What is "Better" When Taking Photos?

I love taking pictures. Most of the time I think that I take a good shot but I really want to improve. My husband bought me a Canon EOS 60D for Christmas the year our son was born. That obviously made an improvement in the quality of my pictures and I find myself looking back on some of our travels wishing that I'd had it long ago. But hardware (or software) aside, I want to improve my skills composing shots and capturing moments on camera that will remind me years from now of the little things, like the way my baby wrinkled his nose when he was laughing. I'm not sure that can be taught. Some people may never master it or maybe it just improves with experience.

Exhibit A
I have not mastered using the self-timer. The above photo captured my frantic rush to pose for our annual "family in front of the tree" shot. I probably should have used it as our Christmas card. It does do a pretty good job of capturing our personalities. This was a few years ago but I'm still not great at using the timer and therefore most pictures of our baby are missing the parent behind the lens.
Exhibit B

I'm seeing a pattern here. Poorly posed in front of the tree shot. I mean, it's not easy to pose a baby and have them resist the urge to move or, in this case, try to tip out of the bumpo chair. How then, did I manage to capture the Blue Angels in the photo below as they roared by us? If you've ever been to a Blue Angels air show I'm sure you understand that isn't easy to do.

I know that there are many options for classes to improve your photo taking ability. I really do intend to take one. There is also the option that I take the time to really study the manual that I haven't made the time to look through. I don't want to look back on the baby pictures that I have and wish that I'd known some breakthrough tip that would have made them so much better. Is there such a tip?
Until I find time in my day for studying, it seems that trial and error will have to do. All I want are the memories and those should include funny mishaps, right? 

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