Dear Abby:

I am the mother of three -- ages 10, 9 and 6. My parents are both gone, so I can't ask them about a problem I am having with "Ashley," my 6-year-old. Since she learned to walk at about 10 months, Ashley has eaten just about anything she could get her hands on.

She prefers things like hairspray, makeup, cleaners, soaps, baby oil -- and has even tried bleach. I am scared that my child is going to do permanent damage to herself or even die. I watch her like a hawk; however, last night we were at a Daisy Girl Scout meeting, and Ashley went to the restroom and was caught spraying air freshener into her mouth.

I have called her pediatrician and left messages, but he has not returned my calls. I used to think she was just extremely curious; now I'm beginning to think she is obsessed and can't resist the urge.

Please advise me how I can save my beautiful little girl.

Alarmed in Topeka, Kan.

The first thing you should do is contact another pediatrician.

Meanwhile, lock up the products that are a danger to her.

Your daughter needs a medical evaluation, and you must ensure that she gets one as soon as possible. Her problem may be caused by some sort of nutritional deficiency, or she may have an emotional problem.

Dear Abby:

My husband and I are friendly with several couples at church. These couples get together every week for a meal after services.

Abby, they frequently make plans with one another right in front of us, without ever extending an invitation. The other night, I was sitting at a table with several of the couples and became virtually invisible as they planned, in detail, an upcoming dinner party. I felt extremely awkward and uncomfortable, but the group apparently was oblivious.

Must we put up with this? Or should we take someone aside and point out how insensitive they are? I'd appreciate any ideas.

Not Invited in Cupertino, Calif.

Rather than taking anyone aside and pointing it out, I recommend you look around and see if there are any other church members with better manners with whom to socialize after church. If your absence is mentioned, tell those people THEN how hurt, offended and unwanted you were made to feel by their insensitivity. But don't expect them to change. Rude people rarely do.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.

(c)2004, Universal Press Syndicate