Writing a Christmas letter that doesn't suck. Tips through the years; a review of our family Christmas letters

In case you missed it,
I have spent this past week providing you with excerpts from our annual family Christmas letter in an attempt to provide a guideline for writing a Christmas letter that people actually want to read.
Or in other words, how to write a Christmas letter that doesn't suck.

how to write a christmas letter that doesn't suck

On Monday, I provided tips for you.
On Wednesday and Thursday I highlighted the first 8 years of our families Christmas letters with prime examples in the form of excerpts on how to write a funny, witty and all around awesome Christmas letter.
Today, I continue that tradition of sharing, and finish off the final five years of our families Christmas letters.
It's been a fun reflection for me looking back through the years, which in and of itself is a great reason why you should write a Christmas letter.
But please, use these tips that have been provided for you this week to write a Christmas letter that people are going to want to read.
Keep it funny, don't take yourself too seriously, and enjoy the process of condensing your year into one tiny little page {please! just one page!} of your families year in review.
And with that, we will start again with the year
If you have been following along through the years, especially the past three years, you will know that raising our youngest son Owen hasn't been the easiest task.  We have taken to humor in the Christmas letter to sum up his behavior, because if we didn't have that, we would be spending our days in a heap crying!
Owen is now three, and at an age where he finds joy and wonder in many of the experiences that the rest of us take for granted.  It is difficult to overstate how precious it was to hear him exclaim upon emerging from his room early Easter morning and finding his Easter basket outside his door that “The Easter bunny came to my house!”  His demeanor quickly turned from cute to cunning however, as he had the forethought to cherry-pick the best items out of his siblings’ Easter baskets before waking them up.  Life with our youngest can be difficult to describe to those that aren’t familiar with him, and may be best illustrated by the following actual conversation with Owen.  Coming in from the backyard one day, his grubby paws cupped in front of him, he casually stated “I don’t have anything in my hands, Mom.”  Naturally Rachel responded “Owen, show me what’s in your hands”, a request to which he replied “I would except that there’s not a beetle in there.”  The conversation deteriorated from there, finally ending with Owen throwing the beetle at Rachel because “See Mom, beetles can’t hurt anyone!” 
Some years, it's hard to just take excerpts from our Christmas letter, 2009 was one of those years.  Here you are, delight in all it's awesomeness.

Dear friends and family,                                                                                 

Welcome to the 10th edition of the Teodoro family Christmas letter, or the aluminum anniversary, at least according to Wikipedia.           While we realize that such an occasion sounds like it should include a charming set of collector’s edition steak knives, we trust that after reading this you will all be content simply knowing that your lives seem much less haphazardly jumbled than ours.  In keeping with our family’s random, often Suessian existence, the year might best be titled “Oh, the Places We Went!”.  Our family excursions began in February as we joined Mike’s parents for a ski trip to Whistler, followed shortly thereafter by a second cruise to the Mexican Riviera inside of a year, this time with the kids and Rachel’s parents in tow.  Our final family trip, this one to Ocean Shores in late July, was a double bonus of sorts, as we both avoided the rare triple-digit heat back home, and arrived in time to witness the annual biker parade in all its tattooed glory.  We truly enjoyed our time spent together, and had a wonderful experience in every place, except when we didn’t.  Because sometimes you don’t.

As the patriarch of this photogenic brood, Mike presided over our family’s first commercial photo shoot, this one for a new line of Kelty camping equipment that will be available soon at a Target near you.  In response to an online modeling ad, we applied, submitted test shots, and were selected over a dozen other families, all on the condition that (and we are not making this up) Mike wear a hat.  Seriously.  Perhaps in response to this slight, the kids pooled their money together and bought Mike a mullet wig to wear for Halloween.  And yes, pictures of both are available on the blog.  In a rare (for him) instance of brilliant inspiration, Mike took it upon himself to research and book a vacation – sans kids – for Rachel and himself to Cancun.  With his parents generously watching the children, Mike and Rachel spent several days in November soaking up the sunshine at a luxurious resort on the beach, as their new best friend Alejandro (the beach bartender) looked after their every need.  In their own Scooby Doo-like moment, they agreed that they would still be there too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids!

