A current student at the ITI shares some of his reflections on fatherhood here at the ITI. See the Fourth Pillar in action! From his blog post on Sunday, September 28, 2014:
HOW TO DAD
Note: I’m by no means saying I have the corner on fathering, but I do do my best and here is some things that have worked in our family. I’d love to hear your additions!
HOW TO DAD #1: QUANTITY TIME
We took a ferry across the Hallstatt Lake into the townsite.
The following are a few photos as we crossed the lake: (below is the house I plan to buy some day)
Our plan was to do a hike into Hallstatt, but the train didn’t stop where we thought it would so we found our youth hostel and took a bus to the train station we wanted to get off at and then hiked back into Hallstatt.
These next two photos are of how they deal with the waterfall coming off the mountain into their village.
The hostel was closed and it took a bit to work out some details. In the meantime we enjoyed the quaint town. Here are a few pictures while we waited for the bus to get us to the trailhead.
The trail we wanted to hike was called the Soleleitungsweg trail. It was created in the early 1600’s to carry a pipeline made from 13,000 tree trunks. Through this pipeline was funnelled brine as it was the easiest way to transport salt from the mines above Hallstatt. Brilliant.
The hike was 7km long carved literally into the side of the mountain. Often we had to duck so as to not smack on head on the stone above us.
This 7km hike was the easiest part of our trip. My kids are becoming better hikers and basically ran this entire hike without blinking an eye. Mind you, there wasn’t a ton of uphill as the old pipeline stayed quite level once hit the right elevation.
By the time we got back to the hostel it was pouring on us and we were soaked and ready for some pizza and beer (and cocoa)!
Here are the shots coming into Hallstatt as we walk down the mountain via hundreds of stairs into this ancient town.
And, as always, we always finish our hike with a chocolate bar!
HOW TO DAD #2: PRAYER TIME
Here is the view from our hostel window.
and one from the other window.
We walked to the Catholic Church on the hillside to pray our morning prayers together.
The view of the lake from where we were.
After praying the rosary together in the Church we prayed for ancestors in purgatory in the Ossuary. The town had run out of space to bury the dead so they received permission to dig up those already decomposed in order to have room to bury the newly deceased.
It was good to be reminded of our own mortality. Death isn’t something to fear, but something to prepare for.
A font to fill up with spring water.
HOW TO DAD #3: NATURE TIME
One thing that Becca and I decided when we first had Winter was that we wanted our kids to be outdoors so much that they felt at home in the mountains. So we’ve made a concerted effort to not have any video games, to have no television, to limit movies to once/week, and to get outside doing things and learning outdoor skills. Why? Because nature can form our character, it is beautiful, and there is no distractions pulling us apart.
It is now the next day and we were ready to begin our hike up to the hutte. We were in the Dachstein mountain range and and had the goal to reach a hutte at 2203m. This would be the kids first hike over 2000m. The hike was a strenuous 6.5 hours for an adult from Hallstatt. This would equate to 11 hours for us – so we needed a different plan. We took the gondola up the mountain as high as we could get and that knocked 4 hours off the posted time.
Here is a picture of the valley we were hiking through. We were high enough that there were very little trees and lots of shrubs.
At a certain point in the hike, the path began to climb out of the valley and we had to climb up (sometimes with ropes) and scale many rocks.
We thought we were getting close and then we looked to the left and there was our hutte at the top of the mountain. It seemed so far away and we were cold and wet and tired …
It was a great feeling to leave the tree line and enter into a land of rock and stone and cliff.
Below is the famous Dachstein Glacier. Many folks stay at this hutte and hike the glacier with crampons.
Tristan, Johannes and Dr. DeMeo hiked faster and beat us to the Simony Hutte. So they were waiting there for us to cheer us on as we finally made it to the top! You can see Dr. DeMeo cheering for us in the doorway.
And then, all cozy and warm, with hot cocoa ordered, we ate our tradition. It is great to be with my kids!
