Dear Abby: A friend I really like has been extremely helpful baby-sitting my 4-month-old son every once in a while. The problem is, she informed me that she rubs his gums and lets him chew on her fingers. I find this gross and strange. Clean fingers or not, I'd prefer she not do this. She only has him a couple of hours at a time, and he has teething toys.
Am I overreacting? If not, how do I politely inform my friend that I'd rather she not put her fingers in my baby's mouth? I can't think of a way to explain it that wouldn't offend her. -- OFF LIMITS IN IDAHO
DEAR OFF LIMITS: What your friend is doing is neither gross nor strange. She was probably trying to soothe your teething baby who was showing signs of discomfort. Her fingers may have been more comfortable to chew on than the hard toy. However, you are the parent and if you prefer no more fingers in your baby's mouth, you should tell that to your friend and she shouldn't take offense.
DEAR ABBY: I often have thought about cooking food and taking it to neighbors when they experience a death in the family or a new baby, etc. I know when my parents passed away, kind relatives and neighbors brought us so much food we didn't know what to do with it all. But it was greatly appreciated and helped us more than they could ever know.
My problem is I tend to overthink this and then not follow through. (What if they don't eat meat? What if they're on special diets? What if they already have a lot of food or are allergic to something?) How can I offer something useful without knowing their eating habits? I have considered giving a restaurant gift card, but that doesn't seem as personal.
It seems years ago people never put so much thought into making a dish and taking it to the neighbors. Can you give me some insight? -- WANTS TO HELP IN MICHIGAN
DEAR WANTS TO HELP: I don't think you are overthinking at all. The questions in your mind are intelligent ones. That's why you should pick up the phone and tell the families that you intend to bring them a gift of food, but before you do, you would like to know if they have any dietary restrictions. (Perhaps they already have a freezer full of cakes, pies and cookies and would enjoy something more solid -- like a casserole?) I am sure your thoughtfulness would be appreciated if you called to offer your condolences and asked what they could use.
CONFIDENTIAL TO MY READERS: A word to the wise: If you plan to toast the New Year tonight, please appoint a designated driver. And on this night especially, designated drivers should remember to drive defensively. To one and all, a happy, healthy New Year! -- LOVE, ABBY
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $14 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)
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