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DEAR ABBY: With summer here, many families will do at least some traveling, which involves spending significant amounts of time in the family car or truck. I'd like to remind your readers that it is now illegal in many states to leave a child, a disabled person or a pet unattended in a vehicle for ANY length of time. The reason is that temperatures inside a vehicle -- especially with the windows rolled up -- can rise to dangerous, even deadly, levels very quickly.

Tests by the National Weather Service have shown that when it's 80 degrees F outside, the interior of a vehicle with the windows rolled up, or just cracked open, can reach 123 degrees within 60 minutes! Such temperatures can induce heat exhaustion, or worse, heat stroke, within a very short time, and quickly kill a child, a pet or a disabled person.

Abby, I urge you in the strongest terms to help spread this vital warning and prevent needless tragedies of this kind. As the National Weather Service says, "Look Before You Lock," and "Beat the Heat -- Check the Back Seat!" -- TOM THE STORM SPOTTER

DEAR TOM: I'm pleased to help you bring this information to the attention of my readers. I was shocked when I read a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stating that an average of 38 children have died in hot cars each year since 1998. More than 70 percent of those deaths were children younger than 2 years of age. How tragic! And readers, not parking in direct sunlight won't make the car significantly cooler. Heat stroke deaths have occurred even when the vehicle was parked in the shade.

Read more in: Health & Safety

Mom Confesses Discomfort in Church Cry Room

DEAR ABBY: My family recently moved to a new state and was blessed to find a wonderful new church to attend near our home. There's only one drawback. We have a young toddler, so we sit in the cry room during Mass. At our previous church, the cry room was a place for us to practice church etiquette with our son so that we could someday sit with the rest of the congregation without disturbing the Mass.

The culture at this church is different; the cry room seems more like a playroom. Seeing all the other children running around makes keeping my toddler sitting in the pew nearly impossible (think major meltdowns). If we allow him to play with the other children, we spend the Mass feeling like we've failed as Christian parents. The result is that neither my husband nor I has felt fully present at a Mass in months. Do you have any suggestions for how to reconcile this issue? -- MISSING MASS

DEAR MISSING MASS: From where I sit, you're not only being overly hard on yourselves as parents, but also your small child. Please discuss this with the priest at your new church. Allowing your child to be a child isn't "bad Christian parenting." Few toddlers have a long enough attention span to sit through Mass. The cry room is designed to be like a playground so the children will learn to enjoy going there every Sunday and want to keep coming back until they're old enough for Sunday school. And that's a GOOD thing.

P.S. A way for you and your husband to focus on the Mass each Sunday would be to alternate taking your child to the cry room.

Read more in: Family & Parenting

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