Five things to make life with a globetrotting toddler easier

Hi friends!

Last week I wrote about some advantages of traveling with a young child. This week, I’ve posted five of the most useful things we’ve learned as a family on how to make traveling less stressful and more enjoyable for everyone involved. So, let’s just jump right into it, shall we? These are in random order, some theoretical and psychological and others super practical which, as always, I hope you find to be of some help :)

1. Invest in a good stroller/baby carrier/baby backpack with ‘leash’ 

We’ve used all of the above and they’ve all come in very very handy. When Sesam was very little we carried him in a baby carrier and that was really quite convenient and straightforward when traveling. I used one from an Australian company called hug a bub* which is basically six meters of fabric that you tie around yourself so you ‘wear’ your baby. It worked really well for the first year and then I felt I needed a bit more structure as Sesam got heavier. We switched to a Baby Björn and used that until he was about two. Baby Björn was good in terms of structure but it’s a bit of a pain because it takes up a lot of room and doesn’t really ‘travel’ well. You can’t really fold it and put it away neatly so it get a bit annoying, taking it off, trying to store it in small spaces and putting it back on while in transit.

*I am not sponsored by,  nor do I represent, any of the companies I write about. This is just my own personal experience with these products…

You’ll need to have a good travel stroller that is equal parts durable and equal parts foldable/collapsable. None of those light and flimsy strollers would have survived the streets of India and where have you. At the same time, taking the bigger, smooth ride of a stroller we use at home in Helsinki was also pretty much out of the question. Too bulky and cumbersome to pack and transport. We’ve been very satisfied with the City Mini stroller by Baby Jogger. You can fold and unfold the stroller with one hand (totally excellent!), the wheels are able to manoeuvre well and you can lean the seat back so your kid can take a pretty decent and comfortable nap there.

The most recent addition to my arsenal has been a little giraffe backpack with an attachable tail which I can take a hold of while Sesam wears the backpack. I was hesitant at first to go there since there is this idea that you have you child on a leash which is humiliating and degrading for them, but honestly, I feel very comfortable with the decision to use it. Not only does Sesam feel a sense of responsibility by carrying some of his own toys and having a bag of his own (thereby learning the lesson that we all must pitch in and help by carrying our own belongings) but I just got really tired when he would run off in a crowded public area. And we are in crowded public areas a lot! So I gave it a go and can say that it has made getting from a to b smoother and more peaceful on my part. He’s also bonded with his little giraffe friend🙂

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Sesam points out some graffitti in Porto

2. Don’t compare what your child can or can’t do with other children                            

l’ll be the first to admit that I’m guilty of this one. Especially when you see younger children sitting in their own chairs, eating on their own and there are no issues (negotiations, pleading, bribery) to speak of. Especially when you hear of parents saying, after reading the bedtime story, they’ll kiss their cherubs goodnight, get up, close the door behind them and leave their children to fall asleep on their own. Man, I can tell you that it’s been challenging on the road for Sesam to learn a toddler’s ‘basic’ skills. There needs to be a certain sense of consistency and repetition in order for kids to begin to take things on and when you are on the road, at least in my experience, much of the work (feeding, putting him down to sleep) is, by default, parentally involved. In this case, you must cut yourself some slack and know that travel adds a certain amount of upheaval to daily home life. Even though you may get tired as a parent doing much of the work you know your child is potentially capable of doing on his or her own, realise that your child is also getting an invaluable education through travel. He’ll learn how to feed himself. He’ll learn how to sleep on his own. He’ll learn everything he needs to learn. It may not be on a schedule that is in line with other toddlers who have more stable, stationary lives in one place, but in the end, kids get to where they need to be. It’s not a race nor will it ever be so inhale, exhale and take it easy. I speak this very much as a guide on the side rather than as someone who is out in the clear. This is an ongoing reality for me🙂

3. At airports, use family lanes, find a children’s play area, make use of the airport strollers, ask for help (especially if you are traveling solo with kid(s))        

 Nowadays many airports have amenities with families in mind. Some airports have lanes for families so that you don’t have to queue in long lines with squirming children to clear security. Helsinki Vantaa airport is one of them (score!). The usually progressive, family-oriented culture of Denmark sadly lags behind, as to Norway and Sweden. So disappointed was I in the chaotic and thoughtless queuing system at Copenhagen airport that I asked to speak with someone in charge about this situation. It didn’t do much good. The airport representative patronisingly made a show of listening to me and that he would ‘raise the issue’ at the next meeting. Uh huh… I tried on our behalf families, I really did! To be fair, they do have a separate family line during peak holiday season, but for this mama, that’s simply not quite helpful enough.

