In The Nick Of Time

Let’s be honest here. Why do we put ourselves through Crossfit if it’s not to improve our fitness?

For me, it has never been about me against others (ok, maybe a little bit of secret competition between me and others, but they don’t need to know! 😉 ), but mainly, a quest at getting stronger, both mentally and physically.

From the get-go, I have set goals for myself. One of them was to back squat my body weight. In the past few weeks, I have been so close to achieving this goal, but I was still 5lbs short. I knew I wanted to go in for the WOD this morning because our skill was back squats and it would be my last attempt for this goal for the year (my current deadline for this goal). I have set many goals throughout the year and just roll them over to the next year when they are not achieved. I stepped on the scale this morning just because I wanted to know which weight I needed to hit in order to make it happen. The scale read 144.8lbs. Alright! 145# would have to happen somehow today in order for me to make my goal happen.

Skill: Back Squat 6×2 E90s

Coach Adrianna was coaching us today and I was super happy to get to see her before she leaves us for Seattle. Those Seattle people are so lucky to have her and they don’t even know it. I will miss her terribly and I was gonna take advantage of today to make the most of it. She told me to try to hit 140# on my 5th set and if I missed, I could always lower the weight on my bar for the 6th round. If I succeeded, then I was golden to try at 145# on the 6th round. Ben and the girls also came to cheer me on so that was good too! Marika was there and we were doing stupid shit throughout our warm-up, doing the Hullk pose similar to this:

425.the.incredible.hulk.033108

 

all while grunting and saying stupid things like “Bro sesh!”

We warmed up individually and then we all set off for our sets, just as Mr Lucas Parker walked in. That’s right! He trains at our gym and I get to see him a lot, but I’m still way too intimidated to talk to him, so I go about my business as usual when he’s there.  I started at 120# and made 5# increments with each rounds. When I got to 135#, it started to get heavy. I was nervous about hitting 140# x2 because I had missed my 2nd rep just 17 days ago. I managed to pull through the two reps and got ready to attack 145#. I went down with the bar on my back and started to go up. I got stuck for what felt like an eternity. I was out of the bottom of the squat, but couldn’t straighten my legs anymore. CRAP! I really wanted to hit my goal this year and I didn’t want to let go of the bar! I kept the bar on my back, pulled on it with all my might and, somehow, managed to get out of the squat and get back out.

YYYYYYEEEEEESSSSSS!

I let out a huge victory scream as I had finally achieved the goal I had set for myself 2 weeks after my 1st Crossfit class!

I've never been prouder of a yellow star!

I’ve never been prouder of a yellow star!

I tried to go for a 2nd rep, but I really couldn’t get out of the bottom and bailed out safely. Still though! I was so pumped! I have had this goal for 868 days (2 years, 4 months and 16 days, but who’s counting, really?!?) and I can finally put a check mark next to it, all on the last day of my target date! Nothing was gonna wipe the goofy smile off my face!

Kathleen walked in literally a minute too late to witness my feat, but she was still super pumped for me! As I was getting my stuff ready for the WOD, Lucas commented on my squat and said “That was a good lift!”

Seriously? Could this day get any better? Not only do I reach a massive goal, but Lucas Parker compliments me on it! Hell yeah! I thanked him and got my spot ready for the WOD.

WOD: You Lift Me Up

That was a tough one as you were supposed to go all out at max effort for 2 mins and use the built-in rest after. I was gonna try the FG with my bar at 65# for the thrusters and use the 35# KB. It was my 1st time doing thrusters at 65# outside the Open and I was struggling. I managed 24 reps (2 cycles) on the 1st round and 19 reps on the 2nd cycle. Coach Adrianna came by and switched my KB down for a 26# for the other 2 rounds. On my 3rd round, I managed another 24 reps and I was then able to do the AKBS without breaking them, but I was getting tired. The struggle became real on my last round when I couldn’t push the bar overhead for the thrusters and had to set it down. Most of my thruster reps were muscled overhead and that got exhausting really fast. I only managed 15 reps for that round before I slumped on the floor, tired, giggling with happiness and exhausted!

Sweat angel! I got junk in my trunk, but that butt helped me squat my body weight, so there!

Sweat angel! I got junk in my trunk, but that butt helped me squat my body weight, so there!

I celebrated a little more with Marika, Adrianna, Kathleen, Ben and the girls before I got cleaned up a bit. I then met “new Adam” (a new coach at our Box) and he seems very friendly! We spoke French a bit as well since he’s from Ottawa! I then had to say goodbye to Coach Adrianna. She asked if she could hug me. I wasn’t even going to offer because I was afraid it would tip both of us into a puddle of tears. It felt like I could have hung on to her hug forever. She has been an amazing coach and supporter and her encouragements and tips haven’t gone into deaf ears. I will make sure to remember her advices and hopefully will go to visit her in Seattle sometime in the next 2 years.

We left the Box and got groceries, ran errands downtown, finished laundry at home and made dinner. My legs are shaking when I get on my tippy toes and for some weird reason, my right heel hurts. My traps are also sore from all those muscled thrusters and I can’t wait to sit with my hot water bottle, my blanket and my knitting in front of the TV. I’m not sure I’ll be up to ring in the new year as I can feel my body slowly shutting down from the adrenaline and excitement from today.

