Category Archives: Washington Mommy Blogger

Kids in Hot Cars: Neglect or Not?

Photo Credit: Safe Kids USA

Photo Credit: Safe Kids USA

It’s happening again. Last week – it happened two times in the DC area within days. Last month, 7 kids died in 4 different states within two weeks. It’s a totally preventable, horrific and unnecessary death when parents or caregivers forget a child is in the backseat of a car and the child dies after being left in the heat in a car. It happens every single year, unfortunately.

Several years ago, Gene Weingarten wrote a chilling and incredibly thorough piece on this issue of Kids and Cars in the Washington Post magazine. If you didn’t read it then, I’d encourage you to read it now.

It is a long read and it is a really difficult read. I distinctly remember it took me almost a week because I had to break it up into sections. What he does very well is examine all sides of the issue – in particular the perspective that is so difficult for many of us to accept – HOW CAN THIS BE? Look, if you read my below piece that I wrote back in July 2011, you’ll realize very quickly that I am incredibly firm in my belief that it is neglect on the part of whomever has left this child in the car. Despite those feelings, it’s still important to get a perspective on how the brain functions, how it actually is possible to forget a child. Weingarten’s piece will give you that perspective. The psychologist he interviews pointedly notes that if you’re capable of forgetting your cell phone, you’re capable of forgetting your child.

After re-reading that portion of the interview, I couldn’t help but wonder, if that same sound bite would prove true today. Back in 2009, we weren’t as addicted to our phones as we are now — they weren’t quite so smart — so is it still true?

The other perspective you’ll get from reading the piece is the horrific way a child dies when they are left inside a hot vehicle. One child pulled all her hair out in that process.

That is what I think about when I’m criticized for being judgmental of the parents who forget their kids in the back of the car. How about the kid?

Yet a few months ago, my husband came home one day and said to me “Now I think I can see how someone could forget their kid in the backseat of the car.”

Our youngest had taken to falling asleep in the car, something neither of our kids had really ever done before and we’d moved her up to a booster seat from her convertible car seat. In our Jeep, the way the seats are and the height of the new bigger kid car seat, suddenly it meant that unless you turned the rear view mirror down to deliberately see her – you could no longer see her when looking in that mirror.  In that moment – I knew he was right – for the first time – I could actually realize with my own two eyes how something this horrific could happen.

Even so, I still firmly believe it’s neglect and it’s a crime.

Want to know what else I think? I think that every time a child dies from being left in a hot car, every single one of us needs to slow down and take stock of our own lives. Parsing out the instances where it was a parent deliberately leaving the child, each case shares one common trait – a change in routine, a busy hectic schedule, a tired parent, pulled in too many directions:  a recipe for disaster.

No matter your feelings, no matter where you fall on the spectrum of blame, anger and neglect – we all need to slow down and think about it for a few minutes.

If you want to read more – I’m including the piece I posted back in July 2011 when this was a hot topic in the DC area because of the Virginia mother who left her child in the car. If you read all the way to the end, you’ll appreciate the reminder that it was written a few years ago because I toss in a Casey Anthony reference. Forget about her?


Every summer stories break that a parent changes his or her routine, forgets to take the child to daycare, instead goes to work and leaves their own child unattended in a hot scorching car for 7 or 8 hours, only to ultimately find the child dead at the end of the work day. It’s a horrible story. It’s a story that no one is comfortable with. But what shocks me every time is how forgiving the public is of these parents who fail to remember their own kid in the back seat of a car all day long.

In Sunday’s Washington Post there was an oped written by Molly Roberts on the recent case of the veterinarian from Virginia who left her child unattended for 7 hours last month and the child died. Sunday’s piece, “A Baby is dead. Was it a crime?”, initially infuriated me. Roberts clearly is very uncomfortable with accusing a seemingly loving mother, a smart educated mother, a mother who is maybe – on paper – like Roberts: smart, focused, driven, successful. Roberts, in her piece,  is unwilling to admit that this mother is guilty of neglect even though she concedes it is neglectful to forget a child in a car because we can’t prove that this woman INTENDED to neglect her child.

Ok – so along the path of keeping our children safe – we’re supposed to look kindly on neglect cases where the parent didn’t actually MEAN to inflict any harm on the child. And in this case, the ultimate worst kind of harm, the death of a child. What does the child say about this? How do we protect the innocent if we allow for neglect when it wasn’t intended?

