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.

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.

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: