Port Discovery Children’s Museum in Baltimore: Preschool and Primary Paradise

On a cold winter’s day, an ideal indoor destination for discovery and play is Port Discovery Children’s Museum in Baltimore. With three floors of exhibits and experiences, and a central urban treehouse climbing structure connecting to all levels, this place is preschool paradise.

The interactive exhibits are designed for children ages two to ten years. Our six year old had a great time, and her older siblings enjoyed the trip down memory lane, we used to visit when they were younger. The teen and tween enjoyed supporting Alice’s play and spending time together as a family, but they were definitely older than the target audience.

For babies and toddlers under age two, there are lots of exhibits they will love, especially the infant/toddler area, Tot Trails, and the quiet play room, The Oasis (an ideal area for nursing). If you have Dora and Diego fans in the house, Port Discovery has a featured Nick Jr. exhibit through February 18, 2018.

Of the permanent exhibits for primary students, Alice most enjoyed KidWorks, the giant climbing structure in the center of the museum with lots of rope bridges, towers, staircases and tunnels. She also spent nearly an hour playing in Wonders of Water, a water play area that supplies slickers and Crocs for kids to utilize during their splash-filled learning. Here they perform water experiments like building fountains, stepping inside the bubble hoop and more.

Tiny’s Diner, a realistic 50’s style diner, where kids “cook” and play waitstaff to their parents, was another  huge hit. On the Saturday over winter break when we were there, puppet shows were shown and live animals were on display. There’s always something awesome happening at Port Discovery.

Alice also enjoyed A·MAZE·D: The Puzzling World of Dave Phillips, a featured exhibit of giant indoor mazes that is at Port Discovery now through January 28 (closed 1/11 – 1/16, reopens 1/17).

Check out the special events at Port Discovery happening in January and all winter on their calendar

Admission to these special events listed below is free with museum entry, which is $15.95 for individuals two and up (excepting on $2 Target Family Fun Night.) Members and children under two always enter free.

Martin Luther King, Jr. I Have a Dream Weekend Saturday, January 13 10AM – 5PM, Sunday, January 14  12PM – 5PM, Monday, January 15  9:30AM – 4:30PM

Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and legacy through fun, educational activities at Port Discovery’s “I Have a Dream Weekend.” Experience African-American history and heritage through interactive programs and performances designed to educate, inspire and help children understand the impact Martin Luther King, Jr. made on America and the world. Educational activities are planned from 10AM to 5PM on Saturday, January 14,  from 12PM to 5PM on Sunday, January 15, and from 9:30AM to 5PM on Monday, January 16.

Target $2 Family Fun Night Friday, January 19 4 – 8PM Admission $2 for individuals two and up. Members and children under two enter free.

Enjoy three floors of interactive exhibits along with fun and engaging programs for just $2 per person from 4PM-8PM! Join in Circle Time, and learn about animals with the Maryland SPCA. Don’t miss this great chance to check out Nickelodeon’s Dora & Diego – Let’s Explore! exhibit before it leaves for good on February 19th.

Little Explorer’s Day: Explore Hispanic Heritage Saturday, January 20 10AM – 5PM.

Explore Hispanic Heritage with fun learning activities! Use your artistic skills to create maracas, learn about the important Day of the Dead tradition as you decorate Dia de los Muertos Skulls, join in an interactive theater performance featuring the Mayan story Rosha and the Sun, and watch as imaginations go wild during interactive story times. Plus enjoy Circus Science and interactive science projects!

Frankenstein 200: Celebrating 200 Years of Frankenstein Saturday, January 27 10AM – 5PM

Celebrate the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein with fun science activities! Learn about innovation and science through interactive, Frankenstein-themed projects. Do the Monster Mash – and enjoy children’s music and dancing – with Mr. Norman.  Also enjoy drop-in activities including interactive Circle Time and family-friendly yoga with Life on Yoga Mountain.

Port Discovery Children’s Museum Baltimore 

35 Market Place, Baltimore MD 21202

Tickets and Hours

Museum Membership Info

Parties and Overnights 

My family and I received review tickets. No additional or monetary compensation received. All opinions are my own. 

