Sunday, 8 September 2013

The Gift of Life

The Gift of Life

Note: Before I begin this blog I must apologize for the videos in this blog and the last.  I can't seem to get the sound to come up so you'll have to watch the video using the youtube links I posted.  If you go back to last month's blog I posted the links and there are a couple videos worth watching where you can hear some great Austrian yodeling as the kids run through the hills.  

What a joy it is to have a little baby in the house.  Everything changes again.  We get to see the kids grow up and mature and Kate, our little girl, now seems like a giant!

Life comes into perspective again with the birth of a new child.  I think we all feel the pull of materialism to save up and buy 'this' and go 'there' and see 'that'.  But when a new child is lying peacefully and trustingly in your arms - all this other 'stuff' seems pretty minimal.  All this other 'stuff' seems quite irrelevant when the precious gift of life is being held by you.  Why?  Because stuff is finite. A trip to Mexico ends.  New clothing gets old.  A new car will break down.  A concert ends.  On the flip side a baby is precious and stays infinitely precious for all eternity.  Thus when the Bible says "Blessed is the man whose quiver is full" - there is a profound truth here.  We have just become infinitely richer and blessed because Octavian entered our lives.  He was not a commodity that we saved up for, nor was it our 'right' to have him.  Octavian was a gift and is a gift and will remain a gift for all eternity.

We waited a long time to meet little Tavi.  When he came we were very excited to meet him.  Here are some pictures of the journey.


 Maternity photo a couple days before contractions begin.  Becca is standing in the creek behind the Schloss.

Contractions started on Aug. 8th.  I went to Holy Mass at noon and came back and Becca was having contractions.



This day of Aug. 8th had a temperature of 39 degrees celsius.  Ridiculous.  Our midwife said the baby will be born at night when it is cooler - and she was right.  Here Becca is drinking some of the spring water we collected that was nice and cold in the fridge.


The Schloss was the only cool place on the campus.  We have a tradition of praying the rosary together during this time so we walked through the Schloss up and down the stairs and around till we finished.  Here Becca is having a contraction in the keller.


The midwives left around 7:30pm and then the contractions got stronger as the weather cooled down a bit.  Many prayers go up to Our Lady during birth as she knows what Becca is going through.


And at 11:37pm, on the 8th of the 8th month Octavian Maximilian Everest Biffert was born!

He came out of the water and began to cry immediately.



 What a precious little gem.  It brings tears of joy to your eyes to meet him and to fully receive this gift after 10 months.


 We had been saving a bottle of red wine especially for this occasion and so we celebrated with a glass toasting our new son.



 And then we had a surprise.  We knew that the placenta has what a woman needs to help bring their hormones back into balance.  We been offered to have our placenta dried and made into pills by our midwives with each of our home births. But our midwives went further and made a placenta smoothie right there and then for Becca and cut it up and began to dehydrate it in the oven.



 Octavian weighed 8lbs 2ounces and was 50 cm long.





 We are rich!


Octavian and his midwife Daniela.




The kids were sleeping over at a friends the Demeos home.  We finally got to bed around 4am after Tavi was nursing, the tub was drained, and all was documented and packed up.  I picked up the kids and had them brought over around 10am.  They were bubbling with excitement to see their new brother.








So why Octavian Maximilian Everest?  Where would we come up with a name like that?  We actually had some pretty funny responses to his name as it took people by surprise.  Here is the meanings behind his name:
Octavian: Eight.  We chose Octavian for a few reasons:
     - the eighth day in Theology is Sunday - the day we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord.
     - Octavian (Tavi) was the lead character and hero in this book series by Jim Butcher which both Becca and loved.  The lead character was a lover of all life and protected life at all costs.
     - born on the 8th day of the 8th month
     - Latin name and we are all being immersed in Latin this year
Maximilian: after St. Maximilian Kolbe. We visited his shrine in Auschwitz in the spring.  He gave his life for a father in the concentration camp.
Everest: all our kids have a middle initial 'E.'  Plus, maybe we'll do Everest some day together.

