Friday, 29 August 2014

The joy of Grandparents

The Joy of Grandparents

This summer we had the privilege of having both sets of Grandparents come and spend time with our children. For 6 weeks straight we had a taste of what it would have been like in the old days to have the Grandparents living with the family (vs. being shipped off into old age facilities or moving south to Arizona). In these 6 weeks we realized the profound difference it makes having them around affirming our discipline and adding some of their own. Our children grew in manners, politeness, learning to converse with adults, musical skills, will power, patience and in their relationships.  It was a blessing to have them here with us in Austria this summer.

This blog is our journey with them through the summer months in Austria.

Grandma and Grandpa Biffert (with cousin Jordyn) visit first:

Grandma and Grandpa came and we easily fell into a routine. We were looking forward to their coming, not only for their company, but also knowing how much of help they would be with our 5 kids. Both of my parents are very organized and clean and both helped a ton keeping the house in order and giving Becca and I a bit of break from the daily grind. This was a huge blessing. 

Tour of Heiligenkreuz

They came last year, so we tried to do different things. One thing we didn't get to do last year was to tour the Heiligenkreuz monastery. Pater Edmund showed us around. It was informative, poetic, beautiful and inspiring.

Here Pater Edmund is showing us the inner closed garden.

In this santuary they say Mass for the dead.

A fountain symbolizing many aspects of the monastic life (above) and the sacristy (below).

 Trip to the Rose Gardens in Baden

Baden has beautiful gardens in which to walk through so one can stop and smell the roses. This was one area of Baden we hadn't been to last year.

Here are chairs one can paddle out to just to relax.

Celebrating Grandma's Birthday! 

Visiting Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna

We enjoyed a nice, hot day at Schonbrunn. We were hoping to swim in the pool on the grounds. We got there and found out it would've cost us around $75 to go swimming as a family - we opted for ice cream instead.

Urlaub im Baurenhof

The highlight of our visit with them was to be a vacation at a farm in Salzburgerland near a town called Radstadt. We rented two cars from Bratislava, Slovakia. It took us a few hours to get there via public transportation, but we saved 300 euros by not renting them from Vienna. So that was well worth it. Further it was cheaper to rent two 5 seater cars than a 10 seater by about 700 euros! Crazy! So off we headed for our 3 drive into the Alps south of Salzburg.

We arrived and drove up and up and up this mountain side till we were situated at a farm nestled high up in the mountain overlooking the valley. It was breath taking and when fog rolled in we were high enough that the fog was below us!

Here (above) is the view from our deck and (below) is the place we rented. One room even had a sauna!

We purchased the Salzburgerland cards that allowed us free entry into just about everything and headed up a ski lift to the top of a mountain.

They had a wooden theme park at the top and here the kids played and climbed.  Below, Kate is popping out of the fox hole.

This Baurenhof was incredible! It was set up for families very well. They literally thought of everything when it came to families with kids. There were rows of rubber boots for when the kids helped feed the animals, there were child carries, diaper trash cans, night lights, potty training toilet seats, walls of games and lego for rainy days, bikes, go karts, pony rides, camp fires, hay lofts, trampoline, playground, swimming pool, animals, and on and on and on. It was so fantastic, the adults could sit and relax all morning as the kids entertained themselves around the farm. Now that is wonderful!

At 5pm, the kids would go watch them milk the cows and help to feed them.

It was a special privilege to have Winter's best friend and cousin Jordyn come and visit us. They haven't seen each other for two years and spent much time laughing and giggling.

Tractor rides were also a daily event.

Jordyn and Kate on the tractor (above).

And the kids loved the go-karts! The weather was a bit cool in the mountains. Thanks to Susan and Alan, our kids were equipped some great Canadian shirts from MEC! (see below) Thanks Susan and Alan!!!

At night we had a fire, cooked bread, drank schnaps and listened to our hosts play Austrian folk music.

Day Trip to Salzburg:

With the Salzburgerland card we were able to go to Salzburg and get free entry into the attractions for 24 hours. We didn't make it to a lot of attractions, but we made it the fortress and this was key. 
We even got the tram trip to the top for free (though I personally thought it would've been more authentic to walk up ... ).

Having lunch (below) atop the Fortress HohenSalzburg. This fortress was never taken by force and only once surrendered.

A view of the bell tower and the courtyard.

And... I convinced all to walk down rather than taking the tram. A much more authentic experience as you can imagine the people making the long trek up to the fortress for safety in times of war.

After the fortress we went to the St. Peter Catacombs where Christians were buried that were killed during an invasion. It dates back to 700AD.

Above, you can see the fortress and behind the rock wall to the right is the Catacombs.

Street performers in Salzburg right by where we were having dinner.  Very nice.

We stopped for dinner and it began to rain. Here Kate is dancing in the rain and drinking the rain.

That night, the hosts serenaded their guests before bed with some Austrian music.

Here are a few more pictures of us back at the farm.


Liechtensteinklamm was a short hike of about 45 min. through a fantastic gorge. The pictures hardly do it justice. 

Walking through the tunnels was a great way to experience the gorge.

End of the hike photos:

The sea serpent Benedict found.


We also went up another mountain, on a rather cold day, and there at the top, amidst the ski runs and chalets, was a theme part about ghosts and the magical world.

There were various stations with stickers to put on a dial at each station. Below is the air spirit activity.

This dragon to climb on was part of the land creatures area.

Here is a slide I've never seen the likes of. Tristan walked Kate (above) to this slide over and over and over again because it was fun.  Look carefully at that first twist!

Celebrating Everyone's Birthday

Grandma and Grandpa didn't like the idea of sending birthday gifts and not being there when the kids opened them. So they brought a gift for each and we celebrated everyone.

Which included a candle for everyone to blow out.

