It’s been a while since my last blog post – to be expected I guess…too busy living life to stop and write about it. But we are halfway through the year, and I want to catch you up on what’s been happening in our lives. Let’s go!
COVID hits home
In January, Meghan came down with COVID. It was the first time since the pandemic began that anyone in the house had gotten it. Thankfully the symptoms were very minor, but she was contagious and tested positive for two weeks. The rest of us in the house were vaccinated, but Meghan quarantined herself in the bedroom for the entire time, only coming out (masked) for necessities. During that time I handled Riley on my own and have since developed a new found respect for single parents, I’m not sure how they do it day in and day out every day – I can’t imagine. By the end of the two weeks I was exhausted and drained – I really needed a break. Thankfully Meghan made a full recovery and nobody else in the house ever got sick with COVID – still haven’t to this day.
January 2023 seemed to be the month we wanted to educate ourselves a bit more and planned several museum trips. Early in the month I had some vacation time I had to burn, and took Riley to Impression 5. We had been there a few times before, but she was a bit older now and could better enjoy what they had to offer. She’s a huge fan of bubbles, so it’s no surprise that the bubble station was her favorite spot.
Towards the middle of the month, we went to the Michigan History Museum in Lansing. If you haven’t been, I highly recommend it. It’s got a lot of interesting stuff to see, along with a giant library. Here Riley and I are posing with wagon wheels.
At the end of the month, we planned a trip with my parents and nephew (Brody), to visit The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn. I love that place – so much to see and learn about – not to mention that have an old school diner right inside that serves up some tasty food. I didn’t get many pictures of this trip, I tried to be present and take it all in with my eyes and through Riley’s, but I did manage to snap a few. In this case though, Meghan took the one below.
Shortly after getting her Magna Tiles set several years ago, Riley found out that the two platforms with wheels on them could be used as “roller skates” in the basement. The basement is carpeted, so they don’t roll all that well, but nonetheless she enjoys doing it. Wanting to see how she would like real rollerskating, we took a trip to the local rink. I hadn’t roller skated since before I was a teen (though I had roller bladed in my teens), so I thought I was in for some time on my butt. To my surprise, that didn’t happen at all. Riley seemed to love it and would definitely try it again.
March Birthdays galore!
March is a busy month for birthdays in this house. On March 4th we celebrated Brody’s 14th birthday. I still can’t believe he’s 14 – time has gone way too fast. Unfortunately with COVID and how careful we were being until we were all vaccinated, we missed out on several of his birthdays. It’s time that we’ll never be able to get back. When I think about it it makes me sad and I feel like we lost some of the closeness we had – hopefully one day we can get that back.
The following weekend, we celebrated Meghan’s birthday. I had setup a surprise getaway for the night to Grand Rapids to have dinner and see a comedy show (at The B.O.B.) while my parents stayed with Riley. Here we are at the restaurant – Meghan trying to figure out what she wants for dinner, and then us devouring our meat and cheese plate appetizer.
It was a good evening out and a nice break from parental duties.
At the end of the month we celebrated Riley’s 4th birthday. Despite being 4, this would be the first birthday that any family could attend – prior to that we were dealing with the pandemic and waiting on vaccinations for her. Just as with Brody, every year that passes by seems like it goes way too fast. Fortunately with Riley, we both work from home. When she’s not in school (which is most of the time until kindergarten), we see her most every waking hour. That’s a lot, and can get very tiresome throughout the day when she wants to play non-stop and we have to work, but it has let us watch her grow from a baby to a toddler – we haven’t missed any of the major milestones. With the house decorated (we decorated upstairs AND downstairs), it was time to celebrate.
As with the last several birthdays, my mom made Riley’s cake this year. Riley went through several options but ultimately settled on Winnie the Pooh, and my mom delivered on a fantastic cake. (Thanks mom!)
In addition to cake, we also had a lunch planned. Prior to the party, Riley and Meghan made toilet paper roll people – one for each person that was coming to her party – to show where they were going to sit at the table. I thought they turned out fantastic – I really dig mine.
Riley had a great birthday and got lots of things she wanted. I was glad that family was able to join us for this birthday, and perhaps more family can attend next year.
Time to build an ark
In April we got rain…a lot of it. There was one straight week where it did nothing but rain. The ground became so saturated that our yard (and the neighbors) flooded. There were parts of the lawn that had standing water that I’d never seen hold water before – that’s how much rain we got. Here’s a look at the side/back yard – I have the corrugated pipe running as a downspout extension to try and get the water as far away from the house as possible. Thankfully we’ve never had an issue with water in the basement, but boy did our sump pump run a lot that month.
Speaking of the sump pump…
The installation of the sump pump, or rather the drain pipe from the house, while buried in the ground, actually dumped water out above ground into a small hole filled with just a little bit of stone. This was a professional installation that was hired done by the previous homeowner, and while everything worked as intended, I was not happy with the standing water at the end of the dump pipe – especially when the sump pump runs often during the rainy season. Time to fix that! I dug a three foot deep hole, and slightly more around, and lined it with weed guard and filled it in with gravel to create a dry well. Rather than dump the water into the yard, the water would not drain into this underground dry well, with the hopes of never seeing standing water there again – unless of course we get another monsoon. So far, so good, dry well is working well and no standing water.
This year we got Riley into sports – she was interested in playing soccer, and we were interested in socializing her some more, so we signed her up! It was fun and quite interesting watching a bunch of 4 year olds run around a field chasing a ball. There were a few kids on the team who had certainly been groomed to play, I think their fathers had played soccer, while the majority of the kids had no clue what they were doing at all – that was the best part. In the end, everyone had fun, and I think Riley is interested in continuing sports in the future.
