Friday, December 17, 2010

The Annual Holiday Update

The Willes Family has had a very eventful year in 2010. It would take much more blog space than I'm allowed to use to completely chronicle everything that has happened. I have tried to condense it so that it will only take you about 45 minutes to read. Just kidding.

As part of their Christmas present in 2009, we signed up Katie, Emma and Claire for a circus school. A travelling circus, Zoppe Italian Circus, visits Chandler Center For the Arts each year and this year they offered a circus class. It ran the week of New Year's for all day. On the final day we bought tickets to the circus and the girls were part of the opening acts. They juggled scarves, spun the chinese yoyo and created their Willes Sisters Pyramid. They had a great time and the circus was delightful.
Katie turned the big 1-2 this year and we through her a big ol' party. She invited the entire sixth grade at her elementary school and some extra friends. She had about 40 kids plus parents show up. We served pizza and had a candy bar plus cake, decorated by her Grandma Willes. Katie had kids donate used blankets for animal shelters instead of buying gifts. We ended the evening with a dance under a canopy of Christmas lights. I think it was a success. Katie agrees.

Some of the crazy kids at the birthday party.

During the weekends of a very warm February the neighborhood kids set up a stand in front of our house. They sold donuts, milk, soda, cookies, whatever they could get. They made enough money each week to buy stock for the next week. After three booming weeks of business they had a profit of $42. Not bad.

We took a very warm trip to the zoo during spring break.

We also visited a local candy company. They all got to make and decorate candy. Unfortunately, you had to be 12 and under to participate. I had to buy my own candy. Dang it.

I took my vacation this year to see my sister Sarah, who teaches high school in Las Vegas, Nevada. We visited the pawn store that's featured in the TLC show "Pawn Stars." We saw Chum and Corey. We also saw "Viva Elvis" a Cirque de Soliel show at a new casino there. We had fun on the strip but I had to come home and bathe after the experience.

In late March Chandler had its Ostrich Festival. We watched Ostrich races, rode some rides and met the guy who plays Justin on Wizards of Waverly Place. The girls liked that last thing the best. I entered a parent's dance contest at the Disney Tent and won a dvd for the kids. Yes, I am that kind of mom.

As part of a stake service project our family was able to go with other primary kids to the Mesa Temple early one Saturday morning and clean the grounds. They had us dig weeds from trees, wipe down signs, sweep and clean the handrails. It was a super cool thing.

At Shumway Elementary, a student is selected to win a bike based on grades and behavior. Claire won. She got a bike and got to be on the school's televised announcements.

During Katie's last year at grade school her "Battle of the Books" team won so they advanced to district. They didn't place but had a great time. She was also chosen to present her essay at the D.A.R.E. graduation and participated in the school plan, Peter Pan, and the school chorus.

This year we found an awesome professional photographer who gave us a great price on photos for the entire Zachreson clan. We spent a whole morning feeling like supermodels. The photos on our Christmas card came from that session. To check out more of his work go to Zach made the website but I don't know if he's still up. I'll add another post with some of the photos.

We traveled to Kingman, AZ, in June for my brother Ken's daughter, Bryn's, baptism. We hiked up Hualapai Mountain the first day. It's about 5000 feet up at the top and you can see the desert floor below you for miles. Pretty cool.

We stayed at a Springhill Suites by Marriott thanks to a coupon from my old friend, Gwen, and it soon became our favorite hotel. So stylish. And such yummy food.

In July we took a mammoth road trip up to the Rogers Family Reunion in Preston, ID. We planned numerous stops along the way. We visited Rachel's college roommate, Jackie Webster and her family in Rexburg, we went to Yellowstone National Park and saw Old Faithful, we toured BYU, we met up with Great Gramma Willes in Thayne, WY, where we rode horses and hiked to waterfalls and we looked through antique stores in Afton, WY. What we didn't plan was that Clifford, our big red van, would break down in Page, AZ, stranding us there for the first night of our trip. We luckily found a rental van and headed out the next day. Stopping in SLC we looked at cars and found a van. The rest of the trip via cellphone and email we arranged to purchase the van, install a hitch and rent a vehicle trailer. We left the reunion a day early, bought the van in Bountiful, drove both vans to Page where we returned the rental and loaded Clifford onto the trailer. We towed Clifford home behind us because no Van gets left behind in this family! It was a fun trip that I never ever want to take again. I need to go curl up in a ball somewhere and sing happy songs just from reliving it all.

Rogers Family Reunion, Preston, Idaho. Hi Grammy Willes in the background!

Afton, Wyoming. Claire just wants ice cream.

Taking a cooling break in the stream by Intermittent Spring near Afton.

Zach, getting in touch with his inner cowboy in Thayne, WY.