If there are children’s play areas, these can be your salvation, especially if you have a long layover. The best one we’ve been to, to date, is at London Heathrow airport. There’s a huge diaper changing room with large sinks and lots of counter space. They have three different play areas for children of different age-ranges. Large, soft, squishy  things for the little ones to roll around on; a climbing frame and tunnels and slides for bigger kids; and a separate room with a TV and a billiards table for the tween and teenagers. They have a room with all these weird, dreamlike lights so that your kids can sleep in there. There’s a little kitchen space so that you can warm up your kids’ food and breastfeed in peace.  Seriously, it’s on fleek! Other places pretty much consist of play spaces with some chairs or benches for parents or child-minders, but still, kids are much happier travellers when they can let off some steam and move around. Take advantage of these services. Some airlines and airports also offer strollers once you’ve cleared security which you can use within the terminals. The same kind of aforementioned stroller that wouldn’t survive India generally does very nicely at airports so do make sure to nab one when you can. Lastly, ask for help, especially when you are the only one traveling with your child. I know it might feel a bit weird asking a stranger in a plane to watch your kid while you go to the bathroom. If this is the case, ask the airline hostess for help. That’s what they’re there for, your comfort and safety and it’s important that you speak up if you need to take a mini-break even for just a few minutes. Your child needs you to be in good condition so be sure to take care of yourself throughout the journey and ask for help when you need it. I’ll never forget how fellow commuters gallantly offered to help us carry Sesam in the stroller up and down the labyrinthian stairwells of the London Underground. It’s enough to warm your heart really.                

4. Keep some sense of a general routine but don’t sweat it too much                        

Travel means getting to sleep at odd hours and waking up at even more bewitching ones so this means that a regular bed time is pretty much not going to happen. The thing is, kids are so adaptable that it doesn’t take more than a few days for them to get into the swing of things, even with jet lag. The idea is to try and keep some general sense of when things should get done but do yourself a favour and throw out this sense of a strict schedule. Seriously, you don’t need the added pressure. Sesam tends to be a night owl and he generally can sleep in quite comfortably in the mornings. Naturally there are times when the evening and night get long with him still up but on the flip side,  I can generally get my yoga practice in (or part of it at least) come morning time. Oftentimes I feel that when we are back home, as a culture kids in Finland tend to wake up early, eat early and go to bed early and you know what? That’s okay. It’s also okay to do things a bit differently and establish a routine which works best for your family’s lifestyle.

5. Find parks and playgrounds; keep the activities as child-centered as possible; hang out with families with similar-aged children                      

While you may not be going to museums, art exhibitions or other cultural delights a city may have to offer, another good way to learn about and witness the culture of a place is at parks and playgrounds. For example, in Copenhagen, we saw more daddies at the playgrounds with their kids than anywhere else. We also noticed that dads will very comfortably get a beer and sit on the street patio of a restaurant while minding their children. The best playground we went to was when Sesam just at the beginning of his toddling stage was in northeast London. We got to see a rich cross section of community life in that particular neighbourhood and let me tell you, there’s something about hearing a Russian grandmother speaking to her grandchild, about chatting with one mother from Uganda, about watching Muslim-British kids play football with second-generation-‘from-the-islands’ British kids that makes this whole Brexit phenomenon a bit dismal. Buuut that’s a whole other can of worms…

We’ve been traveling pretty much continuously with our two and a half year old since he was just two months old. The first year or so was pretty straightforward, especially when he still wasn’t too mobile. On planes and other forms of transport, Sesam stayed on my lap quite comfortably, eating and sleeping. It gets a bit trickier when they need to move around, cannot sit still at all and don’t yet have the attention span to do seated activities. I’d say there was an extremely stressful and exhausting time at about 15 months when we were chasing Sesam up and down airline and train aisles. It gives me chills just remembering how awful it was. On this point, I can only offer a huge virtual hug along with my deepest sympathies and say that it does and it will get easier. As a seasoned traveler, Sesam knows the drill and the routines so well now that he is a bit older. Travelling with him has become so much smoother and I can delight in how much he enjoy’s his trips.

All right my dears, that’s all for now. Next week, I’ll post on the wonder and joy of daycare and life at home.

Until then, sending so much Om &❤ your way…

 

Three advantages of being a traveling toddler

Portugal is Sesam’s 24th country to date. That’s 24 countries in his 29 months of life! Pretty crazy, I know. His first trip on a plane was from Helsinki to Copenhagen when he was just two months old and it’s pretty much been go ever since. While this is a lifestyle that is not easy by any stretch of the imagination, I have noticed some pretty cool advantages to being a toddler on the transcontinental go. In this post, I’ll cover three of them, namely adaptability, tolerance and exposure.

