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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I are expecting our first child in two months. I have been reading parent and child safety books, and several topics have come up that concern me.

My in-laws live in an old house that appears to be structurally unsafe. It has unusually steep stairwells, peeling paint on the walls that I fear may be lead-based -- and over all, the place is filthy. They also have a dog who has a history of biting people -- myself and my husband included.

Once, a few years ago, my husband and I stayed in a motel rather than with them, and we still haven't heard the end of it!

I am concerned for our child's safety. Is there a nice way of telling my in-laws that we will not be bringing our new baby to their home for visits? (Please don't use my name or location. I have enough grief from my mother-in-law as it is.) -- DISTRESSED FIRST-TIME MOM

DEAR DISTRESSED: There is no "nice" way to tell your in-laws that their house is a health hazard and their beloved pet is a menace. Express your concerns, advise them of your decision, and don't back down.

Your baby's welfare must come first -- and it's your responsibility as parents to protect your child. Invite them to visit the baby in YOUR home -- sans the dog.

DEAR ABBY: Last year, my husband went into business with a close friend. Since then, he refuses to let me see any financial statements, including the 1099 form used for filing income taxes. He says my wanting to see these records proves I don't trust him.

I love him and want to believe him, but I have my doubts. His partner's wife told me my husband is lying. She says he earns far more than he tells me. I've never seen a payroll stub.

Every week, he gives me money to pay the bills and buy groceries. In turn, I give him "pocket money" for the week -- usually $5 to $10 a day. He says he's glad I take the money because I manage it well.

Abby, why would he lie to me? Shouldn't married people know each other's incomes? -- FEELING UNEASY IN NEW ENGLAND

DEAR FEELING UNEASY: Your husband's reluctance to show you financial statements indicates that he doesn't trust YOU with the knowledge of his true financial status. Of course married couples should know where they stand financially.

Refuse to sign any tax forms unless you have reviewed them and understand them completely. You are as liable as your husband is for any inaccuracies or misinformation. If your husband gives you an argument, consult a lawyer.

DEAR ABBY: I have been sworn to secrecy by my husband's 70-year-old grandmother. She was recently diagnosed with emphysema, and she doesn't want me to tell the family.

I am torn because I think my husband and his family should be emotionally and financially prepared. On the other hand, she swore me to secrecy because she doesn't want to be a burden to the family. Please help. -- PERPLEXED IN COLORADO

DEAR PERPLEXED: It's unfair for you to carry this burden of secrecy. Talk to her doctor and ask him or her to encourage Grandma to tell her family the whole truth now.

Abby shares her favorite recipes in a two-booklet set. To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $7.90 per set ($9 per set in Canada) to: Dear Abby Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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