Best Resolution for 2018: Family Photography Session with Marian Lozano

Having professional family photos taken is one of the best gifts you can give yourself, and Marian Lozano Photography is the best DC-area family photographer to book. In just one session she will capture dozens of gorgeous photos of your family! 

I have had a lot of lucky moments in this town, but one of the luckiest was the chance to work side-by-side with with Marian Lozano of Marian Lozano Photography when we were both in our early twenties. Marian is the Washington, DC area’s best family, newborn, expectant mother and children’s photographer. 

Now Marian and I are both moms of three kids, and she awesomely blesses us with a family photo session each year. The images she captures of our kids as they grow are my most treasured possessions. 

Lest you think me totally biased, Marian Lozano is at the top of every awards list in this town for family photographers.

Marian has before photographed our children and our family in a variety of gorgeous settings. This year she suggested the quirky, colorful, retro-cool backdrop of Glen Echo Park. 

In the past she has shot newborn Alice at our home. This was cozy and easy on us, but she also has since built her own special newborn photography studio to perfectly capture babies. Check out her adorable newborn portfolio. 

She met us at the Jefferson Memorial for a dramatically DC backdrop for family photos. She has shot us at Brookside Gardens with gorgeous fall foliage. She has met us at parks and other sites that she recommends for superb light and natural backgrounds. 

Check out Marian’s photography blog which beautifully showcases her work. There you can view her amazing work photographing families, babies, expectant parents, couples, family events and more.

More than I have ever recommended a local business, I recommend Marian Lozano to photograph your children, family, pregnancy or special event.  I love her style and her use of light and the most natural of filters.

I have never before seen a photographer so wholly get children, families and what parents want. Our kids smile and laugh for her effortlessly, and have since they were infants. 

Having Marian photograph our family and document Charlie, Eve and Alice’s childhoods is a treasured family ritual.

Check off that resolution to take family pictures and book Marian today!

Marian and I are personal friends since way before our babies and blogs. We trade services. She never asks me to post but I can’t help but share her great work!

All images copyright Marian Lozano. Any use without permission is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.

GIVEAWAY: Princess Awesome Busy Trains Dress + Ranger, The Reindeer Who Couldn’t Fly Boxed Set

The perfect last minute Christmas gift pack: a train-tastic dress, a book, CD & toy…and the chance to win this prize pack, too! 

My go-to gift for the wonderful girls in my life  — my daughters, goddaughters and nieces — are Princess Awesome dresses. And the Princess Awesome Busy Dresses are the crown jewels of the collection!

The first ever “play-able” dress, the Trains Busy Dress features trains and tracks carefully stitched onto a soft, stretchy dress that twirls perfectly. Custom-designed vehicles are found on the ends of the sashes allowing the little girl wearing the dress to chug them on and around the tracks on the dress.  Hidden side pockets allow for storage of extra trains, acorns, pebbles, and other treasures. Comfortable, playful, twirly, well-crafted, and PLAY-ABLE, the Busy Dress is unlike any other dress your daughter owns.

The Princess Awesome story is the stuff of legends and has captured the hearts of parents and girls across the country. The company was started by two incredible Silver Spring mothers, my dear friends Eva St. Clair and Rebecca Melsky, and was founded on the genius idea of making dresses for girls beyond the overwhelming, all-we-can-find-in-stores themes of pink poodles and princesses. Princess Awesome believe that girls should have the choice to wear dresses that feature STEM themes, pirates, robots, vehicles, sharks, ninjas, insects and more.

As they have written on their website, “We are Princess Awesome because butterflies are awesome and so are airplanes. Because monsters are awesome and so are twirly skirts. Because girls are awesome and girls decide what it means to be girly.”

This year Princess Awesome also launched their line of girl-power inspiring tees and leggings! Have you checked them out?

The perfect companion to the holiday spirit of the Trains Busy Dress is the Ranger, The Reindeer Who Couldn’t Fly gift pack featuring the book, CD (song and audiobook — great for car rides to Grandma’s) and reindeer plush toy.

