Saturday, December 6, 2008

Our Cynical Christmas Letter

The first week of December has arrived, and people all over the country are engaging in the yearly traditions of Christmas shopping, program watching, cookie baking, and gift wrapping.

I’m engaging in the yearly tradition of trying to write and mail my Christmas letter before my sister finishes hers.

Usually we finish at the same time, at around 1 a.m. some night about a week and a half before Christmas. We mail the letters out the next day and then realize that we have used identical stationery and have written nearly the same letter with the exception of our kids’ names.

Every year, I’m tempted to do something to set my letter apart from all the others that friends and family receive throughout the season. I have considered writing it in the form of a newspaper, sending it at Valentine’s Day instead of Christmas, and creating a crossword puzzle instead of writing in paragraph form. Last year, I made our 10-year-old son write the letter in his very unique point of view.

This year, I have constructed an outline of facets of our life that would probably not be considered the usual fare of a traditional Christmas letter. Instead of writing about the kids’ accomplishments and the idyllic life on the farm, I am considering writing about some of life’s realities.

I think the finished product would probably read something like this:

Dear Friends and Family,

Christmas greetings to you all! We would like to greet you each personally, but it’s much easier to lump you all into the same one-line salutation and send you a form letter. Please don’t take that personally.

We have had an average year here on the farm. The wheat was plagued with early drought, cutworms, and stemfly, but the harvest was still pretty good. It would have been even better if we had looked into that crystal ball that indicated that grain prices would soon plummet because if we had, we would have sold a lot more grain in September. It’s too bad that we are trained in aircraft mechanics and English; it sure would be nice to have a marketing expert in the family.

The grasshoppers were hard on the emerging winter wheat this fall; apparently they had quite a taste for that wheat that was boosted by the application of the outrageously priced fertilizer that we bought when prices were at their peak.

Shane has been busy rebuilding the barn walls that are rotting. He realized that it was in need of some repair when a crazed cow crashed into the corner after he got her in during calving.

Between the wild cows, the ugly cows, and the old cows, we had plenty of culls to sell this year. Our calves weighed up nicely except for the puny steer and the heifer calf that looked like an overgrown rat.

I have been neglecting my housework on a regular basis as I chase the kids and do odd jobs to supplement the farm income. The laundry was so out of control last week that the kids were scavenging in the laundry baskets in the morning to find clean socks to wear to school. The dust on the end table sure makes a nice spot for the little ones to practice writing their names, though.

The kids are doing fine. We were relieved to break Matthew’s habit of saying “damn it” when something went wrong just in time for him to begin Kindergarten this fall. Riley has discovered that fine art of earning grades just high enough to satisfy his parents and just low enough to not require much academic exertion on his part.

Anna is on the brink of discovering that her parents are uncool and not very intelligent. Emma Lou is a fine example of how three older children will wear down their parents so much that the youngest child will be undisciplined, unkempt, and undressed at inopportune moments. Her recent accomplishments include cleaning the toilet with her brother’s toothbrush, jumping off the back of the couch, and locking me out of the car when I walked over to get the mail from the mailbox.

Luckily, she has not figured out how to escape from the middle of an empty round bale feeder, so we don’t have to hire a babysitter when we work cows.

Through the course of the past year, we have each had two bouts of the stomach flu, at least 10 varieties of the common cold, a few rashes, several ear infections, an allergic reaction to antibiotics, a few bouts of eczema, a broken arm, and an infestation of fleas.

The dog killed two dozen chickens, someone ran over Anna’s cat, and the new puppy chewed up the door trim at the front entrance of our house.

Shane and I had the opportunity to go to Wisconsin and to Washington, D.C., this year. Since we have rarely traveled farther than three hours from home, this was quite a treat for us. I looked forward to the trips for months, so you can imagine my disappointment when I was sick for our trip to Madison. That was nothing compared to the cold I had when we visited the nation’s capital for the first time in our lives. I will never forget the momentous occasion of visiting with the Secretary of Agriculture for an hour while my nose ran so incessantly that I ran out of Kleenex and had to dig out the crumpled tissues from the bottom of my purse.

We celebrated 13 years of marriage in May, and we marked the occasion by ending the three-month fight over where to place the coffee pot on the kitchen counter. We’re still figuring out the topic of our next dispute. We’ll be sure to keep you posted.

Merry Christmas with love from the Slivka family!


threecollie said...

Wonderful job of describing the challenges of farm and family life with the grace of humor. You have an amazing talent! Take care.

fawndear said...

Love it!

I really don't like form letters that make everyone seem incredibly talented and perfect. Your letter is refreshingly honest in a LOL way. I had to read it twice.

Melissa said...

I love it. I have often wanted to do the same thing myself--and actually send it. I love catching up with people via an annual Christmas letter, but ALWAYS find myself thinking "Yeah? What ELSE happened last year?" when I read them. Thanks for the fun post.

blessedmomto7 said...

AWESOME! That was super funny! I did laugh out loud at the "damn it" part-hilarious!

Judi in PA said...

I truly love it...I think you should send out this letter. Trust me, you will get more comments than if you just sent out all the "stuff" that everybody says you have to write about. Maybe that's why everybody groans and complains about holiday letters, because they aren't true to life. Yours made me laugh. Thanks for the laugh.

cndymkr / jean said...

Now that is a Christmas letter I would love to receive. Go for it. It is honest and wonderful and much better than anything I've ever seen.

Dawn said...

Go for it! I love it and I'm sure everyone would appreciate receiving this along with all the rest of the "usual" annual brag letters.

Seriously... MAIL IT!!!

(And, I'm quite certain your sister's won't be the same!)

Julie said...

The "damn it" part made me laugh too! Our six year old (this was just yesterday mind you) actually said, "Oh what the H-E-L-L!" and yes she did spell it out, and no she didn't actually know what she was spelling. I told her not to ever say that again, and she asked what it spelled and I said nothing you should say at St. John's (her parochial school). :) I told my husband no more spelling. We'll have to learn Spanish or something when we want to talk around the kids, without them knowing what we're saying. :)

Julie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mum-me said...

What a great letter! So much more entertaining than reading about music recitals and dux awards. Did you send it out?

Ethan, Zach, and Emma's Mom said...

Honesty. It's beautiful! I agree with the others, I think you should send it out!

Jenny said...

Thanks for writing my letter for me! LOL!! Scary how similar our lives are (especially how "three older children will wear down their parents so much that the youngest child will be undisciplined, unkempt, and undressed at inopportune moments." That is SO how it is with Drew!!!).

Rebz said...

LOL! My 18 month old has been walking around saying "Mammit" and I have been trying to pretend I don't know what he is saying.

Country Girl said...

That is a riot. I want to write one of those!

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