Now I’m not sure if it’s nature or nurture that has made Sesam such a good traveler. Would he have been as easy-going independent from the rotating landscapes he found himself in from the word go? Surely if he had displayed fussier behaviour at so many environmental changes, the lack of appeal to keep traveling with him might’ve lessened the chances of doing it? In any event, I’ll wager that a constitution not fully adverse to the rigours of travel combined with a chance to actually travel both have had a hand at it. Anyway, back to those three advantages…

Adaptability: Sesam can pretty much fall asleep in a wide range of places. Planes, trains, buses, couches, laps, on my chest, you name it, he’s done it. He does not require elaborate nightly rituals to get himself ready to sleep. I’ve exchanged notes with parents whose children can wake up screaming and crying in the middle of night because a cherished, well-chewed rabbit toy was left at daycare the previous day. Sesam’s only real attachment was his pacifier and I thought he’d be going off into the world as an adult with it, so much did he need it for a good long while there. However, one day quite recently, he lost it. It stayed ‘lost’ and after about one cranky week, he’s never looked back. Now his main attachment is a little stuffed airplane that he was given on a Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt. Go figure.🙂

Tolerance: Similar to being able to adapt to new situations and people, a certain level of tolerance comes about through travel. Only packed the same few toys that were not too heavy and cumbersome to fit into the suitcase? No problem, I’ll throw stones in the water instead. This also makes coming home to his toys a most exciting novelty indeed. Reading the same two books for the sixteenth night in a row? Kids have their little obsessions and their ‘favourites’ even when there is plenty to choose from. Ear pressure during take off and landing? Not an issue. Waking up to a different care-giver while mum and dad are teaching in the early morning? So far so good. I’d say that Sesam’s ablity to adapt to, and tolerate, new and various situations has been a direct result of living in this peripatetic way.

Exposure:  I’d say this is the greatest advantage to travel, at any age really. The amount of exposure Sesam’s experiencing at this tender age is almost envious. Language, food, customs, wildlife, man, this kid sees a lot! He’s not fussy about eating and trying new foods. He may not like everything but at least he’ll give most things a try. He may not be talking yet, but he’s been exposed to all sorts of languages and sounds. He’s seen the inside to all sorts of places and houses of worship and has been a part of different rituals and rites of initiation. The most robust one being his welcoming ceremony that his Kikuyu side of the family did for him in Nairobi when he was five months old. He may not’ve been able to last through any of these, but the exposure’s there, nonetheless.

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Sesam meets Guruji; KPJAYI, Mysuru, 2015 (photo: Petri Räisänen)

Now that you’ve read about a few perks travel has had on this little one’s development, let me be perfectly clear that it can be, at times, uniquely and undisputedly draining for the parents or caregivers. It’s no walk in the park and I fully believe that a consistent and reliable sense of the world is of crucial importance for the wellbeing of a child. However, with a few tips, imagination and tolerance on the part of the adults, this sense of consistency can be taken on the road too. I’ll post next Sunday some of my top tips that I’ve learned along the way.

Until then, get that passport application in and Om❤

Just what the heck is Chavutti Thirumal anyway?

Hi friends!

If you’ve seen my recent posts on Facebook and read my last blog post, you might’ve been asking yourself about this full mouthful of a name which I’ve been writing about: Chavutti Thirumal. Or Chapati Thermal as auto-spelling will have you think it’s what I meant to write. Although eating chapatis in a thermal bath (perhaps?) doesn’t sound like a half bad idea.

Mmmm, chapatis…

Mmm thermal baths.. under Icelandic skies…but I digress fully.

In a nutshell, Chavutti Thirumal is a traditional Indian type of massage, but get this: instead of using your hands and elbows, you use your feet! Pretty cool huh? Yeah, it’s massage by foot press and it’s great because you can use the full weight of your body to give a really effective massage. In this post, I’ll provide some background information on this unique form of massage and where I learned it and from whom. So get that cup of tea on this fine Sunday afternoon, put your feet up and enjoy…

According to its wikipedia pageChavutti Thirumal,[1] literally meaning “foot pressure” in the Malayalam language and also known as “foot/rope massage”, is a traditional Indian massage technique developed by the Kalari Martial Artists of Kerala India (Kalaripayattu), and it is thought to be approximately two thousand years old. The Kalaripayattu not only trained in battle but also developed a range of healing modalities known as Kalari Chikitsa,[2] which comprises various massage techniques; Chavutti Thirumal, Marma Massage (Uzhichil), and the application of medicinal herbal oils.

