Opinion // On happiness

Are you happy?

Think about it. When was the last time you looked at your life and thought,

“Damn it, things are pretty fucking good!”

Be Happy
*Background image courtesy of NASA

Yes perhaps I worry about money more than I need to (I can’t help it, my husband berates me for it all the time) and yes there are unexpected bills that make me think, “C’mon, really?” But on the whole? Things are pretty awesome!

I have two beautiful and healthy children, a great job, a loving husband, amazing friends and family. I have a roof over my head, I have enough money for luxuries (even if not as much as I would like), I can pay my bills. I have a pension plan, I have medical aid and my health is good. My family doesn’t have to go without the things we want very often. Of course we make certain sacrifices, but who doesn’t?

This isn’t a post designed to tell you how awesome my life is and make you feel shit about yours – it’s to tell you to find the good things in your life to be grateful for. We tend to get sucked into the day to day grind – paying the bills, working hard, maybe socialising a little on the weekends – and forget to step back and look at all the things in our lives that we should be grateful for.

If all you ever do is complain, how will you ever be able to step back and see all the good things that are in your life?

There is nothing worse for your health (says me the non-health professional but you know what I mean) than constant negativity. I’m not an ardent advocate of things like The Secret, so I’m not going to tell you that you attract what you put out there, however I do think that constant negativity ends up a drain on your health as well as on the people around you. There’s nothing wrong with venting a little after a long and horrible day, but if all you ever do is complain, how will you ever be able to step back and see all the good things that are in your life?

You hate your job?

You know it’s not going anywhere and no matter how hard you work you’re not going to get a promotion or a pay increase or even a thank you for everything you do? Why are you still there? Stop complaining about it and look for another one. Sure you might have to stick it out for a little longer while you find something else but there is very little worse than being stuck in a job you hate. Would you rather earn more and be unhappy? That’s a decision you need to think about very carefully.

I love my job – I really do – but this hasn’t always been the case. I’ve been in the situation where every day I wake up and think “Ah shit, I have to go to work.” I’m not saying we don’t all have those days, even in the best jobs that happens, but when you wake up and feel that way every morning? Something needs to change, and the only way that’s going to happen is if you do something about it.

My point is – if you’re unhappy make changes

You don’t like your weight?

Firstly unless it’s actually causing you chronic health issues, then it’s probably not as bad as you think it is. I’ve had two children, my body has changed a lot in the last five years! I wish I had appreciated how skinny I was before I had children, but I didn’t. Instead I was still a little insecure, I still wanted to lose just a little more weight. I’ve had it good after two kids I won’t deny this – I didn’t get stretch marks, I lost most of the weight relatively quickly after giving birth – but that doesn’t stop me from being unhappy with my weight and my post-baby body. I am fully aware that this is my own issue, not anyone else’s – I have been told repeatedly how good I look after two children, but there’s always that little voice in my head that tells me otherwise.

The reality is that we could all afford to be a little healthier. It’s not always possible or realistic to say to a working mother “go to gym”. Even going for a run is something that I struggle to fit in. I’m up at 6:30 every morning to get my kids ready for school, then get to work, then I work until 6 and I have to still come home and cook dinner and put the kids to bed. My husband helps me with all of these things but when is there time to go to gym?

Should I be better at exercising? Yes, yes I should. But this is something I’m working on. Perhaps I don’t have time to spend an hour at the gym or go to an exercise class of some sort, but you know what? I could fit in 30 minutes somewhere at home in the evening. 30 minutes a day is the same amount of time (if not less) you spend browsing Facebook while you’re watching TV. Surely instead of screen multitasking I could be exercising while watching TV?

My point is – if you’re unhappy make changes. Do them slowly.

Get into the habit of doing squats while you’re standing waiting for the kettle to boil.

Sign up to a job website that sends you updates about jobs you qualify for.

Stop and watch your kids playing and think about how they find wonder in even the silliest things (as an aside, my eldest son currently plays at being a fighting robot – it’s awesome).