With the older children away at their respective institutions of higher learning and Owen now in preschool four days a week, Rachel has a glorious 2.5 hour stretch between 9:30 and noon to kick back, watch soap operas, and eat bon-bons.  Ah, but we jest, as she’s clearly not watching soaps.  Everyone knows that The Price Is Right is on at 11:00!  In addition to her daily free time, in January Rachel was again able to join some friends for a girl’s trip to Mexico, this time to Puerto Vallarta.  As she has now been to Mexico five times in the past two years, Rachel has developed quite an affection for the country, and contends that she might someday like to travel there to do some mission work - so long as it can be done at an all-inclusive resort.  Nothing like suffering for Jesus!

Aidan is now eleven and in the 6th grade at a middle school close enough for him to walk to, a welcome respite from two years of 45 minute bus rides to the nearest elementary with a gifted program.  Of course, to hear him tell it, we force him to trudge barefoot in three feet of snow, uphill both ways.  We think it builds character.  Aidan continues to be the most musically inclined member of the family, not a difficult feat, but an achievement nonetheless.  In addition to playing clarinet in the school band, he was asked to join jazz band on electric guitar, and also takes acoustic guitar lessons with Mike.  Aidan now has another season of baseball behind him, and as a father, especially one who was always afraid to play catcher, Mike particularly enjoyed it when Aidan would strap on the tools of ignorance and take his place behind the plate.  Watching him fling off his mask chasing down a pop-up or stroll to the mound for an impromptu conference with a rattled pitcher was not something to miss.  

            Our beautiful Isabella is now seven and in the 2nd grade.  She loves school and recently won an award for her essay and accompanying photography in the category “Beauty is…”.  While not a self portrait like her daddy suggested, the judges seemed to think that her description of nature and close-up photo of a flower were good enough to earn a ribbon.  Bella played another year of soccer and at the season’s conclusion was presented with the Little Miss Sunshine award by her coach.  This honor was given both for her quick smile and cheerful attitude, as well as her continued (at least she’s consistent) refusal to play in the rain.  A girl’s got to have standards!
It seems as though four year old Owen grew up in front of our eyes this year.  He enjoys school, having his friends over to play, and pretty much everything else the “big kids” do.  Owen passed another childhood milestone early this summer, when we decided that he was ready to learn to ride his bike without training wheels.  To help mitigate the potential for injury from this rite of passage, Rachel dressed him up in long sleeves, strapped on his helmet, grabbed the back of his seat, and started to walk with him.  Within a few steps, Owen commanded “Mom, let go!” and he was off.  Not three days later we found him zooming down the hill in front of the house, feet on the handlebars – with his eyes closed.  New year, same old Owen!  Some things never change.

            With that, we would like to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a wonderful 2010.  
In keeping with our trend to overshare {see 2005 and my husbands mention of his vasectomy} my tummy tuck made the annual Christmas letter.

...Rachel’s big news came this summer though, when after years of early morning workouts proved unable to undo the damage inflicted by her many children, she finally decided to have a tummy tuck. Yes, beneath that trim and toned exterior lurked a shar-pei-like wrinkled midsection that no amount of exercise could fix, and unlike those adorable little puppies, she had little hope of growing into.  After a few weeks of recovery she was back in action, and completed her first half marathon in September, where the loss of a toenail made her finally feel like a “real” runner. 

And as we all have learned, no Teodoro Christmas letter is complete without some funny kid line.
Owen is now five and began kindergarten this fall, and he enjoys riding the bus to school each day with his sister.  His vocabulary is exploding (as you’ll soon see), his reading is steadily improving, and he can count to 122 on a good day!  Our Christmas letter wouldn't be complete without another edition of “actual conversations with Owen”, this time where the eponymous hero of our story was caught at a family gathering shooting his finger gun, only using the wrong digit as the barrel.  When informed that using his middle finger meant something not very nice, he calmly replied “I know, it rhymes with truck.”   After the shocked laughter died down, Mike decided that should he ever a) pen his own blog, or b) start a rock band, “Rhymes with Truck” would make the perfect name.

