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?



Family reunion camping trip: Hayward, Wisc.

Greg and I both grew up camping, and we started camping our first summer together. Part of the beauty of camping is that many things remain the same — and many change. Thirty years ago, the Kind family camped at the Hayward KOA Kampground. All 5 of us went back this past weekend — along with our expanded (and expanding!) families.

My baby sis Kristina and 'lil bro Dave. Dave mentioned something about the pine trees looking taller than last time we camped here. (30 yrs ago). Well thank goodness WE haven't aged!

Kamping does not = camping

As we discovered in our South Dakota vacation last summer, KOA Kampgrounds are more like resorts. The Hayward KOA has many more offerings than the pool we enjoyed there 30 years ago, including kabins, so we could all enjoy more time together. Other offerings:

Bouncy pad (like a giganic trampoline), perfect for moon walking

Water sliiiiiiiiide!
Candy Bar Bingo - Justin, Dave and Matt covering numbers (we won! twice!)
Afternoon ice cream. Made by a local creamery, it was divine! (Julia and her friend Meghan, who we loved having join us!)
Good, Justin?
Nightly hayrides with a few surprises along the route
A dog show (please forgive us, Mollie)
Saturday night DJ
Great glowing hair, ladies. (Hey, you need to learn to dress right when you go out Sat. night.)
Mini golf (love the swim goggles, Dave!)
Grandpa Jerry's personalized omelettes
TUBING on the Namekagon River was a highlight! Greg even saved a baby bat caught in a fishing line.
The final mini-golf round on Sunday morning

Line it up, Caroline
So, what began decades ago with the Kind family…

…will continue on more frequently: we all booked our spots for next August!

Thanks for organizing it all, Davey! (and thanks for the Fri evening entertainment ~ ha) We love you. And that will never change.

Bro Dave put together our reunion weekend, and all he got was this Tshirt.

What never washes away

Is there anything better than the first at-home shower after a few days of camping?

As I washed away the layers of campfire soot, Root River water, sunscreen, biking sweat and pool chlorine (I think there’s still a bit of marshmallow on my ear), I thought back to what even my trusty bar of Ivory can’t ever erase:

5 kids = 5x more fun

Sidetracked from a state park because of the government shutdown, we trekked back to The Old Barn Resort with my bro-in-law Curt, his wife Janelle and their little Adam, age 8 (going on 15). Julia also had a friend, sweet Taylor, accompany us.

Tent zippers are a joyful noise

All the kids slept in the tent one night. The raccoons stayed out. And the only ghost stories they told were in the morning under the warm, bright safety of morning light.

Missed exits are good

We tubed on the gorgeous Root River, right from our campground. We missed our intended exit. Had we not, we also would have missed a little fawn playing in the river and the most beautiful summer river scenery. And the boys wouldn’t have perfected their deep, dark Coppertone tans, er, sunburns.

Wild tastes great

Raspberries, growing alongside a hiking trail, were a delicious afternoon treat. We left some for the deer.

1 part fresh air, 2 parts water

The best thing you can “feed” your kids and yourself is long, heavy doses of fresh air. The second-best is water — to drink and to swim in. We all got healthy helpings of both. Which makes for happy campers.

photo credit: Lanesboro Chamber

Simple is usually better

We again visited the Amish stand at the Lanesboro Park. I envy their simplicity and calm yet bright demeanor. Plus, it got the kids chatting about life without TXTing, which horrified them … as I wistfully recalled life before TXTing …


Home is the best

Even after our great river, bike trail, Lanesboro and other adventures, the sweetest sight of all is home. And a shower.


KOA’s ain’t what they used to be | SD Wrapup

KOA’s ain’t what they used to be. Growing up, Greg’s family frequented KOA campgrounds. So did the Kind clan. Back then, we were thrilled if there was a pool (never heated) and we could rustle up a quarter to dive for.

Our July 2010 stay at the Mount Rushmore KOA was like staying at a resort, surrounded by the gorgeous Black Hills scenery at the edge of Custer State Park.

Matt makes his way to the top of the water slide, built into the side of a hill.

Bounce pillow - like a gigantic trampoline

Campfire Skits

Of course we get a perk no one else enjoys: Evening skits by our very own Caroline.

It's FUN to stay at the KOA

Trail Ride

Planning our South Dakota vacation, Matt was most highly anticipating a trail ride. We did so on our last day in South Dakota, and it was a perfect ending to a great trip. It was a more rugged ride than I anticipated, but gorgeous scenery aboard patient, sturdy stock.

About as close as Greg got to a horse. Or a trail ride.
My horse was named for one of my favorite figures: Solomon. I aspire to serene wisdom.


Camper packed and GPS set, we headed back home, hopefully with a new-found mindset from the west: