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.”

Caucuses

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?

 

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Girl Scout Camp: Treasured Moments with our Caroline

Caroline again participated in Girl Scout Day Camp at Camp Phillipo. I got to chaperone TWO of the three days this year!

Through the stifling heat and breathless humidity, a bit of rain, a bus that didn’t start, girls who got ill and

Ranch dressing dispenser that didn’t, well, dispense…

I was proud to see Cara and her fellow scouts truly living the Girl Scout Promise and Law.

(That, and singing Camp Songs at the top of their lungs. Way to go, girls!

A few verses in your beautiful voices are still lodged in my brain.)

The Girl Scout Promise

On my honor,

I will try:

To serve God and my country,

More days ought to start with a flag-raising ceremony.

To help people at all times,

First Aid

And to live by the Girl Scout Law.

“The Emmas,” part of C’s Troop. Smart, lively young ladies!

The Girl Scout Law

I will do my best to be

honest and fair,

friendly and helpful,

considerate and caring,

courageous and strong,

“Look sad, mom. I just splinted your broken leg.”

and responsible for what I say and do,

and to

respect myself and others,

respect authority,

use resources wisely,

make the world a better place, and

be a sister to every Girl Scout.

‘Sounds like good words to live by to me. Thanks for letting me tag along, little Cara. It meant more to me than you can ever know.

“Mom, ‘member that money I saved for the Girl Scout Camp Store?
I spent it.”
Best. Award. Ever.

Ah, Lanesboro: Camping at The Old Barn

We spent a long weekend at The Old Barn Resort, and my talented mom was good enough to join us, plus take and share photos:

Lanesboro is full of adorable stores.
Gram and Matty relax outside the ice cream shoppe.

Best buy: Greg’s hat!

(…warning, there is a certain je ne sais quoi that comes with this chapeau.)

The Amish market area in the park was full of homemade goodies.

Best buy: Black Raspberry pie!

Fresh air, clean water

We spent plenty of time biking the Root River Trail and tubing the river (lost a few items in the river, however… ask Jules about her brand new sunglasses and Greg about his one sandal.)

Caroline and Julia climbed a hill above the bike path.
Tandem biking! (For once, I’m steering this thing Greg and I have goin’…)

“Where is my damn burro?” Our Harney Peak Trail Tale

Long ago, visitors could ride a burro UP Harney Peak. Today, Custer State Park burros simply roam free. As we reached the summit of Harney Peak, Matt and I were wondering “Where is my damn burro?”

Here’s the rest of the trail tale:

Time for another Hansen Summer Bucket List item. This one was a LOT more challenging than anticipated:

Julia, Matt and I took on Harney Peak. At 7,242 feet, it’s the highest point between the Rocky Mountains and the Swiss Alps. We packed 8 bottles of water into backpacks, laced up our hiking shoes, drove to the Sylvan Lake trailhead and headed out, er, UP!

At the trailhead.

We took Trail 4 up. It starts in beautiful wild flower and native grasslands, then progresses to through absolutely gorgeous granite rock, trees and bushes. You end up climbing about 1,000 ft. At some points there are gradual descents, which has you wondering if you’re going the right way (we were). It took about 2.25 hours to ascend. It’s a well-travelled trail and we saw a few people — most of them were descending. We didn’t start our hike until 2:30 in the afternoon. (“Oh, it’s 90 degrees F, with the fire warning at extremely high? Let’s hike Harney Peak. Now.” Not my smartest moment.)

Even so, the heat was not unbearable. It got cooler and we climbed, and there was always a nice breeze. We sweated, but not uncomfortably so.

Matt taking a quick h2o break.
Jules didn’t rest much…

During the final climb, Trail 4 combines with Trail 9. About this time, Matt and I were tired. We weren’t certain how far we had to go, and while we were determined, we were also feeling our lungs–and legs.

About this time, Matt and I were also wondering “Where is my damn burro?” I could’ve used a lift up to the Fire Tower.

One of the burros we’d met that morning. Hello to you, too, buddy. Let me get a carrot!

We made it!

Julia summited first!

It’s quiet at the summit, where there’s a gorgeous Fire Tower. We were quiet, too, enjoying the amazing views while we caught our breath. And basking in the pride. I was really, really proud of the kids. After we high-fived and toasted with water, I could see they were silently proud of themselves, too. Lovely moments to watch them in accomplishment.

That, I believe, is Nebraska.
There’s Wyoming in the background!
Jules at the top of her game (as usual!).

One last climb

Inside the Fire Tower, there is a very short but very narrow, steep metal staircase to the very tip top. Shaking all the way, I ascended, snapped a quick photo–and gratefully climbed down.

sorry if it’s blurry; I was shaking at this point…

We all took a bit more quiet time to imprint the views on our memories. I prayed — I always feel closer to the Big Guy in nature, and His presence was very near so near to Heaven. I also lightened our backpacks a tad by sharing some of our trail mix with the locals:

We then climbed down, via Trail 9. It’s a much easier route, but still a challenge. As one guy said as we neared the trailhead, “I’ve never been so happy to see grass in my life!”

Us, too. Although the granite was gorgeous.

And I hope Matt and Julia forever remember our Harney Peak hike, their pride–and realize yet again that they can do anything they set their minds to. I’ll back ’em up every step of the way.