One thing I recently discovered is that Octavian is a Biblical name.  The Ceasar Augustus that we read about in the gospel of St. Luke that was governing at the time Jesus was born had the name Octavian before it was changed Augustus.  And he was one of most brilliant emperors that Rome ever had.

August Activities:

Swimming Lessons

We were able to get Tristan and Benedict swimming lessons at local outdoor pool.  They wouldn't do lessons for Winter's age so Winter and I watched what they taught and then did our own lesson in the pool.  The focus of the lesson - even for 3 year olds - was to learn the back crawl.  So Tristan and Winter can now do the back crawl and Benedict is getting closer.





Community Kids:

The town of Trumau offered free activities for the kids throughout the month.  One of them was a free bus ride to bread museum an hour away.  There the kids learned all about bread and made their own bread which you can see them holding.



 Nursing Miracle

We had quite a scare in the first few days.  Becca's milk hadn't come in after 4 days and Tavi was exhausted from sucking.  He lost over 10% of his body weight and was yellow, peeing crystals, and his skin was loose and droopy.  The midwife insisted on some formula.  We supplemented for a day and he was fed but no longer needed to vigorously suck to get the milk and thus the milk wasn't coming in.  So as a family we prayed all day and Becca worked 24 hours with Tavi to get the milk to come in without using formula.  God heard prayers and by the time the midwife came back to check on him he was a healthy little boy!  Deo Gratias!



Myra Falls

We took a trip with our friends the DeMeos to Myra Falls.  We went on the Feast Day of the Assumption of Mary which is a national holiday.  The place was packed!  But we still enjoyed it.  The legend behind the falls is that St. Nikolaus of Myra (yes the same St. Nick we celebrate at Christmas time) came through the area and used a small boat on the lake above the falls.  Hence the name Myra falls.

Winter, Anna, Johannes, Tristan (and his moss), Benedict




The falls are well developed with stairs going all the way up in typical Austrian style.


 Evie and Vincent DeMeo.


This is my favourite picture of Kate and I.  She loved the hike as much as the rest of us!

Visit from Canada

My cousin Trevor came up for 4 days to visit us.  We did the usual thing in the first couple days: visit Vienna, eat at a heuriger, have schnitzel and strudel, and go to Mass in a beautiful cathedral.


Here is Karlskirche.  One of the many baroque Catholic Churches in Vienna.  We were too late to go to Holy Mass here so we ended up at the St. Stephens Cathedral for Mass.


 We took a jaunt through the Laxenburg Schloss gardens as well.  We just had fun talking, pushing Kate around and taking numerous photos.










 Then Becca let us take off for 2 days.  We drove to Salzburg on the first day.  We both agreed this was one of the most beautiful cities we had ever seen.  There was so much to take in, so much beauty... no wonder it is called the princely city of Austria!


The old city is protected by a large mountainous wall (ridge/cliff) and you had to go through a tunnel to the old city.



Here you can see the fortress on top of the mountain as we just begin to enter the inner city.

Hohensalzburg Castle (GermanFestung Hohensalzburg, literally "High Salzburg Fortress") is a castle in the Austrian city of Salzburg, atop the Festungsberg mountain. Erected at the behest of the Prince-Archbishops of Salzburg with a length of 250 m (820 ft) and a width of 150 m (490 ft), it is one of the largest medieval castles in Europe. (wikipedia)





Here is Trevor as we walk up the path up the mountain to the Fortress. And below are numerous pictures of the fortress.




Construction of the fortress began in 1077.



Looking over the old city of Salzburg.

























A wishing window??







 Below the fortress there was a church with this beautiful graveyard around it.








Trevor and I walked around the old city at night.  It was beautiful.  We found stairs going up a small road lined with stations of the cross and took this picture from the top.




