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!

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We had a Talent Show.

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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

A Minnesota State of Mind: Camping at Itasca

Two years ago, we had the +perfect+ Itasca camping trip planned. Then, the State of MN shut down. Including the state parks.

I was heartbroken. See, Itasca has always been a special place for me and Greg. When we lived in North Dakota, it was an easy day trip to bike, hike, canoe, eat at Douglas Lodge and enjoy this amazing gem of red and white pines, gorgeous lake, wildlife, Pink Lady Slippers and of course the very start of the Mighty Mississippi. We’d camped there when our eldest two kids were younger.

Just before this year’s Independence Day, we returned!

Itasca is even more magical than I remembered, and in true MN style, offers something for everyone’s state of mind, from water to history, wildlife to wild flowers. Most of all, this is a place to experience our great state as God created it. High-five, Lord, you made yet another corner of unmatched beauty! Thank you.

Pines, flowers, wild friends


Our state flower, the showy pink lady slipper.
Our state flower, the showy pink lady slipper.


Loon family. As spotted by our loony family.
Loon family. As spotted by our loony family.
Julia finds a friend.
Julia finds a friend.
Our home. One of the most gorgeous camping sites we've had (and we've had lots!).
Our home. One of the most gorgeous camping sites we’ve had (and we’ve had lots!).
Pretty nice kitchen/dining room, huh? Love the lighting.
Pretty nice kitchen/dining room, huh? Love the lighting.

Water bugs

We spent much of each day in and on Lake Itasca, diving in for a swim in the middle of the lake (love the smell of wet dogs!), fishing, watching loons, reading, making sandwiches and…did I mention fishing?! Cara was her typical Mermaid. See a whole post on that here.















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Ah, Mollie.
Ah, Mollie.

double catch


Take a hike

Amidst genetically modified mosquitoes (seriously, I’m STILL itching), hidden lakes and beautiful MN trees, we had the trail to Aiken Fire Tower completely to ourselves one evening. It was a great hike, and I was so proud of the kids for climbing the tower. That takes nerve. I made it further than before, but the top perch still awaits my shaky tennies. It’s so wonderful to see our kids conquer their hesitations. Hiking is a great way to do that.





Cheers! to conquering fears.
Cheers! to conquering fears.
The hidden lake Greg and I visited long ago, which inspired the name of our beloved first "baby," yellow lab Kasey.
The hidden lake Greg and I visited long ago, which inspired the name of our beloved first “baby,” yellow lab Kasey.

And of course we crossed the Mighty Mississippi and ate wild rice pancakes with fresh blueberries at Douglas Lodge!



Best part of a Minnesota state of mind? It sticks with you.




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?


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’…)

Happy Birthday Matty Dave

We celebrated our Matthew David’s 12th birthday with our 1st camping trip in our new camper!

We went back to Baylor Regional Park Campground, which is near hardware stores and grocery stores to remedy everything we forgot.

News flash: We. Did. Not. Forget. One. Thing.

Also: I have not forgotten one moment of raising our beautiful boy. Highlights of our wonderful weekend–and a few memories of his first 12 yrs.

New duds. It’s fun clothes shopping for our boy again. (Alas, no more baby blue overalls with cute bunnies.)
Breakfast at Grandma Donna’s, who lives 4 minutes from the campground.
Designated homemade buttermilk pancake flipper.

Tallying at Grandma Donna’s “How do you measure up?” wall:

Water, fresh air, nature’s surprises–THIS is why we camp.

Swimming lessons! Matty with his shadow, Rev.
Dog paddle
Mollie cools off.
A little love-love. Guess who won this grudge match?
Biking and hiking on the great trails.
Frog World (the kids’ designation for a boggy area)
TurtleLand ~ Matt has always liked critters of all types and sizes. The only thing he despised: mascots. We had to keep the costumed critters away from the little guy!
A little Yahtzee in the camper. Matt has loved card and board games since he was tiny. We played Candyland after his naps every day for 2 years. Then moved on to Uno, Monopoly, Clue and others. Yahtzee is a camping fave for all of us.
We eeked in cake and a campfire with various other relatives to celebrate one of the neatest people I know. Happy Birthday baby boy. Love you, Matty Dave.

