Sunday, December 13, 2009

Merry Christmas from the Murrays 2009

Warmest holiday wishes to all our friends and family from chilly West Michigan! We hope this Christmas season finds you happy and healthy.

This was a year of changes for the Murrays, with challenges --but also good times and adventures shared with close friends and loved ones.

Andrew, 17, is a senior at Rockford High School. He might smell a little like chlorine, as he can usually be found at the school’s pool. He was promoted to the varsity swim team at the end of his junior year and continued this fall. And when he’s not swimming, he’s working at the pool as a lifeguard.

Andrew earned his driver’s license in August, which comes in handy with those 6 a.m. swimming practices. He loves reading and learning about psychology, and plans to someday become a social worker.

Caroline, 12, had a super-busy year. Her big brother predicted she’d be “eaten alive” in middle school, but Caroline blossomed. She was one of a handful of sixth-graders to make the principal’s honor roll both semesters.

In the summer, Caroline was accepted to Grand Valley State University’s STEPS camp to introduce girls to engineering. She spent the week learning about airplanes, and the young ladies built their own radio-controlled planes after visiting the Ford Airport’s control tower and exploring some private jets.

The seventh-grade volleyball B-team was Caroline’s introduction to team sports. They won some games and hugged a lot. She approaches the flute with the same determination and proudly showed off her medal earned during a spring solo competition.

Caroline started confirmation class this fall. One of their projects was putting on a Christmas puppet show for the Sunday school classes. Later the stars got to pose with their characters.

Some changes at the newspaper led to new hours and responsibilities for Julie. After almost 20 years of working early, early mornings, she now arrives after noon and edits copy for the front page and region sections in addition to dealing with the suburban stringers posting stories to the Grand Rapids Press' Web site.

Julie makes sure everyone gets to the right place at the right time, and still has the energy to knit beautiful sweaters, caps and socks. She’s also been teaching Caroline to sew.
The Press was one of the sponsors of the Grand Rapids Auto Show, and Caroline was able to join Dave and Julie at the opening night gala. Mayor Heartwell told Caroline she could sit in any car she wanted -- and she promptly did just that.

After covering the Grand Rapids Public Schools for eight years, Dave’s beat changed a little. Now he covers higher education in addition to issues that affect all the region’s K-12 districts.
Sarah Palin started her national book tour in Grand Rapids in November. We wanted to know why, but Palin wasn't granting interviews. So Dave bought a book, stood in line for nearly four hours and figured he'd have a chance to ask one question. And Palin gave him the answer he needed: Because Grand Rapids is a microcosm of the United States.

He continues to teach a journalism course at Cornerstone University, and, of course, coaches one of Trinity Lutheran Church’s two co-ed softball teams.
We won the consolation championship and led the league in most babies born during a season.

Dave also slimmed down a bit – losing 55 pounds. Credit goes to a couple iPhone apps, lots of time on the treadmill and patience from the rest of the family. This all started in July, and most of the photos here are from the "before" stages.

We had a couple wonderful family adventures.

First, Julie’s parents hosted the whole Nelson clan for a vacation to the Wisconsin Dells, famous for water parks, magnificent lake views and fun things to do.

The whole gang started in nearby Baraboo, Wis. where Ringling Bros. Circus got its start. We had all kinds of fun learning about life under the big top, trying on circus costumes and checking out elaborate wagons.

Kristen heard Zach utter a phrase no parent wants to hear: "Wait! I have to change into my clown costume!"

We explored the Cave of the Mounds and cruised through the Dells to see the famous rock formations. Some of the group enjoyed the Tommy Bartlett Water Show while Dave, Jeff Horve and Zach learned about all kinds of things in the science center.
We went for a ride in a World War II surplus duck boat. Jeff and Andrew needed to storm the beaches of the Dells!
Andrew was pretty confident he was going to kick some butt on the Mt. Olympus race tracks.

The Dells' magnificent rock formations were formed over millions of years by pressure on sand, then worn away by water.

