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Christmas Letter 2019

Feliz navidad y próspero año nuevo desde El Paso!

Fear not--we bring you tidings of great joy! Though you'd be forgiven for thinking this letter was part of a cruel scam. "A 2019 Christmas card from the Westhoffs? Not possible! John & Rachel haven't penned a yuletide missive since what, like...2008?"

Yes. Yes, exactly 2008. Good memory. If your memory is not so good, and you're reading this in a digital format, you can review the last entry in our yule log here. For those of you riffing a more analog vibe, type this into your new-fangled googlemaphone sometime:  

If you take the time to revisit the ghost of Christmas past that is our last letter, you'll be reminded of the epigram "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose," that is to say--the more things change, the more they stay the same. In 2008 I wrote about being recently returned from Iraq and the looming prospect of life after the Army. Eleven years later, I am again recently returned from Iraq and am still getting out of the Army very soon (but for real this time!). But enough dwelling on the past, let's account for the progeny--which is WAY easier than it was in the old days as there are only so many clever things you can say about people learning to walk, eat solid food, read, etc. Spoiler: for the most part, they're all grown up.

Luke is literally the last man standing--the only kid left at home. He has (mostly) recovered from the psychic trauma of being a foreigner in a German Gymnasium (a school, not a gym) and is thriving in west Texas, where he already speaks half the language. One of the happy unintended consequences of school in Germany is that the Deutsche (with a hint of historic irony) insisted he study Français as well as the Sprache des Vaterlandes. Accordingly, he's the only sophomore in his AP French 4 and il déchire tout (he's killin' it). Luke has developed an interest in his High School's choral and ballroom dance programs--extracurriculars worthy of his savoir faire, and we've very much enjoyed attending his performances.

Emma is flourishing as a freshman at Brigham Young University, majoring in Linguistics. She continues to build on her German language skills and next semester will begin the study of a non-Indoeuropean language like Arabic or Chinese. She's wicked smart that way. Her lifelong dream is to become a professional Philologist and someday hold the same professorship that J.R.R. Tolkien held at Oxford. No wait--I'm sorry, that is my lifelong dream. While she does have a special interest in Old and Middle English, her vision for the future is less career oriented; somethin' about livin' a good life and being a decent human being, yada yada yada. Whatever--kids these days! But seriously, it's been delightful to see her spread her metaphorical wings; so patiently has she waited for the sweet release that is freedom from secondary education.

Chase. To be honest, I have trouble understanding Chase these days. He's always saying things like, Përshëndetje, unë jam një misionar për Kishën e Jezu Krishtit të Shenjtorëve të Ditëve të Mëvonshme. But sinceriously (my favorite Chase-ism), there are hecka lot of ë in Albanian! Chase has six months left as a missionary in the Albanian speaking parts of the Balkans, i.e., Kosovo and, of course, Albania. Rachel and I have had more than a little consternation with Chase laboring in a part of the vineyard synonymous with fragmentation and hostility. Fortunately, he has become neither fragmented nor hostile, and we have enjoyed learning with him, and sharing vicariously the joy of spreading the Good News in a part of the world where St. Paul once personally ministered. Chase will return next summer and resume his studies in Computer & Data Science at BYU.

Zach & Laura celebrated their first anniversary this year. They are both students at (wait for it) BYU; Laura is studying Molecular Biology and Zach is following in the family tradition of studying Physics in preparation for a career in an unrelated field--in his case, Law. Laura will graduate this month and be anxiously engaged in good causes until Zach graduates in 2021. They both spent the summer in Tokyo as interns at the US Department of Defense's Japanese headquarters. The experience was nostalgic for Zach and a primer for Laura as they intend someday to live and work in Japan. No doubt you will be welcome to visit, but I call dibs on their couch as I did not get my fill of skiing the Japanese Alps when we lived there.