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.

A first with our third: Girl Scout Day Camp

Little Caroline, our third child, blazes her own path. She’s tried many things the other kids did not: cutting her own hair, cutting the dog’s hair, collecting gum wrappers, playing softball–and Girl Scouts. This week, she is spending three days at Girl Scout Camp. So of course mom chaperoned day one. Highlights:

Camp songs haven’t changed (much)

There are a few new verses to Princess Pat, but all the words come right back when the bus singing begins!

Caroline & neighbor/fellow Girl Scout Ella
Flag raising
No breeze, notice. Not a whisper. No air at all.
Learning a new “Do as I Do” ditty

Record-heat in a day away from a/c

This may be the time to share that this was not an ordinary day at Girl Scout Day Camp. The temperature hit 96 degrees F, the heat index 115 and we were not near a lake or any air conditioning. In fact, the temps, heat index and humidity levels hit record levels all over the state.

Of course we were outside all day. I can honestly say I have never been that hot in my life. And I’m an outdoorsy girl. I lived and worked at a camp for 4 summers. I grew up without air conditioning. But this was debilitating. The staff members did a great job improvising to keep the girls safe and (relatively) cool.

Our #1 activity

We drank water, we re-filled our water bottles, we turned on the hose to play in water and every activity included the instructions every few minutes: “Take a drink of water.”

... "old" friends ...
... New friends! ...


Orienteering: Find Antarctica and let's go THERE, girls!
Building a shelterTrying not to giggle while playing Sleeping Lions.

On this day, the girls learned they can handle heat. Won’t that serve them well as students, professionals, spouses, friends and moms themselves someday?! Just don’t show your sweat, ladies.

I’ll always remember a very cool day with our neat little girl. Thanks for the experience, Caroline honey.

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.


Venting about Closed MN State Parks

We made the reservations in February. Site 66E at Itasca State Park over Independence Day. Greg and I have treasured memories of the gorgeous bike trails and special moment of carefully escorting our kids over the rocks in the Headwaters of the Mighty Mississippi. The kids don’t remember their first visits there, so we were all thrilled to return.

Not to happen. The MN State Parks were all shuttered June 30 when the Gov and State Legislature could not agree on a new budget.

I got to vent on ABC Nightly News.

Watch it here:

This came about though my friend Mary: her cousin’s husband is a freelance photojournalist and asked on Facebook about an unhappy MN camper. She connected us and there you have it.

What you don’t see in the clip is that I’ve always been a very proud Minnesotan. I haven’t always lived here,  but I’ve always extoled the beauty of my home state, especially the forests, streams, vibrant big cities and of course the lakes. Right now, I’m a sad Minnesotan, hoping our leaders can sort this out soon. For far larger reasons than empty campsite 66E at Itasca.

North Shore Camping – Labor Day 2010


If scenery like this was just 3 hours away, wouldn’t you go? Especially if you had a great guide (aka my Mom)! This is Gooseberry Falls, just north of Duluth, Minn., where we camped over a long Labor Day weekend. It was a great wrapup to summer and made for glorious memories as our autumn school, sports, activities schedules began.

Best of all, we did have a great guide: My Mom has spent lots of time “up north” and added her joy, stories and beautiful view of nature to our trip.

Caroline and my Mom enjoying blueberry pancakes at our campsite

Pack the sweatshirts

It had been a sweltering summer, but we dug deep and added sweatshirts to our camper lockers since the forecast called for chilly days and nights on the North Shore. Is it ever warm up there?! … Actually it was a welcome change. 

Thursday evening, we made the easy drive to Cloquet while listening to the Twins game. (Again, my Mom is a big fan, too!) We camped at Cloquet’s KOA Kampground. It was fun to see the cute little town this time of year, since last time we were there, for Matt’s hockey tourney, it was the ice/snow/bitter chill of February. (sorry, the Cloquet rink still a dump)

As promised on our last trip, I got Greg a pull-through campsite, so even though it was getting dark, there was no swearing from the Mr.

