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Topic This year my Christmas present will be "problems"! Go to previous topic Go to next topic Go to higher level

By poppadum On 2011.11.26 16:06
Hubby, a Brit through and through, is used to having a traditional English Christmas with lots of guests, the house decorated from the front door through the hall (with stairs) and the whole lounge. Superbly laid and decorated table with a little pressie for each visitor. (Late) lunch with starters, soup, stuffed turkey + roast potatoes + 5 different sorts of vegetables, Christmas pudding, coffee and cake. Drinks to match every dish, starting with champagne when people arrive.
Last year was a disaster.
As he has always helped getting things ready which he decided to do last year.Alas! He kept moving things from room to room and some of the dishes I had to start over 3 times. I'm a clean and tidy worker but last year it was a total disaster. Even the flour was so greasy I slipped and hurt myself pretty badly but not so bad that I couldn't carry on after a few paracetamols (Us: Acetaminophen). As we have fridges in the kitchen and in the garage, hubby kept on moving ready dishes from one fridge to the other and also put dishes in the garage where it's pretty cold. Needless to say my mileage that day went through the roof. To top it all he "put away" the home made tomato soup with tiny hand made meatball on which I spent hours. 3 days later I found it with a layer of green fur behind the.... washing machine!
Now he insists on the same English Christmas again but I just cannot face it!!! Last year it took me nearly 2 weeks to get everything back in order and to recover from exertion and frustration.
Any suggestions to make it simpler?
I said I wasn't going to bake a turkey because he wants it so large that it only just fits in our very large oven but it means me getting up at 6 in the morning to put the turkey on, and after that I have to check it, put potatoes and parsnips in the same oven at different times and look after all the other bits and pieces. The deco I can do a couple of weeks before. The soup could be prepared right now and live in the fridge until the day before. I could cut down on the amount of vegetables and leave out the Christmas pudding, but it's the eternal moving of the dishes which gets to me. If I ask him to avoid the kitchen he gets angry. I wanted to replace the turkey with turkey fillets filled with stuffing because they don't take hours to roast, but Sir wants a turkey! If I don't prepare a turkey he says he'll do it himself. Total panic now. I feel like saying: "it's either the turkey or me. If YOU do a turkey, I'm going to disappear for the day!"
I really honestly cannot face it.
Amount of guests who have so far been invited every Christmas: 3 Muslim Egyptians (1 totally spoiled 2 year old girl who whinges permanently and throws things around but didn't exist at the 1st invitation), 4 Vietnamese Christians (mum + dad very helpful and 2 quite busy 5 and 2 yr olds who think grandma = me, is a toy and always pays them attention, but when I send them back into the lounge at least they obey), Mum (92), Son N°1 + girlfriend (very helpful), girlfriend's parents çold friends but mother now has leukemia and is weak),1 older lady (friend) who has no-one to celebrate Christmas with but us, hubby and me. I make that 14 people.
Any suggestions to make it somewhat easier for me?????

By parkinit On 2011.11.26 18:32
I don't know if you have this option, but here in the States we can order a "Christmas Dinner" to be prepared by the local grocery store and then you just pick it up. I've never tried this, but each year it seems a bit more appealing.

I've had to have a heart-to-heart with my hubby and just because "we" used to do a lot at Christmas in decorating and food preparation doesn't mean I have to keep doing it. One person doing all the preparations and then having another coming behind you undoing things you've done is very frustrating. I've tried to really simplify life for both of us as I take on more and more of his duties (calling repairmen, handling finances) and working part-time and thankfully, spouse has had no complaints.

By lurkingforacure On 2011.11.26 18:38
Can you get a caterer? I have no idea how much they cost but it would have to be worth it!! They could bring dishes, linens, silverware, decorations, plus the food.

If that wouldn't work, maybe asking each guest to bring something to contribute to the meal so that you don't have to do it all? It may be tacky, but everyone should understand, given the situation. It's about being together with people you enjoy, so I would hope if I did this my guests would help step up to the plate, so to speak.

Hope this helps, maybe others have better ideas, I'd like to hear them myself!