And we ended the evening with a nightcap at a street cafe outside a beautiful cathedral.


The next morning we awoke at our hostel and headed off to see Neuschwanstein Castle in Barvaria - about a 3 hour drive from Salzburg.  This was an exciting moment for both of us because this castle was on the list for both of us to see.  The castle was beautiful of course but the experience was a bit disappointing.


Our first view driving into Hohenschwangau - the town below the castle.


This is another castle that Ludwig II built called Hohenschwangau Castle.  We didn't have time to visit this one though we could've bought a ticket for a tour of both.





Here is a bit of background on the castle:

Ludwig is best known as an eccentric whose legacy is intertwined with the history of art and architecture. He commissioned the construction of two extravagant palaces and a castle, the most famous being Neuschwanstein, and was a devoted patron of the composer Richard Wagner. King Ludwig is generally well-liked and even revered by many Bavarians today, many of whom note the irony of his supposed madness and the fact that his legacy of architecture and art and the tourist income they generate help to make Bavaria the richest state in Germany. (Wikipedia)



The political reason for building: in 1866 Bavaria, allied with Austria, had lost a war against the expanding Prussia. Bavaria was forced to accept a "defensive and offensive alliance", which removed the king's right to dispose over his army in case of war. From 1866, therefore, Ludwig II was no longer a sovereign ruler. This limitation was the biggest misfortune of his life. In 1867 he began planning his own kingdom, in the form of his castles and palaces, where he could be a real king. (http://www.neuschwanstein.de/)



This is the grand gateway.
The foundation stone of the "New Castle" was laid on 5 September 1869. The Gateway Building was constructed first, and Ludwig IIlived here for a number of years. The topping-out ceremony for the Palas was not until 1880, and the king moved in in 1884. (http://www.neuschwanstein.de/)



Ludwig II was possessed by the idea of a holy kingdom by the Grace of God. In reality he was a constitutional monarch, a head of state with rights and duties and little freedom of action. For this reason he built a fantasy world around him in which – far removed from reality – he could feel he was a real king. From 1875 on he lived at night and slept during the day.  (http://www.neuschwanstein.de/)




As he increasingly withdrew from human contact and focused even more on his royal dignity, Ludwig II changed the building programme. The guest rooms were replaced in the plans by a "Moorish Hall" with a fountain, but this was never actually built. The "Writing Room" was changed from 1880 into a small grotto. The modest "Audience Room" became a huge Throne Room. This was no longer intended for giving audiences, but was built as a monument to kingship and a copy of the legendary Grail hall. A highly modern steel construction was necessary in order to incorporate this hall in the Palas, which was already standing. A "knights' bath" was to be installed in the west part of the Palas, reminiscent of the ritual bath of the knights of the Holy Grail. Today there is a flight of stairs here for use by visitors, which leads down to the exit. (http://www.neuschwanstein.de/)





Here is the view from the castle walls. You can see Hohenschwangau Castle on the right.



But here is the problem.  Neuschwanstein Castle gets 6000 visitors a day and helps to make Barvaria the richest province in Germany.  We waited over an hour to get a ticket for a tour and then we had to wait 3 hours to take a 1/2 hour tour.  Tours went every half hour with 66 people in each tour.  Meanwhile, the wait with 1000's of tourists was almost unbearable.  Finally, after two hours of waiting and fighting the crowds to get pictures we scalped our tickets, got our money back and headed home.



Here everyone is trying to get on the bridge to take the picture that is below.

