Dear Annie: We recently moved back to the West Coast to be close to our son and his family. We are available whenever they need sitters for our grandchildren but keep a comfortable distance so as not to be intrusive in-laws. We have our own lives and many friends, in addition to having other family members in the area.

For some reason, our daughter-in-law has been rude and difficult. At Thanksgiving, they invited us, the other set of in-laws and two couples who are good friends. We brought several different dishes to contribute to the meal. My daughter-in-law told me at least three times to arrive at 5 p.m. We were quite prompt, only to find three other cars already in the driveway.

After greeting everyone, it was apparent that the other guests had been there for nearly an hour. We felt like we were on the "B" list. In addition, since my son and daughter-in-law cooked the turkey, they felt it unnecessary to help with cleanup, so all the grandparents did the work while the hosts visited with their friends.

Our daughter-in-law does many things to keep us apart from our grandsons except when she needs a baby sitter. Our son sends all cards and gifts for his family and she does the same for hers. Do you have any suggestions to help our relationship? — Tired of Being Used

Dear Tired: Let's not lump everything in one rude container. Many married couples assign "his" family stuff to the husband and "hers" to the wife. It makes things more equitable and no slight is intended. The real problem is the lack of connection. It can take years to develop a good relationship with a child's spouse, and you can't expect them to prefer you to their friends. Please don't sully your excellent efforts to be involved without being intrusive. Try to ignore these minor snubs and settle for being close to your grandchildren until, hopefully, you endear yourselves to their parents.

Dear Annie: I have a college roommate I absolutely love. We get along great, but there's one thing that drives me up the wall. She has horrible eating habits. She chews with her mouth open, smacks, slurps, licks her fingers, the whole nine yards. I have nowhere to escape because we always eat together.

We have been roommates for almost a year now and have three more to go, but it seems too late to say something. How do I tell her nicely that her eating habits need to go? — Annoyed Roomie

Dear Annoyed: You're either going to have to eat when she's not around or bite the bullet and tell her. Say with concern, "Jessica, I'm worried you have a sinus or dental problem that prevents you from chewing more quietly. I'm sure you have no idea how terrible it sounds. Maybe you should see a doctor."

Dear Annie: We recently retired and built our dream house. Several family members have visited us, and there are many more scheduled to come this summer.

Yesterday, my husband's sister announced plans to drop in on us the same week we have other guests here. Never mind that we didn't invite them, they also said they'd be bringing their teenage children and three dogs.

Annie, I'm all for being gracious to family members, so I told them we'd find a way to squeeze everyone in, but their dogs are not welcome. I know from past experience that their dogs are unruly, climb on the furniture, scratch doors and beg at the dinner table. They insisted their dogs wouldn't be a problem, but I stuck to my guns. My husband agrees and told his sister they could visit another time if they can't find a dog sitter or kennel.

When did it become acceptable to come to someone's home with your pets in tow? — Puzzled in Paradise

Dear Puzzled: It's not acceptable, although many pet owners consider their animals to be their children and treat them accordingly. It is unfair, however, to expect others to feel the same way, especially if the dogs are not properly trained. Be nice about saying no, but be firm.

Dear Annie: I read the letter from "Insulted in Pennsylvania," who was invited to a shower and the guests were asked to wrap everything in clear plastic wrap.

While I agree that the clear wrap idea is not much fun, it might be quite practical. I had a baby shower five years ago. During that time, I was suffering from a bad case of carpal tunnel syndrome. Opening those presents was really hard work for me and quite painful.

Perhaps the reason for the clear wrap was so that the bride could acknowledge the gifts without having to kill herself opening them. Some of the clear wraps now have fun things like hearts or balloons. I wish I had done that years ago. — Jen in Michigan

Dear Jen: Well, yes, if you have a problem opening presents, it makes sense to do what doesn't aggravate your condition. But the recent trend to use clear wrap has nothing to do with carpal tunnel and everything to do with turning showers into gimme-grabs. We still don't care for it.


Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. © Creators Syndicate Inc.