By LOHENGR1N On 2011.11.26 19:10
Okay here's the plan straight from a Parkinson's Patient's mouth. Do the day, really how many more might there be to enjoy? (I always say enjoy as much as you can now even if you're having a bad day because in the future your bad days now will seem like good days then.) Don't or try not to fuss about things that might not come or repeat this holiday! Everyone you've listed as helpful? Rely on them to help you. Me thinks YOU enjoy this day as much as anyone else does so enjoy. I think in a post before You related that the young family has "adopted you and your husband" the children call you Grandma and Grandpa? Ask the day of all the preparing last minute and setting food out for the Dad and the 5 and 2 year old to take your husband out to get a "forgotten" decoration, maybe the running pine for the banister? You know what better than I can guess to "forget" but He would be doing you such a HUGE FAVOR and saving the day if He could go get that! Get him out of the house for a few hours so everyone can get the work done, then even if they get home before you're done He's got to decorate that last spot! With the children helping it might take just a bit longer. He finishes you're carrying the food in and setting it in place you slip your arm around his waist smile at him and say perfect timing! You're both satisfied the jobs are done and everyone is happy. Well that's the plan looks good typed out doesn't it? Take care, best of luck and hang in there. Hope you enjoy the Holiday!

By Pearly4 On 2011.11.27 02:26
I think this was published here before but maybe its time for a repeat:

Caregiver Bill of Rights

By karolinakitty On 2011.11.27 10:27
Poppadum...we never overly celebrated birthdays or holidays prior to PD, but this year I decided because of the valleys we had to make his birthday extraordinary. I had a surprise birthday party for him AND pulled it off. We have a new round of friends after losing the old ones just after diagnosis and you would not believe the help I received from them.

Simple execution: ASK FOR HELP! Put the English pride aside, and I know about it, my dear friend is from outside London, and ask for help.
Then: Hubby MUST be kept at a distance. In your most polite voice, kindly tell him that you have the foods under control and please do not move anything as it will put you back with confusion.
Here is how to get all your dishes done without too much effort.
If it is just traditional veggies, I know the concept of potluck is not a Brits friend from UK did not understand this concept when she came to the states....of your guests ASK each one to bring a veggie dish ...even if it is one from their own country as I see you mention, let them bring will aide you...No my friend from Brit is not the cook as I am so we agreed for her contribution for Thanksgiving, as she is elderly and by herself...i asked her to bring a frozen pie that she baked at her own home...that was simple and on her level to do with no fuss doing it the day before and carrying a cold pie is better than a hot one.....
Being a former food service person.. organize your fridges and tell hubby again politely HANDS OFF...

If you can get your guests to take care of the veggies it leaves you the turkey and while some Brits stuff with apples and such, not sure what you are doing but you can then stuff your bird, and cook it at a reasonable hour. Take it out an hour before serving so that it "settles" and any warmups or such can be done at that time prior to serving.....

I agree with Al....there are not too many holidays that CAN be celebrated and I will do what it takes to make each one that much more special until the day that it is not even a hope of doing so......

By susger8 On 2011.11.28 08:58
You've gotten such great advice already, not much I can add. But here's something my mother used to do when we had a lot of guests for the holiday -- roast two smaller turkeys instead of one large one. They cook faster and there are more drumsticks! You could also bake the stuffing in a pan instead of inside the bird -- less work and again, the turkey cooks faster if unstuffed.


By Reflection On 2011.11.28 12:05
I don't know if this helps - but the last couple of years, I've gone with turkey breast vs. whole turkeys, and I love it.
You could even do 2 smaller turkey breasts. You cook them ~ 25 minutes a pound or until they reach ~ 155 degrees, then tent them with foil ~20-30 minutes, so they reach 160 degrees, and the juices stay in the meat.
You can get either bone in or bone-less.
The boneless is wonderfully easy to carve - just put on a cutting board, and zap!
They also take up way less room in the fridge, which might reduce your treks to the garage.

- Allow 2/3 pound to 1 pound per person when purchasing a bone-in turkey breast, which usually weighs between 4 and 8 pounds (4 pounds for each 6 people)

- Allow 6 oz or 1/2 pound per person when purchasing a boneless turkey breast or roast, which usually weighs between 4 and 8 pounds (4 pounds for each 8 people).

