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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: After one miscarriage and three years of infertility treatments, my husband and I are expecting twins. While I should be excited about this news, I'm not -- for two reasons.

I have a great relationship with my mother, who has agreed to come and help when the babies are born in September. My husband's sister and family, who live out of town, are also thinking about coming to visit at that time. While I love my sister-in-law dearly, I don't know that I will feel up to entertaining her family while trying to adjust to being not only a new mom but a new mom of twins. My husband has asked that I not alienate his family, but all I can think about is how tired and stressed I will be trying to adjust to the new lifestyle.

My second dilemma is my mother-in-law. She's a very pessimistic and paranoid woman whose family has allowed her to control every family situation. She never smiles, can't find the joy in living, and tries to tell others how they should live their lives. I've asked my husband why he and his sister allow her to act this way. He says they've tried talking to her, but all she does is cry.

Abby, my mother-in-law is already providing me with unsolicited advice on how to take care of myself. I can just imagine what kind of unsolicited child-rearing advice I'll get when the children are born.

I don't want to alienate my husband's family, but under the circumstances I find it hard not to. Any advice? -– DREADING SEPTEMBER

DEAR DREADING: Accept the fact that your mother-in-law is trying to show her love and concern for you, so smile, nod and tune her out. Once the twins arrive, assure her that they are under the care of an excellent pediatrician –- and you'll mention her suggestions to the doctor to be sure they don't conflict with the medical advice you are already receiving.

As for your sister-in-law, tell her sweetly that you would LOVE to see her –- perhaps during the holidays -– after you have regained your strength and you and the babies have a firmly established schedule. To do so is not "alienating her" –- it's asserting your right to recover from the delivery.

DEAR ABBY: I'd like to comment on the letter from the person who wrote that as a hostess she was taken aback, stunned and hurt when her intended guest asked her what foods she would be serving at dinner.

As a certified etiquette consultant for 10 years, let me say that it is actually the host's responsibility, when inviting first-time guests to dinner, to ask when issuing the invitation, "Is there anything you cannot eat?" The guest can then respond accordingly. It is not necessary for either one to mention allergies, foods restricted by culture or religions, dislikes for certain foods, dieting to lose weight, etc.

The hostess can then plan the menu by not using the foods mentioned. This eliminates any surprises or embarrassment when the guests are already seated at the dining table. –- MARGIT ERICKSON, PROTOCOL/ETIQUETTE CONSULTANTS, NORTHVILLE, MICH.

DEAR MARGIT: Your suggestion makes good sense, and I'm sure will be appreciated by more prospective hosts and hostesses than we can count.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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