Ranger is a reindeer who always wanted to be like his big brother and be part of the reindeer team that pulled Santa and his sleigh on their annual Christmas eve journey. But there was one big problem: Ranger couldn’t fly! (Which explains why, even though he was Rudolph’s younger brother, few outside of Santaland ever heard of Ranger.)

The book is a heartwarming addition to your holiday book collection and this three piece Ranger pack is a great gift. And this gift gives back: All profits from Ranger are donated to the Antonia J. Giallourakis Endowed Fund in Art Therapy for Children with Cancer at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Want to win a Princess Awesome Busy Trains Dress in the size of your choice, 2T-8, and a Ranger gift set? (Worth $108!) Enter the entry form below! A winner will be drawn in 24 hours! 

Princess Awesome Busy Dress + Ranger Reindeer Gift Pack Giveaway!

Top Tech Gifts That Will Arrive By Christmas

This morning I had a blast on Fox 5 DC talking about tech shopping gifts, how to stay on budget but still wow your gift recipients on Christmas, and my the top tech gift ideas featuring AirSelfieSwann Smart Security CameraWeatherman UmbrellasLUX LED Lighting and their partnership with Unite to Light,  Athena Safety Wearable from Roar for Good and Giggle and Play Masha + Deluxe Bear. 

Watch the segment here, and read on below for the complete scoop and wear to buy.


For your gadget guy/gal or photography enthusiast, gift them the AirSelfie: the world’s first pocket camera selfie drone. It’s lighter than a pen and fits in your purse. It is easy for anyone to use, adults or kids. You connect the drone via an app on your smartphone and instantly can begin taking incredible HD photos from up to 20 meters in the air.


The AirSelfie’s turbo fan propellers allow you to capture wide, truly original photos and videos on your device. The anti-vibration shock absorber and 5 MP camera ensure the highest quality images. And its ultra-light 61g form slips into a special phone cover and charger, so you can keep AirSelfie on you at all times. Buy at AirSelfie and also via Amazon

Swann Smart Security Camera

The Swann Smart Security Camera is a top holiday gift for 2017 and is completely wire-free, with a wireless connection to a Wifi router totally rechargeable — no cables, rechargeable internal battery via USB! Unlike competitors, the Smart Security Camera has an internal rechargeable battery so it does not need a hub or home charging base whereas most others can only charge up to 4 cameras on a hub.

It features True DetectTM Heat-Sensing Technology for more reliable motion detection. The device syncs with the Safe by Swann app providing surveillance from anywhere and sends push notifications to your phone to alert you. The footage is stored using internal memory and on the cloud.

It has a Weatherproof IP65 rating for indoor and outdoor use, rain or shine. It records in 1080p Full HD day or night with powerful night vision at a 120-degree angle.

Special Sale: Get the Swann Smart Security Camera for just $129.99 through the end of the year at Swann.com. 

Weatherman Umbrellas 

When one of the nation’s most trusted meteorologists, Rick Reichmuth, was unable to find an umbrella that met his standards, he set out to design his own—and Weatherman was born. Weatherman is the last umbrella you’ll ever need to buy. It is built to last for every kind of rain there is—showers, gusts, storms, and everything in between. Lightweight, yet sturdy it withstands winds up to 55 mph.

Weatherman comes with a corresponding app that detects the forecast in your area and a PebbleBee Bluetooth tracker that reminds you to take your umbrella along when you need it most. It also knows where you last left your umbrella in case you lose it!

Buy exclusively at WeathermanUmbrella.com.

LUX LED Lighting  

I’m obsessed with these gorgeous, high tech and sleek LED lights for the home! And not only do they look good, they do good: Now through December 26th, with each purchase LUX LED Lighting will donate one solar light through Unite To Light which brings light to people around the world without access to electricity, or affected by natural disasters like the recent hurricanes in Puerto Rico

Unite To Light provides portable, solar-powered lamps to communities without electricity. Whether from disaster, lack of infrastructure, or inability to pay, the organization aims to bring light to those who would otherwise live in darkness.

The LUX Toronto LED Task Lamp has 360-degree flexibility, soft-touch silicone overmold and three touch-activated brightness levels. It conveniently has two USB charging ports on either side of its minimalist base to charge your devices while providing warn LED light that’s easy on the eyes. It comes in two finishes, white and black and is built to last.

