Dear Friends and Family, December 2016
May the Prince of Peace and His Mother, the Queen of Peace, reign in our hearts during this joyful season of Christmas! Please know that you are in our thoughts and prayers as our family celebrates this most Holy of times.
We are all well. As I reflect over the year, what comes to my mind is how quickly Greg and I went from being parents of a large and busy family, to being grandparents of an even more quickly multiplying pile of busy grandbabies. For a while, I had been considering the transition to a quickly emptying nest, pondering all the wonderful things I could put my mind to once I was not homeschooling, having no idea just how life would make that decision for me. I had also pondered with sadness that Aidan would be left at home with no siblings to keep him company, not realizing that he would soon become the beloved Uncle Aidan, surrounded by his little neice and three nephews. It seemed like not very long ago I was packing up Aidan's toys and now they once again have found their place in our living room; when they are strewn about, we know that the babies have been over.
This year brought two wonderful additions into our family, Michael Kolbe Dequine, born on April 15th., and Declan Jacob Becher born on June 6th. As the time approached for Elizabeth to give birth, Dusty informed us that he would take three weeks off from his work as a design engineer for Apple, (he loves his job!), and that I could come and visit when he returned to work. When I heard the news of Michael's successful homebirth, I could hardly restrain myself from jumping into my car and driving the 5 hours north to Los Gatos to meet our new grandson. Well, after Dusty spent the first 24 hours of Michael's life doing all the postpartum duties, Elizabeth called and asked if I could come up. The joy of a new baby is overflowing and beckons to be shared, not to mention the endless household needs with a first newborn child. In no time I was packed up and drove with exhuberance to meet adorable Michael. He is a lovely baby, very peaceful and calm and engaged, blue eyes and golden hair, and extremely well dressed--- he is his mommy's baby! He is tall like Dusty, and big for his age, and I do not know how petite Elizabeth carries him, but as Michael grows, so does Elizabeth's strength. We have been blessed by quite a few visits from Elizabeth and Dusty since Michael's birth, and Elizabeth was delighted to discover that she could take a train back and forth from San Jose to Santa Barbara, nearly door to door.
Just seven weeks after Michael's birth, Deirdre gave birth at home to Declan in a very quick and smooth delivery. After having had a rather traumatic birth with Siobhan, I am truly grateful that Deirdre had a beautiful experience with Declan. We are so blessed to have Deirdre and Max living locally, and we came over as soon as the midwife gave the OK. My summer was spent helping Deirdre nearly every morning with the transition to two children. Max's evergrowing farming endeavors keep him very busy, and I was grateful that Declan was born at the beginning of summer, when I would not be so busy with Aidan's school needs. Declan is also an adorable baby; all you have to do is look at him and his face lights up with a huge, joyful smile. At six months he is crawling and sitting and trying to pull himself up, and adores Siobhan. Greg and I have had the pleasure of joining Deirdre and Max on their farm every Monday morning, where Greg helps with the farmwork and I sit on a “porch” swing hung from an umbrous oak, and hold Declan and snuggle Siobhan next to me, and read our favorite stories, while gently propelling the swing with my leg. Siobhan is a beautiful nearly 4 year old, loves her books, and notices if I leave out so much as a word from a story. She recently chided me for leaving out one line of a flower fairy poem. I am very impressed with just how perceptive she is! I had a funny experience last Monday, when we were joined by Patrick and Sarah and their 20 month old Matthias at the farm. We settled ourselves onto the “porch” swing; I had Declan on my lap, Matthias snuggled next to me, and Siobhan was happily sitting next to Matthias. I began to read and suddenly Matthias climbed on my lap, completely disregarding baby Declan. I quickly called to Patrick to take Declan and just kept on reading. Siobhan, completely disregarding Matthias, proceeded to climb on my lap. I tried to rationally explain to Siobhan that Matthias, the younger of the two, should stay where he was, and she should just snuggle next to me. She burst into tears. Matthias, not liking the noise, got down and began to play with his trucks, and then Siobhan followed him, the tears immediately ceasing. I did not get much reading done that morning, but I took all three grandbabies to look at and feed the horses nearby. Siobhan later told her mom that we needed two grannies!
