Photo of the month

All wrapped up with no place to go — Eevee, Ben's cat, proves once again that it's not what comes in the pretty package that matters so much as how well you are concealed within the paper. Here, the refuse of another Christmas serves well as a temporary feline hideaway. Photo by Roni.

January 2004

'Twas the night before Christmas and under the tree were dozens of presents for the Gehlke Family. Photo by Santa.

Dad, Ben and Buttercup — that is, Buttercup the Christmas ornament, which was Ben's gift to Glenn. Photo by Roni.

Roni videotapes the shredding of the wrapping paper as Ben (unseen) eagerly makes his way through the holiday smorgasbord. Photo by Glenn.

Here's Glenn, wearing his new sweater that was a gift from Roni while investigating the contents of another gift. Photo by Roni.

Ben's Christmas is complete now that he has the "Pokémon Channel" videogame that he really, really, really, REALLY wanted. Photo by Roni.

Glenn will always know when the next NASCAR race begins with this Jeff Gordon clock on the wall. Photo by Roni.

No Christmas morning is complete without the Christmas bread. Apart from Ramen and pancakes it is about the only baking Glenn does during the year. Photo by Glenn.

Here we are at the entrance to the Mission San Francisco Solano — otherwise known as the Sonoma mission. She's 180 years old, but with that pretty white paint and well-kept exterior she doesn't look a day over 150. Photo by Glenn.

The mission doesn't convert many Indians to Christianity these days, so its innards serve mostly as a museum. Here, Roni looks at various paintings that have been made of the California missions. Photo by Glenn.

Ben takes in the altar while Roni tries to explain its purpose. Photo by Glenn.

The Sonoma mission has dozens of windows like this one. The late afternoon light casts some interesting shadows on the adobe walls. Photo by Glenn.

Ben and Roni check out a map of California that shows where various Indian tribes were located. Photo by Glenn.

In the courtyard is a neat old fountain where the kids congregated to play in the water on the day we visited. Ben is trying to see what became of the penny he tossed over his shoulder into the water. Photo by Glenn.

This Spanish tile may not be 180 years old, but it could be. All the walls around the courtyard are topped with this well-worn red clay. Photo by Glenn.

We prepare to leave the Sonoma mission with a walk past its unique stucco front. A lot of folks are enjoying the sunny Sunday afternoon from the benches located along the walkway. Photo by Glenn.

Here's a fine way to shorten the life of your computer monitor: Just park 10 pounds of kitty cat on top of its vents for a few minutes every day. Ben seems unfazed by Eevee's presence, but that could be because the cat's tail is not blocking his view of the video game he is playing. (Yes, Eevee likes to tease Ben that way!) Photo by Glenn.

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2004: The uprising of the machines

January 19, 2004

Can it really be 2004 already? It seems like only yesterday we all were anticipating the arrival of the new millennium, even if we didn't know exactly when it was arriving, and worrying about our computers doing a mass implosion, and the lights going out forevermore, etc. Now here we are on the cusp of another presidential election year while half the country still hasn't gotten over the last election. The more things change...

It is beginning to look like 2004 will be the Year of the Appliance for us Gehlkes. We got an early start on Christmas Day, as Glenn presented Roni with a new microwave to replace the previously mentioned Montgomery Ward machine that was doing more burning than cooking. The new model is much smaller than the old one, yet a couple hundred watts more powerful. Roni has reclaimed some counter space in the kitchen, which was quickly put back into service by the multitude of handy "space-saving" gadgets we own.

With the new microwave in service it was time to turn our attention to the dishwasher — a name that is somewhat misleading because it doesn't so much wash dishes as it swirls water around them and pretends to get them clean. We made the Sears Roebuck shareholders happier Jan. 12 when we took Glenn's car there for a new set of tires and they sent us home with a new washer to boot. Actually, they promised that the washer would be delivered sometime tomorrow, which is our sincere hope as this goes to press. Next up... the dreaded refrigerator. We might have a whole new house by the end of December.

