Fairly Functional Family Reunion

“Families are not democracies.”

That’s from the American Academy of Pediatrics (!). So I guess the Kind family is normal after all. Dictatorship, socialist, a few moments of outright oppression: We had a wonderful family reunion in Hayward.

All 14 of us joined the fun. Of course we have an elder statesman, chairwoman, hero, scapegoat, maverick and plenty of junior members. Somehow, we all filled various roles throughout the weekend.

See? Don’t we look normal?

At the annual session wrap-up (just missing sleepyheads Allie and Julia; I don’t mess with 14-year-old girls on Sun. morning summer vacation days).

A new member

Since last summer, we’ve added a new delegate. Little Howie delighted us all!

“Yo, Matt. Bring me over there.”


Various subgroups broke into various committees to work on different projects.

Cara, Allie, Justin, Matty pooling their resources.

Diplomacy (and dictatorship) on the River

It’s become a tradition to spend some time on the nearby Namekagon River. Last year, we all tubed down. This year, sensing the lukewarm tone on that activity, Bro Dave leapt into action. “How about canoeing?” he said, plopping down a pile of brochures from his quick research. He got enough “yeah, sure”‘s to make the plan.

Hindsight is 20/20.

So, the outfitter told us two things:

1. We won’t let you go out after 3:00; even that can be pushing it on daylight.

2. The rafts are heavy to pull

Whatever, dude.

We got on the river at 3:15. We had one map, 3 fishing poles, bait, coolers full of beverages and of course life jackets. And we had that #1 survival tool: PMA. (Positive Mental Attitude)

It was a GLORIOUS day on this treasure of a river.

My baby bro Dave, loading up.
That’s us. Baby Sis Kris, Davey (“Why am I always flanked by you two?) and moi.
We followed a Bald Eagle part of the way, too.
Grandma Donna helps Matty with his river bass.
Who needs a boat? Strong-willed Cara (the child development specialists in my family say not to call her stubborn anymore) pretty much floated down the river.
Allison heard there are leeches in the river. So she perched on this rock during one of our stops.

A mild crisis

After about 3 hours, we hadn’t yet seen the landing where we were to exit. My arms were sore from paddling. We pulled over and I looked at our load: Cara had decided to ride on one of the rafts, tied to our canoe. That’s cool. But then I saw the raft was FULL OF WATER. It must’ve added 100 lbs! Good grief. One look at my brother’s face, and I knew he was nervous about making it in before nightfall, too. We’re 21 months apart. Heck, I’ve seen that “am I going to get home before <________>” many times, especially during our high school years. Truth be told, he had good reason to be nervous most of those times. So, while keeping panic at bay and glancing at the map:

We called John, the outfitter.

It was an indelible conversation:

Me: “Hey, so we’re at campsite #728. Are we close to the landing where you’re picking us up?”

John: laughing, “Hell, you’ve got about 6 hours left.” laughing

Me: “So are we close?”

John: laughing “Yeah, so I’ve already started drinking.” laughing “‘Guess I’m gonna have my wife pick you up.” laughing

John: “I told you not to leave so late. I told you those rafts would be heavy.” laughing “Yeah, so just call her when you get to that landing.” laughing

Dave the Dictator

Dave must’ve read my face (hey, I sometimes needed him to cover for me during our teenage years). He strided back to the river and assigned the strongest paddlers and made a few more edicts. No voting here.

Made it!

We did make it to the landing and John’s wife was there. It was still a little light (!), and we all laughed about our adventures, fishing, paddling, heavy rafts and (yep, Allie) leeches.

Nothing a little campfire won’t cure!

Back at the campground…

Blue-ribbon partisan showing

Last year, our dogs came in 2nd in the Pet Show. The eldest child (that would be me) gets a little fired up at competition. So we came prepared this year. And planning does pay. Allie and Cara commandeered the dogs to a tie for 1st place! (Thanks heavens they tied or it would have been a year of bragging ’round the house…)

Me with the little devil; Cara with our sweet flower.
We also celebrated the quad Aug/Sep birthday cousins!

Magical moment

As we watched the kids sing Happy Birthday to each other: dirty, hungry, smelling of chlorine and mini golf greens and truck ride hay, my very wise brother said it best. I’ll never forget his face lit by campfire and birthday cake candles, his words glowing with pride and love, “THIS is why you do it.”

Yes it is, President Davey. Yes it is.

Plus, democracy is overrated, eh?


A BLAST: Mill City Museum

It’s the ultimate combination: kids think they’re having fun; parents know they’re learning. One of the best things about living near a vibrant city is the rich arts and culture. Minneapolis – St Paul has incredible museums I’m always happy to visit.

My mom and dad and I took 3 of their grandkids for a day at Mill City Museum, one of my favorite haunts. Niece Allison had been there for a field trip this spring and took us directly to the Flour Tower. Hi, Dad!

That’s an excellent place to start your visit to this museum. As your elevator moves you through 8 floors, you learn the story of the Washburn Mill. Nearly 100 years of flour power on the banks of the river in Minneapolis. The boom times, sad times, unsafe times, and boom (as in explosion) times.

Look where you land! The top of the Mill, overlooking beautiful Minneapolis. Hi, Mom!

A glass elevator overlooks the Mill ruins and the historical yet modern city all around.