I don't mean to make this a recipe exchange, but this improved my Thanksgiving vastly, since I hate the carving and hate after the meal having to deal with the large carcass. If some of your guests have to have drumsticks, maybe you could go with a smaller turkey and a turkey breast.

I agree with others - enlist help where you can. Give assignments - this person (or 2, or a family) are in charge of beverages - uncorking wiine, filling water glasses, etc. Another person is responsible for carving (so your husband can act as host ;) Have guests bring side dishes. Buy what you can - eg, gravy. The idea of having friends spirit off your husband to get, say, pine boughs is excellent.

Most important - take the attitude that you'll do the parts that you enjoy, and not the parts you don't. And do it in a way that'll make it easier for you - no one will care if some stuff is purchased, vs. made. I don't think anyone cares about soup & starters for a holiday meal - increases the complications, and dishes, while making you too full to enjoy the main course. But you have to figure out what you want to do, vs. what you "have" to do - and weigh any decision heavily in favor of the "want" to do.

And the explanation you give matters. So for turkey fillets or breast, say it's a matter of health & safety & taste - you've been reading up, and it's too hard to cook a big whole turkey to a safe temperature without drying out the meat. You don't want to undercook, and give your guests food poisoning (especially the lady with leukemia - you can use that as an excuse!) - so you're going with breasts or fillets this year, and cooking the stuffing separately. Maybe even say the girlfriend quietly asked you to do it this way to not make her mother with leukemia feel badly (and then tell the girlfriend you are using her as your excuse.)

And with side dishes - say your guests have wanted to contribute a bit of their culture to your celebration - or, if you want the traditional sides, that they want to learn how to make whatever side they're assigned. It would be rude not to allow them to contribute!

Dinner for 14 is daunting no matter what. It's not right though, to ruin your holiday season because of other people's expectations - that aren't in line with what you enjoy. You'll end up frazzled, frustrated, gritting your teeth - when you should get to enjoy the day. Good luck with the balancing act.

By Michele On 2011.11.28 18:57
OK, I get the pressure you feel you are under. But what is really important? It's celebrating the day and the friends and family you have. Not to mention the fact that as a caregiver you have so much on your plate already. I have found that having holidays at my home are the best because my husband is more comfortable here and no travel involved. He gets to see the family and new grandchildren and the occasional dog. My caregiving has accelerated in recent years where he needs my constant attention. So, this year for Thanksgiving I ordered everything from Wegmans's (a gourmet supermarket in my area) already cooked and just reheated it all. I was able to enjoy the guests and the stress was off. Everyone loved the food and had a great time including me. This may not be the answer for you but anything you can do to take some work off your shoulders and allow you to have an enjoyable holiday with your husband, family and friends is worth it! I hope you can work out an alternative and that your husband can understand the need to make changes in your traditional Christmas. If he can't, just go ahead anyway and let him know how important it is for you and your sanity to make some shortcuts. Personally, I don't know how you kept up with it! Good luck to you and I hope you have a Merry Christmas.

By chroop67 On 2011.11.28 21:26
OK I think that sharing the holidays together is important but it sounds like there is nothing enjoyable when your husband decides to get involved. It sounds like your husband likes things done very specifically and is quite demanding. Changing things, making things 'easier' doesn't change the fact that he makes it all quite un-enjoyable.As a caregiver we need to look after ourselves too or else we won't be able to 'give care' at all. If i were you I wouldn't have the dinner then maybe someone else will step up to the plate. You are only one person and we all have to make difficult choices as this horrible disease takes away our loved ones. Yes celebrate while they are with us but please recognize the limitations and be 'OK' with making adjustments.

