How to lose the Christmas spirit (before you've even really gotten it yet)

Step one: Annoy your husband by demanding he haul the extra large, extra heavy tree box up from the basement. Annoy him further when you ask in your nicest wifely voice if he will also bring up the two large bins of ornaments/decorations. Ignore his grunts and grumbles and be glad he is so strong.

Step two: Turn on the Christmas music that you burned onto your oldest son's i-pod (as your i-pod has recently died a slow and painful death). Smile sweetly when he complains about this. Think of his painfully difficult birth that was done without the use of an epidural, and decide he owes you this, at the very least.

Step three: Untangle multiple balls of mangled lights that you could have sworn were rolled neatly last January. Begin hanging the untangled lights on the tree.

Step four: Finish hanging the lights, go to plug them in, and realize (to your horror) that half of them are burned out. Begin searching for the bulbs that are burned out and suddenly realize you cannot see things up close. Wonder exactly when that happened, and blame it on your recent 35th birthday. Make a mental note to start shopping for cute bifocals. [Wonder briefly if that is an oxymoron.]

Step five: Give up searching for burned-out bulbs and remove all lights from the tree. Test another tangled ball of lights to make sure it works before hanging it on the tree. When lights appear, hang the second tangled ball of lights. Go to plug them in (and realize AGAIN to your horror) that half of them are burned out. Wonder exactly why the universe hates you. Decide you hate the universe, too.

Step six: Try hard not to lose heart, in spite of the universe hating you. Grab your purse, and head to Target for replacement lights. Sing loudly in the car on the way there. Be proud of yourself and your unusually positive attitude in a situation like this.

Step seven: Get home and call madly for the children to come back and help with the tree. Realize they have lost interest. Pull new lights out of the plastic Target bag and realize (TO YOUR SHOCK, HORROR, and SHEER FRUSTRATION) that you have purchased lights with white wiring, which will not look too good on your green tree. Momentarily consider hanging yourself with them.

Step eight: Decide against suicide, grab your purse, and head BACK to Target. Say lots of four-letter words out loud in the car instead of singing. Return white-wired lights and pick up new boxes of green-wired lights. Stand in line and try not to throw things at people in front of you.

Step nine: Come home yet again. Ignore the children who could now care less about the tree decorating. Silently curse that annoying Christmas music in the background. Hang the damn lights on the damn tree.

Step ten: Start hanging ornaments and have the children suddenly take an interest in the tree decorating.

Step eleven: Find your ice-cold heart of stone slowly melting. Finish decorating the tree. Stand back, sigh, and be mildly grateful for the season.

Step twelve: Angrily throw old lights into the trash. Vow to buy new lights next year before beginning this process. Turn off the lights on the tree. Go to bed.