Unlike most massage modalities, Chavutti Thirumal is unique as the feet are used to deliver the treatment. This act is an art form, with the technique being precisely executed by the practitioner’s foot in long, sweeping therapeutic motions from the fingers to the toes of the recipient.

The main focus of Chavutti Thirumal is to increase flexibility, so the position of the recipient’s body on the floor with the therapist holding onto a rope for support, is paramount. Correctly positioned, the massage enables the postural muscles to strengthen, the hips and thoracic area to open, and the energetic channels (nadi) to become activated.

An Ida and Pingala approach is evident in Kalaripayattu, with Kalari Chikitsa being entwined within the training regime where it is used to prepare and heal the body in the two distinct training and healing seasons.

Here are some pictures to give you an idea of what a Chavutti session looks like among the Kalari martial artists in India…
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I learned this form of massage from a British woman named Helen Noakes in Goa, 2013. She, in turn, learned from her teachers, Veejay and Padma Nair in Kerala, 1998. On her website, Helen describes Chavutti Thirumal as a “technique (that was) developed for maintaining suppleness in the body and for treating pain and swelling caused by combat. It is however, equally suitable as a treatment for those not involved in regular or strenuous physical exercise and wishing to maintain their own fitness and well being. It is based on the precise knowledge of the body”s energetic channels “nadis” or the merdian lines. Using the feet gives the client the feeling that tension is being ironed out of them!”

Here is a video of magical Helen in action (fun fact: shot at her beachside massage hut in Goa, where I received her training)…

And  photos…

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Helen is also a Scaravelli yoga teacher and, funnily enough, she has come to Finland on more than one occasion to teach workshops. Pretty cool right?

It was under Helen’s tutelage that I learnt the art of Chavutti Thirumal and I remain forever grateful for the experience. Here I am giving it a go on one of my first ever guinea pigs (images obscured to protect privacy of said guinea pig):

Helen Mandren school (19 of 28)

And here is one of me and my classmate, Heather, a Canadian osteopath

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That, my friends, is an short introduction into the wonderful world of Chavutti Thirumal. I’m setting up a home treatment practice out of our sweet and cheerful yoga room. If you live in or plan to visit the wonderful Helsinki region this fall, get in touch with me (wambuinjuguna@gmail.com) to find out about early bird rates and availability!

Om and so much healing❤

 

 

Guess who’s baaaack?!

Hello hello lovelies!

It’s been a minute; almost a year (but not quite) since I last wrote a post and let me tell you that I am super happy to be back!🙂

Some shifts in daily life – kiddo in daycare and less time on the road, relatively speaking, open up some opportunities to write on a more consistent basis. Yay!

First off, let me start by thanking all you folk who’ve let me know that you, or someone you know, follow(s) my blog and have been asking when I will write some more. It means the world to me that people might find some value here as this is my main goal: to be of service; somehow; in some small way.

In fact, so committed am I to this that I plan to write a blog post weekly. I’ll be publishing new content on Sundays. I can’t promise to be perfect in this but I’m making this a priority of mine this fall, so do follow this blog and be part of the adventure.

Speaking of being part of it all, I’d like to open this blog up to the community, so please get in touch with me if there’s some topic concerning yoga, healthy, mindful living, parenting and all round general awesomeness that you are interested in exploring.

One last thing and don’t mind if I do… shameless plug alert…🙂 For those of you living in/visiting the Helsinki region: Interested in some private, one-on-one Ashtanga yoga, Yin, and/or Pregnancy Ashtanga yoga classes? How about some massage by foot press? Comment below and I can DM you further information.

Don’t know what massage by foot press is? Never mind, I’ll be writing about it on my next blog post (coming this Sunday!) so stay tuned…

Stay well yogafam…Om❤

my poetry on tumblr

I have long been thinking to breath life back into my blog…and I will. soon soon.

Just a quick post for now to let you know that I have very recently devoted my tumblr account for some of my poems. I’ve been intimidated by poetry for so long, not fully understanding what makes ‘good’ poetry. So I thought, right, that’s it. It’s been long enough…time to do what scares you and write some poetry!

Actually, all that and Warsan Shire. She’s inspired me to take up the pen. She’s powerful, this poet laureate of London town…

uhh, anyway, back down to my level…check out my tumblr page, let me know what you think and share some of your own favourite poets/poems with me.

Om big big❤

 

South of the Border

As I sit in my sister’s sweet and cosy home in Long Beach, California, I take in as much respite as I can in order to shore myself up for life on the road.