By Caregiven On 2011.11.29 06:24
I read here often, but have only posted twice in the two years I have been doing so. I am karolina kitty's "responsibility", as ever present to her as a huge albatross tied around her neck on an old rope. I spend my days speaking in commoners grammar, drooling uncontrollably as I bumble along, forgetting most important daily events such as having my napkin neatly folded in my lap for my meals.
Luckily, Ms kitty has a heart of gold and is a person filled with compassion. She realizes that I do the best I can, and on the rare occasion that I make a stand on something such as putting shredded cheese in mashed potatoes she is preparing, my tone is tainted by the fact that my pain level is so severe and relentless, and she is understanding of that.
You, on the other hand, are obviously part of a lineage with a pedigree far superior to us, and you have a reputation that must be kept. I was a well known Executive Chef for many years, and know that a perfectly prepared and served meal can only be completed with much toil and difficulty. Obviously your magnificence in your own eyes has no room for an older, afflicted incompetent such as your Parkinson's suffering husband. It is only a matter of time until you commit a culinary faux pas as felonious as serving a fresh Summer vegetable in the dead of Winter!
My advice to you is to pack your belongings at your earliest convenience and leave him in peace. The modern world is full of tiny third world countries that still have kings as rulers. That seems much more appropriate for you to spend your days sitting at one of their sides in your matching throne as you are catered to by your personal staff.
Your afflicted husband would be better off in the long run too. Still suffering from relentless physical pain and sickness from his Parkinsonism, he would finally get some peace without your constant needling and criticism.
After all, in the greater scheme of things, a man's dignity is important, and with you there, there isn't much chance of that. It's no wonder you refer to him on a level of a piece of livestock in a herd rather than a person that still has feelings. You obviously are just to good for him.

By susger8 On 2011.11.29 10:29
Good heavens.

Caregiven, this is obviously a very sensitive area for you. But I think you're being unfair to Poppadum. In her post she did not present herself as a superior being, or nag and needle her husband. She isn't suggesting that she leave him, or even abandon the holiday celebration. She is asking for advice on how to create a semblance of the celebration that is so important to her husband, while making it a bit easier on herself.

Many PWPs seem to create disorder, and I think we all realize that this is not intentional. It's part of the disease, it can be caused by pain, or confusion, or physical inability. But disorder is hard for many of us to cope with. When a person is trying to get a holiday dinner together for a lot of guests, it's very stressful when someone else is moving things around in the kitchen. Maybe this is why my mother never liked to have my sister and me "help" her!

Caregiving is stressful, the holidays are stressful, and we all need to vent now and then. But that doesn't mean we hate the person we care for, or think he or she has no feelings, or that we *really* want to leave them (even if for a moment we might say we do). Both caregiver and care receiver are coping however we can with this difficult disease. We don't achieve perfection. But we do our best.


By chroop67 On 2011.11.29 10:43
Your response was overly harsh. We gather here to support one another and to have a place where we can be honest. Both PD patient and caregiver can struggle on many different levels with guilt being a constant companion.

I have found that a predominant characteristic of this disease is the patients inability to honestly assess their current state and to view the entire situation from a rational perspective.

Please take care of yourself so that you can take care of your loved one. Often when dealing with my mom i remind myself that its not her, its the disease but that doesn't excuse the behaviour. If you could go back several years and talk to your husband as he was, what would HE tell you to do????

By Reflection On 2011.11.29 11:27
Gosh. Deep breath.

Caregiven, you have helped my understand that when my loved one comes out with what I think is a radical misunderstanding of something I've said, it may be the disease speaking.

My understanding of Poppadum's post was that far from insisting on an unrealistic standard of perfection, she is trying to figure out how to keep her husband happy without herself going mad. He's the one insisting on turkey vs. easier alternatives she's proposing.

I noted once before that there are far more female caregivers, especially spouses, on this site than males. I don't remember posts of female persons with PD complaining their caregivers are insufficiently self-sacrificing. Nor to I recall a female person with PD trying to bully (I considered softening this word, but it is apt) a caregiver into pretending the very real problems dealing with a person with advanced PD don't exist - because reading about those problems might make a person with PD feel bad. And I refer here not only to the physical problems, but the paranoia, selfishnessness, cognitive issues, and failure to recognize these that many of us have dealt with.

We are all trying to do the best we can with this wretched disease. It is the disease that has taken the dignity of Poppadum's husband - not his wife.

Poppadum - You sound like a loving caregiver to me. I am sorry that your frustrations have been so misinterpreted. You deserve our support.