Christmas came and went in a hurry, as it always does. Seems like we were more behind in our shopping than usual, which had Roni muttering about how she'd never been this late before. That's pretty much standard fare for Glenn, who in traditional fashion waited until Dec. 23 to begin his shopping. Somehow all the gifts got wrapped and under the tree in time for Santa to make his appointed rounds on Christmas Eve. Ben found it tough to get to sleep, and stayed awake until nearly 2 a.m. But he tapped his reserves in order to be awake by 8 a.m. Christmas morning.

The traditional wrapping paper-ripping festival ensued, and we spent over an hour going through our presents. Among the highlights, Ben received a pair of GameCube games and a cartridge for his GameBoy Advance, so we haven't seen him since Christmas Day (just kidding). He also got some new shirts, two DVDs, a few board games, Legos, and books. He has been eagerly devouring a copy of "The Hobbit," which he received from his Uncle Sean and has been taking to school for his reading time. He also got the first books in the "Little House" series, so he and Glenn have been reading them a couple of nights a week before bedtime.

Roni, of course, got her new microwave. But she also scored a few paperback novels she didn't have by some of her favorite authors. There was a CD clock radio waiting under the tree, and several picture frames with prints of some of her favorite digital photos taken throughout the year. It was a NASCAR kind of holiday for Glenn, who received a Jeff Gordon clock and a Ryan Newman action figure. He also got a couple of sweaters, some writing books and a portable MP3 player that he has been using for company on his commutes to work.

Our holiday season stretched into this month, ending when we joined Roni's sister Jacki and her family for dinner at the Hidden Dragon restaurant in Antioch on Jan. 4. We had a good Chinese feast and exchanged gifts. Unfortunately, Ben was coming down with a cold and it made for a difficult evening.

With the holidays over, we turned our attention back to work and school. Ben returned to class Jan. 5 following nearly six weeks of vacation. One of his projects this year is to study the California missions. His teacher assigned each student a mission to research and write a report about. Naturally, Ben got San Diego. So to help him understand what the missions were all about, we took a field trip. Not to San Diego, sadly, but to Sonoma, where the last mission was built in 1823.

We made our mission visit on one of the rare sunny days we've had lately, Jan. 11. We got a typically late start from home, so it was close to 3 p.m. by the time we arrived in Sonoma to check out the Mission San Francisco Solano. Knowing that he was there as a learning experience, Ben did his best to try not to learn anything. We think that some historical factoids may have penetrated the attitude, however. We had a look around the mission's interior, most of which serves as a museum these days. But the best part of the visit was checking out the courtyard, where there is a circular fountain that the kids enjoy for its wishing-well characteristics. Ben, of course, had to toss a few pennies into the drink. He also was curious about the outdoor ovens that were used to bake bread. We hung around the mission for at least half an hour before walking next door to look at the old army barracks, then having lunch at the Sonoma Cheese Factory.

Exciting stuff, huh? That's more than we do some Januarys, when we are typically in hibernation mode. It has been cold recently, with temps getting down into the 30s at night near the end of December. Most of the time it is in the upper 40s. We haven't had much of the fog that we saw last year at this time, although there is usually a light mist in the air most nights. There has been a lot of rain, which probably is keeping the humidity level too low and the temperature too high for dense fog. It's pretty to look at, but we hate driving in it, so maybe this is a good thing.

Roni recently learned that she and her sisters are in line for a small inheritance from her Grandma Colwell's estate. Her grandmother died late last year, and in her will she bequeathed her assets to her four children, of whom Roni's mother Penny was one. Roni's mom has been gone several years now, so her share of the inheritance is supposed to go to each of her four children. Any money Roni receives is predicated on the sale of her grandmother's New York apartment less anticipated court costs. The matter is apparently in dispute, so Roni is not holding her breath. She was touched, however, that her grandmother specifically named Roni as the recipient of a ring she owned.

Glenn is still basking in the glow of victory after winning his annual football picks competition with his brother Sean on Dec. 28. It was the first time in five years that Glenn won the championship and he is eagerly anticipating the perpetual trophy that comes with it. Glenn and Sean hope to get together later this month for the award's presentation.

That's it for now. Here's hoping that all your dishes come out clean in the wash.

Glenn, Roni and Ben

This page was last updated on Sunday, February 15, 2004 at 23:31 hrs.

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