\
The "ideal monarchical poetic solitude" which the king chose for himself was not in the long run compatible with his duties as a head of state. The new settings he was constantly devising for himself were equally beyond the private means of a king. Ludwig failed through his desire to anchor his illusions and dreams in reality.
From 1885 on foreign banks threatened to seize his property. The king's refusal to react rationally led the government to declare him insane and depose him in 1886 – a procedure not provided for in the Bavarian constitution. Ludwig II was interned in Berg Palace. The next day he died in mysterious circumstances in Lake Starnberg, together with the psychiatrist who had certified him as insane. (http://www.neuschwanstein.de/)


It was great to see the castle, but not a place I'd take the kids and I wouldn't go back.  It is disappointing that such beauty is exploited by Germany.  The whole experience could be mystical and enchanting if they capped the amount of tourists per day.  But instead it was a gong show.  Alas.  The effects of greed, eh?

Sermon from the Vineyard: Children Sanctify Us

I had a lot of time to reflect this summer and spent a lot of time with the kids in the afternoons as there was no other kids on campus to play with and Becca was usually exhausted from the intense heat or sleeping with Tavi.  No one would disagree that children are a lot of work and many times I just want that few hours (or days) to myself without having to meet a constant barrage of needs.  But, I think my perspective is wrong here.  Our call in life is to live a holy life.  Aristotle used the word 'virtuous'.  We cannot be happy or fulfilled if we are not living a holy and virtuous life.  Christ said it.  Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle all agree.  Having children is one of the ways we can become holy and thus live out our nature and be fulfilled.
Allow me to explain:  because children are not born independent they depend on us.  Thus, we parents must constantly be serving and teaching and training and discipling and planning and spending money in order for this to happen effectively.  If we submit ourselves to this role as parents and realize that there is no greater calling in life than to raise this child that has been gifted to us to the best of our abilities and in doing so let our own ambitions take 2nd place than we win.  If I as a parent decide that my own ambitions are more important and that I want to make more money and want a bigger truck and bigger holiday and a bigger motorhome and on and on and our kids begin to take 2nd place - everyone loses.  The kids lose and even more so, I lose.  I lose the infinite reward of becoming holy through serving my children and I lose my children to some less or greater extent.  I gain - a big truck that in a few years will be worth half the value I paid for it.
So when we received Octavian and spent the first 3 weeks exhausted from getting up at night I was reminded again that having a child is good for me.  It forces me to give of myself even more.  It forces me to serve and love unconditionally.  It forces me to be patient with the other kids when I'm exhausted.  And all this molds my character and makes me a better person and a better father.

There is a further aspect to consider in this discussion.  Men are naturally focused outward and women are naturally focused inward (I'm learning this in anthropology).  Generally it is the man that wants to know what is happening in politics around the world, where new territory can be explored, what new adventure can had, what damsel is in distress.  Generally, it is the woman that is concerned about what is happening in the home: the schooling, the dance lessons, the nutrition of the family, the dental appointments and so forth.  The tension with being a father is that by nature we want to be out challenging ourselves, expanding our careers, exploring and experiencing and when we have a son, that boy needs his father to raise him to be a man and when we have a daughter that daughter needs her father so she'll know how to have a healthy relationship with a man.  So as a father I have to curb my nature and curve it towards my children and be there.  Hence the tension.  Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose.
Children are a gift that is of infinite value.  That make us rich!  Serve them.  Love them.  Play with them.  Teach them.  Train them.  Raise them.  And what a joy it is to do so.  For when we as men commit to do this we fulfill a greater part of our nature that is built physically into our bodies and into souls: to father.  


Belated Father's day hike: Vorderkaiserfeldenhutte, 1388m

Every year my Father's day present is a backpacking trip with my kids.  One of my goals this year was to take my kids on a backpacking trip into the Alps and to hike up to a hutte and stay overnight.  We accomplished this goal at the end of August.  

We took the train to Innsbruck, Austria to spend the night in a youth hostel.  Actually, it wasn't that simple.  We had a guesthouse booked in Uderns, but we didn't know we needed to switch trains and ended up in Innsbruck.  This was a great blessing as the hostel was 60 euros less/night and we got to see Innsbruck.

We did the hike with the DeMeos - Vince, Anna and Johannes.  As well, Vince's brother Mike and his niece Colleen joined us.