HOW TO DAD #4: KNOWING THEIR LIMITS
Here is the highest chapel in Austria where we prayed in the blasting wind before we started our day. It was Sunday morning and we had planned to make it back to Hallstatt for Holy Mass. Now we realized this was an impossibility and so we did a liturgy of the Word and a spiritual communion here at the chapel in the freezing cold.
Here we are catching a moment of peace out of the wind before continuing down the cliff side.
Below you can see the Simony Haus at the very top. It was an accomplishment to make it to the bottom safely!
We entered the valley again with 2 hours of hiking (at least) to go and already we were wringing freezing water out of their winter gloves. Benedict was the first to breakdown, than Winter, and then my mighty leader Tristan. What was fascinating was that they had to realize that breaking down and crying wasn’t helping at all. As we stood there we only got colder and more wet. We had to keep moving. All three of them gritted their teeth, bore the suffering and continued forward and I told a story to keep their mind off of the cold.
And then the snow stopped. Just that couple degrees was enough to lift all of our spirits. We made it to the gondola lift thankful, tired and wet. And my kids learned what it meant to persevere. What a great way to learn virtue!
HOW TO DAD #5: CELEBRATING TIME
Here was the present Margi left for Benedict by the front door:
One of our traditions to celebrate birthdays is that the kids get to choose the type of cake they want. Benedict wanted a honey cake with blue icing and a ‘B’ with cars. Well, Becca made him just what he asked for!
One thing we’ve loved about ITI is that no one really has a lot of money. Thus gifts at birthday parties are always crafts and cards made from friends. It is fascinating to see how meaningful these become to the kids. It is good to live simply.
And of course we end the day with birthday bumps!
HOW TO DAD #6: BUILDING FAMILY MEMORIES
Good water has a reading of 100 or less of dissolved hard minerals. Our water in Trumau has a reading of over 330ppm. This water at Talhof has a reading of 30ppm!
Talhof is a little retreat center run by a priest. Many people come here for pilgrimages and for rest. No one lives all year round.
HOW TO DAD #7: BE THE ROLE MODEL
Of course, Mothers are examples and role models as well. On the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, ITI always does a 26km pilgrimage to Heiligenkreuz – the 1300 yr old monastery with a piece of the actual cross of Christ. This year Becca took the oldest two to walk and pray their pilgrimage.
Here Becca is just coming into to Heiligenkreuz just in time for Holy Mass. She walked from 7:30 to 3pm over mud and hills and rocks and fields.
And we made sure we stayed at the end for a chance to venerate and kiss the piece of the cross that held our Lord.
HOW TO DAD #8: BUILD VIRTUE
Kate begins her virtue training: perseverance. This is the first hike where Katie walked the whole way by herself. I was pretty proud of her!
We arrive at the castle ruins! There is no one there. We have the castle to ourselves. And we don’t have to pay to get in! This rocked!
As is our tradition, we celebrated this (short) hike with a chocolate bar and Kate received her very first hiking chocolate bar! I guess she’s part of the team now, eh?
This place was magical. And to think we could stay here the night and have the castle to ourselves … the kids literally ran up and down and around the castle for 4 hours straight playing whatever make believe games they were playing. It was awesome.
And, the Austrian government even refurbished the old style castle toilet! With a good 40ft drop for your ‘job’ to travel.
The tower was still intact so we made our way to the top. The picture below is looking at the castle from the base of the tower.
Here is the view of the valley that this watch tower and the one across the valley used to protect. If only I could travel back 600 years …
Margi and Winter watching a squirrel in a tree.
Here is Alex Harb, one of our kids favourite babysitters!
HOW TO DAD #9: CAMP WITH YOUR KIDS
The night time rain clouds were gone and beautiful fog seemed through the whole valley.
Breakfast around the fire and Kate happily eating Alex’s granola mix!
Kate and her best friend Margi!
And we came home closer together and with a daddy completely exhausted. I figured the kids might be tired, but rather they returned to campus and ran around till bed time. Crazy crazy amounts of energy…