Writing a Christmas letter that doesn't suck. Taking tips from my witty husband

On Monday, I shared with you some tips for writing a Christmas letter that people would enjoy reading.
Yesterday, I started sharing with you excerpts from our Christmas letters.

tips for writing christmas letters people will read

Today, we will continue that tradition.
As I reflect on the Christmas letter in 2003, I realize that Mike and I were quite focused {ie busy} raising our young family, that we were quite boring and were chugging along just trying to make it through the day.
The kids however, provided some great material for the Christmas letter.
Aidan spent another year amazing us at every turn.  He is now five and in September he began a Readiness Kindergarten class designed for kids with late summer/early fall birthdays who don’t quite make the cutoff to start kindergarten.  Aidan began the school year already reading at a first grade level, and has progressed leaps and bounds since then.  Math appears to be another one of his strong suits, and he has become quite adept at adding and subtracting. However, his penchant for removing his socks and shoes in the event that he doesn’t quite have enough fingers to solve a particular problem is definitely not a trait gleaned from the Teodoro side of the family!  Aidan loves playing outside, and had his first experience with “organized” sports when he joined a T-ball league this summer.  Sadly, the players appeared to be less interested in the games than the parents, and most of his teammates spent their time wandering in circles and drawing pictures in the dirt.  Oh well.  There’s always next year. 

Princess Isabella began her reign of terror this year by learning to walk at 8 months, and the whirling dervish hasn’t slowed down since.  Our beautiful angel with the big blue eyes and cherubic smile has become what polite society refers to as a ‘busy’ child.  She sprints from cupboards to shelves, closets to dressers, frantically flinging their contents in her wake.  Her gleeful fleeing giggles mock her parents’ futile attempts to simultaneously catch her and undo the chaos she has created.  She adores her big brother Aidan, but tends to demonstrate her feelings by beating him mercilessly at every opportunity.  Despite these tendencies, she manages to wrap nearly everyone around her little finger, with that irresistible smile and her habit of blinking her eyes and sweetly begging “peeeese” whenever she wants something.  Although her vocabulary is steadily progressing, she still does most of her communicating through grunting and streams of gibberish.  We are often left to decipher, in a Lassie-esque manner, what she needs when she runs into the room, arms waving wildly, squealing and pointing in the direction she just came.  “What’s that Bella?  Aidan’s in the well?  Good girl!”
We shared about our family vacation:
This past May we were fortunate enough to take a weeklong trip to Disney Land, under the guise of visiting Rachel’s parents at their Orange County home.  Although the memories we created will not soon be forgotten, we fear that Bella’s therapists bills will linger even longer.  While Aidan enjoyed every minute of the rides, poor Isabella was scared to death, and spent much of the time in tears. 

Our oldest child entering formal education:

Aidan is now in kindergarten and in his first year at the Seabury School, a private institution for the academically gifted student with financially gifted parents.  Fortunately for us, Aidan more than meets the first requirement, and we were eligible for enough financial aid to allow us to send him there.  While there, he has been able to study French, research history, and even join the chess club.  As Rachel says, they’re nerding him up quick!  

