Photo of the month

Merry Christmas, PG&E! Our front yard display went up Dec. 3, complete with energy guzzling strings of lighted candy canes, spiral trees, and flashing Season's Greetings sign. There aren't a whole lot of lights at our end of the block this year, so we don't mind splurging for a month to help spread the holiday spirit. Photo by Glenn.

December 2006

Roni is having entirely too much fun while working on her manuscript during National Novel Writing Month in November. Photo by Glenn.

Ben shows off the certificate he received for writing 5,000 words during NaNoWriMo. He exceeded his 30-day goal by 3,000 words. Photo by Glenn.

Ben works on a Chinese scroll for his social studies class. All the kids in the class had to present information they had learned about ancient China in this fashion. Photo by Roni.

The ancient Chinese never had computers and color ink jet printers to aid their scrollmaking endeavors. Photo by Roni.

Here's Ben's scroll, all scrolled up and ready to turn in to the teacher. Photo by Roni.

Thanksgiving day usually features an eclectic mix of foods around our dining table. For breakfast we enjoyed a stack of Glenn's "famous" pancakes. (Locally famous, at any rate.) Photo by Ben.

We're getting ready for dinner, and the table is set to receive our humble feast. Photo by Ben.

What would Thanksgiving be without a dish of pickels? Photo by Ben.

Ben follows in the Gehlke tradition of documenting the moment, grabbing a few shots of the dining room table. Photo by Glenn.

Ben poses with the head chef prior to our Thansgiving feast. Are you done taking our picture already? Photo by Glenn.

As the days get shorter and the nights colder, it's time to drag out the cat house to keep Ariel warm while she's sleeping in our bedroom. Photo by Ben.

And look... Ariel actually uses the cat house. Photo by Ben.

While we're on the subject of cats, here we have Eevee hanging loose on one of the end tables in our living room while we rearrange the furniture in preparation for Christmas decorating. Photo by Glenn.

The first stage of our decorating process involves setting up the artificial tree and decorating it while it's still on the ground. Glenn spent about four hours stringing the lights. Now he's helping hang ornaments on the highest branches. Photo by Ben.

Part two of the tree trimming process is the toughest, as Glenn takes the fully decorated tree and lifts it onto the display table. Gotta make sure the tree doesn't collide with the ceiling fan. Photo by Ben.

Decorating is almost complete once the tree is on the display table. Ben adds some finishing touches. That radiant glow that appears to be emanating from his head is actually coming from a lamp behind him. Photo by Glenn.

This is what happens when you try to take a picture in low light without a flash and at a slow shutter speed. It's the lights on our Christmas tree. Kinda arty though, don't you think? Photo by Ben.

Final stage of the tree decorations is Roni's Christmas village, which takes two tables to display fully. Here it is all set up. Photo by Ben.

The postman would like to make a holiday delivery to this snow-covered house, but he's gotta get by the pooch hanging out near the porch. Photo by Ben.

With the interior decorated, it's time to deck the halls... er, walls... outdoors. We've already strung most of the lights, so there's a moment for Mom and Ben to pose with our ceramic cat (outfitted in seasonal attire, of course). Photo by Glenn.

Ben sits with his completed candle craft projects. The large candle at left looks good enough to eat with all those candy canes rimming it, but we're not sure how the canes will stand up against the heat of a flame, so we haven't lit it yet. Photo by Roni.

We always enjoy hearing from our visitors. We welcome your comments.

Big Ben chimes in

December 17, 2006

If you read these monthly writings regularly, you might recall back in August 2005 when we handed over the keyboard to the youngest member of our clan and gave him the chance to share our family activities in his own words. Ben, who was just a few months past his 11th birthday back then, responded with a solid effort that we supplemented with healthy doses of Dad's slightly more seasoned prose to compile that month's Gehlke Family News & Views.

