Thursday, December 11, 2008

Reunions and adventures marked 2008

Greetings to our family and friends from snowy West Michigan! We hope this holiday season finds you healthy and happy.

Here’s a look at some of the things that kept us busy in 2008, and you can click on the photos to see larger versions.

It was a year of transitions and adventures for the Murrays, We celebrated and were challenged, and we realize we are blessed in many ways.

Julie, Dave, Andrew and Caroline reconnected with people -- and even places – as they made their way through 2008.

Andrew, 16, started the year as a member of the Rockford High School swim team, is learning to drive and started his first real job, working as a lifeguard at the school district’s pools.

Caroline, 11, made the jump to middle school and continues exploring her creative side. She started playing the flute, and enjoyed a series of art classes at a nearby college.

Dave still covers schools for the Grand Rapids Press. Hanging around teachers all these years came in handy, as he started teaching journalism classes at nearby Cornerstone University.

Julie edits suburban stories at The Press and enjoys knitting and scrapbooking. The master planner and organizer, she amazingly keeps everybody on task and schedule!

Our first adventure was a spring break trip to Key West, Fla., with Dave’s parents. Caroline made sure we witnessed Dominique and his Flying House Cats during the daily sundown celebrations. We also toured Harry Truman’s southern White House, rode the Conch Train and made sure we slipped into Ernest Hemingway’s home to inspect the dozens of six-toed cats living there.

Illinois was a frequent destination in the early summer, as we helped Julie’s parents move from their home of 30 years in rural Monticello into a neat new condo in Champaign – a stone’s throw from their church, Illini football and basketball games, as well as the glorious, massive Fourth of July parade.

All the Nelsons: Julie, Jeff, Kristen, Alberta and Dale

The whole Nelson family then gathered to commemorate a wonderful milestone: Dale and Alberta celebrated 50 years of marriage.

Dave spent time with his beloved Mets, but we’re not sure the Mets were too excited to see him, considering he hadn't witnessed a victory since 1991, a streak of shame that stretched over 11 games and six cities.

First, Dave’s friend Will provided tickets in Chicago to see the Mets and the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Of course, the Cubs won.

Then, Dave’s parents and awesome cousin Tim Wild provided an opportunity to not just visit Shea Stadium in its final year, but to see the Mets battle the vile Yankees. Yeah, the Yankees won.

Shea Goodbye: Dave, Dad and Tim before the big game.

Naturally, the guys resorted to extreme measures to deal with Yankee fans.

It was sad to say goodbye to Shea, but Tim provided a good reason to look forward to the new ballpark: A brick with Dave’s name will be included in the Fan Walk!

But the trip also included time with family on Long Island and an opportunity to show Caroline her dad’s old stomping grounds and visit Theodore Roosevelt’s home at Sagamore Hill. Aunt Arlene hosted a cookout the next day that brought friends and relatives from four states, not counting the Michiganders.

Caroline visited the house where Dave grew up, then Theodore Roosevelt's home.

This year’s Baseball Truth Executive Game was in Cincinnati, and again included the Mets – and, alas, a Reds victory.

The Baseball Truth gang in Cincinnati: Will Christensen, Dave, Steve Barnes and Scott Christensen.

Determined, Dave attended the next game, and, finally, the Mets prevailed in a come-from-behind extra-inning thriller!

Andrew is becoming a fan of classic rock, and requested a trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. He and Dave took in an Indians game, collected Hard Rock Café T-shirts and toured President Garfield’s tomb.

Caroline had a busy summer. She spent a week at Camp Anna Behrens, a Girl Scouts camp that featured lots of arts and crafts, canoe-paddling and swimming. Then she enjoyed another class at the Kendall College of Art and Design, with her drawing of one of Hemingway's six-toed cats featured in an open house.

Fall brought big changes for both kids.

Caroline shows science-teachers-in-training how to conduct a solar energy experiment.

Fears that moving up to North Rockford Middle School would be traumatic for Caroline were quickly dismissed. Sixth grade rocks! She posted grades that earned a spot on the Principal's Honor Roll and was selected to be part of a group of students that headed to Lansing to show future science teachers how to teach lessons on energy.

Andrew and Dave in their dream cars. Of course, Andrew can actually drive his, and Dave paid $10 to sit in his for a couple minutes until the next nostalgic baby boomer announced it was his turn.

Andrew started his junior year at Rockford High and perfected whistle-twirling for his life-guarding gig before taking time off to join the swim team.

Dave’s editors tapped into his love of all things presidential and allowed him to cover visits from candidates Barack Obama, John McCain and Sarah Palin, as well as President Bush. Earlier in the year, he spent time with Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee – who even fielded questions from Andrew.

All the Murray grandkids: Andrew, Caleb, Daniel, Caroline, Josh, Katie, Ellie and Diana.

Then came another big event of the year: a full-fledged family reunion cruise through the Western Caribbean to celebrate Mom Murray’s 65th birthday. It was the first-ever gathering of all the Murray children, their spouses and their children.

Making that large group even more special, we were joined by Cousin Tim and his family, Aunt Arlene, Aunt Dottie and Jenny’s in-laws, Mr. and Mrs. Myers. It would take a big ship to contain that group, and the Freedom of the Seas is the largest in the world.

We first stopped in Labadee, Haiti, for a day at the beach. Then it was Ocho Rios, Jamaica, where Dave, Andrew and Caroline were joined by John and Adam to climb the famous Dunn’s River Falls. Later, the guys were joined by Steve to find the Hard Rock Café for Andrew’s T-shirt and explore some of the downtown shops.

Our next port was Grand Cayman, where we found another Hard Rock Café and shopped. Julie and Caroline joined Mom and Dad for an island tour while Dave and Andrew set out for Seven Mile Beach, named one of the world’s best.

Meeting Capt. Manolis Kasselas on formal night.

The four Murray kids -- Lisa, John, Jenny and Dave --together in Haiti.

Climbing Dunn's River Falls in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.

Julie and Dave had fun hanging out at the pool.

Exploring the ruins in Couzmel, Mexico.

Finally, we landed in Cozumel, Mexico, and toured 2,000-year-old Mayan ruins at San Gervasio. Then Dave, Andrew and Tim made their way downtown to hit the third Hard Rock Café – Andrew has some really cool T-shirts and pins by this point – and wandered through the markets and boldly found the immigration office to get passports stamped.

Tim thought Andrew's cool new hat was muy macho!

Of course, the ship itself is an exotic location. Aside from hours in the pools, the gang scaled a climbing wall, boogie boarded in a Flow Rider, danced, sang, dined and bonded, enjoying each others' company.

Caroline had no problem mastering the ship's Flow Rider!

As we get ready to turn the page on 2008, we remember how the Lord has blessed us. We have such wonderful friends and family, our health and jobs and schools we enjoy.

We’d love to hear from everybody. Drop us a line at You can find Dave and Andrew on Facebook, too. We hope you have a very merry Christmas and a fantastic new year!

Love, Julie, Dave, Andrew and Caroline

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