Tag Archives: family history

Odds and ends and a burrito’s cloth diapers….

I want to squeeze in this post about cloth diapers before it gets lost in the burrito shuffle.  Right now the burrito and his mum are both asleep, but due to wake soon.  Dinner is simmering, a chickpea/curry/veg dish that was supposed to be for the slow cooker, but I didn’t wake this morning until eight, and still had to cook the soaking-overnight chickpeas, and….

And life with a burrito baby gets complicated; there are detours, even with a burrito as pleasantly natured as this one.  Last night we hung out for a bit, while mum caught up on some sleep.  Usually I’m an early riser, but that was my old, pre-nana existence.  I’m finding my abuela feet these days, sometimes referring to myself as nana.  No idea which name will stick; I’ll leave it to the burrito to choose which he likes best.

But in the meantime….  We’ve inaugurated cloth diapers because this burrito detests a wet bottom, and even though he’s still under eight pounds, I grew weary of using disposables, then tossing them right into the can.  We have an assortment of pocket diapers, from Bum Genius, Fuzzibunz, and Rumparooz to Sun Baby, Imagine, Nicki’s, and a few covers that came from a friend.  Basically, there is a plethora from which to choose, and while a good number are VERY large on the burrito, none of them stay on his bum long enough to leak.

Dad has a tale for that great-grandchild....

Dad has a tale for that great-grandchild….

I feel no guilt in changing him, then smooshing that wet or messy (or both) pocket diaper down into the pail, along with the cloth wipe.  And he doesn’t seem to care either way.

The reason I’m writing this post is because so many cloth diapering posts I have read over the last few months have been full of mums who waited until their burritos were eight-plus pounds to start using cloth diapers.  We all realized, right away mind you, that the burrito prefers a dry bottom; rare are the times he’ll sit with a soggy butt.  That is a fortunate detail in our cloth diapering experience, for even with the bulkiest diaper, he hasn’t leaked through.  The Bum Genius, Rumparooz, and a cover-style with snap-in inserts called Gro-Baby fit best, or are the smallest pockets.  But even those are still large, however, it matters not.  The burrito uses the diaper, hollers, then another is placed upon his delicate bum.

Great-grandma gets into thte burrito cuddling action....

Great-grandma gets into thte burrito cuddling action….

Now, we did NOT use a pocket diaper when we took the burrito to visit his great-grandparents, in part that the lumberjack-styled onesie wouldn’t have fit over his otherwise huge cloth diapered behind.  My dad was pleased as punch to meet this baby, telling stories as if his pain was gone.  It wasn’t; Dad nearly went to the hospital the night before our visit.  However his aches had lifted by morning, and our arrival in the early afternoon was eagerly welcomed.  Mom cuddled with that baby too, gifting him with a St. Paddy’s Day onesie.  The burrito needs to wear it, before he gets any bigger!

Aged hands but never too old to caress a loved one.

Aged hands but never too old to caress a loved one.

Babies get bigger every day, but I’m glad that my daughter was ready to give the pocket diapers a go.  If you have a little one with very sensitive skin, but worry they are too small for pockets or covers to fit, give them a try.  The worst that will happen is one change of clothes.  The best is that disposables will start to fade into the background.  And you can always sing this mantra, made up by yours truly only this morning.  I don’t charge a dime for copyright, and the tune is all up to you.

Small man, small problems, big butt.  ‘Nuff said….

A Somewhat New World Order

On the cusp of every major change is this quiet lull, where all the emerging forces are stealthily simmering right under the surface.  This past weekend, my husband and I spent time with my dad, and our daughter.  A changing table was the last big piece of the nursery puzzle to be sorted, and we managed to tick that task from the checklist mid-Sunday afternoon.

Photos courtesy of my husband….

All my daughter has to do is pick up some storage bins in which to place the pocket diapers, cloth diapers and covers.  We have Snappi’s with which to affix cloth diapers, but she also wanted good old-fashioned diaper pins, which made me smile.  Personally, I think those Snappi’s are pretty sweet, but as long as the diaper stays put, who cares in which manner it is accomplished?  Now we wait for that baby to decide when he wants his birthday.  As each day passes, I think, “Well, it’s not going to be this day.”

