Thursday, September 18, 2014

On the Mold-A-Rama Map! (Well, Almost)

Korinthian Violins is now the proud owner of our very own Mold-A-Rama machine!
Although, technically, that's not quite true because Mold-A-Rama is a trademarked term used by the Mold-A-Rama company which operates machines in the Midwest.  Machines not leased and maintained by that particular company tend to go under the name "Mold-A-Matic" (which is how most of the machines we saw on our Florida trip were labeled), but they are all vintage machines from the early 1960s.  They are hard-working antiques that still delight many.  They certainly delight us!

Our machine was salvaged from the group of neglected and damaged Mold-A-Matics that we encountered at the Knoxville Zoo.  I essentially said in my blog post about our Knoxville visit that this seemed to be where Mold-A-Ramas went to die.  If you'd asked me when I started blogging what I might achieve through this medium, getting the Mold-A-Rama machines replaced at the Knoxville Zoo would not have ever come to mind.  And yet, when people who care about these machines saw my post, wheels were set in motion to remedy the situation, and as a result I was offered the opportunity to buy one of the neglected machines "as is" at a steep discount.

How could I say no?

Well, any reasonable person could say no.  My husband could have easily said no.  But the poor man is married to me and OH MY GOD WE COULD HAVE OUR VERY OWN MOLD-A-RAMA MACHINE AND I WANT IT SO SO SO MUCH!!!! and he loves me and here we are and we have zero advertising budget now for the store from here until forever but I don't care.  We only have to sell about, I don't know, 2000 plastic figures to break even on the thing, but that could happen, right?  Sure.

In the meantime this is so cool.  We get to be on the Mold-A-Rama map!  Or the Mold-A-Matic map.  Or whatever. 

The grand plan is to eventually get a custom mold made of a violin so people can actually make their own little plastic violin at the violin store.  Won't that be amazing?  I still have to finish sculpting the little figure so I can cast it in plaster and send it to someone to make the new mold, and that could take some time (seeing as I have real life-sized violins here that need attention).

But for now our machine will offer a mold of a Corythosaurus.  It was the closest sounding thing to a Korinthian Violin I could find, plus dinosaurs are fun, and Aden assures me that the Corythosaurus counts as a musical dinosaur because the crest on its head was a sort of resonating chamber.
First attempt, kind of goofy
Mona proudly holding our first in-store Mold-A-Rama!
It would be fun to have the machine set up in an easily accessible place, but our store is just not big enough.  As much as Mold-A-Ramas are fun, the violin store needs to be a violin store, and it just doesn't fit.  If we had a lobby, or a front hall waiting area....  But we don't.

So we rented garage space behind the store where the machine can live (and even be plugged in when we want to warm it up before use), and we will wheel it out to the front sidewalk on nice days and have special "Mold-A-Matic Saturdays!" every once in a while.  I can't wait.

Unfortunately we will have to wait just a little longer because "as is" meant kind of a wreck.  The machine when it arrived off the truck was dirty.  Like, not oh let's dust it off dirty, but caked in mud dirty.  And the sides were off and there are cracks, and there was a hole cut in the front panel for taking dollar bills but that mechanism was removed so we can only take coins, so I ended up filling the space with Bondo.  There has been much scrubbing and scraping and painting.
Machine arrives on a big truck in mid-August
In the garage, still wrapped up

Our custom sign waiting to be installed
Quinn scraping paint
View from the back.
Mona sanding Bondo on the front panel
Ian has had the complicated job of tracking all the wiring and figuring out how it all works.  The crazy thing is pneumatic, hydraulic, it refrigerates, and it heats.  We've learned that the plastic that goes into it is clear!  The color is added in a pot right underneath where the figure is formed, so now we know that the light blue panther we got at the Milwaukee Zoo when we first started our collection was just a diluted version of the dark blue panther we got a year later when they must have refilled the color pot.  It's interesting to learn how things work!

Anyway, it's cleaner now, it's painted, and we can make it go for a little while before it pops the breaker in the garage.  (We should have better luck when it's plugged in out front.)  Currently the dinosaurs it makes are all weird and have holes in them, so we need to solve that issue before we wheel it out for people to use.  (That, or declare it a special feature.)  Also the coin return currently drops the coins inside the machine, so we need to install some kind of slide or funnel that directs the coins out the coin return toward, you know, people who want their money back.

We're aiming for sometime before Halloween to have it all ready to place out front on a nice fall day just to add a little fun to the street.  The violin store has been really busy lately with actual violin work, so there hasn't been much time to spend out in the garage poking at our new machine.  But as the rental season rush dies down we're hoping to get back out there and make it ready for the public!