Aidan is 16 and a sophomore at St. Augustine's. Greg continues to drive Aidan to school each day, and on the way, they attend early Mass together at the Mission. My concerns of Aidan being lonely have long been assuaged. Notwithstanding his role as Uncle Aidan, his brothers, Sean and Patrick, are very involved in his life. Sean is immersing Aidan in his fiddle wizardry, and on Monday afternoons I am filled with delight listening to the boys play together. Sean has also taught Aidan some guitar and during the lesson, they switch off between both instruments. Aidan spent the summer working on our good friend's organic farm and before school commenced, he and Sean and Aidan's friend, Ian, and their surfboards, travelled to Costa Rica where they had their dream vacation visiting Nana who runs a bed and breakfast a few blocks from the beach. Nana took great care of them! Sean and Aidan also attended fiddle camp together. Sean continues to teach violin, plays in several bands, and toured with a band for a month in Scotland, his trip culminating in World Youth Day in Poland. He reads theology and literature voraciously and is so full of knowledge and passion for his Catholic faith. Patrick and Aidan both love boats, surfing, and the ocean, and as soon as both are available, Aidan plans either a surfing or boating expedition with Patrick. Patrick was mostly away from May through mid-November since his hotshot crew worked nearly non-stop during the very active fire season. Sarah and Matthias heroically endured Patrick's absence, and we tried to help as much as we could. Blond haired , blue eyed Mattthias does not want Patrick out of his sight! He loves anything with wheels, and chain saws, having seen Patrick use a chain saw, and also kisses Holy cards of Jesus and Mary.( Grannie finds him absolutely adorable!) Recently, Patrick and Sarah bought a Zodiac boat and Patrick and Aidan took it out to Anacapa Island where they snorkled and spearfished. Aidan continues to sail and plays violin in the Santa Barbara Youth Symphony. He ran cross country with his school and had a very successful first season, placing third in the state in his private school division.
Maire is a sophomore at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in New Hampshire, and is very happy there. She texted me last week that she was very sad to be having her last Latin class with her wonderful teacher. In September, she did a 3 day, 72 mile walking pilgrimage with her school to the Shrine of the North American Martyrs in Upper State New York. She said it was the hardest thing she ever did and she loved it! In January, she has the awesome good fortune of returning to Rome where she will spend the semester with her class. It was while we were in Rome a year and half ago that she submitted her Thomas More College application; their Rome program was a big lure. Maire spent her summer working very hard in a local farm cafe here in Ojai and the owners love her. They tried to get her to choose a career with them instead of returning to college! After Rome, she will spend a month travelling with her college friends to Ireland, England, and Scotland.
For both Greg and me, life is very full. Greg continues to work long hours in his private counseling practice and as a counselor at Thomas Aquinas College, leaving precious little time for gardening and household projects. I am busier than ever running the household and helping with the grand babies! I still try to steal a little time to keep my garden growing, to improve my piano playing, and to attend my weekly reading group with my dear friends. We are frequently hosting big family meals for the numerous birthdays, anniversaries, feasts, and with all the babies, the meals are quite a feat! Sean commented recently that our home feels more like a nursery when all are here. After years of trying to add a date night to our lives, we have finally succeeded! Aidan's youth symphony is Sunday evenings, and Greg and I have committed that time to each other. We are discovering all the wonderful restaurants in Santa Barbara, while enjoying the peace and beauty of Southern California coastal evenings . I love traveling and have expressed to Greg my interest in walking pilgrimages. My dream is to walk from Canterbury to Rome! He had the brilliant idea of beginning our pilgrimage walks right here close to home, from Mission to Mission. So far we have walked over 100 miles, having walked from the Ventura Mission to the Santa Barbara Mission, from the Santa Ynez Mission back to Santa Barbara, and La Purissima in Lompoc back to Santa Ynez. These walks have taken us over mountains, along the ocean, through vineyards and farms, through the doors of mercy... We use this time to pray for our families and friends to delight in all the beauty, to have some peace and quiet together, and offer up the pain we experience for our loved ones.
We look forward to 2017, especially eager for the birth of grandbaby #5, Patrick and Sarah's second child, due in March. We have agreed to a rare Celtic Spring show at the Redlands Bowl in August, and will soon start practicing for that. Who knows what other surprises the New Year will yield?
May God bless you abundantly and grant you a very happy New Year! Merry Christmas!
Mary and Greg, Elizabeth, Deirdre, Sean, Patrick, Maire, and Aidan, and all the family