The year brought the accomplishment of 10 years of gainful employment at the same company for my husband, and once again, the opportunity for him to not take himself too seriously.

Mike still spends his days designing machinery for XXXXXXX, and this past summer marked his ten-year, anniversary with the timber giant.  In recognition of his decade of remarkable accomplishments, he was allowed to pick anything off the bottom shelf at the company store.  (For the record, he selected a hydration pack over the logo zipper-pull or fleece blanket.) 

I have mentioned it before, but a good Christmas letter has cohesiveness.  Something that gets mentioned in one paragraph ties in with something in another paragraph making your Christmas letter sound less like a fact based essay with bullet points, and more like a cohesive summary of events.  Here is an example taken from several paragraphs of this years installment of our annual Christmas letter.

Evenings and weekends were spent on a nonstop array of home improvement projects, and by the year’s end he was definitely in need of a vacation.  With his parents generously agreeing to watch the kids, Mike planned a five night trip to Mexico with Rachel for early November.  Mike definitely likes to travel in style, and the beautiful two-story (!) room at an all-inclusive resort in Puerto Vallarta did not disappoint. 

and followed up with this:

After a failed attempt in August, Rachel, Isabella, and Owen managed to use some standby tickets to fly down to San Diego in October.  While there they were able to visit the zoo, Legoland, and two of the more decrepit hotels in the greater San Diego area.  Rachel bases her lodging choices primarily on price, and the fact that tiny Isabella’s mattress sank to the floor or that (and we are not making this up) the lights in one of the rooms wouldn’t actually turn on didn’t factor much into her decisions.  For her part, Bella has decided from now on to do her travelling with her father.

Since his birth in 2005, no Christmas letter is complete without highlighting some of our most boisterous child's antics.

Owen passed another milestone earlier this year, when (to the surprise of many familiar with our little honey badger) he made his very first trip to the emergency room.  After an early morning bonk to the head left him a bloody mess, two hours, two stitches, and two-thousand dollars later, he was as good as new.  After receiving the bill, Mike vowed that the next time urgent care isn’t open when Owen needs stitches, we’ll just sew him up Old Yeller style, with a needle and horse hair. 

Again, keeping with the theme of cohesiveness, a good Christmas letter provides a tie in from the previous years letter.  In this example, see 2009 to understand the follow up in 2012.
Those of you lucky enough to have received a photo along with this letter may have noticed that our family took part in another Kelty photo shoot, and although we are generally loath to venture into the wilderness, we managed to look right at home in our camping gear and contractually mandated (for Mike, anyway) hats.
and following up in the next paragraph:

Mike spent another year at XXXXX, still designing machinery and enjoying not only his work, but the fact that his lack of hair isn’t considered career limiting.

and tying it in again in one of the kids paragraph descriptions:

Owen is again part of Cub Scouts, and after the fundraiser prize list was distributed, became quite the salesman.  We spent many a weekend with him selling popcorn in front of local businesses, earning enough points so that (like a true Teodoro) he could chose a different pocketknife from every prize level.  After months of waiting, his highly anticipated prize pack recently arrived, and since then the majority of our (distinctly one-sided) conversations with Owen have surrounded which knife is the biggest, or the sharpest, or will be most useful to him if he ever gets lost in the wilderness.  No one else in the family is much concerned however, because should we ever lose our way in the wild, we are all counting on the photographers to save us.
There you have it people,
13 years of our family's Christmas letters.
A fantastically written, witty trip down memory lane highlighting our family's highs and lows from the year and sharing them with those we love.
I hope you have taken away a few tips and tricks on how to write a Christmas letter that doesn't suck.
And hopefully, you have enjoyed reading along with our family through the years.
I would love for you to share your families Christmas letter with me.
Especially if you have taken some tips from the past week.
If you would like to add me to your list, please e-mail me your letter at rachelteodoro@yahoo.com.

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