Troy riding the range in Thayne, WY. When I die I want to go to Thayne. GORGEOUS!

Katie and Zach in the barn at the horse ranch.

After our session with the professional photographer I became interested in seeing what I could do. I have some pretty good shots which I'll be selling online for millions of dollars someday. Mark my words. Of course, most of them feature my family, but whatever.

I nearly had a panic attack as I watched a man hoist my 4-year-old onto a huge horse and swat the horse's hiney, sending said horse out into the corral. Zach, however, did great.

The kids had to feed and groom their horse before they could ride him. The horse's name was Scotty and he was was a gentle giant.

Waiting for Old Faithful to blow. Just so you know, there is no set schedule or time as to when Old Faithful erupts. I heard this explained over and over by the poor ranger who was manning the area we were in. I wanted to make him a sign.

Who knew Cosmo the Cougar could show you the stairway to heaven right there at the BYU bookstore?

"Rise and Shine the cougars are out. They're on their way to......" Yeah, okay, Troy. We got it. You know the BYU fight song by heart....

And this is how we ended our lovely two week vacation; pulling our wounded van home with our new 11-passenger Ford F-350 Econoline, baby. Yes, it's huge. Clifford would need a whole new engine so we sold him on Craig's List as is for $300. We actually had a lot of calls on the ad for a dead Astro Van. One guy called and said, "I have the engine, just not the van." Okay. We're sure Clifford is currently running packages across the Mexican border right now. Oh well. He'll finally get some excitement and not be just another family minivan. GO CLIFFORD! Oh, by the way, our new van is named Bruce, after the great white shark in Finding Nemo. We welcome Bruce to the family.

We saw some funky weather in August when we had hailstorms for a few days in a row. Everything was pelted by huge hail stones. Every news channel filled about 20 minutes of its 30 minute broadcast with stories of the storms. Hey, any kind of weather is a big deal here in Arizona, especially if it's hail!

During fall break the girls, cousin Haylee, and neighbor Sierra created a band called The Retro Gurlz and wrote a song. I put guitar to it and we recorded it. Of course, then we had to film a video. Check it out at . They are working on a second song as you read this. It'll hit the internet soon!

Katie made it into the Advanced Chorus at Willis Junior High. She has a proper chorus dress and gets to perform at the Chandler Center for the Arts. She really likes it.

During Fall break we took a day trip to Globe-Miami area for yummy Mexican food. We then drove to Kenneworth Mine, a HUGE hole in the ground. It was pretty amazing. All the mountains around it are from the tailings of the digging. This pictures doesn't do it justice.

For our road trip to Idaho I bought the first season of "CHiPs" on DVD. The kids loved it! Zach, especially, grew to love those motorcycle cops and insited on being Ponch for Halloween. He didn't want to be Jon, although he looks more like him. I made the costume for him. Surprisingly, you can't buy a CHiPs costume anymore. Hmmmm. He made us spray paint his hair black for the role.

The kids had many opportunities to trick or treat this year. One of them was at Intel where they set it up cubicle to cubicle. They get A LOT of candy in a very short amount of time. Katie went as a Punk Rock Fairy. Zach was Ponch and Emma and Claire were Thunder and Lightning. Emma sprayed people with the water bottle after telling them what she was. The costumes were Emma's idea. I just made them. Seriously.

Troy and I finally broke down and bought a trampoline over fall break as an early Christmas present for the kids. They have had nonstop fun on it ever since. One day the cool air was particularly dry and the kids had fun with static electricity experiments. Who said trampolines couldn't be educational!?

We had concerts and plays and parties to attend all December and now wait for the fun of Christmas.

We hope you are all well and doing wonderfully in your part of the world. We are grateful for our friendship with you. Thanks for taking the time to read about our past year.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Wow! What a January!

We started off the brand spankin' new year by having a mini-Willes Family Reunion. Troy's sister, Anna, and her family and Troy's Brother, Grant, and his family, all traveled to our humble home on December 31, 2009, from California for a week of good times and happy chaos. And yes, all those people stayed at our house. Willes Manor may be small but it is mighty!

For Christmas Katie, Emma and Claire were signed up for a the Zoppe Family Circus school, which ran from Dec 27-Dec 30, from 10a-2pm. They learned how to juggle, walk on tightropes, work the chinese yo-yo (AKA The Diablo), hang from trapeze and swing and spin on hanging ropes. They had a BLAST! On the last day of class they performed in a mini-show for parents. The Willes Girls had their own act where the build a human pyramid! The next day, New Year's Eve Day, we had bought tickets for all the visitors plus Grammy/Grampa Z, Bob Z, and Sarah Z (18 in all) and we went to the Zoppe Family Circus. The girls had a part in the pre-show and the cute circus ring leaders hyped them up. They were definitely teacher's pets. The circus was a good, ol' fashioned circus. Hanging from ceilings, clowns, storytelling, dog acts, tightrope, juggling, balancing, etc. It was a GREAT evening. We all went to Carl's Jr afterwards where all the kids terrified their parents by trying to recreate the acts of skill on the Playland....