After a year studying in China, Dunn & Whitney welcomed John Rowan Westhoff into the world. Rowan means "little redhead" and, though they picked the name before he was born--as fate would have it, Rowan's hair is indeed a lovely shade of ginger. Unfortunately, Rowan's birthday (4/4) is inauspicious in Chinese numerology--a fact that is mitigated by the good fortune of being born in 2019, the year of the lucky golden pig! And what a year it has been! Following the advent of Rowan, Dunn graduated from BYU (also in Physics) and started Law School at Harvard. Whitney graduated a year or so before Dunn and is pursuing her interest in Public Health, applying for a Masters program in Epidemiology, which is totally one of my favorite ologies.

Rachel has enjoyed teaching an early morning New Testament class for high school students this year, but she is most excited about her new calling as grandmother! Rowan FaceTimes daily to update her on his incremental improvements in mastication, phonation, fine motor control, etc. It just so happens that Rowan is indisputably the most clever and perfect of all possible grandchildren. For now. ;-)

After almost 25 years of service I will be retiring from the Army in May 2020. I am still working out the specifics of what I'll be doing for income, but we're relocating to the Reno area--i.e.,  somewhere on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe. By far the highlight of our time in the military has been the "family of friends" hither and yon that we've collected over the years. We're looking forward to having the freedom to visit many of you again soon!

Merry Christmas!  We love you people--Sinceriously,

John & Rachel Westhoff

Christmas Letter 2008

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I have decided to break with tradition this year and actually finish and publish the family Christmas letter.  A quick check of reveals that the last time our family went to press with a cheeky yuletide update was 2004.  Gentle reader, I take full blame for this shameful travesty.  Let's move on then shall we, and knock this out before I run out of diet soda.

Christmas with the Parents


Santa was very nice to Harker and Hyrum this year. Harker went to bed on Christmas Eve saying, "Mom, I hope this works!". He was more than delighted to find out that indeed it did work, Santa had not only found him at Grandma's house, he left him everything he had asked for (a sword and gun) and more!

Christmas Letter 2004


Friends & Family,

Rachel mentioned to me recently that she is approaching a landmark: the longest period of time she has not been pregnant since we were married. So goes the transition to midlife for both of us. We have no clue what (or rather, where) the coming year holds for us, but one thing is certain—this will be our last Christmas in Washington. Eventually the Army will get around to telling us where we’ll be next year, and we’ll let you know as soon as we find out. We’re looking forward to the adventure.

At the Plaza


Mom and Dad joined us for a stroll around the Plaza last night. It was nice but nothing compared to temple square. The weather was great and the kids held up well. Today it is on to Drexel where we shall visit with the grandparents.

Christmas in Gallup 2003

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We spent this Christmas in Gallup at the Grandparents' house. Harker and Hyrum had a blast playing with their cousins and taking Grandma's house apart. The gifts were great too!

Christmas Morning in Washington 2003

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"Take a picture of my red tic-tacs!" The boy's enthusiasm for stocking stuffers proved impossible to resist.

Christmas Letter 2003

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“It is December 19th, and yes, that is a bit late to be writing a Christmas letter. Those less affected by holiday cheer might have thrown their hands up by now and admitted defeat. But I, being filled with perennial mirth (and having years of experience with procrastination), am not the least bit intimidated by the fact that some of you may very well receive this letter post-Christmas. So all pretense of celerity be darned—a very Merry Christmas in any case I say, and such associated well wishing as may be appropriate to you and yours, given your respective affiliations, etc, etc.”

Adapted from a draft of the never-finished “Westhoff Family Christmas Letter 2002”

Santa's my Baby's Daddy's Daddy!

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There are quite a few perks when Santa is your Grandpa. Like how you get to go to the mall and get your picture taken with Saint Nick and you don't even have to pay for them! You can also get them done a week before Thanksgiving when they are testing out all of the equipment. Santa also always thinks you have been nice no matter what his son has to say.

Christmas Morning 2002

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Merry Christmas from Washington!

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