Want to start your own Mold-A-Rama collection?  It's fun.  Ours has taken us to interesting places and introduced us to some lovely people.  Someday soon you can even start at our violin store!  Then move on to the Milwaukee Zoo, the Brookfield Zoo, the Willis Tower, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Field Museum, the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Henry Ford Museum....  The machines even work in Knoxville now.  So many wonderful places to visit as part of a Mold-A-Rama adventure!

And just because we were insane enough to go from simply starting a little collection of plastic figures to owning a machine to make our own in the span of a year, doesn't mean anyone else is likely to develop such an obsession.  But who knows? 

I just don't want to die having been practical all the time.  Buying this machine was absurd.  But my kids will always be able to say that they had the kind of parents who fixed up a Mold-A-Rama machine simply because it sounded fun.  Why not?  (Our own machine!!!!  Ha!)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Size 14 Forever

I went out last night to buy new pants because nothing fits right now.  It's a good problem to have when your weight is going the direction you want, and not so when it's going a direction you don't.  But sizes are a mess anymore.

I started this summer at a size 18.  When those pants got loose I used a belt for a while, and managed to bypass needing anything in a 16.  When I got to 14 I was happy because my favorite pair of jeans in my closet is a size 14.  It's a pair of Calvin Kleins I got on sale at some point during my weighty journey either up or down several years ago.  They would probably get classified as "mom jeans" by someone because they actually come up over my hips to my waist, where, frankly, they should be.  That whole mid-rise trend is not fair to those of us whose torsos are just a battlefield of stretchmarks.

Anyway, my weight has been up and down enough times that I've had several occasions to break out those size 14 jeans.  Now they are loose again and I had to buy a pair of 12s.  The 10s I have still gathering dust in the closet from the last time I was smaller will have to wait until I've lost another ten to fifteen pounds.

But here's the thing:  Another ten or fifteen pounds from now I will be the weight I was when I got married in 1997.  And back then I was a size 14.  I also remember shopping for pants in high school in the 80s.  And I was a size 14.  There is a forty pound difference between where I am now and where I was in high school.  That is insane.

Which makes me wonder why I'm going to all the trouble of swimming a mile every day and being disciplined about what I eat because apparently if I just wait long enough I will be a size 10 again without even trying.  Or maybe the pendulum will swing the other way and I will be back to being a size 14.  (Either way, nothing short of a sari has ever fit me that my brother has brought me back from India because there sizes are a whole other thing and my 5'10" frame is off all the charts.)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Reasons to Look Up

I don't want to think about 9/11/2001 today.  I'm stunned at how little it takes all these years later to be reduced to tears again, the briefest of stories on the radio bringing it all back.  I don't want to think about all that can't be brought back.

So instead I will tell you of the kite festival we were surprised by, yet prepared for.

On Sunday I had the whole day off and my husband was out of town for Army work.  The weather was beautiful, and I chose to leave the house a mess and told the kids we should grab our kites and head to the lake and I would buy them ice cream for lunch.  They agreed this was a good plan, and off we went.

Quinn and his kite
As we drove over the bridge toward the museum the kids started exclaiming about all the kites.  Apparently we weren't the only ones to have this idea.  In fact, there was an entire kite festival happening on the lakefront that we got to join in.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

No Gradual Adjustments Here

Normally as school approaches we get the kids back into some kind of bedtime routine.  Enacting bedtime forces other parts of our routine in line as well and gets us back into a more precise schedule.  That seems reasonable.  Apparently this year we were going for the unreasonable.

During summer vacation we have very few rules.  We don't tell the kids when to go to bed or get up, we get, um, flexible about mealtimes.  When I'm home and feeling ambitious I might remind them to practice violin or piano, but I'm of the belief that real unencumbered free time is valuable.  Left to their own devices my kids never get bored.  They do interesting projects and come up with interesting games, and I know how important freedom is to the creative process.  To have a big swath of unscheduled time to use as a blank canvas is a gift.  (One I wish I got for myself more often.)

So summers around here are loose when they can be.  It's nice to be able to do things for as long as you want and not care about the clock.  At the cottage the kids routinely went to bed well after we did.  Occasionally we'd bug them to be quieter, but we didn't actually want them to stop whatever odd thing it was they had laid out with foam swords and pillows and fake jewels.  There was lots of laughing involved in whatever that was, and I can't ask for more for my kids than a summer filled with laughter.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

What I'm Eating

Or, I guess, what I'm not eating, which is sugar, dairy, and wheat.  Although, honestly, I focus on what I'm happy about eating and not things I'm avoiding.