The LUX Brooklyn LED Desk Lamp’s curves and modernist lines will make your home shine. It has great functionality with two universal AC sockets, two USB ports and a device shelf perfect for your phone. The linen shade is awesome quality and and so elegant with either the brushed aluminum or black slate finishes. I love the touch-activated brightness levels.

The LUX Brooklyn USB LED Task Lamp also has two USB charging ports, three touch activated brightness options, and an integrated device shelf. Its understated modern design make the Brooklyn USB an efficient option when desk space is limited.

Purchase them all in the LUX LED store  — before December 26 to support Unite to Light — at https://store.luxledlights.com.

Athena Safety Wearable from Roar for Good 

The Athena is discreet, sleek, wearable tech that at the touch of a button, shares your location with your trusted network of friends and family via mobile SMS alerts and, in more threatening situations, Athena can also sound a high frequency alarm. Athena pairs with the ROAR Personal Safety app on the user’s smartphone via Bluetooth to send the distress messages and, within the app, the user also designates their emergency contacts.

Wear it your way – on your purse, clipped to your clothing, or as a necklace. Athena is intentionally designed to suit your lifestyle, be easily accessible, and prevent accidental activation.

As part of their ROAR Back program, ROAR contributes a portion of proceeds from each Athena sold to educational programs that have been shown to increase empathy and reduce violence.

Athena is available for purchase on RoarForGood.com and Amazon and is an Amazon Deal, saving you 15% through December 22nd.

Giggle and Play Masha + Deluxe Bear from Masha and the Bear

They tech toys are based upon the hit 3-D family show, Masha and the Bear, which tells about the hilarious adventures of a mischievous little girl, Masha and her kind and caring friend, the Bear. Are your kids into this show? It’s a  \YouTube record-breaking animated show with over 27 BILLION views in total. It is a global sensation translated into more than 35 languages and broadcast in almost each part of the world.

This interactive Masha doll is full of personality. Giggle and Play Masha really giggles when you swing her side to side. Plus she recites 12 phrases from the show, and sings a song! The 12 inch super soft, cuddling plush Bellowing Bear loves to play and snuggle up at bedtime. Hug or squeeze Bear and he grunts like a bear, just like in the show!

You will find these items at the best price at ToysRUs.com.

My Love Is With You Wherever You Go and A Very Special Christmas Tree: Perfect Christmas Gifts

One of our favorite children’s authors has a new book that is holiday present perfection: My Love Is With You Wherever You Go by Debra Buchanan, illustrated by Nataly Vits.

The lyrical verse tells the child recipient or listener of the story how much he or she is loved and treasured by his or her family member. It is a beautiful gift from a parent, grandparent, godparent, aunt or uncle to the children in their life who they love beyond measure. There is a gentle spirituality to the book too, assuring the child not only of his love from his family but his love from God.

Alice has adored having me and her dad read My Love Is With You Wherever You Go to her, especially at bedtime. After a whirlwind day of first grade, the soothing, sweet assurances that she is safe and cared for make for a peaceful love letter to her each night before sleep.

One of the closing lines makes me tear up a little, and makes me want to send this book to all of my nieces, nephews and friends’ children:

“When I am with you or if I am far, my love will be with you wherever you are.” 

The watercolor illustrations are equally calming and charming, painted by children’s book illustrator Nataly Vits of Moscow, Russia. Author Buchanan is a devoted mother and career teacher who has in recent years become a grandmother, and her love for those babies is evident and relatable to our own love for our children.

This hardcover keepsake book is extremely reasonable at just $15.99. I highly recommend ordering via Amazon My Love Is With You Wherever You Go — it will arrive before Christmas!


Another wonderful Christmas gift is Buchanan’s first children’s book, A Very Special Christmas Tree. This story tells of a little tree with big aspirations for the location where she will shine with ornaments and lights.

I love the soft, gentle writing of A Very Special Christmas Tree: “Deep in the forest where the fairies dwell, a little pine tree grows among her lush and lofty neighbors…the little tree dreamed of her magnificent home for the holidays.”