Other highlights in the Museum:

Interactive, hands-on water area. Move the logs, feel the power of water, harness the river’s energy.

How to market the flour and flour-made products

Betty Crocker (see? Minnesota girls age better than most.) Must be the water, fresh air and grains.
Create your own cereal box.

Build a huge puzzle!

Nice teamwork, kids (and Grandpa, the ultimate puzzle-builder).’

Appreciate quirks

Kevin Kling’s movie, Minneapolis in 19 Minutes Flat, should be required viewing for all Minnesotans. It completely captures our history, habits, lifestyles, values, traditions and, yep sure you betcha, quirks. Watch a clip here. Gosh darn it.

Sobering new display

Mill City is home to the recently unveiled tribute to those involved in the 35W Bridge Collapse. It’s a simply beautiful display.


And where do you lunch after a morning at Mill City Museum? Well somewhere with good old fashioned durum pasta, of course. The Old Spaghetti Factory!

Thanks for a lovely day, fellow Minnesotans!

Build-A-Beary Sweet Sleepover Birthday!

Aren’t summer birthdays the BEST?

Fewer limits on schedules, timing, bedtimes…Perfect for a sleepover birthday bash! Caroline planned her 9th birthday celebration to include Build-A-Bear Workshop (except Jules, our family had never been there), Bear Olympics (it was during the 2012 Games) and of course the icing on the cake: a Sleepover. It was a great time!

Silly girls (big Sis and fellow August bday babe Jules too)!

Planning is everything

I’m a bit of a Nazi on planning: especially birthdays. So I planned our trek to the Mall of America (nearest Build-A-Bear Workshop to us) on a Saturday well in advance. Background: I detest MOA. Except for a few stores, which I can do in a targeted lap, I steer clear of this place at all costs. So why did Greg and I end up taking 10 kids there on the 20th Anniversary Celebration of the Mall? All in the name of motherly birthday party love…

Birthday girl getting ready to build her bear.
Giving her bear a heart as open, kind, gentle and loving as her.
Stuffed and now fluffed!

Build-A-Bear is an EXCELLENT party place. Our party lead was FABULOUS and had the girls laughing, singing, contributing–all while creating their bears and making Cara feel very special. I prefer home birthday parties, but this was the BEST outside party we’ve done. High marks!

Back at home…

The bears did a series of Olympic events. I was handing out medals so there are not many photos. This was really fun and the girls got into it more than I expected. Then it was time for cake, ice cream and gifts.

Talia’s bear scored Gold in the ribbon gymnastics event.
Best present? A sister to share your celebration. The August bday babes.


In true Olympic style, the Bears slept with their Medals on.

The girls got quite a bit of sleep and had a beary good time. (You can sleep when you’re dead is my motto. Now is the time for fun!)

We wrapped it all up with a Bear Breakfast!

Happy Birthday to a little lady we all love Beary Beary much. Happy Birthday, Sweet Caroline.

Surprise! Julia is 14!

Since she was a surprise of the very best kind in the beginning, a Surprise Party to celebrate our Julia’s 14th birthday seemed perfect.

1997, and Greg and I had been married 3+ years. We had it all: great families, friends, careers that fit our high ambition; we were traveling and doin’ it all. We always planned to have kids (and we were doin’ it all to do so, ahem). Yet by this time, we also kinda figured maybe we just weren’t meant to have kids…

Then. We found out we were expecting our first little one!

Julia Elizabeth Hansen changed our lives forever. In all the best ways. Time for surprise payback, huh?

Julia, left, with Bestie Meghan, who helped plan and orchestrate the party. Meghan will make a scary good spy some day!

The secret plan

So how do you plan a Surprise Birthday Party for an alert young lady? Facebook, of course. The private messaging feature. Jules bestie, Meghan, helped invite all Jules’ fave girls and her amazing mom Jenny brought Julia and Meghan to our meeting spot, under the auspices of just getting a little Cherry Berry treat.

City girlz, soccer babes

I wanted her party to celebrate all the things I so appreciate about Julia and her awesome friends:

1. They like to eat (fairly) healthy: Cherry Berry froz yogurt! The bright lime green and red decor set the tone, too!

Little sis Cara, cousin Allie and the birthday girl.

2. They adore their families

Julia, Justin, Davey; Grandpa Jerry also came for the fun!

3. They’re city girls – From Cherry Berry, the girls went to the quintessential urban park, Heart of the City in Burnsville for some pix.

4. Most are sporty girls; ALL have a competitive spirit! We then went back to our house to watch the Gold Medal Women’s Soccer Game (the week before, Hope Solo and Co. nearly lost a play-in game. I was VERY nervous!) The girls won. And our girls won. I hope they will remember that today, girls can do anything. ANYTHING. After all was said and done, the U.S. women hauled home more medals than the guys. I can’t wait to see how Julia and her friends will change the world. They will. And I won’t be one bit surprised.

Did she know?

All morning, I figured Julia knew about the surprise. Perhaps I’d left my Facebook open…perhaps I’d slipped up…

As soon as I saw our little lady’s face, I knew She. Had. No. Idea! She blushed beautifully deep red and started to cry happy tears. Same tears of joy I wept 14 years ago, baby girl.

I LOVED surprising her: after all, she was one of my biggest surprises. Paybacks are great, huh?

Happy Birthday, Jewels. We adore you, appreciate you and love you more than you can ever know.