Here are the kids in their cabin riding in style to Innsbruck.


Right above our hostel in Innsbruck was the Castle Ambras.  So that evening we went and checked out the beautiful gardens.



There were live peacocks running around and kids loved chasing them!



Sunday morning we took the bus to the old city to go to Holy Mass.


This is the Triumphpforte built 1765 to celebrate an Archduke's wedding.



Walking into the old city in a bit of rain to get to Mass at St. Jakob's Cathedral.


A beautiful Church but I don't know the name...


St. Jakob's Cathedral where we celebrated Sunday Mass.







The Golden Roof was built by Archduke Friedrich IV in the early 15th century as the residence of the Tirolean sovereigns. The Golden Roof actually is the three-story balcony on the central plaza at the heart of the Old Town. It was constructed for Emperor Maximilian I to serve as a royal box where he could sit in state and enjoy tournaments in the square below. (wikipedia)


Here are a few photos of the old city of Innsbruck.


Winter in front of the monument to St. Anne mother of Mary.


After Holy Mass in Innsbruck we headed by train to Kufstein where we took the bus to our trailhead and began the long trek to the top of the mountain.


The hike was 5km long and honestly - unrelenting.  It went up and up and up with very little level spaces.


Benedict found this hole to hide in.




Here we past a quaint farm and see Kufstein in the distance.


This is the kids trying to prove to me they are too exhausted to carry on.  Ha!  When you think you are finished, you are only halfway there!

We broke out of the forest and stopped to listen to the bells of the cows in the mountain meadows.

Finally we reached the second guesthouse on our route.  This was a sign for us that we were getting close to the end! 





At this guesthouse there was a little chapel where someone was buried.  It was a good place to stop and pray for those faithful departed that may be in purgatory.  






Our look back at the guesthouse as we approach the hutte that we are to spend the night at.  What a fantastic view!!!

Well, we made it to the top.  All the kids walked the whole way on their own including Benedict.  Our reward was a chocolate bar at the top.  I was so proud of my kids.  What great hikers they are!




Vince was also very proud of Johannes and Anna!


The hutte had 99 beds and they were packed.  Most of the beds were in this loft and were just mats packed side by side by side.

And then we sat down in a cozy room and had an ice cold beer and goulash.  Wonderful way to end a day!  


An Austrian night cap: rum and tea.

Here are couple views of Vorderkaiserfeldenhutte at 1388m.






And the next day we started down the mountain again.  Next time I think we need to stay for a couple nights and do a bit more hiking and exploring!





Here a couple videos showing the area and allowing you to hear the bells of the cows as we hike.  Sorry, I can't get blogger to run them with sound for some reason so you'll have to click and view them on youtube.







Now this picture is honest to God exhaustion.  Johannes and Tristan collapsed on this ledge and we took a long break before continuing down the mountain.


Tristan grabbing a drink at local spring.

Needs and Prayer Requests

- that Becca's blood pressure stays low - we are struggling to find a mix of medications that will keep it low.  We have an appointment with a heart specialist in Vienna in Oct.
- for a solution to travel here in Austria as we no longer have a van
- for the money to pay my tuition in Sept. either through donations or work.  I was able to make a bit of money on campus this summer (about $1300) so this added to my donations from home comes close to covering this semester's tuition.  I still need about $1300 to cover this fall term and then another $4500 for my tuition in winter semester.
- Winter: there is something wrong with her foot and it has been causing her pain for about 6 months and we are struggling to get in to see a specialist for her.
- Winter as she is one of the only girls from the campus not going to the local school and she is still on the uphill climb of learning German.  

We hope you have a blessed fall and that you get out to enjoy all the leaves soon to be falling!
Pax Vobiscum,

Love, Kenton, Rebecca, Winter, Tristan, Benedict, Kate and Octavian

Mailing Address:
Schloss Trumau
Schlossgasse 21
2521 Trumau, Austria

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