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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I love reading your column -- every day I learn something.

A longtime girlfriend invited me to visit her in California for a four-day weekend this fall. I am married with two children, ages 5 and 9. I'm also a working mom who sacrifices a great deal for my husband and kids.

My husband is refusing to let me visit my friend, because it means he would have to get the kids off to school two days in a row -- and he'd have them for the entire weekend.

I don't get time to myself very often, so I think he's being unreasonable. Whenever I tell him I want to do something with a friend, he'll say, "When do I get to do something fun?" I always tell him, "Go! Have some fun -- I'm not stopping you."

What do you think about this? Am I being unfair? -- HELD-DOWN WIFE IN SUGAR LAND, TEXAS

DEAR HELD-DOWN WIFE: No, you are not being unfair. Your husband appears to be a man with no friends, no outside interests and no relationship with his children.

It's too bad he doesn't view your trip as an opportunity for special "dad time" with his kids. It could be a wonderful memory and bonding experience for all of them.

DEAR ABBY: I must be old-fashioned, but I believe that dinnertime should be sacred family time. The phone should be turned off and the doorbell ignored.

After many years, I've finally convinced my husband to let the answering machine pick up calls while we're having dinner. However, another problem is that he cannot turn away visitors who come to our door while we're having dinner.

My husband thinks it's rude to turn someone away. I believe his inability to do this is a sign of immaturity and lack of consideration for his family.

Is it rude to tell people, "We are just sitting down to dinner -- may I call you or come by your house when we're finished?"

Please settle this long-standing debate, Abby. Who is right? -- EXASPERATED WIFE

DEAR EXASPERATED WIFE: Much depends upon who the drop-ins are. If they are "regulars," then your family time policy should be explained. If they're out-of-towners who just happen to be in the neighborhood, make an exception, invite them in and order a pizza.

DEAR ABBY: In the 1930s, during the Depression, there were 13 children plus my loving mother and father living in a small three-bedroom house. Our only means of heat and hot water came from a coal-fired stove in the kitchen. While the girls and I (the youngest boy) slept three or four to a bed, our five older brothers slept on the floor of the unfinished attic.

After two more boys came to live with us -- a cousin and a friend whose mother had died -- my mother's friends would ask, "Ellen, how could you take in two more?" My mother's standard answer was: "If you have love in your heart, you will have room in your home."

My siblings and I all have beautiful memories of our childhood. And ironically, many people we knew thought WE were the "rich" people in the neighborhood. How right they were! -- ROBERT LUMADUE, ALTOONA, PENN.

DEAR ROBERT: Your wise mother knew an important truth: Relationships are what make life rich.

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 $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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