Day 15 : Dreams


 “When you’re dreams become watching them live out theirs.” Josey said this early on, and I just love it because i think it can also easily apply to joy or fun or happiness- we have/ experiences joy when we watch our kids living in joy. 

Today was that day for me.  

Zion is an animal on the tube,  flying feet off the waves and never losing her smile, Eden is growing in bravery and becoming stronger each day, while Judah’s heart to protect is maturing more and more each day. When Jacob fell off the tube, Judah jumped off and swam to him, do he wouldn’t be alone, which made a father’s heart swell. 

Their joy and laughter became mine, as I did nothing but sit and drive and smile from ear to ear.

when Judah caught fish, I didn’t need to. Because his joy was mine.  And it was wonderful.

Day 13 : Before the Sun Goes Down


 “Any last questions or thoughts?” I had just given the kids an outline of the next hour, cleaning and reading, when, in the front, little Jacob raised his hand. “Yes Jacob,” I said. His hand lowered and he spoke with perfect calmness, “No touching anyone’s privates.”

”Well,” I said, “that’s probably just a good rule for all of life.”  

Then, they cleaned, played, ate dinner, swam, and lived a simple day of life at the cabin. Because a routine is setting in, and comfort, and with it comes a familiarity that kids seem to thrive under. 

Yet, at times, parents can struggle.

Reuniting with my sister means talking about family, and talking about family meanings drudging up old heart-aches and pains. They're helpful, I think, but they're also hard. And the pain and frustration tends to bleed over into other relations, like my wife. So we battled, again, over stupid shit (mainly caused by me) in and out throughout the day. 

But then, the sun set (pictured above) and we sat on a dock and worked it out, as we often do. Because she is patient and forgiving and understands that my family is complicated and my mind and heart battered. Which is why she's perfect. Because she doesn't make it about her. She simply listens, loves, and pursues, time and time again. 

And so the sunset was beautiful. Just like my wife

Day 12 : Family Time


Started the day off with a walk (Elias in the Kelty) and Malcolm Gladwell. Then, boats, tubes, and sun. All day. 

That is, when I wasn’t pulling our kids aside for one-on-one conversation (sometimes, after almost two weeks of vacation living, we forget family expectations).  

judah: what it means to be a big brother and why we choose to believe and protect family, even when it’s hard.

Eden: a reminder of how much we are served and cared for throughout our days, and why we should then be willing to serve whenever  possible.  

Zion: after having her suck on a lemon, we discussed sour words verses sweet words (ice-cream) and why only sweet words should leave our lips.  

Then, drinks and discussion as the sun went down. 


Day 8 : Gone fishin


 “we’ve been here nine months,” she said, “ and we haven’t caught anything!” 

On Judah’s first cast, he had a small mouth bass. We caught ten more throughout the relaxed evening, and all I could think about was Dad. How he taught me to fish, to understand fish and lakes, and how to read water. We didn’t do anything special, I just had years and years of fishing experiences, shared mostly with my dad, and I couldn’t help but think, “I need to take me boy fishing.” 

We swam a lot today, as the temperatures dropped a few degrees, then set off some simple fireworks around the campfire. Cousins played and the summer day was filled easily and quickly. The kind of day that carries little significance now but after years and years of coming together and finding routines and discovering new freedoms, strong memories of simple and grand moments begin to form, the kind that stay with you long after parents and grandparents are gone, after families fall apart and siblings no longer laugh or talk together. It was the kind of day that builds the kind of memories for when, many years from now, life seems to be one giant disappointment because very few things turned out the way you’d planned, But then, you remember those summer days and a sort of hope begins to stir. Hope in family, in relationships, and the small moments of summers spent with cousins (or Dad) when everything just seemed to work out fine. Because they did. So we believe that they will once again.

I love those kind of days. 


The day ended with me losing a bet to Selah... she caught the biggest (because it was the only) after dark fish which means I have to go tubing in s bikini. Awesome.  


Day 7 : Lake Wallenpaupack, PA

Travel , travel, travel. Then, around 7:45pm ... arrival. And the drive was definitely worth it.  

Kids love cousins, and cabins in the woods, with lakes and flashlights and tag and laughter, which just make humid summer nights perfection.  

At one point in the early evening, I watched Eden place her hands on the deck rails that overlook the trees and nearby lake. She rested her chin on her hands and watched distant fireworks splash in the evening sky and color the surface of the calming waters. 

Childood moments of perfection. 

Day 6 : From morning till night


Our marriage is finally a teenager! On our thirteen year anniversary, Josey and I (with Elias) watched the sun come up over the misty Brown County forest. The significance, of the day and the place, was almost unbearable. Several of my most treasured childhood moments came from this place, and sharing it with my bride and youngest son seemed only too fitting. 


Then, we left, crossing over and through the bridge that always welcomed us to the park, so many years ago, and headed for Ohio, a land I’ve never considered anything but terrible. Until today.


