This past weekend was a busy one for us. My daughter turned seven and she was patiently awaiting her family birthday party and all the fantastic gifts and sugary treats that come with her birthday party! I was busy planning, prepping, and preparing the house, food, and the festivities.

She awoke Saturday morning to a full body rash which we deemed to be poison ivy or oak. She was miserable and though I was already stretched thin, I decided to take her in to the CVS Minute Clinic for an evaluation. One steroid pack, three topical medications, and two antihistamines later, we were headed home. Now, the heat was really on. Cook for thirty people, clean the house, decorate... yeeep! I was stressed and distracted, for sure.

At 5 PM, guests started arriving and I was finishing up the meal. Because it was her family party, I allowed her to only have her best friend over. (She had her friend party last week.) The two of them had big fun running around and greeting guests. My mom and I were in the kitchen boiling the last of the shrimp when she came and asked me where her lip gloss was. Yeah, I don't even know where MY lip gloss is - let alone where hers could be. I told her as much and ended the conversation with, "Go look for it." Famous last words.

Only a few moments later, the girls came racing in announcing that they sprayed something bad. I asked them WHERE they had sprayed it and they said, "In the garage." You know, the place where we keep bug spray, paint, weed killer, and everything else that's super dangerous. "SHOW ME," my eyes were like dinner plates.

They led me out to the car but couldn't find what they dispensed. Then, my daughter started to cry. She said her eyes burned. Her nose burned. Her mouth burned. In almost a panic, I asked them to describe what the bottle looked like. They told me it was perfume. My mind raced. Perfume? Her cries grew stronger. She was panicking and in some serious pain at this point. My lungs started to burn. She had to tell me what it was. Finally, she said, the can was little and pink. Then it hit me.

Deep in my console of my car was a key chain canister of pepper spray. My mom gave it to me many years ago and it has been in my car ever since. I thought it was too dangerous to keep ON my key chain. I know, does a lot of good in my console...

To a seven-year-old this looks like a fun toy or body spray!  Photo:Target

The girls had been looking for lip gloss and dug through the console and found it. Then unlocked the "safety" and sprayed it. Luckily, it was just directed at MY daughter.

I took her in and remembered that MILK neutralizes peppers. I used the last of my gallon moments before and so all I had left was ice cream or buttermilk. So, I slathered her face and inside her mouth with awful, possibly sour buttermilk. Poor kid - as if the pepper wasn't enough. Then we headed to the shower to clean it off her face and body. Did I mention at this point she was SCREAMING at the top of her lungs inside my house that was packed with thirty of our family and friends. SCREAMING.

She had NO idea this was dangerous.

Luckily, after a while she was red and blotchy but okay otherwise. Itchy from the poison ivy and stingy from the pepper but okay. Everyone commented - what a good lesson! Here's the thing. My child has never been one to "get into stuff." She didn't play in the toilet or try to open pill bottles. She even asks before she gets a snack or a drink other than water. She knows better. But she thought this was body spray perfume which I keep in the car and allow her to spray minimally on herself.  She had NO idea this was dangerous.

Later, I thanked God that it wasn't worse and realized it how easily it could have been. We keep an unloaded family heirloom gun in our home. It is put up incredibly high in a special locked case with the bullets in another secret location but kids are kids. They can't put their pants on but can break into a maximum security safe like it's nothin'. According to nationwidechildrens.org, "Nearly 40% of all unintentional shooting deaths among children 11-14 years of age occur in the home of a friend."

I didn't even remember it was there.

It's a reminder that if you have a child and a gun in the home, take precautions to keep the gun up and safe. I put this pepper spray in my car when she was a baby and hadn't thought about it since. I didn't even remember it was there.

I'm not here to start a debate about gun control. I'm here to tell you to talk to your kids about never touching anything that belongs to an adult - even if they think it's a toy. I'm here to tell you that if you have a weapon in your house, talk to your kids about gun safety. If you don't have a weapon in your home, talk to your kids about gun safety while at their friends' homes. And whether you are a grandparent, aunt, uncle, babysitter, having a party, or have kids in your home or vehicle at any time, if you own a guns, hunt them all down and lock them up tight. Kids just don't know any better.

I'm here to tell you that if you have a weapon in your house, talk to your kids about gun safety. If you don't have a weapon in your home, talk to your kids about gun safety while at their friends' homes.

Here are some safety tips that they provided:

  • If a gun is in the house, always keep it unloaded and locked. It should be out of reach and sight of children. Keep ammunition and guns locked in separate locations, not together.
  • Safety devices, including gun locks, lock boxes and gun safes, should be used for every gun in the house.
  • Storage keys and lock combinations should be hidden from children.
  • Before visiting friends and relatives, ask if they have guns in their homes. If so, make sure they keep their guns unloaded and locked as well.
  • Never leave children unsupervised in a home with a gun.

Someday, we will laugh about all of this. Remember your seventh birthday when you had a bad case of poison ivy then you pepper sprayed yourself? You were quite the handful! The wedding toast is basically writing itself. But today, we'll be having a more serious talk while this is all fresh in her mind. Let's make sure more kids make it to that point. Use my daughter's misfortune and important life lesson as a jumping off point in your family today.