Pocket diapers currently reside in the basket, but will soon be in their new home.

Pocket diapers currently reside in the basket, but will soon be in their new home.

Over the last eight and a half months, my youngest has undergone a transformation like no other she will ever endure, at least for the first time.  Ironically, my father has trod a similar path, and the parallels make for good conversation, when we all descend upon Dad for a visit.  Both he and my daughter are nauseous and tired, also weary of their situations.  My daughter’s confinement is nearly at an end, and while sleepless nights will continue, soon enough she’ll be feeling somewhat like her previous self, albeit permanently altered.  The same can’t be said for Dad, which none of us mentions, but that sentiment floats about, as if we could catch it in a bottle and seal it away forever.

I'm reading from The Runaway Bunny, which is one of my favourite children's stories.  My daughter noted it was the first book her offspring was hearing.

I’m reading from The Runaway Bunny, which is one of my favourite children’s stories. My daughter noted it was the first book her offspring was hearing.

But that isn’t how life works; people are born, then they die.  We can’t look back at Dad’s tenure with chemo and say, “Well, that was a total waste of time and effort.”  We have no idea what his PSA would have done sans Taxotere, nor can we judge how that drug now affects his overall health.  We can strongly speculate, but maybe Dad would have had this deterioration regardless.  I feel helpless, so does he.  But he remains fairly chipper, for feeling so crappy.  He’s taking morphine now, and that helps a little.  He doesn’t feel like he’s going to die soon, what he told my daughter, while my husband and I were out checking the charger on Dad’s boat motor.  She mentioned that in the car, after we left, and I wondered if my father felt it was easier to say that to his granddaughter, rather than to me.

All these new and exciting parts of life, and my grandson has yet to arrive!

Perhaps all these observations can’t be helped, the writer in me being so introspective.  I’ve put The Hawk away for….  Well, for who knows how long, but I did reach a good stopping place, at page 504.  This novel can be broken up into one-hundred page chunks, and last Thursday I inadvertently completed a chapter that neatly ended at yet another of those one-hundred page hunks.  With a second grand-baby due in May, I can’t rightly conjure as to when any writing will again commence, but I have come to relative terms with this novel; it’s not going to be finished anytime soon.  By summer both of my pregnant daughters will no longer be pregnant, but this abuela/author has plenty to keep her busy.

More quilts and comforters than our summer-like January temps require, but every baby needs lots of beautiful blankets.

More quilts and comforters than our summer-like January temps require, but every baby needs lots of beautiful blankets.

And that’s a part of this new world order as well; the changing of the guard.  Or guards; no longer is my life a swirl of noveling feats.  No longer is my dad living with cancer as a side note; his quarterly Lupron shots are like footprints washed away by the rising tide.  My youngest can still see her feet, but has a hard time recalling life before pregnancy.  And truly, all those lives we once lived are gone.  Each day brings a new challenge, and new gifts.  This time last year, I was busy with The Hawk, thinking I could complete it by the end of 2014.  My dad was starting chemotherapy, and both of my daughters were simply themselves, no freeloaders attached.  But nothing remains static.  And while some of these alterations aren’t ideal in outward appearance, they are blessings, a few in odd disguises.

That’s the saving grace in all this, embracing that which looks unembraceable.  Okay, so unembraceable isn’t a word, but that’s the key.  I hate seeing my father so ill, nothing about that seems correct.  But as I gladly anticipate the coming grandchildren, equally I have to accept my dad’s condition.  It’s not easy, nor do I always do it with aplomb.  Yet, griping about this or that is useless, and negativity detracts from the joys.  Sometimes going to my parents’ house is like living in the present and the past simultaneously.  They have two televisions, side by side.  Mom’s is set to westerns, Gunsmoke, Cheyenne, and the like.  Dad’s shows either sports or Law and Order.  While I’m there, I listen to Dad, my eyes noting a black and white screen or vibrant colour, as if I’m straddling two worlds.  Then I’ll gaze at my father, and I see my paternal grandmother, right before we left for Great Britain.  She was dying of lung cancer, her voice raspy and weak.  My dad is starting to sound that way, although much of that is chemo-related.