The trip ended with a day at one of the water parks – also famous for its go-kart tracks. Andrew put his new driving skills to use!
All the Nelsons: Mom, Julie, Jeff, Kristen and Dad.

In August, Dave and the kids headed to the homeland to meet up with Grandma and Grandpa Murray – and see Dave’s piece of Queens real estate: his brick outside the Mets new home, Citi Field.

Tim, Dad and Andrew pose in front of Citi Field's Jackie Robinson Rotunda.
We made sure this is the world's most photographed brick. Meanwhile, the gang sought out some of the artifacts that came to Citi Field from Shea, such as the glorious Home Run Apple.

Dave, Andew, Dad and Cousin Tim went to the game – the Mets actually won, 9-0 – then went to ride the Cyclone and Wonder Wheel at Coney Island.

We also ventured to the Brooklyn Cyclones' ballpark, which is next to the Parachute Jump, also called "Brooklyn's Eiffel Tower." We sampled Nathan's hotdogs but stayed clear of the "Shoot the Freak" paintball attraction -- with live human targets -- and some of the other, um, attractions at Coney Island.

Later we drove through Brooklyn so Andrew could see where his grandfather grew up and went to church. It's important to learn about family roots!
Tim seemed a little conerned about the structural integrity of the Cyclone, as well as the abilities of the staff working on the ride. Valid concerns, to be sure. But we survived! Here's the proof.

Meanwhile, Caroline, Mom, Aunt Arlene and Tim’s Jackie and Joshua had a Manhattan adventure. They took the train into the city to visit the Museum of Natural History and Times Square, then went to see “Mary Poppins” on Broadway.
Caroline snapped this shot of Aunt Arlene and Mom enjoying the train ride into the city.

Aunt Arlene hosted a family cookout, joined by Lisa, Steven, Caleb, Daniel and Josh and Cousin Kimmy. The kids also got to go on what we now call the "memory tour" through Massapequa Park to see the former homestead.

Caleb, Daniel, Caroline, Jackie and Josh explored a neat park in Stony Brook, N.Y.

It was Andrew’s first time on Long Island, so he needed to experience culinary treats like real New York pizza, black and white cookies, halva, knishes, and, of course, bagels.

And there other baseball adventures, too.

Mom and Dad Murray surprised Dave with a trip to join them for the Mets' spring train home and road openers.

Dad proved amazingly lucky. Frist, he watched as a foul ball flew out of Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, bouncing on the sidewalk in front of us.

Then, at Port St. Lucie, he stepped up to a Mets charity prize wheel, took a spin and won the grand prize: A signed game jersey from pitcher Freddie Garcia!

Garcia was trying to rebound from injuries, and never made it north. Tim wore the Freddie jersey to the Citi Field, so at least Garcia made it in spirit.
The Baseball Truth Executive Board made it to U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago this year to see the White Sox and Orioles. That's Dave with Jim Conrey, Scott Christensen and Will Christensen.

Dave had a Texas adventure, driving with Mom Nelson to visit Aunt Darlene, who lives in Beaumont, about an hour from Houston. Mom insisted Dave get away for a baseball side trip. The Astros were on the road, but the team gives tours of Minute Maid Park. Dave was the only one there, so he got a real insider's look, including inside the hand-operated scoreboard, bullpens, dugouts and the skyboxes.

Then he drove out to see the team's former home, the Astrodome. The "Eighth Wonder of the World" now sits unused next to the Houston Texans' new football stadium. Dave found an open door, peeked in and discovered he was in what used to be centerfield. There was a short, somewhat unauthorized tour.

We spent time getting to know Julie's cousin Deanna and her family, and visited some neat museums in Beaumont and Port Arthur. Plus, Mom enjoyed a special side trip on the way home: Graceland!
Security at the Astrodome appeared to be somewhat lax.

As the year comes to and end, we appreciate that the Lord has blessed us in many ways, especially with wonderful family and friends. We'd love to hear from you. Dave and Andrew are on Facebook and the family e-mail is

Have a wonderful Christmas and a safe and happy new year

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