I think what this story, and the shockingly endless stories like this, is really about is this: we can RELATE to this form of neglect. We are all running around, harried, stretched too thin, with schedules too busy and jam-packed. Our minds are racing, our brains overcrowded with to-do lists and deadlines. We can RELATE to how easy it might be to change-up our schedule and forget something, even something as beloved as our child.

So we don’t feel comfortable prosecuting these grieving parents.  We can’t relate to drug-addicted moms who didn’t mean to leave their pipes lying around for the  kid to pick up and use. We can’t relate to parents who drive drunk with their kids in the back of the car. We can’t relate to parents who leave loaded guns in their homes and the child finds it and uses it. But we CAN relate to busy, over-worked and stressed out parents. So we don’t want to hold  them accountable in the court system because it hits close to home.

I’ll be honest: I don’t relate to it and I find it neglectful. I think they should be prosecuted, no matter the profound level of pain and trauma they feel for their horrible mistake. Am I a perfect parent who never makes mistakes? Of course not. But who goes 7 or 8 hours without thinking of their child? How is this possible? I don’t care how busy your day is and what life-saving miracles you might be performing at work – forgetting a child and leaving them to suffer a horrible experience in the back of a hot car is neglect.

Whether we are comfortable saying it, whether we can relate to how it could happen or not – if a child ends up dead – someone should be accountable for it.  Unless, apparently, you live in the state of Florida and your name is Casey Anthony.


Follow moi by  hitting “Like” on my Facebook page, it’s always lively over there. I’d love to know what you think.

Today’s Topic: All About Lice

Today’s public service announcement is brought to you from…..MOI. Ain’t life grand?

Look, I can’t help but notice the search traffic to my site is increasingly driven by those looking for information about LICE. Ahh…lice…..our mortal enemy. The equal opportunity offender. I have survived this epidemic. C’est vrai. And in the spirit of school starting soon and kids returning from summer camp infested with lice…yes, it can happen to your clean child too, I thought that I can only bring to you this very informative post in the event you suspect lice in your pipsqueaks. Even if you don’t, please read below. Denial, as I’ve learned, is never a good thing when it comes to lice.

And so….my post with the lice expert (yes, she exists) from this exact time last year.


Ahh….it’s that time of year…that time that many of us think will never come….Back-to-School! And with the return of the cherubs to school comes that never-ending, itchy scratchy problem that if you’ve never had, you pray you never will, and if you’ve never had, you probably think you only get when you’re a dirty, lazy parent…..LICE. Lice. The great equalizer. Lice. The equal opportunity offender. Lice. It happens to the best of us.

Don't fake it, we all look like this when we realize our kid has lice

And so, for today’s expert series, I turned to none other than the lice expert in Montgomery County. The woman who saved me in a dark phase of my life exactly one year ago when I realized that my child wasn’t scratching her head because she was hot and needed to pull it back (denial is never a good thing when it comes to lice), my child was scratching her head because it was infested with lice. And despite what I might have thought before, lice does happen to people who are clean and anal and attentive. I introduce you to Karen Franco of Advice on Lice in Kensington, MD. Without a doubt, my money spent at Advice on Lice was some of the best money I ever spent. Is your head itchy yet? Cause it will be by the time you are mid-way through our very helpful interview but well, an ounce of prevention does us all a world of good as we gear up to send the kiddo’s back to school in less than two weeks. Karen and her husband now run a full-time business checking heads for lice, educating parents on what to do, and generally being life-savers in your time of need when lice hits the house. Karen got started in the lice business 15 years ago when her daughter was young, she used to volunteer to do head checks, and was appalled with the stigma attached with lice and how unwilling people were to acknowledge it and do something about it. Her experience evolved into an in-demand local small business. Karen and her husband not only check families for lice, they educate you on what to do and give you the steps you need to take to make sure you eradicate it completely from your house. I won’t lie, it’s definitely work intensive but I survived…so read on for some great advice.

Karen, is there a peak time of year for lice?

Yes. Back-to-school is definitely a peak time of year for lice. Because of summer camps and people traveling, there are cross-over populations and people are sharing lice. All summer long, we are distracted – which is partly where some of the denial comes in that you mentioned – we think it must be allergies or dandruff which is absurd but people don’t want their summer disrupted.

How do we know it’s not dandruff?

