a fun, free resource for DC area families

Kids’ Birthday Parties in DC: Playseum UPSTAIRS


My big kids love the Playseum UPSTAIRS (read my comprehensive review) for every day play stops and friend hangouts. So it came as no surprise that a birthday party at the Playseum Upstairs was one of our best parties ever. 

My son, his boy friends and his two tag-a-long sisters had a blast! The boys kept remarking how this was one of the most awesome birthday parties they had attended. Here’s how the party went down.

The boys arrived and were gifted with BU Bucks, good for them to spend on various activities throughout the space. This allowed the boys to individualize their experience.

The guys then made their own milkshakes in the kid kitchen with the help of owner Gina Seebachan. After downing about a gallon of ice cream and a vat of sprinkles each, the guys were ready to choose their own adventures.

They alternated played instruments and singing karaoke; playing billiards, foosball, basketball and even indoor arrow shooting; playing board games; having pillow fights; and eating pizza and drinking sinful sodas.

But their absolute favorite part was the giant craft room. They made fuzzy pillows, painted birdhouses and treasure boxes, painted ceramic tiles and decorated picture frames. They used the BU bucks to choose the items they would like to make, many of them generously making gifts for their families. When they were out of bucks, they molded an entire hobbit village out of clay and cheered on Charlie as he spray painted his name on the birthday wall. (Seriously cool.)

Instead of cake, they wrapped up the party with food challenges (CHUBBYBUNNY) and silly songs for the birthday boy.

Parties cost $225-$375 (not including gratuity for the party helpers.) As a mom of three who has been throwing off-site birthday parties for my kids since 2005, I found this price extremely affordable.

The party was unique and a roaring success. I totally recommend this for your child age 8-14. 

Happy 10th Charlie!

Gina Seebachan, owner of the Be With Me The Playseum (go there with your toddlers and preschoolers, it’s amazing) and the Playseum UPSTAIRS, gifted a Super Cool Party to my son for review purposes. I purchased additional BU bucks for party attendees, goodie bags, provided tips to the staff and made a donation to Seebachan’s favorite charity that serves children in India, LifeBridge Ministries India. All opinions are my own. 


Playseum Bethesda UPSTAIRS for Kids 8-14


Tween and Teen Play and Party Space: The Playseum UPSTAIRS

My family and I are longtime fans of The Playseum locations, which are wonderful toddler-preschooler-young elementary play spaces. But I just had the chance to check out The Playseum UPSTAIRS, which is big kid heaven!

On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, older kids can drop in and experience all the fun UPSTAIRS has to offer for a mere $10 a kid entry fee. If you bring a friend, the price drops to $7 each. This is a fabulous solution for kids who feel they are too old for babysitters but have parents who still need a date night or afternoon of shopping in downtown Bethesda!

They also host big kid, seriously cool birthday parties. My son is excited to host his party there this winter.

The Playseum UPSTAIRS has

  • Retro “coffee house” room with guitars, drums, keyboards, amps and karaoke
  • Billiards area with pool, foosball, basketball shooting games
  • Soap Making Center and makeup bar (using the LUSH soap, bath bomb and lip balm recipes!)
  • Bakery with cook-offs and treat-making
  • Oodles of board games
  • Pillow fight room (check out the photos)
  • Art studio
  • Crafting stations

Arts and crafts projects, snack and drinks are available for purchase in addition to the admission fee. A righteous deal in this area where a babysitter is at least $10 an hour!

Also, if parents would like to stay while their kids play, there is free wifi with ample plug-ins for your laptop and phone. Go ahead and get some work in while the kids have a blast.

And don’t miss the upcoming free holiday shopping party and girls night out at The Playseum UPSTAIRS on Thursday December 12, 2013. Babysitting is available. There will be chair massages, sugar scrub making, craft demonstrations, prize drawings, holiday refreshments and the chance to shop vendors for gifts. Proceeds from items you purchase benefit owner Gina Seebachan’s efforts to assist young women in India who are the victims of human trafficking. Reserve your spot at the party by calling or texting 240-507-8965.


