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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I have just become engaged. We're in the midst of wedding planning and choosing a date. I would like to be married on Nov. 15, 2003, because it's before the holiday season and a great time to take a honeymoon cruise.

My problem: My twin sister married her high school sweetheart 16 years ago on Nov. 16. When I mentioned the date I was considering, she got upset and said, "You're not getting married on MY wedding weekend!" My fiance agrees with her. He thinks we would be encroaching on their wedding anniversary if we got married mid-November.

My sister's husband, on the other hand, is in favor of us being married on Nov. 15. He thinks it is a good time to tie the knot because it was lucky for them, and after all, there would be an 18-year difference in the wedding anniversaries.

I view my sister's reaction as demonstrating a twinly competitiveness I thought we had outgrown long ago. Can you advise me? -- KAREN IN VIRGINIA

DEAR KAREN: While you may have thought the "twinly competitiveness" was dead, it seems it was only napping. Although I consider your sister's attitude childish, it's up to you to decide how important her objection is to you -- and whether going ahead with the wedding date you have chosen is worth the resentment it may cause in her relationship with you. Only you can make that decision.

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have been married almost 10 years. We have two active boys, ages 6 and 2. We haven't been on a trip by ourselves since our first son was born. Our marriage has suffered because of it. Our marriage counselor told us that we MUST have time alone away from the kids at least once a month in order to preserve our marriage.

We live in the same town as my mother. I would love for her to care for my children once in a while, but she has never volunteered. If I ask her to baby-sit with the boys, she says things like, "We'll see" or, "They won't be able to stay long." This hurts me, Abby, and my husband is furious about it.

My husband's mother is deceased. There are no other family members to help out. We have always hired baby sitters, but it gets expensive. The worst part is, the kids love their grandmother dearly and beg us to let them visit her.

My mother is still young and in good health. She works only part time. I do not understand why she doesn't enjoy tending her grandchildren, because they really are wonderful kids. I would love to confront her, but I know she would become defensive, and it would lead to hurt feelings for both of us.

This has become a major stumbling block for me and my family and is straining my relationship with them. Any time she calls us for help, we quickly respond with our services. Please offer some suggestions so that I can discuss this with her without making the situation worse. -- TIRED IN TENNESSEE

DEAR TIRED: I understand your need to get away, but baby sitting your children is not your mother's responsibility. She obviously does not have the time and/or the desire to do so, or she would jump at the chance.

Talk to your counselor about your relationship with your mother. You and your husband may expect too much from her. Let her off the hook. Find a qualified baby sitter, and ask your mother to visit your children while you are gone.

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