And highlighted a milestone:
In early November, Isabella passed another milestone when she graduated from her crib to a “big girl” bed.  It became evident that this move was necessary when she began appearing at our bedside in the mornings, having successfully flung herself the good four feet over the crib rail to the floor below.   
Once again, life wasn't taken too seriously in our annual Christmas letter.
As parents of three small children, my husband started reflecting on our family Christmas letters through the years.
As we sat down to write edition six of the Teodoro Family Christmas Letter, we began to reflect on our time spent writing previous letters.  We scoffed at our perceived stresses in the year 2000, where we wondered how we would ever find the time to write an entire page, what with 2 year old Aidan constantly underfoot.  Our laughter continues as we reflect on 2002, when we were sure that even a couple of paragraphs were beyond our reach, with 8 month old Isabella adding to the commotion in our home.  We know now that those episodes only hinted of the chaos to come, as 4 month old Owen has turned our life upside down.  As we strive for complete sentences and coherent thoughts, we hope you will enjoy this brief glimpse into our past year.
There were lots of changes in our family, especially for me this year:
Rachel spent much of her year hard at work growing a baby, and to that end had to bid a sad farewell to her volunteer time as a Life Choices counselor and MOPS coordinator.  She endured a grueling six months of morning sickness, only to experience the joys of the “You must be due any day now!” comments for the remainder of her pregnancy.  This was, of course, due to the fact that her Olive Oyl figure and basketball shaped midsection gave her an appearance not unlike that of a snake digesting a pig, but we love her just the same… 
Kids say the dardest things!
Bella now attends pre-school twice a week and enjoys her time there very much.  From painting and snack time to her new best friend Wendy, her class has everything a little girl could want.  This includes her wonderful teacher Mrs. Hauck, who immediately endeared herself to Bella by referring to her as ‘sweetcakes’ from the first day.  Isabella’s awareness of her universe is rapidly expanding, and she often comes home ready to expound her newfound knowledge upon us.  One of our favorites came one day after class, when she gleefully exclaimed “Guess what Mrs. Hauck has at home?  A Mr. Hauck!”  Truly fantastic stuff indeed.
Probably the best part about the way my husband writes our Christmas letters is that they are cohesive.
A detail mentioned in a previous paragraph almost always gets a tie in in another paragraph.
Owen David came into our lives on August 4th, and things haven’t been the same since.  At a hefty 8 pounds 10 ounces, he was quite the fatty at birth, and seeing him for the first time shed some light onto Rachel’s aforementioned state of roundness 
Before writing our annual letter, Mike rereads the previous years letters.
If you are enjoying the excerpts you can see why.
He likes to remember how very witty he is, while also refreshing his memory to the previous years events.
Let me take you back for a second to an excerpt from Mike's paragraph about himself in 2005:
Although his work has generally been good to him, there was an unfortunate incident in September, when he left the building and headed for the parking lot only to find an empty space where his car had once been.  Although the police assured him that they would do everything in their power to solve this heinous crime, up to and including filling out a report and never calling again, to this day Mike’s beloved black 1993 Honda Accord has not been found. 

And the follow up in 2006:

Finally, in a continuing effort to supply reliable and timely updates on the story first reported in last year’s Christmas Letter, we bring you this: after a full year of investigation by Tacoma’s Finest, there is still no word on Mike’s stolen car.  Although he admits that hope is dwindling, Mike is stoically attempting to “keep the faith” and “take it one day at a time”.  Truly, one needs to look no further for a role model of bravery and courage in these uncertain times.
The years have provided many kid stories.  
Note, while you could take the information provided in this paragraph as bragging, the writer follows it up with some "keeping it real" information:

Aidan applied and was accepted into the Davidson Institute’s Young Scholars program, a national nonprofit devoted to serving the needs of gifted children.  For all his brains, however, Jacques Cous-Aidan, while trying out his new snorkeling gear in the bathtub, somehow failed to notice the cordless phone thrown in by his little brother.  All those familiar with the whirlwind of destruction we call Owen, though, know Aidan was just lucky it wasn’t a toaster.

It isn't a Teodoro Christmas letter without sharing some kidism.  In this paragraph my husband is describing our four year old daughters interesting choice of words:

