I'm not sure how much I can help her cook. The menu is always frozen meatballs heated in a slow cooker, rolls, chips, macaroni and potato salad which her husband helps her make the night before. I have repeatedly- for every single family gathering- offered to make a pasta or potato salad (even following her recipe), and repeatedly been told no. (Which is too bad, because she makes WAY too much and no one eats much of it.) So, there's not much I can do to help cook. Not much I can help do with the decorating, either, because she doesn't decorate.
I could try to get her to let me bring the chips and rolls, at least- I'll try that avenue. The thing is, my MIL is a very proud woman, and she takes my offers to help as affronts that she can't do it all, not as the simple courtesy that they're intended as. I try to have her help when she comes to dinner at our house, but the truth is the biggest help she can be is keeping our son out from under my feet, and since she enjoys doing that she doesn't see it as helping.
I have only twice successfully gotten her to let me host- once for an Easter dinner, and last year for Thanksgiving. We'd just moved into our house that Easter, so she let me have it to show off the house. And last year I invited my parents down for Thanksgiving, so I had that leverage. (And this year I'll be 9 months pregnant for Thanksgiving, so I'm not sure I can keep it going. ::Sigh:
It's very frustrating, because as I said, there are 17 of us when everyone gets together. My in-laws live in a small duplex- it's not so bad in the summer, because the kids play outside, but it's very tight in the winter. My SIL lives in a trailer that a.) is too small and b.) is SUCH a mess that I would never, EVER let my son in there and if it wouldn't cause so much trouble in the family, I would call CPS if I thought it would get her to clean it up. (Seriously- nothing remotely against trailers, but hers really is that bad.) My one BIL isn't married, and he lives with my other BIL, who lives in a larger house. We also live in a nice large house with plenty of room for everyone. Plus, my MIL is REALLY having trouble with mobility, and these gatherings are so much work for her. And the worst part is on special days, when she hosts, she has NO time to spend with her grandkids, and she only realizes it at the end. I always feel bad for her when she says, "Oh, Ducklet, I didn't even get to hold you on Christmas day!" Plus, add in the financial aspect... ARGH! I do understand that it's a pride and a love thing, but it's just such a frustrating situation, especially since I was raised totally differently. My grandparents always came to us for holidays, and when I invited my Mom down for T-Day, she gleefully accepted and enjoyed her first T-Day in over 30 years where she didn't have to cook (although she did help me get the turkey ready). So, very different family philosophies.
Whew! Sorry about the vent! This is one of those issues for me.