Back at the beginning of the summer when I wrote about how I needed to get serious about my weight but wasn't sure anymore what to do, I made a decision to just do something and stick with it and see what happens.  And so far so good, actually.  I've been losing about a pound a week and I'm feeling better.  Do I miss things?  Sure.  But I figure the choice is between having those things and not feeling healthier, or feeling healthier and not having those things.  I've done it one way for a while, now I'm doing it the other.  I don't get to have it all so I'm not going to worry about what I'm missing.  I'll always be missing something.

So why am I cutting out those things?  Because it's easier for me in general to just cut out certain categories of food so I don't have to think too hard or struggle with anything.  When you flat out make some things off limits you kind of stop seeing them.  I did the paleo thing for a bit a while back, and the concept behind it is bunk, but it did work.  It taught me to read labels and focus on simple foods and avoid processed items, so going back to some form of that seemed like a good idea.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Goodbye to Harold

My Uncle Harold died almost two weeks ago.

It was a loss to our family, but also to the world which was better for having Harold in it.  My uncle was kind and funny and smart.  He loved his family.  He loved good grammar.  He loved to read and play golf and take pictures of people (and pets) he cared about.  I don't know anyone who ever met Harold who didn't like him.

I'm glad my children and I were able to make it down to Florida in time for the funeral.  I'm even gladder we were able to get there six months ago and spend some time with Harold while he was still with us, because visiting the dead is about respect, but visiting the living is about love.

I've encountered differing opinions on whether or not children should attend funerals.  I think as with nearly everything it depends on the circumstances and the people involved.  In our case, I don't want to shield my children from the realities of loss because it's part of learning to appreciate what we have.  When we attended my grandmother's memorial a few years ago the younger kids played together in a separate room, but my oldest (who was nearly 9) chose to sit with me and cry along with the adults.  She remembers it, and knows it was meaningful.

When the news came that my uncle's health was failing rapidly we discussed as a family what we should plan to do.  My father (Harold's younger brother) is not capable of that kind of travel at this time, and my brothers were geographically scattered too far to even have a chance of getting to a funeral on short notice, so we felt we needed to be there to represent our family.  The original thought was that I would fly out with maybe one child, and Ian would stay home with the dog and the remaining kids.  That seemed the most workable thing to do.  Of course in the spirit of, "The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men, / Gang aft agley," we got the call of Harold's passing when Ian was out of state with the Army, and I scrambled off with all the kids in tow.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Travels and Tribulations

My Uncle Harold died on Wednesday.

I'm not quite ready to write about that, but feel I need to write something, so I'm going to dive back into my neglected blog to describe just the logistics of everything we experienced last week.

My uncle was 90, and he'd chosen to go off dialysis, so we knew the end was near we just didn't know when.  He knew.  He apparently predicted Wednesday, and had time to talk to my dad (his younger brother) and others on the phone who couldn't get to Florida to say goodbye.

We got the call about his passing on Wednesday afternoon, right as I was preparing to take the kids to their violin lessons.  Ian was out of state for Army work.

My dad's side of the family is Jewish, and in Jewish tradition funerals happen within 24 hours of a death.  Wisconsin is a long way from Florida (as we discovered firsthand back in February).  But our household was the only one even remotely available at that moment to go there to represent my dad, so I was determined to make that happen.  There had to be a way to get us down to Florida for a service the next day at 1:00.

Thankfully my brother, Arno, frequent flyer that he is living in New York and working in Seattle, offered to go online and find us tickets and a hotel.  I don't think we could have done this all without his help because we only had a couple of hours to get to the airport, and I had lots of arrangements to make at my end (making sure someone could cover the store, figuring out what to do with the dog, moving appointments and swim lessons...) in addition to packing and helping the kids find any clothes appropriate for a funeral.  (I didn't realize just how many tie-dye shirts my kids owned until we tried to find anything in their closets that looked serious and actually fit.)

I'd made crepes for breakfast in the morning, and had a stack of them set aside for a baked chicken-mushroom-crepe dish for dinner, and I just shoved those into a ziplock bag for snacks.  I'm glad I did, because all plans for eating in airports wound up being dashed, and aside from the paltry treats offered on the planes that was all the kids got to eat until we arrived at our hotel.

This is the point where I am going to say I have the best kids in the world.