Last of the home improvements?
One of the outstanding things with the house that needed an overhaul was the driveway. When I purchased the house, the first half of the driveway from the road was mostly a two track path – some gravel, mostly grass. The rest of the driveway up to the garage was paved with concrete. The problem – the concrete was original to the house which meant it was pock marked all over the place, cracked like there was no tomorrow, and certain sections were either heaving up or sinking down. One improvement we made a few years ago was to add gravel to the end of the driveway to level it out and fill in the grassy area. This year we decided to pull the trigger and redo the entire thing. We attended a home show earlier in the year, going specifically to find a concrete contractor. In the end, there was exactly ONE at the show, and we ultimately went with them. In mid-May, the contractor was ready to go, so they started to tear up the old driveway.
Here is the driveway and sidewalk all torn up, ready for the pour.
Here is the contractor doing the pour.
And here is the final result, after I did a TON of back filling (contractor didn’t do that for whatever reason) and planting new grass along the sides.
I am happy to report that the tape in this picture is now gone, and the grass has finally grown in quite well. Overall, I’m glad we finally did this project, it makes the house look so much better.
In addition to a new driveway in May, we also took a vacation to the west side of the state to Holland. Rather than camping, we rented an AirBNB which wasn’t too far from downtown Holland. It was nice to get away and we certainly had fun.
While in Holland, we took one day to go to Saugatuck. None of us had ever been there, but I certainly would love to go back. In fact, I could see myself retire there – I think I’d just have to get a boat. The downtown area was very nice to walk around, lots to see and do, and it seemed to have a very slow pace. We managed to grab lunch outdoors right along the street.
At the end of May we went to one of Brody’s baseball games. He’s been playing for a number of years now, and he’s come a long ways skill-wise. In the game we saw, his team ended up winning by so much that they called the game early over the mercy rule.
Whittling down the toy store
For those who don’t know, I have had a rather large toy collection for years now. It’s not just any random toy collection, I collected Transformers specifically. I didn’t start “collecting” until my late teens as the internet was starting to boom and it became easier to buy things online. In addition to the Transformer toys I had as a kid that I never got rid of, I amassed quite a collection of figures than spanned multiple Transformer toy lines across many years. I actually became somewhat of an “internet celebrity” at one point, being one of the first (if not the first) to talk about and review Transformer toys on my YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/matrixprime) . Unfortunately I started gaining subscribers before monetization was a big thing, and quit putting out content on any sort of regular basis by the time I was eligible – “content creation” becomes too time intensive and costly (especially when I was buying the toys, not being given them by sponsors). In the end though, the back catalog of videos I had ended up paying off my motorcycle with the revenue I earned. My top video has over 2 million views as of writing this.
So my collection….it has been sitting in Rubbermaid bins for years at this point. They had been at my parents house in their basement for the longest time, but over the years I’ve been getting them into our house. I have a few figures out on display in our house, but 99% of them are in bins. So, I finally made the decision to start whittling the collection down. I tried selling some on eBay, and while I was able to get rid of a few that way, eBay is too costly. Between all the fees from selling, and then the requirement to use PayPal (which they own), which has even more fees, you don’t end up with what you expect. So I found a local place in Old Town here in Lansing that deals with and sells pop culture (toys, movies, comics, etc). Unfortunately this means accepting less money than I would if I were selling them outright, since the store is looking to make a profit, but it’s been a very easy and smooth process. I’ve gotten rid of quite a few figures, and despite that, still have many more to go. I’m not selling all of them – I’m huge on 80’s pop culture, and Transformers were my childhood, but I’m glad I’ve begun the process of parting ways with things I don’t need to help reduce clutter in my life. Here are some random Optimus Prime toys of mine just for fun.
In June, I was dead set on doing a 5K run. I hadn’t trained for it, and in fact I hadn’t run in quite some time, but it sounded like a fun idea. I was going to do a 5K run down in Jackson, but then found one MUCH closer in Grand Ledge that was actually taking place the same day. I’ve been told by several doctors not to run, I actually suffer from Degenerative Disc Disease in L4-L5 and L5-S1, but you only live once so what the hell. Besides, I’m not running regularly and my back was experiencing no pain, so what’s a 5K here and there? As I rounded the corner to the finish line, I was thinking how nice it would have been to have Meghan and Riley there cheering me on (they had gone to a local coffee shop while I was running). No sooner did I come around the corner and there they were; Riley with her hand out waiting to give me a high-five.
In the end, I was 69th overall with a time of 28:03, which I didn’t think was bad at all having done zero training for this as I mentioned. I was also apparently photographed professionally as I came to the finish line as you can see in this picture – I took it from the 5K website itself.
4th of July
Over the 4th of July weekend, we stayed in our trailer at my parents house – camping out in the yard in our own makeshift campground. With the backyard bar, we were in for some fun for the weekend.
While there, we roped my mom into joining us for the newest escape room at epIQescapes, coincidentally themed around camping. We ran out of time before escaping, but we all really enjoyed the room. If the monitor in the room had been working correctly the entire time, I think we could have escaped, unfortunately it wasn’t. Oh well.
We celebrated NOT escaping by a trip to The Parlour of Jackson. If you’ve never been, you’re missing out.
We capped off the weekend with a bunch of fireworks I brought with us. This was Riley’s first introduction to sparklers – I think she enjoyed all the colors.
And now you’re caught up…
And that’s where we are so far in 2023. There is lots more to come for the year, including our annual up north trip, Riley starting her second year of pre-school, holiday, birthdays and more. Stay tuned!