Sunday, December 9, 2007

Merry Christmas!

We hope everybody is happy and healthy this holiday season!

We thought this might be a good way to share some of the things we did this past year. Click on the photos to see larger versions.

It was a year for the Murrays to reconnect with family and learn about our roots.

Andrew, now a high school sophomore, has been busy with school and church activities. Caroline, a fifth-grader, has developed an eye for art, taking classes at a local college. And Dave and Julie in October celebrated 20 years of marriage.

Dave started the year with one of the biggest stories he’ll ever help cover – the funeral of President Gerald R. Ford, a Grand Rapids native.

He attended the ceremony inside the Ford Museum marking the arrival of the president’s casket, along with the Ford family and President and Mrs. Carter. The kids were among the thousands of people who paid their respects through the night.

Andrew's been active in the Trinity Lutheran Church youth group. His first big adventure of 2007 was a skip trip with the group.

It was his first time hitting the slopes since third grade, and, with the exception of an unfortunate incident involving an abrupt stop and the outside wall of the pro shop, it went well.

The next month we headed to Florida and to Universal Orlando with Grandma and Grandpa Murray. Caroline thoroughly researched the theme park in advance, but was a little spooked by the Jaws ride – the first one we went on.

Andrew and Poppy enjoying the ride over to Universal's Islands of Adventure.

Turned out the soothing ET ride was more her speed. But by the end of our stay Caroline feared no coaster – even the wild Incredible Hulk and looping Dueling Dragons. Dave, however, nearly hurled on the Cat in the Hat ride. Hey, it was rough!

In fact, the entire kiddie area proved dangerous .

The Curious George ball pit allowed people on the second level to fire sponge balls at unsuspecting targets below.

Who knew that Julie was an amazing shot? Not her husband, sadly, as Julie nailed him in the eye.

Caroline discovered a new hobby. Penny squishing machines were all over Universal's parks, and she tracked them down and filled an album. Since then, she looks for penny squishing opportunities wherever she goes.

We were fortunate to be able to spend some time with Grandma Helen Berg. Sadly, we lost the matriarch of our family just two weeks later.

As the extended family gathered from across the country, we remembered how Grandma spent her entire life sacrificing for others, caring for her mother, children and grandchildren.

The gathering also was the first time the entire Murray family had been in one place since Jenny’s wedding, nearly a decade ago. We're in Michigan and Lisa's family is in Connecticut, making it difficult to get everybody in one place at the same time.

Together for the first time since 1998: Lisa, Dad, Mom, Jenny, Dave and John.

Later in the spring, we made not one, but two trips to Mackinac Island, which is located at the point where Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Lower Peninsula are connected by the Mighty Mackinac Bridge.

Caroline enjoyed exploring Fort Michilimackinac.

Caroline’s fourth-grade class had studied Michigan’s history, and her teachers planned Roguewood Elementary’s first-ever overnight trip.

Students explored two historic forts and a sawmill, and toured the famously car-free island in horse-drawn carriages.

The kids learned how the fur trade was important for Michigan, and whoever controlled Mackinac Island -- where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron come together -- controlled the trade. And, the hotel pool might never be the same.

Dave’s parents arrived a couple weeks later to enjoy Caroline’s ballet recital at the St. Cecilia Music Hall. As a Level 2 dancer, she had more opportunities to show off how much she had learned during the past three years.

Then, with Caroline as our tour guide, we went back up to Mackinac.

The Butterfly House was one of the highlights of our trip. Poppy got to see some up close. Alas, none would land on poor Caroline -- and she was really trying to attract one.

Everybody had fun checking out the shops and spectacular views. And, of course, no trip to Mackinac Island is complete without sampling the famous fudge. Caroline also tracked down every penny squishing machine.

We spent part of June learning more about Julie’s side of the family.

Grandma Nelson planned a trip through Iowa and Northern Illinois, where we were able see the small town where she grew up, plus some neat sites along the way. The entire Nelson clan came – Jeff and Lori, and Kristen, Jeff and Zack.

We started in Galena, Ill, touring President U.S. Grant’s home, and stayed across the Mississippi River in Dubuque, which has an awesome river museum. We learned all about paddle wheel boats and the art of catfish “noodling,” where brave fishermen find the huge fish in hiding places, stick their hands into their mouths and pull them by their gills.

The kids had the run of a sidewheeler used for dredging that was part of the Mississippi River Museum in Dubuque.

That's Caroline peeking out of from the eye of the giant catfish.

We enjoyed a ride on a real Mississippi riverboat, where Zack and Caroline were mesmerized by the paddle wheel.

Did we mention that Mom Nelson spoils Dave? She planned a Father’s Day pilgrimage to Dyersville, where his favorite movie, “Field of Dreams,” was filmed.

