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by Abigail Van Buren

Mother in Law With Keys Makes Herself at Home

DEAR ABBY: My husband, son and I live next door to my in-laws. My mother-in-law, "Hazel," has a set of keys to our house for emergency purposes. For some time she has been using the key to come and go as she pleases, "borrowing" food, dishes and toiletries when we're not home. When we discover the items missing, she usually confesses.

I am really irritated about it and have frequent fights with my husband over this and other privacy issues. How can I talk to Hazel in a way that won't hurt her feelings? She is very sensitive, and I don't know how to confront her since my husband refuses to do so. -- MISSING MY PRIVACY IN SAN JOSE, CALIF.

DEAR MISSING: Try this: Take your mother-in-law to lunch and over a nice, leisurely meal say (slowly and quietly), "Hazel, honey, I have a problem I need your help with. (Breathe.) When you come into the house and take things without asking, it makes me feel violated. (Pause.) Do you think you could please refrain from doing that anymore? (Smile.) I'd really appreciate it."

And if any more items turn up missing, quietly change the locks.

DEAR ABBY: I am being married soon and my father will be providing the alcohol for our reception. We plan to serve beer, wine and champagne for the toast. Because I will be wearing an ivory gown, I am opting to drink only champagne. I have a favorite brand, but because of our modest budget, Dad cannot provide it for everyone to drink.

I was going to buy a couple of bottles to have at our table for my wedding party, but Dad feels it would be in poor taste and thinks our guests may feel slighted in some way. My feeling is that it's our special day and people will understand. Am I wrong for wanting a nicer champagne than we can provide for our guests? -- BUBBLY BRIDE IN PISMO BEACH, CALIF.

DEAR BUBBLY: Let me put it this way -- if there is a chance that your guests would feel slighted if you get caught, then drink what they're drinking at the reception. Afterward, have a bottle of your preferred brand waiting in an ice bucket by your "wedding bed" so you can enjoy a special toast with your new husband.

DEAR ABBY: I'm a high school freshman with a dilemma. I'm a good student and get A's in all my classes. I'm also an athlete. I play year-round softball and have started playing soccer for the high school team.

My problem is I took a debate class over the summer and really liked it. I want to join the debate team, but I am unsure if it would be piling too much on my plate for my first year.

I'll be carrying one honors class in addition to two above-grade-level classes. Debate practices are held after sports practices two days a week for one to two hours, so they wouldn't directly conflict with anything except homework time.

Do you think I'm overestimating how much I can handle in extracurricular activities this year? -- TOO AMBITIOUS? IN OREGON

DEAR TOO AMBITIOUS: The fact that this is causing you concern could be an indicator that it is too much. That's why before making up your mind you should discuss this with your parents as well as your guidance counselor at school.

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