All the other kids with the pumped up kicks
You better run, better run, outrun my gun
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks
You better run, better run, faster than my bullet
Fortunately, a bit of further investigation revealed that Griffin hasn’t a clue what the lyrics are about. When I nervously asked him why it reminds him of fun times, he looked up with a big grin and said, “it just sounds so happy!”
The ultimate irony here is that I am exactly the same way. I only figured out what the song was about when I started writing this post — after listening to it with Griffin a few times — and thought I’d better look up the lyrics to make sure it wasn’t filled with profanity.
Major cleaning and sorting in the basement uncovered my stash of former ID cards from high school and college, as well as my California driver’s licenses. The universal awfulness of the photos begs the question of why I didn’t shred them. Despite the cringe factor, it is kinda fun to see nearly 30 years in ID portraits.
The counselors at Camp du Nord tell stories about an old troll, simply named Mrs. Troll, who lives beneath Angell Bridge. Our campsite lay on the far side of the bridge, so we crossed it many times a day, and we often tried to spot Mrs. Troll. Although we sometimes heard her, we never spotted her. Nevertheless, Mrs. Troll became a major feature of our conversations and quickly became a featured character in our bedtime stories.
I tried not to depart too much from camp canon, beginning with these basic facts:
She lives beneath Angell Bridge.
She is shy and doesn’t like to be spotted, but is not otherwise unfriendly.
She has a shopping bag with a hole in the bottom.
She’s not too bright (i.e., never understanding why her shopping bag is always empty when she gets home).
She has straggly hair and a stoop.
From this we began spinning tales, and learned many new things about Mrs. Troll, and other characters. For example, she has a secret friend, a clever flying squirrel who keeps an eye on her and helps her overcome her problems. She likes to drink sour milk, but has ever so much trouble getting it home in her shopping bag. She sleeps on a bed of sharp stones, and becomes awfully uncomfortable if any of them get too worn; she hates soft spots, and rolls around causing earthquakes throughout the camp. There are other, less friendly trolls, who live elsewhere in the wilderness around the lake. They are strong and mean, but even Mrs. Troll can outsmart them to protect the camp.
At Maggie’s request, we discovered that there is a Mr. Troll, too — he is a prodigious fishertroll, usually sticking to regular fish, but capable of pulling whales, sea serpents, and dragons from the depths of the lake. In our most epic troll story to date, he was challenged to a fishing competition which nearly ended the world as he began yanking the Midgard Serpent out of the lake. Luckily his opponent backed down, so he unhooked his catch, forestalling the apocalypse.
We’ve been back for a week now, and the kids are just as excited as ever to hear new troll stories. Indeed, I have never seen Maggie so enthralled by storytelling. Her eyes grow wide with each new chapter, and she jumps in eagerly to provide key details or to correct me when I get something wrong. She also suggests story topics, especially when I’m tired and feeling less creative. Tonight, for example, I paused at the beginning of the story, trying to cobble something together in my head. Maggie jumped in, saying, “Daddy… maybe Mrs. Troll has trouble sleeping!”
“Ah yes, of course she does,” I replied, and so the tale of Mrs. Troll’s unusual mattress requirements was born.
Family camp? This was a new concept to both Sarah and Andrew, but we had been hearing wonderful things about Camp du Nord from families we know in St. Paul for a few years, so this summer was our first time giving it a go. We are generally a do-it-yourself family vacation kind of family, so the idea of going somewhere where we could enjoy being on a lake AND having our days filled with activities we didn’t plan sounded kind of dreamy. We were not disappointed!
Camp du Nord is a YMCA camp located near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) in extreme northern Minnesota, mere miles from Canada. Andrew and Griffin kicked off every morning with the “polar bear plunge,” wherein the doughtiest members of the camp all run screaming into the chilly lake. (For anyone who has done a real polar plunge, into freezing water, this was not really that bad.) After breakfast, the kids spent every morning in age-level activities led by an incredible group of counselors. Sarah and Andrew were gloriously free from all responsibilities during this time. In the afternoons we engaged in full-family activities, which included a canoe paddle to a nearby smaller lake where Andrew succeeded at his first canoe portage, Voyageur Days where the kids tried log rolling, and an all-camp hunt for the counselors who were hiding in the woods. There are cabins available to rent, but we opted for a tent site right on the shore of the lake where we slept and had breakfast and lunch. We took the advice of families before us and joined the full camp for dinner in the dining hall. A couple of evenings, we took advantage of the traditional wood-heated Finnish sauna, which always concludes with a dip in the lake! And every night, we fell to sleep excited and exhausted, ready to see what adventures awaited us in the morning.
Like all family vacations, there were smatterings of tears, whining, and impatience, but overall, we all agreed that we loved family camp and look forward to returning in the future!
4th of July parade
At our camp site.
in the tent
A cool dip after the wood-fired sauna
Griffin’s map project
Maggie’s accoutrements during grownup day
Maggie calls this a “lego plant” because the branches and segments pop off
Griffin and his new friend, Sam
Maggie captured a counselor!
bringing Laura to jail
pushing Laura into the lake
aquatic blob tag
log rolling at voyageur day
big voyageur canoe
Griffin was a paddleboard champ
beach volleyball (aka, nuke ’em)
Griffin wearing his polar bear plunge shirt, earned after doing the dawn plunge every day for the full week