New faces at The Old Barn

The Old Barn is one of our family’s Top Three favorite campgrounds. (I’ve blogged about it before.) Our annual Kind Family Reunion is one of our fave times of year.

We combined the two! We had 15 people at The Old Barn, ages 19 months to 69 1/2. Most of our clan had not been there before.

It’s a great spot because everyone gets to do what they want — and there are things everyone can do together.


The golfers golfed.
The golfers golfed.
Great golf specials on Wednesdays and Mondays. So our boys golfed LOTS.
Great golf specials on Wednesdays and Mondays. So our boys golfed LOTS.
The girls can use the golf cart to get to the river.
The girls used the golf cart to get to the river.
The tubers can tube.
The tubers tubed.


The crazy people can jump off cliffs. This was not Elizabeth-approved but man did it look fun.
The crazy people jumped off cliffs. This was not Elizabeth-approved but man did it look fun.
Crazy people can also jump off rope swing. Also not approved. Also looked like amazing fun.
Crazy people also jumped off a rope swing. Also not approved. Also looked like amazing fun.
And we all biked! Destination: Pie shop in Whalan.
And we all biked! Start: Lanesboro. Destination: Pie shop in Whalan.
Me, sis Kris, bro Dave and his wife Amy. Just a little bridge break on our bike ride.
Me, sis Kris, bro Dave and his wife Amy. Just a little bridge break on our bike ride.
Caroline and cousin Allie shared the pedaling.
Caroline and cousin Allie shared the pedaling.
Matt and Cousin Justin, road warriors on a not tuned up ride.
Matt and Cousin Justin, road warriors on a not tuned up ride.
The Reward. Sour cream raisin pie with a mountain of meringue.
The Reward. Sour cream raisin pie with a mountain of meringue.
Justin, Allie, Grandma and Matt, mmmmm.
Justin, Allie, Grandma and Mmmmmmatt.
Cara, Eric, Howie, Kristina, Grandpa, double mmmmm.
Cara, Eric, Howie, Kristina, Grandpa, double mmmmm.

Wait. We have to bike BACK to Lanesboro?

There’s a (root)beer waiting when you roll in.



Back at the campground, lots of time to swim, picnic together and play football.



What a Vikings fan and a Packers fan can do...
What a Vikings fan and a Packers fan can do…

Most of all, we just loved being together.

All my parents' grandkids.
All my parents’ grandkids.

Four of those kidlets above have birthdays within one month of each other. So we celebrated!

IMG_3813 IMG_3814

We had a Talent Show.

IMG_3820 IMG_3829

The eventual champions for a beautiful acapella performance.
The eventual champions, who won hardware and bragging rights for their beautiful acapella performance.

And as we packed up on Sunday, images of happy campers…

old barn kind fam

old barn willmarth famold barn hansen fam cropped

Madhouse on Madison: Here come the ‘Hawks!

“Only the country of Canada & Blackhawks fans truly celebrate hockey.” He’s right: You haven’t been to a hockey game until you’ve cheered on the Blackhawks at United Center. We went to our 2nd game last week.

A bit of background: We are a hockey family. Matt plays. Greg plays. All of us appreciate the game. My favorite sound in the universe is hockey — skates and sticks, goal horns and cursing at refs. We raised our kids with arena night (normal families have movie night, I’ve heard) in the glorious Ralph Engelstad Arena and now many other rinks (and several ice-cold barn dumps) around the upper Midwest.

Oldest to youngest and everyone in-between, we all appreciate rink time.
Oldest to youngest and everyone in-between, we all appreciate rink time.

Highlights of this Blackhawks experience:

Getting there

This city loves hockey. We walked a bit, stopped by the Blackhawks store on Michigan Ave, stopped for a quick bite to eat, then took a cab to the arena. Everywhere, we heard, “Go Hawks” and “Have fun” from others. Cool.

kids in Chi

Of course we stopped by The Bean.
Of course we stopped by The Bean.
I didn't grow up with hockey. I think I fell in love with sport just as I was falling in love with my hockey guy! It's been a wild romance ever since (the marriage has been good, too).
I didn’t grow up with hockey. I think I fell in love with sport just as I was falling in love with my hockey guy! It’s been a wild romance ever since (the marriage has been good, too).
photo bombing our Matty
photo bombing our Matty
Our Matty.
Our Matty.
Our boys, proudly in former UND Sioux player Toews jerseys of course.
Our boys, proudly in former UND Sioux player Toews jerseys of course.

Soaking it all in

There’s a certain aura about hallowed ground such as United Center. I did grow up a basketball fanatic, and my #2 sports experience of all time was seeing Michael Jordan play from court side seats. He was superhuman. He did fly. Soared over any defender with amazing grace. And his home court commemorates him with a beautiful statue to welcome even hockey fans…


This, from a few seasons ago, makes me smile. I know Mr Jordan loved it, too:

photo credit: WGN, Chicago
photo credit: WGN, Chicago

Inside, the banners (which I couldn’t even fit in one camera shot) tell the tale of Champions.



It was Toews bobble head night ~ Score!
It was Toews bobble head night ~ Score!
Nobody travels like Sioux hockey fans! The girls don Tshirts of the 2 UND boys in the evening's matchup.
Nobody travels like Sioux hockey fans! The girls don Tshirts of the 2 UND boys in the evening’s matchup.