Dandruff will blow off easily. It flakes. There is a mis-conception about lice – people think they are greyish white but that is misleading – they are transparent, a milky color and the nit is glued onto the hair, you have to scrape it off, whereas dandruff flakes off.

Let’s talk more about the role of denial and lice. I am very guilty of this. This time last year, my eldest walked around scratching her head like crazy for easily 2 weeks. I didn’t want to accept that it could be lice, and because we’d never had it before, while I did check her head, I didn’t really know what I was looking for and her hair is very thick. It wasn’t until there were bugs actually hopping that I had to accept this child had lice. I feel like sleep away camp is a big problem with lice and going back-to -school. Do you find this about sleep-away camp?

Yes. Kids go to sleep-away camp and often get lice. And many of the camps actually screen them when they arrive and if they find lice, send them home, which leaves upset children. Some parents bring them to see us for a head check as soon as they pick the kids up from sleep away camp. The bottom line is there is no magic potion to make lice go away – there is no smell that repels them.

So what can we do to prevent lice?

Get a fine tooth comb and comb their hair on a regular basis. Make it part of your weekly routine and that is your best prevention.  Prevention is getting the lice out before it takes root and sets up a family. I recommend the Lice Meister comb and brushing through the child’s hair twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. You can order the comb online. I have one client who has made combing through her child’s hair part of their family routine by starting and ending the week with the comb throughs. Every Monday and every Friday, she sits down her child, uses some conditioner, and combs through from the scalp to the end of the hair. The public schools here believe that lice is a nuisance and because it is not life threatening, you don’t have to keep your child home from school, but that doesn’t help anyone. The bottom line is, it’s prudent to designate a day to look through everyone’s hair every week. It is never appropriate to say your child can’t miss school and you will just let it go.

So, you find out your child has lice – so then what? What do you do?

First let me say that the homeopathic treatments are not based on science, they are not effective. You need chemicals to kill the lice. I recommend Rid and I recommend that my clients leave it on their heads for longer than 10 minutes, which is what it says on the box. I advise clients to leave it on for a minimum of 30 minutes to kill all the live bugs. The method that we lay out on our web site has been validated time and time again. The problem is that the live bugs are the contagious ones, they crawl, they know they want to be in the human head. There are so many mis-informed theories out there about how to kill lice. One really common one is putting olive oil on your head and sleeping all night with it – that does not kill the lice. The lice breathe through pores and they can close their pores for up to 18 hours, so sleeping with olive oil doesn’t kill the lice. And then – you have to comb through the hair. The comb that comes with the RID is a joke. They do not work. You have to use a fine tooth comb, like the Lice Meister. Parents of boys often shave their son’s head and that will get rid of the lice.

What about if you are pregnant or have very young children – what product should you use that will still kill the lice but doesn’t have chemicals?

There is a new prescription medication that has no pesticides called Ulesfia. It’s not meant for anyone under 6 months. Because the product is new, we recommend using less product than prescribed the first time and then using it again 10 days later. Many pharmacies don’t carry it but the pharmacy in our building does carry it.

Are we all itchy yet?? But seriously, having lived through this, I was cursing all the stuffed animals we owned as I put them in the dryer and bagged them for a few weeks. How long do they live when they are not on a head? And what about car seats?

A healthy adult female or male can live for about 1.5 days, depending on where it is. The nits will die within an hour or so. If your child has been in the car seat and it’s summer time, the bug will be dead in the hot car within 2-3 hours. The bottom line is the head is where they live, they are not infecting your car, carpets, your home. They can’t do their important activities anywhere beyond the head, so what I urge people to do is spend their time focusing on combing the hair with a proper fine-tooth comb.

So Karen, as we embark on the school year, can you tell us how much your services cost and give us some parting words of wisdom?

Yes, we charge $85/hour or $20 for a screening. All the products we recommend are available in our store. We can go to people’s homes but children are usually much better behaved when not at home and in our offices and we are just better equipped with the seating and lighting in our office.  Also, I think it is important to teach children about lice in terms of “life sciences” to help eliminate the stigma attached with lice and really teach prevention and education. As for parting words of wisdom, I like to say “When in doubt, comb it out.”

Those are excellent final words from Karen. So moms, when in doubt, comb it out……and call Karen. And remember, denial is never a good thing when it comes to lice.  Finally, if you liked today’s WM Expert Series, please “Like” Wired Momma on Facebook or look to the right and subscribe…it’s an easy way to keep up with future fabulous local mom expert interviews and well, other random things we discuss here.

