Here are some pictures of our Christmas-ish weekend we had a while ago. Since then, our tree has become much more laden with gifts, and I spent almost 6 hours wrapping presents for my parents. I am a wrapping fiend (much better than a rapping fiend)!

We both love Christmas lights, although we differ in opinion on which is better – white or multi colored. But we have a variety of lights up in our apartment, from the giant colored bulbs to white icicle lights.

Most of our decorations have come from my dad’s gallery – picked up in his after-Christmas sales. When you combine 50-60% off and throw in an employee discount, you don’t feel so bad for purchasing something you’re only going to display in your house/apartment for a little over a month each year. Plus…your father gets a little less grumpy because his Christmas stock is shrinking.

Now that he doesn’t have the gallery anymore, (Christmas last year, and now this year) we take a trip every few weeks to Beaver Bark. Beaver Bark is normally a nursery/home and garden center. But once a year they transform into an incredible winter wonderland. Outside are Christmas trees (dreadfully overpriced, we usually go somewhere else) and a popcorn machine, and sometimes a big pot of apple cider. Inside, they have fully decorated trees, gifts, and Christmas decorations you would never find anywhere else. We usually pick up a few things, trying to stay under budget but rarely succeeding.

Our iTunes players have been playing almost nothing but Christmas music – everything from the Muppets to Phantom Planet. We have to race to call dibs on who gets to use their ipod in the car when we go anywhere.

And my favorite Christmas songs are this year:
1. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Rolf and John Denver
2. It’s Christmas Time – Sufjan Stevens
3. Carol of the Bells – The Bird and the Bee (one of the best free downloads iTunes has ever offered)
4. Come On! Let’s Boogey To the Elf Dance – Sufjan Stevens
5. Good King Joy – Trans Siberian Orchestra
6. Christmas of Love – Little Isidore and the Inquisitors
7. Lollypop Parade – Joy Electric
8. Christmas Time is Here – Vince Guaraldi Trio
9. It’s Christmas! Let’s Be Glad! – Sufjan Stevens
10. Theme From “The Snowman” – Sang Froid

By now, we only have two more Christmas gifts to buy for family and one to modify. And I have a bit more knitting to do. And I have to buy Jason’s gifts, which will have to wait until next week because of our budget. This is unusual for me. Usually by this time, I am completely done and wrapped and probably handing out ideas for those who aren’t finished purchasing presents yet. So I feel a little stressed, but it isn’t warranted, I know.

It’s a little hard to balance our two families. One family goes inexpensive and one present per person. The other goes all out – fifty to a hundred dollars on each person, plus anything else you might find that you think they would like. One family makes a list and usually sticks to it. One family goes person to person asking what they want, and the asked person is responsible for not giving out duplicates. But both families are dealing with children scattered everywhere and only one still at home. And both are having to coordinate schedules and driving times and parties. And communication. The insulated little family Christmases are over and done with for a long time.

Our cats are a little enamored with the entire deal. Kiki was afraid of the Christmas tree until the ornaments were on it – just like every other Christmas tree we’ve ever had. Once the ornaments are on, it’s fair game for climbing and stalking April. April on the other hand, loves the tree and the lights and even candy canes. We’ve had to put the peppermint candies out of her reach because she has taught herself how to strip the plastic off the candy canes themselves and will break the candy into pieces and eat it. Which obviously isn’t good for her or her teeth. I swear, she will eat anything.

Last night, while out shopping for some more gifts to check off our list, we picked up some Christmas classic movies – which we will probably watch this afternoon or this evening. Charlie Brown Christmas – which I can’t remember very much of, having not seen it in years… but I remember loving as a kid. We also picked up my favorite Christmas movie of all time – the cult classic “A Christmas Story.” I’ve read the book and still love them both, despite their differences. And this afternoon, I’m going to dig around and find my Christmas book by Berkeley Breathed, “Red Ranger Came Calling.” In college among my room mates and dorm mates, there was always a little to-do around Christmas where we would read the book out loud and talk about Christmas traditions. If you haven’t read it – it’s in the same tone as “A Christmas Story.” A classic.

Since we live in an apartment, we aren’t really allowed to decorate outside for the holidays. So we settled for looking around a bit at the Christmas lights while driving to various places. So far, this is the most hideously awesome display of Christmas light decor we’ve seen. We’ve labeled it “the house Christmas threw up on.” There is a possible contender in another nearby neighborhood for this title, but we’re going to need to go back for a second opinion from the judges.

And finally, this Sunday at church was our kids’ Christmas musical. Notwithstanding the jingle bell fight between two toddlers in Tiny Tot Praise, the entire thing was a hit and about as adorable as you could ask for.