DEAR ABBY: In a few months, my husband's 10-year-old twin grandchildren are coming to live with us while their mother serves her time for felony DUI. My husband and I are in our 60s and have never met them before.

We have tried to avoid contact with their mother because the encounters were generally unpleasant. She alternated between being bitter and hateful, and desperately calling for financial help because she's a single mother with four children. She alienated her own mother and it looked like the younger children would wind up with child protective services if we didn't step up and offer a temporary home with us.

The new circumstances will require the four of us to make some big adjustments, but we believe it will enrich our lives, too. My dilemma is what do we tell the kids when they inevitably ask why we have been absent in their lives? I can't bring myself to tell them the truth about the way we feel. -- CAUGHT OFF GUARD GRANDMA

DEAR CAUGHT OFF GUARD: Having lived with their mother, your husband's grandchildren probably understand very well the reason for her felony DUI. Be honest and explain to them that you weren't around because their mother didn't make you feel welcome. Then assure them that you have always loved them, that you are here for them now and will be in the future if they would like you to be.

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Holiday Hostess Is Ready for a Break

DEAR ABBY: I'm 43 and have been hosting Thanksgiving for 19 years. My mother turned it over to me when I bought my first house because she was tired of doing it.

We always entertain the same group of 12 relatives. I have mentioned doing something different, but no one has enough room or the desire. If I didn't host it, I'm afraid they'd be hurt and have nowhere to go.

How do I break it to them that I am burned out? I would just like to go out to eat and see a movie. Please help. -- EXHAUSTED HOSTESS

DEAR EXHAUSTED: Ten days before Thanksgiving is a little late to cancel what has become an annual celebration. However, it would be the perfect time to announce that after 20 years of hosting the gathering, you are burned out. Therefore, those who have enough room should share the responsibility and alternate with you, or all of you should make your own arrangements.

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Enforce Gift-Giving Boundaries

DEAR ABBY: A few years ago, my husband and I decided that when our nieces and nephews turned 18 we would stop giving Christmas gifts. That decision has worked out fine -- until my husband's nieces and nephews began turning 18. Now it has become an issue with his side of the family, particularly his mother. She has made it clear through emails that we "have" to buy them gifts.

I don't know what to do. I don't want to start a war over gift-giving, but on the other hand, if we buy for his family, we have to buy for mine. We don't have a lot of disposable income. Please help us find a way to get through this. -- GRINCHED IN LAS VEGAS

DEAR GRINCHED: Emails are a wonderful form of communication, but when it comes to a discussion that involves emotion, it's time to use the old-fashioned telephone. You and your husband must call his mother and explain that buying gifts for the nieces and nephews on both sides of the family has become too much for you, which is why you have drawn the line at age 18. The "kids" are old enough to understand the gifts don't come from Santa. And so, for that matter, is your mother-in-law. Shame on her for pressuring you.

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