It doesn't take long for my family to kick into Christmas mode, but it is taking longer to turn the house into the holiday spirit.

We get started early, a few days before Thanksgiving, when the outside decorations are brought out of storage.

That is followed by the traditional grumbling because the strands of lights that worked last year somehow died in storage.

It always amazes me that no matter how carefully the lights are put away every year, one or two or whole strands die. And no matter how careful my wife is to put them away, they get tangled up in storage. I have no idea what goes on in our attic over the year.

Once we find out the tangled ball of lights does not work, another tradition follows the frantic search for new lights, which this year ended in futility.

It seems by the time we decide to change our outside lights, they are on the verge of being out of style. Then if they fail the following year, we are out of luck trying to replace them.

Of course, we could not find the lights we wanted so we did without. On the other hand, it saved me from leaning a ladder against the house and making several trips up and down it to hang the lights.

Once the outside is done, it is time to think about decorating inside.

The day after Christmas, we picked out the Murphy Christmas tree.

I wish I could say we hiked through the woods to find the right tree, cut it down and brought it home.

But the truth is, we drive to an area tree farm, walk a short distance and point at the tree we want. Someone cuts it down for us, hauls it away, wraps it up and ties it to the top of our vehicle while we drink hot cider and pay for it.

The only real work we do with the tree is cut the end off it when we get home so it draws water and place it in the tree stand, which for the first time ever, took just one try.

Actually, sawing the end of the tree off is enough of a chore for us. That's why we had a boy.

Most of the house, thanks to my wife, was decorated immediately.

She took care of the upstairs decorations, including the artificial tree upstairs with the help of our daughter Claire.

After that, my wife said she was done decorating and the downstairs was up to the rest of us.

That explains why the real tree stood bare for several days.

Of course, when our kids were younger, the tree was put up right away and decorated.

Some of that energy may have vanished over the years, but the spirit lives on. It just takes longer to get off the couch these days.

As slowly as we moved to finish decorating the house this year, it beats the dread of taking everything down and putting it away.

We continue to accumulate more stuff each year, so it takes longer to pack it all away gently and put it back in the attic.

It also is depressing.

It means the holiday season is over, and we still have to survive dreary February before signs of spring pop up.

But now the decorating is done, and we can sit back and enjoy it as long as the lights work.

Patrick Murphy, of Columbus, Neb., is the former assistant managing editor of The Telegram.