Well, time marches on, and Ben's writing has matured quite a bit since that nascent attempt at playing family biographer. Now well into seventh grade, Ben has been impressing his parents and teachers alike with his writing skills. During November, he undertook the ambitious task of writing a novel as part of the annual National Novel Writing Month program, registering as a member of the Youth Writing Project team. And while he never expected to reach the coveted 50,000-word goal, he did succeed in knocking out 5,000 words over the event's 30 days.

Needless to say, we are extremely proud of his effort. So proud, that when it came time to start thinking about what we wanted to write for this December newsletter, we decided to extend the invitation to Ben once more in hopes that he could offer some fresh perspective. After all, we've been doing these every month for more than eight years now, and occasionally it's nice to take a break. And it seems an especially opportune time given that November is one of our "slowest" months, considering our preoccupation with noveling and holiday preparations. There just isn't a whole lot else going on in our lives that needs to be addressed.

So with that in mind, we'll let Ben take it from here. We'll pop in with a comment here or there to help flesh out some details, but otherwise the words are all his (edited ever-so-lightly for style)...

* * * * *

Ah, the holidays. The only time of year where everyone is nice to each other... well, most everyone. We won't say what this means, though... The time of the holidays is very nice, even if you are a Scrooge. We all want to get to Christmas faster, but it always comes so slow. We always want presents, but we can really only get them two times a year. We all want to eat, but the time we eat the most is Thanksgiving. This year was no different.

We started our usual Thanksgiving traditions by getting up at 9 a.m., turning on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Thanksgiving cooking followed this activity. The first dish that was made was Dad's famous pancakes. Only this time they had a new ingredient added to them — blueberries — which made them blue colored and stick to the pan we cooked them in, but most important, they tasted extra good!

After breakfast, Dad turned on the football games. I have been researching heavily — and struggling hard — to stay on top of the other two competitors — Dad and Uncle Sean. I have been keeping track of the games through a special 17 x 32 chart that was posted in the hallway to help football pickers stay on top. I have also been going over the games with my PE teacher, Mr. Null, who also predicts the winning team.

(What Ben is referring to is the Gehlke Bros. Football Picks competition, which he has been a part of since 1998. Each week during the NFL season we attempt to pick the winners of each game, and the person with the most correct predictions at the end of the season wins a perpetual trophy. Ben is very much in the thick of the competition this year, trailing Glenn and Sean by just a few games as the season winds down. He made a chart from multiple 8.5"x11" sheets that lists all 32 teams so he can track their performance over each of the 17 weeks of the regular season.)

Soon, it was 3 p.m. We usually eat our large Thanksgiving dinner, if it is ready. This year, it was. Our yummy meal consisted of cranberries, olives, yams, mashed potatoes, apple cider, stuffing and of course, turkey. That dinner was delicious. Those cranberries are still in the refrigerator. After our scrumptious dinner, we had pumpkin pie for dessert. It was the best pie I have ever tasted.

The following weekend (Nov. 25), it was time for fun. We took out the artificial Christmas tree in our garage, along with five pre-assembled table parts. We took the five parts and made a table for our tree. But we were not ready to put the tree up. We went into the garage and brought in the round stand for our tree. We set it down on the ground, where it could hold the tree. We assembled our tree on top of the stand, and decorated it. The tree was now ready to find its spot on the table. But it would need a bit of assistance. Dad picked up the tree from below, struggling to lift the tree to the table. It took two tries, but at least it was on the table. Think this is as easy as it sounds? Wrong! View our pictures at the side of this page.

November is the big month for novel writing. NaNoWriMo is always a big month for the Gehlkes. This year, I wrote my big 5,000 word novel, "Team Emerald VS Team Glitch." It is currently 15 pages and 22 chapters long. It follows the adventures of world famous Poké mon rescue team, Team Emerald, as they try to solve the mystery of the strange Glitch Master, Missingno. Scaling several dungeons in a heavy attempt to stop the monster that is harming Emerald's friends — and foes — on Planet Poké mon, can Team Emerald summon the guardians of sky, earth and sea? Not without the help of rival rescue team, Team Meanies, who is also scaling the planet in search of their lost friend and leader of their rescue team, Gengar. Read the story to find out! (But only when it's finished.)