By shakydog On 2011.11.29 23:43
gentlemen, you are wrong. i didn't hear "rule britannia" or a plan to sequester the partner, only a request for help in dealing with an overwhelming situation. Instead, the situation is now worse after the guilt and humiliation that you laid at her feet.

Perhaps it is time to have a smaller celebration. None of us could pull off Xmas dinner for 14 at this point in our lives. I wouldn't expect mylove to and it isn't fair to expect anyone else to prepare such an intricate meal with a troop of monkeys in the kitchen.

To Poppadum: I'm sorry. Holidays are sad enough. Do what you can to appeal to his British Dignity that you are no longer able to feed all the troops and it would be nice to have a more intimate celebration with your special friends

By poppadum On 2011.11.30 09:10
Wow! What a load of suggestions, some of them which can be executed to hubby's liking, others can't but are nevertheless welcome because one thought can lead to another.
Hubby is the Brit in this house (Welsh and a Welsh speaker, so not a rigid "British" thinker. He speaks fluent Flemish= similar to Dutch and spoken in my native north of Belgium). Although he never wants to live in the UK again he does get homesick at times. Christmas is one of the trigger times. Hence I have always created a totally British Christmas here in Belgium which went fine until last Christmas when I really got a "whack on the head", realizing that I'm no longer a spring chicken and that the PD had got so bad that it worked like a brake on everything. With one thing and another adding to the strain lately I've been so tired that I couldn't even think straight anymore.
With the help of you all, here is my plan:
- The decoration will be greatly reduced and put up with the help of my "adopted" son Binh and grandson Minh Quan.
- "Adopted" daughter Thi Nha and I will organize the tables and chairs, and she will set the table. She's at home here anyway so I don't need to tell her where everything is.
- Caterers are out of the question due to limited finances and my allergy to some commonly used ingredients like onions, nuts, bananas, preservatives...
Christmas lunch will be reduced to a 3 course meal instead of 5, with much simpler recipes.
The soup and cranberry sauce will be ready beforehand in the freezer.
No turkey this time, but turkey fillets with stuffing will reduce cooking time and eliminate continuous basting.
Sponge cake decorated with a Christmas scene (done with fruit) from our brilliant local baker (and friend), and an extra surprise desert from our Egyptian friend Ola.
The matter of the turkey was a bit sticky but as we have to pay per pound to have trash taken away I could convince hubby it was going to work out even more expensive. Result!
Thi Nha will be assistant chef, Ola and future daughter-in-law Catherine will serve and help tidy up afterwards.
Binh will take hubby to the pub (also typical in England) while we are preparing everything.
I can actually look forward to it all now.
Thi Nha suggested doing it all at their house but with a busy job, 2 small children and a smallish house I thought it to be unfair. Grandson Minh Quan overheard our conversation and protested loudly: I don't want it here! I want it at grandma's and granddad's house!
Thanks guys!!!

By mylove On 2011.11.30 09:15
Hey hey hey....I think you've hit on the solution! :)

And that's what I love about this board!

By Reflection On 2011.11.30 10:00
so glad - sounds workable, you can look forward to it instead of dreading it, and all will enjoy. Delighted.

By LOHENGR1N On 2011.11.30 13:58
poppadum, That's great! Sounds like a plan to Me! Glad everyone could help in our own small way here on the forum. Enjoy the Holiday! What a wonderful Holiday present you've given Us here, allowing Us to feel the warmth of the season and that You are now looking forward to it instead of dreading it. Thank you for Your thoughtfulness in letting Us know of Your plans! Wishing Your and Yours a joyous holiday. Sincerely,Your Friends here on the Forum.

By susger8 On 2011.11.30 14:02
Having a friend take your husband out to the pub while you are preparing dinner, that's a stroke of genius!


By parkinit On 2011.12.01 19:49
It sounds like you have come up with a workable solution that is acceptable to everyone. Good job, pop!

By poppadum On 2011.12.02 16:49
I couldn't have pulled it off without you all!
All I had to do to get the puzzle together is to get the pieces from somewhere, because I didn't have them.
It's the old story of the wood and the trees: don't just keep standing in the wood because all you get to see are a few trees, so get someone on the outside to tell you about the whole wood.
Thank you all for being prepared to do that.

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