Sylvan Lake. Rocks.

I could live happily ever after in Custer State Park. Mostly because of Sylvan Lake. During our Black Hills vacation, we spent a lot of time in the park, and most of it at Sylvan Lake because it has things we all like to do there. Hike. Swim. Climb. Jump off rocks. Picnic. And only the jumping off rocks is illegal, ahem, Julia…

Some highlights of our legal fun at Sylvan Lake:

There’s a neat 1-mile trail around the lake. A little climbing, a little stream crossing = a great way to start the day.

Fun crevices to explore. Matt’s view: “Uh, my shoe is stuck and I REALLY don’t feel like re-enacting that 120 Hours Movie thing.” Thankfully, he pried it out.
What. A. View.
oh, Matty…
yo, girls…
Cool framing from cool rock formations.

Another day, we set up our picnic at the day use area (beach):

Best seat in the house.

 

Rocks islands within swimming distance? Let’s go!

That’s Matt and Caroline in the middle. Julia joined them shortly.

K. Enough pictures. I dived in to join them! Greg was video-taping, so perhaps I’ll post some of those images…

Meanwhile, we all have fond memories of our times at Sylvan Lake. Next time: Water shoes.

You calling me a spelunker? Jewel Cave Tour

Just before we departed for our Black Hills vacation, we had a little party with some friends. One mom recommended Jewel Cave. You need reservations for a tour, so en route, I got our tickets via phone. I considered the four offered tours of Jewel Cave:

1. Scenic – too tame

2. Discovery – still too tame

3. Wild – minimum age 16 and participants must fit through passages 12″ x 8 /12″ – too wild

4. Historic lantern tour – enter and exit through the original cave entrance, carry a gas-lit lantern and have a little adventure – perfect!

(I’m sure my family was thinking at several points, “Why can’t we be like normal families and simply walk a paved path carrying flashlights?”)

This WAS a great adventure!

The tour begins at the ranger cabin, which is a short drive from the main Jewel Cave monument entrance.

On the front “veranda” of the original 3-room ranger cabin, used starting in 1939 and built by the CCC. And this was a coveted park post! (Other assignments had only tents.)

The front room walls were painted at one time after the ranger’s wife requisitioned paint from the gov’t. Since times were tight and colors like black, brown, grey and brown were needed for wartime implements, she got….pink.

There were only 15 in our tour group, which was excellent. We gathered our gas-lit lanterns from our tour guide, who was clad in 1930s ranger wear. (Kids under 12 carry LED-lit lanterns.) We walked down a long flight of steps to the historical cave entrance.

Side note: While we traveled to the entrance, we heard many sirens and emergency vehicles passing by. Our guide, who had been tuned in to her scanner, told us another forest fire had flared up 6 miles away. I uttered a silent prayer for all those evacuating and fighting. Underground wouldn’t be the worst place to be for the next 2 hours.

Cave highlights:

Cool! No, really, it’s 49 degrees, which felt heavenly.

Heaven vs. Hell (er, Dungeon) One of the first things your group does is select your route. One is “Heaven” punctuated by lots of steps down, down, down, down, down… and of course back up, up, up, up… Not my first choice. Our group opted for the Dungeon (originally called “Hell” route because of an eerie encounter by that first park ranger and a lantern that wouldn’t stay lit).

Thankfully, our lanterns stayed lit.

Rock hound heaven Caroline is our little rock hound, and she LOVED the miles of thick crystals, box work, fossils and other formations that she could touch and explore and point out.

This was actually a nice wide passageway…

Trap door! One of the most challenging (“strenuous” is apparently the approved park language) parts is crawling down a very narrow passage, kinda lit by lanterns with uneven footing. We all made it!

Made it!

Hands-on This was amazing! Unlike other tours, where you’re constantly reminded not to touch the rock formations, you HAVE TO at Jewel Cave. You’re crawling and ducking, bending and stooping, and the cave walls are your guide for the 3 points of contact recommended to safely get through.

True Jewel Cave beauty In a “room” at the deepest point we would see of Jewel Cave, our guide has us witness the true beauty of Jewel Cave. We extinguished all lights. It was GORGEOUS! Very rare, amazing experience.

A little wild Near the end, you have the option to crawl through a narrow passageway. Of course the kids and I did! Of course Greg was at the other side the snap pictures : )

We highly recommend the Jewel Cave Lantern Tour. And the kids are counting the summers until they are 16 and can do the Wild Caving Tour.

Best. Birthday. Ever. (so far)

Time to check off another Hansen Family Summer Bucket List item:

A morning with glitter = an evening of fun! Thanks for the artistic sign, little Caroline.

Our Twins aren’t having a great year, but Target Field is still a magical place to spend an evening. Especially your 44th birthday evening.

My seat mates. (It was a little strange without Julia, who was away at Gustie Soccer Camp.)
Mr. Youkilis was traded just the day before from the Red Sox. I loved him as a Red Soxer; not so much in the evil black and grey. Legendary player, though…
Oh, A.J….. Where WAS he born, anyway? Even the stats/big screen operators don’t seem to know.
Nice view of my current fave Twin.
Beautifully PERFECT Minnesota evening, watching the sun set on downtown… This is what I will conjure up to remember in January.

BBest of all: The TWINs WON! Beating the White Sox was a great birthday gift. Time with our family was the best.