With young kids, is it a “vacation” or is it a job-relocation?

The Wired Momma family is moving next week….just a few miles down the road…but I still have to pack up my entire house and well, get us organized….so please bear with me these next few weeks and know that I’d rather be blogging than say – packing… until I have more time…I am bringing you my post from last year after we returned from our family “vacation” in August. In case you  haven’t taken your “vacation” yet this summer…I bring you this…and ask you a deep question: Is it vacation or is it job re-location? You tell me….


“Mommeeeee…..Mommmmeeeeeeeeeee….I can’t find lion!” whines the voice in my ear. I am dazed. I am confused. I slowly pry each eye open. They are glued shut.

3:54AM reads the time on the clock.

“Mommeeee…..Mommeeeee…..I can’t find the lion” whines the voice again, this time shaking my shoulders.

My mind is starting to wake up. Is this really vacation? I wonder. Who decided that we should have 3 time zones in this country? And did they ever have children when they decided that would be a good idea? Can I meet with them? I could convince them real fast in my exhausted, enraged, mommy maniacal moment that we’re all good with just one time zone, farmers, that includes you.

In my daughter’s defense, she technically slept 24 minutes later than she normally does, if we were still on the east coast. But we’re in California and 3:54AM as a wake-up time for the day is cruel and unusual punishment.

And then, before I have a chance to intercept the inevitable, her whining for the dumb lion awakens her little 2-year-old sister and then all bets are off.

Our vacation day #2 begins at 3:54AM.

The day before it at least didn’t start until 4AM. Why are we regressing?

I threaten and coax and beg and plead but they will not go back to sleep….and I can’t get coffee anywhere for another 2 miserable hours.


Just in case you thought that absurd start to the day was the lowest point of our day, think again, that arguably happened when my husband started projectile vomiting down the hall of our nice hotel because he couldn’t get to the bathroom fast enough.


One wonders….when children are involved….is there such thing as vacation? Does it skew our expectations and set us up for disappointment and further frustration when we even label it vacation? Is it fair to actually call it vacation? My friend says it’s not vacation, it’s just job re-location.

I can work with that. I went on a 10 day job re-location and shoved a good time down my kid’s throat while we bled money, what did you do this summer? Surely someone somewhere makes a t-shirt and postcard with that slogan.

Exhibit whining, one feeling sick, one just headed in another direction

Is it worth it? The almost 6 hour plane ride solo with 2 kids should have given me some foresight into the rest of my time relocating my job.

As I lounged by the pool while sick husband and incredibly exhausted jet lagged children napped, I did soak in the beauty of the mountains around me and breathed out my anger at time changes, early wake ups, puking husbands (who constantly fail to use hand sanitizer and then wonder why they get sick) and thought of George Castanza.

Remember SERENITY NOW (I insist that you watch that clip)?

Ahh…yes…..SERENITY NOW suddenly became my vacation, oh sorry, job-relocation mantra. In those dark moments when I am threatening to call Santa if they don’t just stand for one second and smile and fake like they are having a good time so I can capture that special moment on camera for the rest of time, SERENITY NOW is what I am thinking…..

In those moments, I would look around, and swear I was trapped behind some sort of looking-glass because it seemed that all around me were sweet young children lapping up the good times with their parents, behaving perfectly, and enjoying their time away from home. While mine were grumpy and whining and wanting to just go back to the hotel and color and pout. Who were these families with such perfectly behaved children? What was I doing wrong?

So next year, as I naively and gleefully start planning next summer’s job re-location, I’ll need to think back on the reality of what traveling with young children really is….and then I guarantee I’ll convince myself that they are each a full year older and they are better suited for travel, and more adaptable, and better prepared for long plane rides and days touring around new cities because how could I not have birthed children who crave adventure and excitement?

Uh huh.


Godzilla meets the Lion Tamer…an epic tale of surviving summer break

In prep for schools letting out in the next two weeks….I offer you a retro WM post….my piece to mark the beginning of summer break last year and a retrospective on surviving previous summers….it covers kids of a variety ages so you probably will find something for yourself in here and I also get to my fav summer accessories:


This week marks the end of school. The beginning of summer. What better way to kick it off than with a walk down memory lane?