Although we’re sure that some learning must go on at her school, they apparently have yet to study parts of speech, as evidenced by her creative use of adverbs.  One of our favorites came one day when she decided to strip down to her skivvies after racing around the house because she was “soaking hot!”. 
And of course, there is always an opportunity to keep it real:
Our little Owen turned one in August, and has become - and there’s no polite way to say this - a walking disaster.  It has since become a full time job to ensure that Owen does not: a) injure himself, b) destroy something, or c) - and most likely - injure himself in the process of destroying something.  Every day seems to bring a new bruise or scrape, and bloody noses and bonked heads have become commonplace in our house.  This child, responsible for much of Rachel’s current mental state, simply has a motor that doesn’t quit, an underdeveloped sense of self-preservation, and enough curiosity to end the lives of a dozen cats.  He taught himself that access to the kitchen cupboards is as simple as opening the dishwasher, climbing inside, and then clawing his way onto the countertop.  He found that he could terrorize the fish in its bowl near the bathroom sink by climbing into a drawer, hoisting himself onto the counter, and plunging in up to his elbows.  He also learned that the toilet flushes when he pulls on the lever, but not quite as well with his shoes stuffed inside.  Here’s hoping we all survive long enough to see his boundless energy and charming personality put to better use!

We find that the kids provide way better material than we could ever write, so their quotes make up the majority of the Christmas letters as of late.
In other family news, the kids finally have a local cousin now that Mike’s older brother and his wife had their first baby in July.  However, a previously excited Isabella frowned dejectedly upon meeting Sofia for the first time, lamenting “Aww, that baby’s cuter than us!”.
Reviewing the Christmas letters, 2007 seemed to be the year that the fog lifted a bit from two very tired parents and allowed both of us an opportunity to do more than just exist.
From Mike's paragraph:
Mike had quite a year, (turning thirty for the first time ever!) and although he still struggles on occasion to see the brighter side of aging (the top of his head) he has adjusted to midlife admirably.  He celebrated his milestone birthday in clichéd crisis fashion, by buying himself a shiny new vehicle.  Although not your stereotypical convertible, Mike had a great time riding his new mountain bike and getting actual exercise, instead of just watching it on TV.  To add insult to his newfound geriatric state, a few weeks ago Mike received his first AARP application in the mail, complete with a temporary membership card.  (Seriously?  Come on.  Who’s in charge over there, a bunch of old people?)  In other news, he has managed to stay gainfully employed with XXXXXXX for the seventh consecutive year (a personal best!) and has very much enjoyed the recent opportunity to collaborate with his father’s company on a machine design project.

And from my paragraph:
This past May, Rachel found time to escape (a term we don’t use lightly) to California for a few days, where she met up in Los Angeles with some fellow fugitive moms from Purdue.  They enjoyed their temporary parole from child rearing immensely, spending their time at the beach, a hotel pool (where they weren’t, in the strictest sense, technically guests) and even Disneyland.  Alas, Rachel’s figurative fifteen minutes of fame has been reduced by about thirty seconds, following her national television debut on American Idol.  Fortunately, Rachel’s time in the spotlight wasn’t spent belting out a warbled rendition of “Back Home Again in Indiana” but rather as an on-the-street interviewee of dreamy host Ryan Seacrest, her new BFF.  She has also found a knack for making baby gifts, and now has them for sale online.  Those of you pining for a free sample need simply to produce a child, and we’re sure you’ll soon find one in the mail. 

 And rounding out the letter Mike added a new segment:

Owen turned two this August, and our smiling, happy goofball is as random as they come.  To illustrate this, we’ll try out a new segment we’d like to call “Actual Conversations with Owen”.  “Owen, do you have to go potty?”  “Uh, no.”  “Owen, are you sure?”  “Go pee-pee Aidan’s room.”  “You what?”  Cue the screaming from Aidan – “Aaahhh, why is my floor all wet!?!”  Or this exchange, after having returned him to bed for the twelfth time that night – “Owen, you need to stay in bed.”  “Uh, ok.”  “Owen, are you going to get out of bed?”  “Ummm, yeah.” At least he’s honest.  While no longer the destructive force he once was, our little Owen is alternately a joy and an exasperation, and we love him just the same.

And on that note, we will stop for the day.
Come back tomorrow for the final installment of 
"writing a Christmas letter that doesn't suck.
A review through the years."

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