Drop In Play (great for while mom and dad have dinner or shop…)

Friday 3pm-9pm ~ Saturday 1pm-9pm ~ Sundays 3pm-6pm

After School Clubs too  — registration required.

$10 per person or bring a friend and you both get in for $7.

7000 WISCONSIN AVE ~ Upper Floor ~ Bethesda 

Thanks Ms. Gina for giving local families and even the big kids places to play! 


Kings Dominion in Fall: Great DC Family Road Trip #PlanetSPOOKY


Disclosure: Kings Dominion Virginia provided review park tickets for my family and passes to the Dinosaurs Alive exhibit. All other expenses of the day were covered by me. All opinions expressed are my own. 

We all have seen the Kings Dominion Halloween Haunt ads on TV portraying zombies staggering through the park, rides transformed to fright fests and other delightfully scary touches. But that is just after dark!

During the day at Kings Dominion the fun is all family friendly and directed towards the littlest Halloween celebrants. It’s called Planet SPOOKY — a play on the title of the children’s section of the park, Planet Snoopy.

#PlanetSpooky is full of  Halloween themed characters including the Peanuts gang wearing their trick-or-treating best. There is a petting zoo, mini corn maze, pumpkin painting, and treats (and no tricks) at various kids’ stations. In the Dinosaurs Alive section of the park, the animatronic dinos are wearing costumes too, and children receive candy throughout the dino walk.

Check out the video I made of our family’s day at the park to see all that PlanetSpooky has to offer your family.

Planet Spooky and Trick or Treat with the Dinos at Dinosaurs Alive happens on Saturdays and Sundays through October 27th from 12 – 5 p.m. Planet Spooky is free with park admission. Trick or Treat with the Dinos at Dinosaurs Alive! is just $5 with park admission.

I recommend this road trip, we had a fabulous time!

Teen Dance at the Fillmore Silver Spring on Sunday Night

Parents of teenagers: Check out this awesome evening activity!

The Fillmore Silver Spring is hosting a Teen Night this Sunday night February 17 from 7-10pm. With school out on Monday, your kids aged 13-18 (ID required) are invited to get their dance on while DJ Jonny Mel spins. Snacks, cotton candy, glow sticks, and more will also be on sale.  TeenNight_1up

TEEN NIGHT @ The Fillmore Silver Spring

$10 in advanced / $15 at the door

Tickets available at FillmoreSilverSpring.com

8656 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, MD 20910

Are You Friends With Your Child on Facebook?

This infographic by Lab42 explores how parents interact with their own minor children on Facebook. I found this interesting, as more children daily acquire Facebook accounts. Remember, Facebook requires users to be at least 13 years of age



Facebook is in no way connected with this survey, infographic or blog post. Survey and infographic credit: Lab42.


Guest Post: New Parenting Book – Do I Get My Allowance Before or After I’m Grounded?

Vanessa Van Petten is the creator of RadicalParenting.com, a parenting website written from the teen perspective to help parents understand them. Her approach has been featured by CNN, Fox News, and Wall Street Journal. She was also on the Real Housewives of Orange County helping the housewives with troubled teens. She is also the author of the parenting book, “Do I Get My Allowance Before or After I’m Grounded?”

When I was 16 I thought it was my Dad’s goal in life to make me miserable. I was convinced that he had a running list of all the ways he could embarrass me in front of my friends, trick me into doing more chores or make my curfew earlier.

Our relationship would have continued to devolve until one day I saw my Dad reading a parenting book. I flipped through it while my Dad was in the bathroom and realized a lot of the things he did that drove me crazy he was getting right out of this book! I looked at the other parenting books on our shelves and realized that they were all written by adults. I wondered—has anyone ever asked teens to write to their parents?

I decided to build a website where teens could answer questions and write to parents called RadicalParenting.com.  I couldn’t believe how quickly it grew and how happy both teens were to get their voices out and parents were to have a new outlet for connecting with their kids! We now have over 120 teen writers who give advice.