(And for those who might be curious, Glenn and Roni also completed manuscripts during NaNoWriMo, the sixth time we have done so. Roni's romance novel, "Santini's Vineyard," came in around 54,000 words. Glenn's effort, something between romance and suspense tentatively titled "- 30 -", wrapped up shy of 70,000 words. Apart from this newsletter, we've all been taking a much needed break from writing projects through the end of the month.)

Also along the line of Gehlke writing, a language arts assignment popped up before Thanksgiving weekend. The task: to interview one person before the break. I picked my dad for this assignment. He gladly accepted to be interviewed. You can find the text to this interview here. (Do read this if you get a chance. Fun stuff!)

Getting back into school has been hard for me. It has been 5 months and 9 days since school has started, and so much has already happened. My best friend Joey moved in September. I have made new friends, though none of them can replace Joey. The biggest event though has been my schedule. When my schedule first changed, it was hard for me to get around the school. Now, I have little trouble commuting in passing period traffic. It still is a little tough, but I will get used to it soon.

(Ben attends a year-round 6-8 middle school. In sixth grade he stuck mainly to one classroom. This year, however, he shuttles between several classes and teachers like they do in high school.)

The rainy season has come. Storms flow through the air, rain falls from the sky and, well, you know the rest. The cold weather has really pi**ed me off. Sorry for the language, but if it weren't so cold, I might not have the nasty flu I have now. Home today and writing this newsletter is fine because it is Saturday, but I really want to be well again.

Dad obtained a new digital camera this fall, leaving me with his old one. Look throughout this newsletter for pictures by me.

Christmas is the best time of year to decorate. This is why we started making decorations to put throughout our house. We made two candles for our dining room table. You can make some too! We got ours from

The movies that have come out this year have been either animated or uninteresting. One movie, however, has managed to pass by our short attention spans. On Nov. 18, we went to Regal Deer Valley Theatres in Antioch to see "Happy Feet." The movie has a lot of dancing and singing in it. If you like those sorts of things, then you readers should definitely go see it.

Mr. Haas, Delta Vista's 7th grade social studies teacher, gives out at least one social studies project per unit. The project he gave out with the China unit was to make a Chinese scroll. It was to be finished by Nov. 15, and turned in the following day. It had to include five sections: religion, inventions, dynasties, medicine and history. Think this was easy? View our pictures on the sides of this page.

I have received four awards this month from my school. One for effort and perseverance in math, two were for honor roll awards, and the last was recognition of my superb writing skills.

The story of how we evolved, "Walking with Monsters," shows the evolution of life. Mr. Brown, the school's 7th grade science teacher, showed us a three-part video this week, and we learned that our ancestors were... fish, insects, reptiles and more.

Our cats have been doing very well. Eevee has been attacking the tree as usual. Ariel has been, well, sleeping.

'Twas the end of the Gehlke family's monthly newsletter and all through the house, only three creatures were stirring, but not one a mouse. Holiday music was flowing through my speakers with care, knowing that Christmas would soon be there. A pitter patter on the rooftop meant only one thing. Rain was in the air, making the streets bling. The family cats slept all snug on the rugs, while they dreamed that they would escape all of my hugs. The tree was still standing, the angel on top, while Dad hoped strongly that the tree would not drop. Not a single light was on, but the electricity was not gone. And now, my loyal readers, we hope you have a fabulous Christmas, sending greeting cards to each friend, because now I must bring this newsletter to an end.

Merry Christmas,

Ben, Roni and Glenn

* * * * *

Thanks, Ben, for taking this on. You did a fine job. And we couldn't have said it better ourselves. Hope everyone's Christmas season is a pleasant one, and we'll be back in the new year with more tales of our misadventures.

This page was last updated on Saturday, January 13, 2007 at 23:33 hrs.

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