Earlier in the day my wife said something about how parent’s dreams become watching their kids live their dreams, and I just loved that. I also think the same can be said for joy. And this moment, and the few hours they had together, was my joy complete. Judah misses his buddy, and although it wasn’t nearly long enough, our hearts are full.  

I wish I wouldn't have cut it off so soon . . . :(

A few hours later, after inching through the infamous midwestern thunder storms (which I also miss terribly) we arrived in another forgettable and otherwise monotonous town, but for the smile of Ms. Lemberg, Zion’s favorite teacher from China.  

At this point though, to be honest, nothing really registered because I was suddenly overcome with exhaustion that I passed out on one of the cabin beds, only to wake myself about an hour later to my own snoring. When I woke, Elias was ready for bed and the day was slowly coming to its end.  

“What was your favorite part of the day,” I asked the kids before handing out their journals, “Gungsen and Lymberg!” And I couldn’t argue. 

But then the sun began to set. And for a brief moment Josey and I stood a few feet off from everyone else and watched the sky burn itself out. “From sunrise to sunset” my wife whispered. Then we headed back to the cabin and tucked in our kids. 

Thirteen years old today. And tomorrow, it starts again. 


Day 5 : a breather


the morning was spent with this little guy, trying to keep him entertained while Mom got a few extra minutes of sleep. It didn’t go terribly well. 

With Eden, Jude, Josey and Selah getting in a horse ride, Zion and Elias and me had s little time to catch a quick pony ride, get some cold drinks, and talk about Zion things, with the windows down and the air blowing by.

The afternoon was lazy, and the evening cool. Just in time for another whirlwind of visits and friends and miles on the road.

Tomorrow is going to be a great day. First, we surprise Judah with a visit with his best China buddy, then surprise Zion with her favorite China teacher. They’re gonna flip, and I can’t wait:) 

But tonight, sunsets and swimming pools.


Day 4 : just like old friends


And we’re back, in the car again. 

I didn’t want to wake anyone up. They all seemed so tuckered and peaceful, scattered throughout the tent, but we had a 2-3 hour drive to get started, and we were already running a bit late. 

So we knuckled the sleep from our eyes and found some breakfast (chick-fila), then headed out.  

It was a perfect day. 

Not many friends can reunite with such ease and familiarity, but it always seems to happen with the Beards. Our kids take a few hours to figure each other out, but the adults dive in and let loose. And I love it. And I miss it.

Turkey Run is filled with such deep-rooted memories and feels from the better days of childhood, and over the years it (and Brown County) have held a sort of mist above all other campsites. Sharing it now, with some of my dearest friends, climbing through simple canyons filled with gentle streams, listening to our kids laugh play, and watching  my little Z entrust herself fully to “Uncle Beard” as he launches her into the deeper side of the river fills my heart with such something that I find myself thinking, “is this what my dad felt, so many years ago?”

I hope so, because it’s something akin to peace and a bit like perfect joy.  

Which is probably why he came back, year after year, even when times were tough or work demanding. Because we - and he - needed it.

And for that, I am so grateful. Because it brought my kids here, many years later, on a hot day in late June, to meet some of my dearest friends, to swim in cool, murky rivers, and to throw aerobes under hot summer suns. To create new memories. And to rekindle old friendships.

Day 4 was a good day. 


(Judah and I are journaling our summer travels. His is coming soon. Mine is here! I think my little sister Selah will be joining soon, so there will be more to come in the near future.) 

Thanks for reading!!! 

Day 3 : a working out

Started out rough, and for good reason- there’s been a lot in our hearts and minds, most of which are beyond our control. So it only makes sense to take it out on each other. 

So we did. For a good chunk of the morning. But then, as we are prone to do, after all the crap has been poured out on one another, we clean up. Then, we move on. 

We traveled through Missouri,  over the Mississippi River, and into Brown County, where it was crazy friggen humid and our site less than ideal.

”We have kids,” I told the lady on the phone, almost three weeks earlier, “so please keep us off the main road.” So she booked us between the main road and another one- literally surrounded by roads. So I asked for another one, then another, then two different ones, until finally we found one appropriate for our family and needs. 

Setting up the tent in the dark, with sweat dripping from my nose, was not what I envisioned our trip would be, but we all slept soundly beneath the trees.  

Just like I remember doing, so many years ago. 

Day 2 : Kansas City, Missouri


The first few days are always the hardest, it seems, because no matter how hard we plan and prepare and think about life on the road, inevitably, things don't go according to plan. 

For us, today, it was the heat. 

Seeing Sarah Downs (used to be Cole) was a sweet blessing. Our kids sitting in her lap (with her own baby on the way) was reminiscent of old China days, of when she would grace our living room, nursing her tea, and loving our kids so well. Nobody tells stories like Aunt Sarah, and today was no different.

But the house was small and outside almost unbearable. I'd forgotten about the midwest humidity - the sweltering blanket - and our kids suffered to survive it. But we had ice cream, hamburgers, and sweet moments of loving old friends, which made everything worth it. Just like we had planned.