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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My mother and stepfather would love to be the guardians of my children. My children adore both of them. The problem is my mother has a drinking problem. She never drinks during the day, or even every day. However, she entertains a lot, and when she does, she often drinks too much and becomes loud and slurry. I consider her to be a binge alcoholic and can recall incidents of her being drunk since I was 7.

I overcame my own alcohol and tobacco addictions because I wanted to do it for myself. I felt it was important to set a good example for my children. I knew I couldn't expect them to listen to me tell them not to drink and smoke when I indulged in both nasty habits.

Now that I am free of these substances, I don't know if I should approach my mother about this issue. Should I tell her that I wouldn't want my children growing up in a household where alcohol is used irresponsibly, and give her a chance to clean up her act and quit? Or should I just not mention that I have selected someone else in my will to be my children's guardian and let it be a surprise should the occasion arise?

Mother would become incredibly hostile and defensive if I bring up her drinking habits. I want to stack all of the odds against my children becoming alcoholics, as it does run in the family. My husband agreed that you would know how to handle this in the best way. -- STACKING THE ODDS IN OREGON

DEAR STACKING: Your children must come first. Arrange for someone other than your mother to be your children's guardian. Then contact Al-Anon and inquire about an intervention program for her. With the help of an intervention team, talk to your mother about her binge drinking and the effect it had on you while you were growing up.

If she gets a handle on her problem, you can change your will at a later date. Perhaps it will be an incentive for her to quit.

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I decided to host a small but formal New Year's Eve party. I called my neighbor to tell her, and to invite her and her family. She graciously offered lots of help and proceeded to give me her guest list.

I politely told her that my husband and I were hosting the party. (I thought perhaps she had misunderstood -- that she thought I had asked her to host the party jointly.) I explained that we wanted to keep it small and limited to our close family and friends; therefore I could extend the invitation only to her, her husband and their children. She replied that she didn't think it was out of line to invite her own guests -- and that they probably wouldn't show up anyway.

It has caused a lot of friction between us, and I have since canceled the party, which I really didn't want to do. Can I still have the party but not invite them? They live right up the street. -- A. DILEMMA, PACIFICA, CALIF.

DEAR A. DILEMMA: Just when I think I've heard everything, I receive a letter about a neighbor like yours. To invite people to a party and assume they "probably won't show up anyway" is foolish. What if they DO show up and you're not prepared for them?

Give the party, and allow me to be the first to wish you a happy, healthy new year. Make one of your resolutions to have little to do with your nervy neighbor. It doesn't take a crystal ball to predict she'll be angry when she learns she wasn't included.

P.S. Don't be surprised if they show up anyway.

Abby shares her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "Abby's More Favorite Recipes." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 per booklet ($4.50 each in Canada) to: Dear Abby Cookbooklets I and II, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)

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