The words flow like a Christmas bedtime story or a graceful children’s ballet. In fact, A Very Special Christmas Tree was written to be performed as a ballet during Christmastime! In addition to being an author, Buchanan is an award-winning dance educator and director in Southern California who has brought her popular stage production to the page for children everywhere.

Vits again partners with Buchanan with beautiful watercolor illustrations that soothe and delight.

The story’s themes of faith and spirituality are soft and subtle but easy for children to understand. As other trees in the forest are chosen for glamorous, well-known locations in New York City, the little tree eagerly awaits her placement. After every other tree finds a glorious home for the holiday, the little tree is disappointed to find where she has been taken. She finds herself transported to a small home with modest conditions. But an angel informs the tree of her important purpose in a shelter that provides warmth, food, gifts and Christmas for those in need. The little tree discovers the true spirit of Christmas and that her greatest wish to be a significant tree has actually come true.

A Very Special Christmas Tree in hardcover is a gorgeous keepsake, as well as an extremely thoughtful yet reasonable gift at just $13.99.

We received review copies from the author Debra Buchanan of Dancing Pen Publishers, a longtime friend. The author’s affiliate link is used, so if you buy through those links you support children’s literature! 

Skincando Services, Skin Care and Sale!

Sara Damelio of Skincando has a new out of this world treatment and a once-a-year only sale that I just had to tell you about! 

I am a massive fan of Sara Damelio, the creator of Skincando, and eco-aesthetician of green beauty treatments at the Emerald Door Spa (located right on the Silver Spring/Chevy Chase/NW DC border). Sara is one of the country’s first eco-facialists and has been practicing and studying natural skincare for over 15 years.

Sara’s facials have done wonders to improve my skin, and her organic, hand-mixed beauty products are my go-tos. The Skincando Miracle Cream truly worked miracles on my face and neck, and the skin around my eyes has gone back in time thanks to the Eye Balm.

New Service: Japanese Head Scratch Massage + Hair Treatment

I just tried Sara’s new service and it is my favorite spa treatment of all time: the ultimate scalp massage! The Skincando Japanese Head Scratch Massage and Hair Treatment is a unique spa service that releases oxytocin, relieves tension and nourishes the scalp and hair using Eastern massage techniques combined with warm organic apricot oil. Hair brushing, light pulling and neck and shoulder massage are part of this holistic treatment. This 3o minute treatment is just $60. (Ask about the off-menu back scratch add-on, too!)

After this blissful experience, I was in a fog. My scalp is my favorite place to be massaged and my hair was so nourished and soft afterwards. My shoulders, spine and neck finally relaxed after a stressful few months. This treatment is the BEST.

Other eco-beauty treatments by Sara that I highly recommend:

Skincando Organic Facials

Eyelash Tinting

Deep Tissue Full Body Massage


Book your appointment or purchase a gift certificate for a service (a GREAT holiday gift) at 301.587.5800 or www.emeralddoorspa.com

Holiday Skincando Sale

For this weekend only — Friday, December 8 through Sunday, December 10 — Skincando is making its products down to a whopping 40 percent off! That’s super savings. Plus, if you are a devoted Skincando groupie, you can also get a free jar of Miracle Cream ($70 value!) with your purchase over $500.

Get to Skincando shopping online ASAP because this sale happens just once a year!

New Skincando Products 

Combat-Ready Baby Wash

A safe and nontoxic bath gel + shampoo to use on the most sensitive skin. Handcrafted from plant extracts and organic natural oils, it works beautifully to cleanse all skin types, including children suffering from eczema and other skin issues. $15

Combat-Ready Shower Gel

Combat-Ready Shower Gel is an unscented organic body wash designed to clean sensitive skin naturally without irritation. Perfect for daily use. $15.

Skincando Spot Treatment 

A beautiful roller ball bottle filled with a custom blend of organic witch hazel and salicylic acid that discourages bacteria growth and blemishes. Use as needed up to 4 times per day. $40

I received a Japanese Head Scratch Massage + Hair Treatment and select products for review. No additional or monetary compensation received. All opinions are mine. 