Teenagers, when given a neutral space LOVE talking to parents and often offer some of the best insight because they are going through it themselves. We have also be so excited to help parents who feel like they cannot reach their kids and teens.

I think teens and parents can work together to overcome their differences and learn to work best together. We have just come out with our book: “Do I Get My Allowance Before or After I’m Grounded?” and it is a radical approach to parenting because it is written from the kid’s perspective! We would love for you to check it out—if you are brave enough to see what kids have to say!

What is this book about?
So, you have to forget the old parenting book approach – this book gives parents a totally new way to reach their teenagers because it’s the only book that tweens and teens helped write – so we are hearing first-hand advice that actually works! It gets right to the heart of the problems and offers straightforward prescriptive – and effective advice. This is a very different approach to parenting that tackles these modern problems.

What makes this book different?
Before now there has only been resources written from one side of the family equation….the adults. This is the first book that gets both sides talking. What’s more, the book goes a step further by using techniques that human lie-dectectors use: What does a teenager’s face look like when they are lying? What questions do parents need to ask to get the truth?

Here is what Publisher’s Weekly had to say:

“Van Petten, founder of the popular Web site RadicalParenting.com, offers parents a candid view of the contemporary teen’s world in this eye-opening text. Van Petten uses actual stories about teens and their often anxious, angry, or befuddled parents to introduce each chapter. Pointing out that she is neither a parent nor a teen (nor a doctor, therapist, or counselor), the college-grad author has nevertheless earnestly investigated her subject and includes current research on teens as well as hundreds of “real quotes, interviews, e-mails and advice from actual teens.

Van Petten explores a variety of timely subjects, including peer relationships, teen/parent communication, bullying, technology, and “risky business” (smoking, drinking, sex, and more). Her outlook on technology and “Internet savvy” is particularly incisive, emphasizing not only the hazards of “time-suck” activities (i.e., Facebook, chatting on IM, and texting) but also the many social and academic benefits of the digital universe. Like a crafty spy, Van Petten comfortably segues from parent to teen perspective, and while noting that each adolescent is unique, she skillfully opens doors to the collective teen psyche. “ –Publishers Weekly


To learn more, visit Vanessa Van Petten’s parenting website, RadicalParenting.com.

Disclosure: I was happy to feature Vanessa’s guest post because she is an online colleague in my bloggy world and I am impressed with her effective work with teens and their families. No compensation was received for posting.

Woman of the Week & Giveaway: Candor by Pam Bachorz

Update – The winner is Mary Beth!

For the first time in months, I was sucked in by a book so good, so engaging,
that I didn’t want it to end.

When was the last time that happened to you? When you picked up Twilight last winter? When your book club read The Time Traveler’s Wife? Because this book is a Young Adult novel and a science fictiony novel too, but it’s so finely written and deliciously creepy that you forget that the target audience is high schoolers about two sentences in.

Candor is the name of the novel, and its author is Pam Bachorz, a seriously gorgeous (check out that photo) fellow parent in Silver Spring. She even lives in my old neighborhood. I used to be nonchalant about this fact, but after reading her book and realizing that this best-seller-level-gifted-studios-should-be-optioning-the-screenplay author is going to be HUGE, I’ll now be all butterflied tummied when I next run into her.

“OMG it’s PAM! In my Safeway! OMG! She eats cereal and buys toilet paper, wow!”

Well, in the novel Candor, protagonist teen Oscar Banks is greeted in his hometown market with this same reaction. See, everyone wants to be just like Oscar. He’s the perfect teen, with the perfect dad, residing in the most perfect town in the country. But Candor, Florida wouldn’t draw any comparisons to Mayberry if people knew the truth:

The kids are being brainwashed by a means so sick and so slick, it makes Orwell’s Big Brother look like the Boy Scouts.

