning and play. The focal point of the space is the massive kid-friendly, climb-friendly rock structures. Is there anything kids love more than climbing big rocks? And these safe man made structures have tunnels, bridges, ropes and slides! Badlands staff carefully instructs kids in an orientation session about safe climbing play.

No, that is not a Dwell magazine spread. Those are the Badlands Event Pavilions! These gorgeous rooms can host your Badlands birthdays, celebrations, group crafting sessions or other creative events.

At Badlands, founders Mikel and David Blair have thought of everything. There is a cafe with healthy snacks, coffee and even libations for parents! A butterfly garden. A maker room with numerous centers for building, crafting, making art and conducting science experiments. A field games area. A screening room. And all of these centers are just gorgeous to behold.

Taking your kids to this family-focused, education-rich space is a summer must do! Daily admission is $22.50 for kids 3+ and $12.50 for toddlers under age 3.