This is the way life evolves, sometimes so slowly we find ourselves wondering how it was ever any other way.  Sometimes it’s a flash of blinding light, and once we can see again, nothing is as we remembered, sort of like Saul on the road to Damascus.  I guess I’m trying to note these changes, that definitely is the writer in me.  I want to say I remember this very moment, or those over the past weekend, where my youngest was bemoaning still being pregnant to her languishing grandfather, who laughed along with her.

I want to remember this, to tell my grandson and granddaughter.  These are the moments early in our new world order they will only realize via stories.  But this is their history, and it is important.  For all that is lost along the way, I wish to pass along what matters.

Sewing Machine Love Part Three


I grew up surrounded by many elderly relatives, hearing stories of the old days.  Their lives were reflected those tales; Lawrence Welk on TV, highballs in the evening, my uncle listening to baseball on his red plastic radio (turned up loudly for he was very hard of hearing).  However, none of the women sewed.  But if they had, I’m sure a 1947 Singer would have been their choice of machine.

The shot is a bit crooked; I was trying to capture the still working light bulb.

The shot is a bit crooked; I was trying to capture the still working light bulb.

Singer machines weren’t manufactured during the war; the company made weapons.  Once back in production, machines weren’t available until 1947, which is where my husband’s family comes into the story.  His dad’s mom and her sister ordered a machine, but had to wait until well past the end of the war to receive it.  It came encased in a table, with a stool that served as a small supply cabinet by removing the top of the seat.  That stool is also in use today; my husband keeps his jeans on top of it.

Father's aunt and mother

The sisters in 1944; my FIL’s mother is on the right.

Learning the machine’s history brought me back to my older relatives; did they sew, and if so (ha ha), who was the seamstress?  I don’t recall that ever being discussed, but one or more of them must have been handy with a machine.  In my husband’s family, it was his grandmother and great-aunt who used that Singer, passing it down to my mother-in-law, who found it very handy well into the 1990s.  And now, in 2014, that Singer, coming on seventy years of age, will once again hum with delight.

Yet, so much is unknown; who used it more, what did they make, besides clothes?  What was it like, after so many years of waiting through the war, to receive that splendor of technology?  We find it antiquated, what with only one straight stitch, but Singer didn’t introduce the zigzag until 1952.  My mom remembers her mother with a similar machine, and she never used any other.  Sometimes she would bring something to Mom, if it needed a zigzag.  Otherwise she was completely happy with her old but reliable Singer, which is a concept mostly foreign to people today.  Devices are used, then replaced, without second thought.  But just a few decades back, when an item was purchased, it was expected to last.

Okay, maybe more than a few decades.  Interestingly, when I researched sewing machines, Singer had very poor reviews.  Other companies are now the standard bearers.  But in the 1940s, a Singer was the ultimate in sewing style and sturdiness.  I wish I knew what machine my husband’s relatives used while the war raged, but those women are long dead.  However, a machine they coveted, and finally received, is waiting to be put to good use.  In my recent sewing frenzy, again I haven’t called about getting it serviced.  After Easter, I tell myself.  And when my husband finds an appropriate replacement table for our printer.

Fat Quarters quilt-top completed yesterday.

Fat Quarters quilt-top completed yesterday.

In the meantime, I have my Magnolia, which is proving its worth.  Yesterday I finished the Fat Quarters quilt-top (the Quilt on the Wall design), and today I’ll piece together the backing for it.  Depending on how long that takes, I may pull out some 1/4″ loft batting, and cut a piece for my 53″ X 65″ top.  I like Pellon batting, by the yard; I have four yards of 1/4″ loft and another five yards of 1/16″ loft stuffed into the closet here in the sewing grotto.  But my need for a machine is purely for entertainment; I’ve gotten along just fine all these years without one.  In 1947, two women were overjoyed to finally own the latest technological marvel.  And sixty-seven years later, that machine is still purring like it was brand new.