Jordyn and Winter and their birthday Dirdles (above) and Jordyn floating down the canal (below).

Grandma floats down the river!

Making a swing out of the willow tree branches.

Nana Kathy and Papa Lapp come to visit

We had less than a 24 hour turnaround after my parents left and Becca's parents arrived. Being professional musicians, they, with much vigour, spent every morning teaching a music camp for the kids. Winter, Tristan, and Benedict really came to know their grandparents through piano, violin, theory and voice lessons. What a blessing it was to have this music camp! Their desire to play, their confidence, their skill and their discipline all increased and set us up for a great fall semester.

Birthday Celebrations Again

As we did with my parents, the Lapps also wanted to celebrate the kids birthdays. It was actually Tristan's birthday proper so he was the main focus. My son turns 7 years old!

 The birthday bumps for Tristan.

New Bibles for all the kids from their Grandparents.

Small trips with Papa and Nana: 

One of our favourite places to take people is a small town called Laxenburg where the Kings had a summer home with beautiful gardens to explore.

and fantastic trees to climb!

Papa Lapp and his daughter and grand-daughter.

We took an afternoon and did some shopping in Baden. Women's role: to shop. Men's role: to keep them from buying!

 A photo of the river running through Baden.

Tav and I waited and played in the marketplace while the ladies shopped.

We also took the train to Wiener Neustadt to play in the great park, see the animals and have some Turkish Kebabs.

Here Tavi is telling me about the goats he sees.

Papa Lapp brought his Tuba with him to Austria and played it everyday in the field in front of the campus. Our neighbours were sad when he left for they said their kids slept well during his tuba practicing.

Celebrating Papa and Nana with cake and icecream!

Nana and Papa had a list of must do's in Austria: to have wienerschnitzel, torte, see a concert in Vienna, visit Salzburg and to spoil their daughter. They did all of this with gusto. They took Becca along and they enjoyed torte in Vienna ...

... sightseeing in Salzburg...
(this is the tram heading up to the fortress)

... going to museums and concert halls...

... and they did all of it - including going to a therme bad to relax for the entire day and then babysitting so we could do the same.

The kids loved learning music with their grandparents. This was Benedict's first go with music. The violin was a bit big for him and he loved piano. Here are a photos from their music recital.

Winter and Tristan received a certificate for completing a level of music theory.

And then we say good-bye. Our 7 weeks of non-stop grandparents love, affection, discipline and support had to come to an end. We spent our last night taking a few photos and having a final last meal together.

Sermon from the Vineyard:

It was a great time and treasure to have our grandparents with us. It reminds me of what family life was meant to be like: generations living together and supporting eachother.  Families would live together, and support one another and die together. And this was a rich of way of living. This is why the Popes in times past have spoken out against the 'welfare state'. For the more folks begin to depend on the state, the less they depend on each other and the family becomes less cohesive and as a result - society is less stable.

I remember a time when I was tutoring out in the country for a family. On their land they had the house proper, then a house for the son and his family and a house for Great Grandma. There were often meals together, they would work together and pray together and celebrate together for the common good of the whole family. Nowadays our families are separated and individual cells that strive to be independent of each other.

 So one may rightly ask "Why Biffert, are you in Austria and not living by your parents if you believe so much in a grandparents influence in your children?" The question is one we've asked ourselves. If we could have our ideal - the obvious for us would be to have land where we could live and support each other and work together for the common of us all. Maybe some day this will pan out.  The flip side of this is that Jesus said, "Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:26) In other words, Christ wants us to love nothing more than Him. All else is secondary - even our own lives. And by losing our lives for Him, we find why we were created, fulfillment, peace and rest for our restlessness. So, we the Biffert family, did this. We left our friends, family and country and followed His call for us to be here in Austria for a short time. And with that decision we are at rest and watch in joy as our family grows closer together, closer to His Holy Catholic Church, and closer to Himself.

Final Guests:

I have a friend from many years ago from Holland named Ernie. We have much history together and are both a little off of our rocker. It was a blessing, a joy, and a lot of catching up to see my friend and his family (Marilyn, Joey, and Sarah) again after 15 years.

Summer Reads:

Boys Scouts Handbook - Original 1911 edition
Young Man's Guide by Fr. Lachance
Before they are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie
The Decline of Male by Lionel Tiger

Prayer Requests and Thank-you:

1. Thank you to those who have donated some funds to us to help pay for tuition and our family mission to Romania. We are so so so thankful! Please continue to pray that the funds will still continue to come in and more job opportunities will open up.
2.  We have been taking Winter to see doctors for a while regarding a swollen area on the bottom of her foot that has been effecting her physical activity. After many referrals it turns out she has a tumour of some sort that has grown into the muscle of her foot (and thus can't be just cut out). Her case has been given to a group of specialists in Vienna that specialize in these types of issues. Please pray for wisdom and the right course of action.
3. We have requested to the Austrian state to be exempted from the mandatory system and to allow us to homeschool as we are not staying here in Austria and are leaving June 2016. We haven't heard back from them. Please pray for favour and a miracle in this area.
4. Thank you to Alan and Susan for your belated Christmas present. We put the Smartwool socks to great use and were singing your praises as we hiked in rain and snow with the kids and their feet were still warm!

We would love to hear from you!
Love, Kenton, Rebecca, Winter, Tristan, Benedict, Kate, and Tavi   
Mailing Address: Schloss Trumau Schlossgasse 21 2521 Trumau, Austria

 If you would like to financially support us - the easiest way is probably by paypal.  Our email is Or online via the ITI website (though the website is in transition right now): - in the space titled 'notes' just write that the money is for the Biffert family. Or just drop off the donation at St. Mary's Church in Red Deer and they will get it to my father.

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