The start of the six-month tour was actually cushioned quite nicely at my brother’s home in Spokane. Now I am back with family in the USA after a little less than a month’s time in Central and South America. Well, not entirely all of it, Mexico (Tulum and Saltillo), Chile (Santiago) and Peru (Cusco, Pisac and the Sacred Valley, Urubamba). I took very few pictures and was not on the internet very consistently during this leg of the tour. Partly due to logistics and wifi availability but mostly to utterly be there then (as in Ram Dass’s epic BE HERE NOW). Some experiences need to be taken in without the distraction of selfie culture and social media, processed and integrated into one’s self.

As a 20-something year old, confused and overwhelmed by life in America and my place in it, I felt a tug towards the South of the border in a search for my roots. Mexico is lovely and I feel a strong affinity with its strong folklore, art, music and culture.

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After college, I spent six months in Chile, learning Spanish while teaching English, so that country holds a special place in the narrative of my memories. This was my first trip to Peru and I must say, the Sacred Valley, Urubamba, Pisac and Cusco…man, all these places surrounded by the clouds and those magnificent, magnificent mountains. The very architecture and layout of these towns is determined by the topography of the Andes mountains. Absolutely incredible, I must say, despite the altitude which makes for laboured, out of breath, asana and pranayama practice, go! Go if you can…

That’s all for now  love bugs. Pour one out for Mother Earth and Om❤

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Axé Axé … Mami Wata

I have long been a fan of Fela Kuti. I remember being first introduced to him during my quest for self and identity during my heady and exciting but confusing and lonely college days. I remember dancing to his music with my unborn son five months in my womb and I think I owe it to Fela when the little foetus started fluttering and kicking around, keeping me company as I lost myself in Fela’s tragic, honest, painful lyrics wrapped in the sweet, sweet sound of his sax and  around aaall those intricate layered rhythms. And that beat. Man, that beat. That Afro (heart) Beat.

Fela was the son of a Protestant minister father and a Feminist activist mother (in the anti-colonial movement). Like most respectable Nigerian families of means, he was sent off to London to study medicine and become a doctor like his two older brothers. A rebel from pretty early on, he enrolled in Trinity College of Music instead and, cutting to the chase, essentially pioneered a new genre of music called Afro-Beat.

Fela was baad. After the completed his studies in London,  he moved back to Nigeria and set up a commune for himself, his band and musicians, his dancers and singers and called it Kalakuta Republic. He also set up a nightclub, which became known as the Shrine, where he performed his music regularly and officiated traditional Yoruba ceremonies in honour of Nigeria’s ancestral practices of worship. He also changed his middle name to Anikulapo (meaning “He who carries death in his pouch”, with the interpretation: “I will be the master of my own destiny and will decide when it is time for death to take me”),[8][5] stating that his original middle name of Ransome was a slave name.

He sang in pidgin English so his music could be enjoyed widely over Africa and as his music became more and more popular, his unpopularity with the Nigerian government grew and there were frequent raids at the Kalakuta Republic. In 1977, after the release of his immensely popular album called Zombie, in reference to the Nigerian military, his home was raided by 1,000 soldiers and Fela was severly beaten.

He was a fascinating, deeply charismatic and talented musician. You know what? Better you just read the book…

Fela

One last thing though, to mark the one year-anniversary of the raid on Kalakuta Republic , he married, in one fell swoop, 27 women, most of which were his dancers, composers and singers! Anyway, much as I admire Fela’s spirit and music, all this was basically a preamble leading to the next topic… Fela’s Wives

I mean, these women were bad bitches. Check these out…

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Wowza! I mean, breathtaking, right?!

Dig a little deeper and a little more research led me to Mami Wata

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Mami Wata is a water spirit venerated in West, Central and Southern Africa, as well as the African diaspora in the Americas. She, alongside Fela and Fela’s Wives, were the inspiration for my latest photo art project. Whether she be called Ma Ganga in India, Yemanja along the shores of Bahia in Brazil; whether she be the trickster siren which lures sailors to meet their maker with her shape shifting melody or an alluring mermaid with silver-green fins, may the ambiguous, two-spirited energy of water (at times destructive and dangerous; at other times, healing, cleansing and life-sustaining ) be properly worshipped and revered. Om! Axé!

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Big❤ and thanks to…

Photography: Lars Kastilan

Africa Pride Mala Beads: Heart of Joy Mala Beads

Eco Yoga Pants: Kismet Yoga-Style

Hair: Saloon Two Sisters (Sörnäinen, Helsinki)