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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I live in a small community of fewer than 200 people. We installed a swimming pool in our back yard and made the mistake of allowing neighbors to come over to swim.

I recently started a home-based business, and one of my neighbors refuses to understand that I have to work. Even in the winter she comes over and sits on our yard furniture, waiting for me to come out and talk to her. In the summer, she comes unannounced and either sunbathes in our yard or swims in our pool. One day she caught my poor husband on the deck tanning in his birthday suit.

We have asked people to call before coming, but some of our neighbors have come to swim and left their kids there -- as though I am expected to baby-sit for them.

Have you anything I could laminate and post in my back yard that will remind my neighbors about observing common courtesy and not coming over unannounced? -- DESPERATE IN KANSAS

DEAR DESPERATE: There's an old saying, if folks take advantage of you once, shame on them; if they take advantage of you twice, shame on YOU.

You can put a stop to the drop-ins by becoming assertive. The next time you find your yard populated with uninvited guests, go outside and tell them, "I'm sorry, but today isn't a good day for me to have people use the pool. Next time, please call before coming over."

Some pool owners have solved the problem by installing a flagpole in their yards and raising a "welcome flag" when guests are invited to swim. Others post signs next to the pool area, stating that the pool is open to guests from ( ) to ( ) on specified days and that children must be supervised by parents at all times.

It is extremely important that you be properly insured because should someone be injured on your property, you would be liable -- so call your insurance agent and make certain your homeowner's insurance is current and adequate. Good luck.

P.S. Have you considered putting in a fence with a locked gate?

DEAR ABBY: My son and his wife have two children, a son, age 7, and a daughter, age 5. Every day when my son leaves for work, he drops his son off at school.

Before they leave the house, he takes his daughter to the bathroom and then she is locked in her bedroom until her mother gets out of bed.

I have tried telling them that this isn't right. To me, it is very dangerous -- and probably illegal -- to leave a young child locked in a room unattended. I also worry that it may cause psychological damage. Could you please give me some words that I can pass along to them? They refuse to take me seriously. -- SLEEPING BEAUTY'S MOTHER-IN-LAW

DEAR MOTHER-IN-LAW: It would be interesting to know how long and why your daughter-in-law stays in bed in the mornings. Could she be depressed? Substance-addicted? It is her responsibility to care for and supervise her daughter -- not (literally) lie down on the job until it's convenient.

Since your son and daughter-in-law are deaf to your concerns, please inform child protective services. I, too, am worried about the psychological implications for your grandchild.

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