And just like Candor’s got everyone fooled into thinking this sicko place is paradise, Oscar Banks has everyone fooled too – in reality, he’s the only one that knows how to beat the brainwashing system. He’s content to use this for his personal advantage, but then he meets HER.

To get a sense of the town’s perfection, and how crazily talented is Bachorz, click over here to the Candor website. It’s written like a real promotional website for the fictional town – genius. The town motto? Welcome to Candor, where we’re always listening! Parents of preschoolers, be sure to check out the video about the Brannigan family that is now PERFECT since moving to Candor, and left those mean competitive preschools in their old town behind. Hilarious.

You all have got to read this book. It’s YA and sci-fi and thriller at its very best. And one of you will find out for yourself: Bachorz is giving away a signed (SQUEE!) advance proof copy. Which will be worth a fortune someday. I am already insanely jealous of the winner.

If you’d like to win, go to the Candor website and leave a comment below with what aspect of the site creeps you out the most. I’ll randomly draw the winner on Friday night 10/9.

But if you can’t wait until Friday or stand the one in 40 or whatever odds, I don’t blame you. The book’s that good. You can pick up a copy here, and Politics and Prose will send you a signed copy if you request. (In fact, I’m requesting one of those signed ones for my teen-who-has-everything brother’s birthday right now.)

Thanks Pam for your art…and the nightmares. I’ll never listen to my iPod the same again!

Free Movie Tickets to See BANDSLAM & Honor Society Plays Acoustic Show After

UPDATE: All 30 Tickets have been taken.


I have 30 Admit 2 passes for parents and kids to attend a free pre-screening of BANDSLAM, a PG teen-targeted film starring Disney Channel superstars Vanessa Anne Hudgens (High School Musical) and Alyson Michalka (pop duo Aly and AJ) and more actors your kid will recognize. Quickie synopsis: When gifted singer-songwriter Charlotte asks new kid in town Will to manage her fledgling rock band, she appears to have just one goal in mind: go head-to-head against her egotistical musician ex-boyfriend at the biggest event of the year, a battle of the bands.

These tickets are for the Monday July 13 advance screening at 2pm at Regal Gallery Place, located at 707 Seventh Street NW in Downtown DC – right off of the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro.

After the movie, teen band Honor Society will play an acoustic set since they’re in town opening for the Jonas Brothers.

Interested? Simply email me for tickets at jessica *dot* mcfadden *at* gmail *dot* com. I’ll give you as many Admit 2 passes as you request (within reason, don’t be greedy) until they’re gone. When I’m out, I’ll post it here.

Washington Kastles: See Wimbledon Winners Right Here in DC

Serena in DC Tennis
AP Photo/Nick Wass

So you didn’t make it to Wimbledon, don’t fret. You can see 2009 and three-time Wimbledon Ladies’ Singles winner Serena Williams and her Washington Kastles teammates all this month in the second season of Advanta World TeamTennis (WTT). You can also see sister Venus Williams, Anna Kournikova and John McEnroe when their own WTT teams are in town.

Check out the schedule and purchase your tickets here (they’re going fast.) The matches take place in the intimate Kastles Stadium at CityCenterDC, located downtown in The District. All matches start at 7pm except for Sunday when they begin at 5pm.

Some fun facts:

  • All kids 16 & under receive an autograph from every home & visiting player after each match.
  • Discounts are available to groups of 10 or more. Get the whole gang together and call 202-483-6647 to reserve.
  • There are two goofy Kastles tennis ball mascots named Topspin and Slice that dance around at the matches.
  • Even though she’s an eleven-time Grand Slam winner, Serena is throwing herself into community work while she’s in town. Just today she hosted tennis clinics for tennis-playing kids in The District.

I’m definitely taking my high school senior brother Evan Slovak (an amazing writer, and fellow blogger, for SlowPlanet.com) to a match when he visits later this month. Sadly for him, he’ll just miss Anna Kournikova. But maybe I’ll take Charlie that night and snag her free autograph for Evan.

What else are sisters for?