First Summer Home with 2 kids: Sink or Swim?

My baby morphed into Godzilla that first summer....

Spoiler Alert! I sank. I didn’t even have a chance. I was drowning, I was gasping for air, I hated that summer. DD1 was 3.5 and horrible. DD2 was 6 months old and suddenly gained her mobility and morphed from sweet drooling baby into Godzilla, a super human creature who’s only purpose in life was to mercilessly terrorize every Little People village her sister had carefully arranged, chew on each book her sister wanted to read and destroy any block tower that might have just been assembled. It was war. I lost every battle.  And to boot, one of life’s great unsolved mysteries emerged: exactly how does a 6 month old crawl so quickly and why are they magnets for elder sibling’s toys? So I headed into the next summer with a whole new plan, armed with tactics, prepared to win and enjoy the summer. This battle worn soldier couldn’t lose again.


Summer 2 home with the kids: Life vest

Spoiler Alert: my life vest mocked me. All summer long.

This time I boarded the ship prepared. My life jacket purchased in the form of 4 beautiful words: CAMP. Lots and lots of CAMP. But see, what I failed to anticipate was that much changes in one year of the lives of these little people. My wounds were still open and fresh but the children had moved on. How could I fail to realize that Godzilla can’t really survive for one year with an older sibling? Think of the eldest like a lion tamer: breaking the beast, taming the savage soul and maybe assaulting them a few times. Godzilla morphs into a different kind of species when she is 18 months old. True, a child

Can anyone else relate?

headed straight for the 2s is still part-human, part-beast but at least they have more control over their motor skills when lingering around block towers. And the eldest is more adept at handling younger sibling assault on their world. Another lesson for me:  3.5 year olds don’t stay that miserable argumentative nasty way forever and as it turns out, at least chez moi, 4.5 year olds are fun and fabulous companions. So there I had shipped her off to various weekly camps only for me and DD2 to look at each other, and wonder where our playmate was, especially DD2. I had naively shipped off the companion who kept the 18 month old entertained, busy and tired her out for naps. I PAID to send away our buddy. What the? My life vest deflated. I was beat again. When will I not suck at anticipating how to manage for a great summer home?


Summer 3 home with the kids: Lifeguard

And so begins summer 3 home with the kids. We’re off to a good start, we are miraculously diaper free chez moi, they are now 2.5 and 5.5 (have you seen the new spring in my step as I bypass the diaper aisle at Target with an extra $20 to blow on something dumb?) and after my steep learning curves the past two summers, dare I say I am heading into this summer with an all new plan: the pool. We are super camp light and planning on lots of pool time. But will I fail to anticipate again? So far, I have a huge ding against me because DH is headed off to a new job that puts him in San Fran 4 days of every week through the summer. I wasn’t counting on that when I signed them up for basically no camps this summer . . .Will I sink or swim this year? Stay tuned, you know you’ll be hearing about it.


Until then, let’s cover what accessories  a gal needs to survive the summer.

The first is the appropriate pool or beach bag and that bag is the Scout bag. This bag changed my pool/beach experience because it’s stylish and has 6 pockets around the outside of the bag. Never has it been so easy to store sunglasses, iPhone, camera, sun block, kid’s trash,  snacks, water bottles and actually FIND these things with ease. Naturally the bag was created by a local DC mother who has 4 kids, so it’s no wonder it’s a miracle worker.

Speaking of miracle workers, what I need is the right swimsuit. I tend to go for halters but is this really a good idea when children are climbing all over you and creating multiple chances for a wardrobe malfunction on any given day? My youngest likes to shove her pool toys down the suit as if it’s her own personal pocket.  Does style need to be compromised in favor of practicality? Have you found the perfect swimsuit that is stylish but functional? I’m desperate here, friends. Speak up. Links encouraged.

And my final summer survival necessity for those of you who are beach bound but don’t live steps from the beach: the Wonder Wheeler Deluxe (WWD). The minivan of beach carts, this thing screams dork, flashes parenthood in bright lights, earns you mockery from teens for being  lame, but when a beach trip heads south (and really, how often do they not), you can toss all your gear and chairs and umbrellas into this thing (and sometimes I think a few kids) and clear the beach in record time.

So with that, what are your plans for summer survival? And did you find a great suit? Let me know.

For more fun, survival tips and accessories gossip…..”Like” the WM community FB page.