The experience

If you haven’t figured it out by the time the National Anthem begins, you’ll realize within two notes that you are in a very special place. Fans are at high volume the ENTIRE Anthem (respectfully but with enthusiasm), and on their feet much of the game. We’ve now had seats on the 300 level and the 100 level. No matter where you are in the arena, your fellow fans know hockey. They know the players, their lines, challenges (Hossa was just back from an injury and got a standing O every time he stepped onto the ice), rules and other nuances of this amazing game. It’s fun to listen to the analysis and rants and cheers and jeers from educated fans!

Did I mention there’s a vodka bar there?

vodka bar


We got lucky. Our game went to a 6-shooter shootout. Our guy Jonathan Toews got his!

Kane Toews

Sadly, the Blackhawks lost, but it was a great game.


Just a few days later, we caught a ‘Hawks game on TV. We all stopped, and reminisced about waiting outside door 3 1/2, playing a penny game, the homeless (?) guy who hailed us a cab afterwards, the “joyful” people who came and sat by us later in the game, the goalie’s shootout stance and many other memories of our night at the Madhouse on Madison. And that is part of why I so adore sports. Our family will forever remember this incredible time together.


Our perfectly Minnesotan day

Minneapolis-St Paul was just ranked as a must-visit spot by Lonely Planet, endorsed for our lakes, outdoor activities, nightlife and historical venues. So on a snowy Sunday in December, our family covered quintessentially Minnesota action!

As someone in the article notes, Minnesotans love to play outside, cheer on their sports teams, support the arts and history, are skeptical of mass transit, a bit reserved and zealous with travel.

I couldn’t agree more!

Minnesotans love to play outside

My #1 favorite thing about my native and now home again state. I started the day with a lovely walk in the woods nearby, just blanketed in gorgeous snow (my #1A favorite thing about MN). It was so silent–except for our pet dogs, racing around with pure unbridled joy.

dogs in woods

dogs in woods 2

Minnesotans love to travel

Our Julia was doing just that, enjoying a week in Florida with a friend and her great family. We get photos like this texted to us:

julia in fla

Minnesotans are skeptical of mass transit

Yep. We had tickets to the Vikings  – Chi Bears game, but Matt also had a hockey game (because “all Minnesotans all play hockey” of course), so Caroline and I took the light rail downtown and Greg gave us a ride back to our vehicle after the game. See? We just went one way on the train.

It was lovely, including these views, surrounded by Bears fan on a super crowded train.

Fort Snelling cemetery.
Fort Snelling cemetery.



downtown 2

Minnesotans are reserved

As the train approached our stop, da Bears fans regaled us with “Bear Down, Chicago Bears.” The Vikes fans didn’t break into “Skol Vikings.” But this was before the game. Which my beloved Vikes won. Betcha my purple neighbors sang on the way home!

Minnesotans cheer on their teams

Oh yes, we do. In all the agony that entails. Caroline and I schlepped our way into the Dome, ready for GAME DAY!

me and c

We also enjoyed our VIP Field Passes, seeing the players, coaches, game day staff members, equipment and warmups up close.

cara on field

Minnesotans love hockey

Well, when your lakes are frozen much of the year, you make the most of it! Matt and Greg missed this on-field experience because Matty’s team was playing for some hardware in a hockey tournament. (Thankfully, they have been on the field before.) The boys won their game! The trophy is a White Bear, which amused us all when they arrived in our seats just after kick-off.

Looks like Matty beat him to the puck on this one!
Looks like Matty beat him to the puck on this one! Photo credit: Dan R.

We got home (slowly with the lousy weather) in time to clear the driveway and play in the snow.

Sounds like a perfectly Minnesotan day to me.

“That wasn’t science. That was fun!”

While their teachers met downtown St. Paul for Education MN, our kids and their cousins spent the day across the street at the Science Museum of Minnesota, learning about tornadoes, deer vertebrae, wind speeds, how to create a mummy–and topped it off at the newly remodeled Cosetta’s!

The Science Museum is a great place to bring a group of kids of various ages–and with different interests. Everyone get a bit of what they’re craving, such as:

Making music on the musical steps (Caroline, Matt, cousin Allison)
Doin’ the news! (Cara, Justin, Matty)

Throughout the exhibits, it was obvious the kids were using things they’ve learned elsewhere (absolute location, air density, light speed, waves frequencies). Made me secretly smile to see them having so much fun (and learning, but don’t tip ’em off).

How to use a teleprompter 101
Checking out the bears in Ely via live cam.
Hanging out with some friends in the interactive area.
Swapping at the Trading Post. Cara brought various deer parts that Rev hauled out of the woods. A rock hound, she happily traded the whitetail vertebrae for some cool shells, fossils and of course rocks.
The real TiV from the Omnifilm, Tornado Alley, is on display. Everyone really loved the movie–it’s a great blend of science and adventure, even for those wary of storms.
How to make a mummy. We lost Allie at “First, remove the brains.”

Scientists get hungry

We made the short walk to Cosetta’s to see their newly renovated space and check out the results of their imported-from-Italy pastry maker. One word: Mmmmmmm.

Rooftop seating on historic West 7th.
Holy Canolli!


Sweetly decadent way to wrap up a sweet day full of fun (and learning).

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.