Appreciate the time you spend with your friends and family.

Find the you, you used to be.

Stop caring what people think.

Be happy.

 

 

 

 

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Opinion // On motherhood and our childrens education

For those people who don’t know that much about me (although I’ve certainly never hidden any of this information), I am a mother to two beautiful boys. Of course I think they’re beautiful, I’m their mom, but come on, how can you not love these faces?

Posers!

My eldest is 4 and the younger one is almost 10 months old (slightly younger in this photo). I never thought that I would be the mother obsessed with getting my kid into a good school, but as my eldest approaches primary school, I find myself increasingly thinking and worrying about my children’s education. Ok, I wouldn’t say obsessed (I know the obsessive parents, I’m not willing to change areas just to be zoned for the “right” school”), but I still spend way more time than I ever thought possible thinking about a primary school.

When I was at school… Wait, just backing up a bit, but I’ve come to the conclusion that this was a very long time ago. I’ve long passed my 10 year reunion (in reality I’m only a few years away from my 20 year reunion) and every time I meet someone who was born in the year I matriculated, I want to cringe just a little. Ok, a lot. Anyway, the point is that when I was at school it really wasn’t at all essential to go to a private school. A government school education was still pretty damn good, especially if you went to a reputable one, like I did.

Nowadays however, let’s be honest, the quality of education is becoming ever more important, and the reality is that if we want our children to have a really good education and every opportunity, we need to start thinking outside the public schooling system in South Africa.

The biggest issue however is the cost. In the past year there have been a number of articles written on the most expensive private schools in South Africa. It’s a very sharp wake up call when you calculate that if you’re lucky you might be spending around R7000.00 a month (my child is still 2 years away from primary school so this will have gone up by then) for a single child.

I have two. That’s a rough estimate of R14000.00 a month before school uniforms, sports equipment, books (or iPads or laptops as so many schools now require). Honestly? I can’t afford that. My husband and I earn good salaries and we can’t afford it. Yeah sure perhaps we could make sacrifices and cutbacks in order to do that, but I’m also not willing to pauper my family and put us in debt in order to pay for their schooling.

So what are the alternatives?

You might say that nothing is more valuable than a good education – and I agree with you wholeheartedly, but I don’t want to be worrying every month that I can pay the bills and put food on the table just because I’ve spent most of my salary on school fees.

So what are the alternatives? Home schooling? No, that’s not an option for us – we both have full time jobs.

Do we emigrate? I have the option to do that certainly as I have an Australian passport and my family would be given permanent residence based on the strength of that, but call me crazy (a lot of people have) I have a number of reasons for wanting to stay in South Africa, and the possibility of moving is a more long term discussion.

I don’t currently have solutions to this predicament other than looking for public schools that currently still offer a high standard of education. I have discovered that there are alternative models available such as SPARK Schools for example. They apparently offer a private school education with public school pricing, through the use of blended learning models involving computer lab based learning combined with classroom teaching.

At SPARK Schools, we provide high quality education at an affordable cost. – SPARK website

I haven’t made a decision as yet, but it’s something I’m going to have to do soon and I can’t help but worry if I’m making the correct one.

For anyone who is a new parent – the moment you suddenly realise you’re worrying about your kids’ education is an eye opening one. I think we all want the best for our kids, and we really just do what we can.

Review // Skylanders: Trap Team

Although my kids have been exposed to gaming from the moment they were born (my husband and I are both gamers), Skylanders: Trap Team is the first game that my eldest son has taken a real shine to. 

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Skylanders: Trap Team

Not only does he enjoy watching me play, but in fact I’m very rarely allowed to play unless he finds a level too difficult and asks me to help him. Even better than that, I’ve seen a real improvement in his fine motor coordination since he started playing. When he started he was barely able to jump and go forward at the same time, and about a week later he’s doing timed jumps onto moving platforms, solving puzzles and beating all but the most difficult villains without my help. Granted he is playing on easy but still. He is only (almost) 4.