Shoreline and ship wrecks

Friday morning, we indulged in a restaurant breakfast and followed the drizzle into Duluth. Lake Superior is fascinating to watch. It’s as if she has moods and a personality of her own. The kids were intrigued by the ships, water, shoreline, ship wrecks and so much more. Luckily my Mom the teacher answered all their questions with great stories.

First stop: Glensheen

The night before, we’d talked about the Congdon’s mansion. All the adults had toured it several times before, and the kids were curious about its size (15 bedrooms?!), gardens and of course the murder story.

Great tour: If you haven't done so, take it. If you have, I promise you'll notice something new.

It’s a beautifully preserved estate and a well-paced tour that really allows you to appreciate life back then. I imagined Christmas dinners and summer gatherings, quiet moments and lavish parties. We had a tiny tour group and good guide who even addressed the murder after the official tour ended.

Caroline, Julia, Matt - looking pretty comfy on the mansion grounds

Some of the kids’ impressions:

“Well that Clara Congdon sure got what she wanted.” — Julia

She was one innovative, particular woman (just like Julia, frankly) who used incredible materials and techniques throughout the home. My fav: The faucet in her breakfast room that fed directly from one of the streams because she’d heard that water was healthier for her indoor plants.

Glensheen Green Room (check out the priceless tile)

“This would be my room.” — Each of them at separate times

“Those are blood stains.” — Matt, on the front stair landing. He’s right, you know. I’d love to go back and see the ghosts of Elisabeth and Velma

The front staircase: notice the incredibly intricate carvings

“Well that lady wasn’t very nice to her mom.” — Caroline, upon hearing my simple version of the story of Elisabeth Congdon’s death

In my favorite area of the Congdon estate: the formal gardens; with my fav 12-yr-old

Up the Shore

We drove the scenic route north, along the ever-changing shoreline, contemplating teachers, friends and coaches who have run Grandma’s Marathon. We enjoyed Russ Kendall’s smoked whitefish and of course Betty’s Pies. A few of our other stops:

Climbing the rocks near the Two Harbors Lighthouse
Hiking around Gooseberry Falls

Artists in action

Photographer Julia gathered some images for my Mom to use in her latest venture: watercolor paintings, printed onto greeting cards and available here in her etsy shop. Shameless plug: Check out her dozens of gorgeous creations. One of these may soon be part of her collection:

“Goodnight, John Boy”

Back at camp Friday evening, we enjoyed a nice dinner. I tried a new salmon recipe and new arborio side dish. Mmmm. The kids tried out the pool (brrr!), playground and helped Mollie meet her four-legged neighbors. The game room had the NFL edition Monopoly game and we had fun playing like NFL owners while watching the Twins.

Back in our camper, we watched episodes of The Waltons from our dvd set. Always charming, with messages that transcend generations. Lately, Grandpa Walton’s wisdom resonates with me. Like when Grandma is complaining that Mary Ellen is forever primping in front of the mirror and he says, “Someday she’ll have her own mirror in her own house and you’ll wish she was back here.” Amen.

Shipping News

Friday, Greg cooked us a big breakfast and we went to Canal Park. I still get excited when the lift bridge operates and the barges are on the horizon. Some images of our day:

Captain Matt at the Museum

Lunch at Grandma's with Grandma (!) | When in Duluth with Grandma, really, where else can you go?
From the harbor rocks to the sandy shores of Minnesota Point
A boy and his dog
Grandma sorting agates from other "pretty rocks"
Our Julia (when did she change from a little girl splashing in the waves?)
Too much fresh air and Lake Superior water swimming
Hay rides and ice cream
Back at camp, we savored the late summer evening with a hayride and ice cream social.
The hayride was fun, including a mystery man who popped out of the woods and showered us with candy

Sunday morning, we were on our way back….home.

Visited the North Shore? I’d love to hear your memories and tips for our next trip up there. Feel free to leave a comment.