Katie, Emma & Claire doing their big finale in the Circus School show.

Katie was really good at the Diablo and had everyone in the audience clapping for her during the pre-show.
The benches were a tad uncomfortable but the Circus was delightful. All the kids, grown-up and adolescent, had a great time.

That week we also hit a place called "Jumpstreet." You can see why, although I looked everywhere and couldn't find Johnny Depp ANYWHERE! I think Troy and Grant had as much, if not more fun, then the little kids!

On Sunday night we had all the Willes' and all the Zachresons over for dinner and The Wonderful World of Willes, where family members performed an act of their choosing. The Arizona Willes' performed their amazing Ward Christmas Party act. Troy dressed up as the Christmas tree that the girls were rockin' around. Zach provided the beat box to my electric guitar accompaniment. Yeah, we rock....

Lots of time was spent at the park and luckily we had LOTS of sunshine and boy cousins to play with for Zach.

Grammy Willes couldn't make it to the Mini-Family Reunion but did make it up on Jan 12. Just in time to help out with Katie's Big 12th Birthday Party. Great Gramma Reva Willes also flew in from Texas for the party and to hang out. Katie had handed out about 50 invitations and between kids and parents who came to hang out we had about 55 people jumping around our backyard. It was awesome. We had a candy bar, cake, pizza, soda, professional cake by Grammy W, games (Blindfolded Musical Chairs and Pictionary), and a groovy photo op. We strung lights and when the sun went down we ended the party with a fun dance (no slow songs....hey, they're only 12!). Everyone had a grand time!

The kid attendees at the big bash.

Just before people started to arrive Gramma clicked this photo of the food stations. The Candy Bar, set up on the far right under the window was a confirmed success! We had about 20 bowls of different kinds of candy and the kids got to fill their own cellophane bags with whatever they wanted. Yummy! Katie requested that the kids bring blankets for the Maricopa County Animal Shelter instead of presents. She and her aunt Tana delivered them last week. She's now the darling of the shelter volunteers.

Katie had wanted a Groovy party theme: peace symbols; flowers; etc. My how everything comes back into style! All the kids got to have a pic taken and we handed these out as Thank you cards.

Doing the Cha-Cha Slide. If you don't know what that is ask your kid or google it. I'm ahead of you. I not only knew what it was but had it downloaded on my computer already!

Katie's awesome, tie-dyed, three-layer birthday cake. (Thanks, Grammy Willes!)

Our kitchen was finally completed back on December 23 and we threw it into action quickly with Christmas morning brunch for the Zachresons and as food central for all the Willes' the following week. It's awesome! For more pictures and details check out .

The last two Saturdays of January the neighbor kids got together and made some cash. The first Saturday they raided the left over soda from Katie's party (the weekend before) and sold it with water and lemonade. They made 23 BUCKS! The next week they used they're cash and bought milk and donuts and sold them. They made $43! They are going to branch out to chili dogs next Saturday. Look for them on the cover of Time Magazine as Entrepeneurs of the Year for 2010. I think I'm going to start charging them rent. The funny thing is they are all business about it and had it all thought out: profit sharing; captial investments; advertising; etc. They even made Emma the manager, since it had been her idea. Her office is behind them on the front porch. She even has a nametag!

Neighbor Kids Productions, PC (pretty cool)

Emma, manager.

Zach also started preschool this January leaving Rachel with nearly 5 hours a weeks without any kids at home! HAPPY DAY! On January 28, Rachel went with the kids to the fire station for a field trip. Zach was more than a little excited. When they opened the side of the truck where they keep the axe, shovels, etc. they asked if anyone knew what was in this part of the truck. "TOOLS!" yelled Zach. Tool, big trucks and loud noises = Zach Heaven.

They got to go inside the cab and he was ....STOKED!

To wrap up the month Rachel organized and hosted an ice cream social for about 200 kids and parents at the Stake Center for the Articles of Faith Reception. Any child who memorized and passed off all 13 Articles of Faith got to come and be honored. They received a certificate but most importantly they got to build their own ice cream sundae! What fun! Both Emma and Katie got to come and receive recognition. Way to go, girls! This is Katie's last visit to the reception as she turned 12 and moved up to Young Women. Wow.

And that's our January, people. You can see why it's taken me til February to post anything! We hope all is well in your worlds! Thanks for reading!