Cirque Dreams Holidaze in DC at MGM National Harbor 12/6 – 12/9

CIRQUE DREAMS HOLIDAZE at MGM: The most magical holiday show of the season! 

Cirque Dreams opens its acclaimed Holidaze show at The Theater at MGM National Harbor on Wednesday, December 6th and runs through Saturday, December 9th. Get tickets before they are gone!

For its 10th Anniversary National Tour, the critically-acclaimed holiday stage extravaganza makes it way to the MGM National Harbor’s gorgeous theater for this cirque spectacle. We cannot wait to see this show which reviewers say is a Broadway musical and family show all in one!

Cirque Dreams Holidaze is a multi-million dollar live stage production is filled with over 300 imaginative costumes, 20 world-class astonishing acts, the finest singers, original music and seasonal favorites, don’t miss snowmen, penguins, angels, reindeer, toy soldiers, gingerbread men, ornaments and of course Santa Claus himself. Cirque Dreams Holidaze has been hailed by The New York Daily News as a “delicious confection of charm, sparkle and talent by the sleighload.”

I am taking my kids to the opening night show, and we are excited to see the soaring acrobatics, gravity defying feats, elaborate production numbers and illusions, and also to see our first show in the MGM venue!

The two-hour theatrical phenomenon was heralded by the Boston Globe as a “full-on sensory immersion, in which Las Vegas meets family entertainment meets musical theater!”

We are receiving tickets for review. No additional compensation received. 

See Mount Vernon By Candlelight: Just 3 Nights Left!

December Special Event Your Family Will Remember All Year: Mount Vernon By Candlelight

Remaining tours for 2017: Friday December 8, Saturday December 9 and Sunday December 17. Get tickets. 

The A Parent in Silver Spring crew loves a visit to Mount Vernon any day of the year (even Christmas Day!) but for a highly special experience, take one of the holiday season candlelight tours! You will you get to see the Washington family estate by night and decorated for Christmas.

The experience begins in the Ford Orientation Center, where you can enjoy the sounds of the holiday season and view spectacular Christmas trees highlighting the lives of the Washingtons and their home. Light concessions will be available for purchase.

Then you will be guided into the 18th century for a lantern-lit tour of the historic area, where you will see the Slave Quarters and the Blacksmith Shop. Inside the Mansion, Martha Washington and other Mount Vernon residents will welcome you into their home and share stories of past Christmases.

After the tour concludes, continue the experience by visiting the Greenhouse and participating in 18th-century dancing, just as the Washingtons might have done during the holidays. Enjoy cookies while sipping warm cider, listening to fireside caroling, and paying a visit to Aladdin the Christmas camel.

The evening will conclude with live music in the Education Center Lobby and an opportunity to visit the Education Center exhibits and The Shops.

Tour times vary each day, see the ticketing page for time information. Guests will be allowed entry through the main gate 15 minutes prior to their tour time. Mount Vernon by Candlelight takes place rain or shine.


Washington Nationals 2017 Winterfest: Get Tickets!

Don’t Miss Washington Nationals 2017 Winterfest Saturday December 16 and Sunday December 17 

Every Nats-loving family should make sure to attend Nats Winterfest this month at Washington Convention Center. It is the Nationals’ event of the offseason will again feature two days of fun!

Open to fans of all ages, guests can enjoy holiday and baseball themed activities and interactive events, meet and greet their favorite Nationals player and coaches, take a photo with Santa, enjoy their favorite ballpark concession, do any last-minute holiday shopping and much more!

Activities include:

* Clinics with Nationals players and coaches
* Watch a Home Run Derby featuring the Nationals mascots
* Ride down The Slider, a giant slide reminiscent of a sledding hill
* Make a snow fort, participate in the steal home challenge and take batting practice
* Hear a winter or baseball-themed story, read by a Nationals player
* Participate in the Kids Press Conferences
* Sign up for 2018 season Jr. Nats Kids Club memberships at the Jr. Nationals Kids Club kiosk
* “Video Pitch,” where fans can give virtual batters their best pitch

Tickets may be purchased in advance for $39 for adults, $29 for kids. Buy online ahead of time because prices increase at the door! Get tickets.