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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Last year, my husband and I retired to a small town in which our son lives. He and his wife have two children, and ever since we moved here, they frequently call to say that the children want to come over and "visit." The visits last from four to 12 hours, since they both work.

Abby, it has gotten to the point where we have no freedom anymore. They have made no provisions for a sitter this summer, so they probably expect us to keep the children whenever we are at home. How can we let them know that we are available in emergencies, but every day is getting to be too much? We don't want to hurt their feelings. -- TIRED GRANDMA IN NEBRASKA

DEAR TIRED GRANDMA: If caring for the grandchildren has become a burden, you must be honest with your children and tell them exactly what you have told me. Finding reliable day care can be time-consuming, so unless you want the children "visiting" with you all summer, the time to announce your unavailability is right now.

DEAR ABBY: My mother passed away more than seven years ago, and on her deathbed she asked me to make sure my little sister was given a beautiful wedding, like the one she and my father had given me six weeks earlier. Of course I agreed because my sister is my very best friend and I need to honor my mother's request.

My sister is now engaged, and we are in the process of planning the wedding of her dreams. She is paying for most of it, and we're having a lot of fun. Everything went smoothly until I decided to plan and host a bridal shower before I move out of town. (I'll be 12 hours away.)

Shortly after my mother's death, my father remarried a woman his age who had never been married before. My brothers and sisters have accepted her into the family and been pleasant to her, although we do not consider her a "mother figure." We were all grown professionals at the time of my mother's death. During the past several years, she has been critical and judgmental about various family dilemmas and has tended to "pout" if she didn't get her way.

When I mentioned my intention to host a bridal shower to my father's wife, she led me to believe it was fine with her. She is now upset with me and my sister because SHE wanted to host the shower. We have tried to tell her that this is not appropriate. As matron of honor, isn't this one of MY responsibilities?

I have suggested that she host a bridal luncheon the day before the wedding, but she's still pouting about the shower. My father told me it's causing problems in his marriage. My sister and I have included her in planning the wedding, choosing the wedding gown and bridesmaids' dresses, and consulted her on various other decisions. Her childish, selfish behavior is causing lot of stress.

Abby, my sister and I want to do the right thing. Please advise us. -- STRESSED-OUT MATRON OF HONOR

CONFIDENTIAL TO MY WOMB-MATE: Happy birthday, Sissy!

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 Booklets, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)

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