Sewing Machine Love Part Two

Sewing machines were a distinct part of my childhood, but I didn’t like them very much.  Not sure why, other than they were things I didn’t understand, and fear of something tends to breed a certain loathing, easier to dislike what can’t be comprehended than to actually face one’s trepidation.  But as I said in the last post, one quilting blogger stressed fearlessness when it came to confronting a sewing machine.  So, somewhat fearless I have become.

Now, in regard to my mother-in-law’s machine, fear had nothing to do with me not wanting to use it.  For one reason, it was employed as a table for our printer, and wasn’t readily extricated.  Two, I wanted a modern machine, basic but functional.  Who knew if that old machine even worked?

And three?  Well, here is where vanity comes into it; I wanted my own machine.  Or maybe that stemmed from the aged machines of my childhood, which confounded me and kept me from embracing sewing right off the bat.  Whatever the combination of reasons, my husband was happy to oblige, an early birthday present easy for him to sort.  (I have reminded him that roses of some kind would be a lovely addition to the celebratory mood, when my birthday actually arrives…)  However, seeing the Magnolia on my desk day in and out gave him pause, and finally his curiosity won out.  And, I’ll admit, I wondered what lurked under the laser printer, just two feet away from where I was starting to sew up a storm…

Our PC/Janome space is a small one, what used to pass as the dining room in our 1950s era home.  First the printer had to be hefted into the living room, then the sewing machine and its accompanying table hoisted from the corner.  Thankfully my hubby is a strong guy, and nothing (and no one) was injured in the process.  We’ve had this table since the mid-1990s, but to be perfectly honest, neither of us had ever lifted the top of it to peer inside.  All my husband knew was that it was older than he was, which would out-date my mom’s 1969 White.  Other than that, a mystery waited.

Now I think back to that afternoon, ten days ago; since then I have finished the scrappy quilt, made a small wall hanging quilt for my sister’s stepson, and started my fat quarter quilt that has been lingering on my quilt wall for ages.  But on the second of April, I was still sewing scrappy rows, uncertain of how quilting that ensuing project would go on the Magnolia.  Within minutes my vista was broadened, for as soon as my husband pulled out the machine, plugged it in and found it still worked, I had quilt plans galore!

I couldn’t wait to machine quilt on this 1947 Singer sewing machine.

A moment needs to be taken to start to appreciate this treasure.  It has been set aside, first in proper storage during our England years, then used as a printer table for the last seven.  This machine hasn’t been used in over two decades, and the last thing my mother-in-law made on it was probably a baby blanket for my youngest daughter.  Oma doesn’t remember, and of course we have no idea what that final project was, but that’s a fairly firm guess.  The machine still had a bobbin in it, of rust-coloured thread, and as my husband poked at it, we found the light even functioned!  The only bug seemed to be the missing knee pedal, although the motor could be engaged by pressing in the lower right corner of the table, where the knee pedal should have been.  Both my husband and I vaguely recall that piece floating around, of course, we’re not sure where or when.  That level of detail was ethereal, as we ooh’ed and ahh’ed over the heirloom taking up most of the space in our work area.

Now, to fully realize the gist of this find, I have to note that not only were we ignorant of the value of this machine, but of the story behind it.  Was it his mum’s, or did it belong to his dad’s mom and her sister?  We would learn the answers to those questions in due time, but another popped into our heads; could someone local service it, could we resurrect it to its previous single straight stitch glory?  I regret to say that I’ve been too busy to yet make calls to sewing places here in Silicon Valley, and due to space constraints, we have put the Singer back into its corner, and replaced the printer atop it.  But a beating heart throbs from under the weight of that modern printer, calling to me to restore the Singer to its former glory.  And then to set fabric under a (new) needle, a fully loaded bobbin yearning to release thread into the lower piecing of a future quilt.

The Magnolia looks on as the Singer gets all the love.

The Magnolia looks on as the Singer gets all the love.

All things in good time, which include the rest of this tale.  Who initially owned this 1947 Singer, which was the first year the company produced machines after the end of World War II?  More on that in the conclusion of this series…