Dear Amy:

This is the most dreaded time of the year for me, thanks to divorces and remarriages on both my husband's side of the family and mine. We have to allot time for four different holiday gatherings.

By "Christmas No. 3" in 24 hours last year, my then 1-year-old daughter was on overload. It wasn't pleasant.

This year we're headed out of town to one set of grandparents' house, but the two other sets (in our town) are trying to figure out how to get Christmas in before we leave for our trip.

The final set of grandparents waits for us to come to them and "guilts" us when we don't.

Though I appreciate it that so many people love our daughter and us, I'm exhausted from doing the packing up and running around, and enduring stress.

When can I have Christmas at my house and say, "If you want to come to our house, great; if you don't want to because someone is here whom you don't want to see, then don't"?

Grinch

The last thing you want is to end up like one of those stressed-out characters on an awful made-for-TV holiday movie. ("Next on Lifetime: 'Santa's Slay: She Shops. Then She Kills.' ")

Before you tell your multiple sets of parents that you'll be doing Christmas at your home (perhaps after this year), I want you to take a moment, shut your eyes and remember what this holiday is supposed to be about. Christmas is a deeply meaningful event, a time for reflection, reconciliation and -- yes -- family.

It's time for you and your husband to build some holiday traditions that put your little nuclear family at the center. Your various parents should do their best to come to you. If they can't figure out how to spend time with one another (or accept visits from you at other times of the year), then that should be their problem -- not yours.

Dear Amy:

My boyfriend and I have been dating for a little more than a year.

Ours is a long-distance relationship, but somehow we have managed to make it work. He usually will drive to visit me once or twice a month. Sometimes I make the trip, but mostly he does the visiting.

His brother got married recently. My boyfriend has been busy helping out with the preparations, so I thought that after the wedding we would have more time to spend together. But I haven't heard from him in a week -- no phone call, e-mail or letter. You might say it's not a big deal, but he has never ignored me for this long. After our last phone conversation of almost an hour, he was happily reliving moments from his brother's wedding. Toward the end of our phone call, I sounded disappointed because he's not planning to visit soon.

I thought he would call the next day, but he didn't and I didn't call him.

It is not typical of him, and even if I'm mad or feel let down, he usually calls me in a day or two, even if I ignore his calls.

I finally called him, but he was not picking up. I left him a message and even e-mailed him an e-card. No replies.

I think it would be odd to call his parents or relatives to ask what's going on.

What gives? How long should I wait before I call again? Is this relationship a goner?

Listless & Waiting

Hmmm. Let me examine my Magic 8-Ball.

It says, "Outlook not so good."

You don't say whether you attended this recent wedding with your guy, but if you didn't, I suspect that perhaps something happened there (or at the bachelor party) that is giving your boyfriend second thoughts about you.

But, see, now I'm just guessing.

Unless you're worried that your boyfriend is lying in a heap on his apartment floor, leave his family out of this. Do nothing. The relationship ball is very much in his court.

Let me check the Magic 8 again.

"It is decidedly so."

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