We appeared in the corn field just like Shoeless Joe, acted out scenes on the bleachers and then hit some balls and ran the bases. Yes, Andrew had to say the movie’s classic line: “Dad, you wanna have a catch?”

They built it; we came. Here's the gang posing where Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones filmed "Field of Dreams."

The next day we headed out to Randalia, Iowa, to see the farm where Mom was raised. The countryside came to life as Mom shared her memories through the rolling hills.

We met the nice family now living on the farm and sampled some of their strawberries. The house was added right after Mom went to college, but her barn is there, and we could see the fields where Grandpa Weideman worked and the part of the school were Mom played basketball.

Folks in tiny Randalia noticed all these strangers walking around -- the mayor came over to greet Mom and update her on recent activities.

Jeff, Lori, Julie, Jeff, Andrew , Caroline, Zack, Kristen, Mom and Dad Nelson.

We finished our Iowan adventures by staying near the Amana Colonies and touring the Herbert Hoover Presidential Museum.

And, naturally, we had to stop at what is billed as the world's largest truck stop so Caroline could squish some pennies.

Summer brought more adventures. Caroline spent a week at “Critter Camp,” learning how to care for animals at the Kent County Humane Society.

And Dave discovered kayaking. After a disastrous start -- the first boat, the since-named "Ky-tanic" went back to the store -- he soon enjoyed lots of time exploring the Grand River.

There was plenty of exciting baseball this summer. Dave and Caroline went to Detroit for a rare opportunity to see the Mets play the Tigers in interleague play. Since Dave is a known jinx, the Mets lost 15-8. But, Caroline discovered Comerica Park had two penny squishing machines.

Dave’s buddy Will surprised him with a second chance to see the beloved Mets, this time in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field in Chicago.

Of course, the Mets lost 6-0. The outcome of either game should surprise no one, as Dave has not witnessed a Mets victory in person since 1991. Really.

The gang conducted its Executive Game 7 at Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark, touring the Reds’ new Hall of Fame and Museum, pausing reverently in front of the Tom Seaver jersey on display.

The Executive Board: Will Christensen, Dave, Steve Barnes and Scott Christensen.

The Cubs pounded the hometown Reds, and the gang eased their pain with a late-night run to Cincinnati's famous Skyline eatery for spaghetti piled high with chili. Tradition calls for two games on Baseball Truth weekends, so the next day found board members in Indianapolis to see the Triple-A Indians and Charlotte Knights.

Julie had a baseball adventure, too. Dave and the kids attend the West Michigan Whitecaps’ “Shirts Off Our Backs Night” every year, hoping to win a jersey and meet a player. But they’ve headed home empty handed every time.

Julie came for the first time this year, and amazingly, outfielder Jeramy Laster pulled her name from the box. She had to go on the field to meet the rather sweaty Jeramy and pose for photos.

Back-to-school time meant some big changes for the kids.

After a year in the Freshman Center, Andrew became a full-fledged member of Rockford High School. He plans to start driver's education in the spring.

Andrew, in the white cap, spent a lot of time in the pool as a member of the junior varsity water polo team. He was excited to score his first goal and played some tough defense for the Rams. After a short break, it was back to the pool as a member of the swim team.

Caroline became a fifth-grader -- her last year at Roguewood Elementary School.

She's been busy with some new activities. Special education teachers asked her to be in a group of students who spend time with autistic children on the playground, keeping them safe and providing someone friendly to play with.

Caroline loves working on her computer, and was asked to be part of the "Keyboard Kids," who take care of the school's computer lab.

She decided to take a break from dancing, and took three classes at Kendall in downtown Grand Rapids.

Her favorite so far was learning how to make doll house furniture. She was excited when one of her drawings earned her “Art Student of the Week” honors at Roguewood.

Dave had some fun news this month. After spending more than 20 years covering education, he's about to experience it from the other side, teaching an evening journalism class at nearby Cornerstone University.

As we ease closer to Christmas and the end of the year, we remember how the Lord has blessed us. We are to have such wonderful friends and family, our health and jobs and schools we enjoy.

We also remember Grandma, and all those Christmas Eves joyously spent with the whole family gathered in her homes – both large and small – to celebrate the arrival of the Savior.

We’d love to hear from everybody. Drop us a line at We hope you have a very merry Christmas and a fantastic new year!

Love, Julie, Dave, Andrew and Caroline


JLC 1863 said...

Nice blog Dave and Julie. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all!!


Lisa said...

Great job Dave! I loved all the pictures!

Merry Christmas!


Tony Hartsfield said...

2007 was quite a year for the Murray family. Can't get over how the kids are growing up.

Here's to an even better 2008.