“It’s a game I really enjoy playing with him and which we can play together without me getting bored…”

Skylanders-Trap-Team_Villain_Chompy-Mage
Chompy Mage

What really gets me is the fact that it’s a game I really enjoy playing with him and which we can play together without me getting bored. His birthday is this coming weekend (see? almost 4) and I’ve gone out and bought him a variety of other Skylanders figurines and extra traps because he’s just that into it. So much so that when he’s not playing the video game, he’s LARPing at being a Skylander and fighting ‘the bad guys’. I was also pleasantly surprised to discover that all the figurines are backwards compatible which is amazing because although the Trap Team figurines are specialised in terms of accessing different areas, the fact that you can still use all your old Skylanders figurines in this game is a huge bonus. It basically ensures my son will be playing the next Skylanders game. And the next. And the next – adding to his collection as he goes. Which after this weekend is likely to be fairly decent.

Trapteamposterfull
There are a huge number of Skylanders figurines to collect, each with their own unique powers

“The best kind of game is one you can play and enjoy with other people”

So how is this a review and not just an anecdotal story about my son? Well I guess it both is and it isn’t. The best kind of game is one you can play and enjoy with other people. With Skylanders: Trap Team I can play with my son while still enjoying the game myself. I don’t need to be aware of the violence and scariness and we can spend quality time together doing something we both enjoy.

I am also forced to admit that I’m not quite sure how, but somehow I have never played a Skylanders game. Terrible I know. I’m also not entirely sure how it happened, but I must say that I am an instant convert. Not only is the Story Campaign a decent length (which sadly is a rarity in many games these days), but the story is amusing and engaging, if not incredibly complex, and the villains have funny names like “Pain Yatta”.

I will admit to being slightly annoyed by unskippable cutscenes, especially when you’re forced to listen to the same speech from your allies over and over (and a pre-schooler has a tendency to press the same buttons again and again when prompted). Luckily this annoyance is overshadowed by how much fun the game is. Visually Skylanders: Trap Team is fairly run of the mill when it comes to cartoony looking family friendly games, but there are so many things right with it that the graphics could be a hell of a lot worse and I would still be playing it.

Pros//

Great family friendly game

Figurines are backwards compatible

Decent campaign length and replayability

Cons//

Graphics look good but nothing special

Buying figurines could end up being an expensive exercise.

Verdict//

If you’re looking for a good, fun game to play with your kids, or if you’re into collecting figurines then this is a good investment as it’s going to give you a fair amount of mileage in terms of Challenges and Story Mode.

Welcome to the Mad House

Photo by Kat Grudko
Photo by Kat Grudko

For a variety of reasons I’ve decided to start up yet another blog. I’ve had a few over the years – some that were started just to house specific projects, and others that were intended to be more personal but which just kind of fell by the way side when I got too busy.

This might end up being the same, I won’t lie. I’m a busy person. I work in the TV industry as an On-Air Producer (that means I make promos or manage people who make them for me) which has long hours as it is, plus I freelance as a writer and presenter for a variety of clients and publications. In between that I make a concerted effort to always put my family before my work. I have two beautiful boys that fill my heart up with love and an amazing husband that is way more tolerant of my long working hours than he should be!

But anyway, the plan is to fill this blog with the things that I do – from a new and fresh perspective that includes the experience I’ve gained over the past year or so. That includes videogame reviews, tech blah blah (I regularly get product to review or get asked to participate in challenges), stuff I think is cool (which includes everything from comics to fashion) and occasionally rants when I just have to vent.

I recently had to put my baby, Spliced Magazine, to bed, and although it was an incredibly sad and hard move to make, it was necessary for my own sanity. Luckily I’ve learned some important lessons through venturing into that territory, and hopefully one of these days I’ll be able to put it all to good use and resurrect, if not Spliced, then something that speaks to the same passion that ignited that project in the first place.

So this is where I currently am. Attempting a fresh start in the middle of the Madhouse (yes, capitalised) that is my life.

I hope you enjoy it.