In all honesty, it’s been a very rough end of the year for reasons I won’t get into on the blog (what? I’m allowed some privacy, no?!? Lol!) and I certainly wish 2016 will get better for me. In any case, the only resolution I plan on making for the next year is to put myself and my needs at the top of my list, just below my children’s needs. I have proven to myself that I am strong and that when I have something in mind, nothing will get in the way of my determination. I will now apply that in my personal life as well. If people around me thought I was ruthless before, they ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

I'm currently holding on, but will hopefully soon exhale...

I’m currently holding on, but will hopefully soon relax and exhale…

May your celebrations of the end of 2015 be merry and safe. May your 2016 be bold, relentless and strong. I know mine will be because that’s what I want it to be.

Christmas Cold

I haven’t posted in a bit. My last night shift, Rina got sick with a fever and a sore ear and Ben brought her to the ER to get checked out. It turns out she is fine and we have been managing her symptoms with Tylenol and Advil, but I finished my night with a sore throat and when I woke up from my nap, I had a full blown cold. So, to recap, Rina is sick, Béa is sick and I’m now sick as well. To top it all off, Ben has finally caught it as well and we are a couching/sniffling/sneezing mess of a family.

A little head cold didn’t stop me from making my way to the Box on Saturday and this morning as well. I probably could have gone lifting on Thursday morning, but Ben was able to come home early and we spent the evening together, just chatting about life and things. It was nice and by the time he reminded me about lifting in the morning, I had missed my bedtime by about 2 hrs in order to get up at 0500, so I chose not to go.

This morning though, the girls didn’t have school so I took the opportunity to go back to the 0600 class and that meant waking up at 0500. It was nice to see the old crew again! Here’s what we did:

Skill: Back Squat 5×3 (Tempo 3-2-1) E2M

I had done these 2 weeks ago and had finished at 100#, with a 10# PR. I remembered I was struggling with these and I wanted to try 105# for a new PR. I paired up with Gail and we got working. Here were my sets:

85#-90#-95#-100#-105#

I was pretty pumped about this new PR!

WOD: Thriller

We had tackled this one last June and I had done FG1 @55# on the 20″ box. Today, I was really wanting to try 65#, but with my cold and being back on the 20″ box for the first time since my rehab, I chose to stick to 55#. Good thing I did too because I kept gripping the bar unbalanced and that screwed up some of my reps. I had to re-adjust my grip at the top of the thruster and it made for some lost time.

The first round went well and I was really focusing on trying to be explosive from the hips on the BJ instead of just pulling my feet up onto the box. It was hard since I also had to focus on bracing my inner abs while stepping down from the box in order not to jut my butt to the side (which aggravates my sciatic pain). Sometimes when I think too much about a movement, it’s almost like it’s too much for my little head and then my body is all wonky. That’s what happened today.

My third round was horrible for my grip on the thrusters and I had to put the bar down after 6 reps. I was also really cramping out at the bottom of the squat on the BJ and Coach Caleb came by to remind me to use my hips. I was tired and not sure I could do just that, but I made a mental note to try it on the next round.

My 4th round was better. I didn’t have to put the bar down, I just rested at the top of the thrusters and kept going and was trying to be more explosive on the BJ. I’m not sure I managed, but Coach Caleb told me he could tell I was at least trying. I guess, that’s “A” for effort! Lol! 😉

Here were my reps today vs. back in June:

  • 1:29 today  vs. 1:29 in June
  • 1:34 today vs. 1:35 in June
  • 2:03 today vs. 1:36 in June
  • 1:41 today vs 1:48 in June

Had it not been for me dropping the bar on my 3rd set, I think I could have PR’d this WOD, but I didn’t do so bad considering I’m stuffed up and coughing a bit. My time for today was 3:32 vs. 3:17 back in June, which is only 15s slower. I’m not too upset about that one and so far, no sciatic pain from the BJ step down! I’ll take it!

The girls are home with me today and surprisingly enough, I don’t have any cooking, cleaning or laundry to do. I had planned on taking them on a short hike, but it’s raining outside so we are doing collages and playing with Play-Doh. I’m hoping to get to wrap some Christmas presents today and tonight and be done with that before I head back to work tomorrow.

5 And 3! Oh My!

If you’ve been a reader of my Ramblings for a while, you’ll know that my wonderful daughters share a birthday, 2 years apart. If you’re new to this little blog of mine, well, now you’re in the know as well! 😉

Today is the girls’ birthdays. They are turning 5 (Rina) and 3 (Béatrice). I have been busy trying to organize their special day, getting birthday and christmas presents done and finding a good paleo cake recipe.

I have managed to get the birthdays all done and under control and I still have a few items to pick up for the girls for Christmas. I have made a futile attempt at writing my Christmas cards with high hopes of sending them out later this week and I managed to only write up one so far! Man! I tell you, I feel like I’m somewhat organized in my day-to-day life, then December rolls around and all hell breaks loose! I get nothing done and stress levels go through the roof. Fortunately, the hubster has been pitching in a lot lately and I’m secretly hoping it will be a trend that lasts. 😉

We went to the truck light parade on Saturday evening and I think the girls enjoyed it very much. Rina was squealing like the most high-pitched piglet out there and Béatrice was dancing on my shoulders. Then, yesterday, we celebrated the girls since Rina had school today.

 

I'd say they managed a decent loot!

I’d say they managed a decent loot!

After we were done with lunch and it was time for me to bring out the less than impressive cake I made. I really don’t enjoy baking. To make it worst, I’m not really talented at it either. I’m just not crafty that way! I tried really hard to make them a cute birthday cake and it turned out more like a laughable mommy-fail of the year. I made a paleo cake from PaleOMG’s book and although I was told the cake and icing tasted good, the decorating was similar to Rina’s drawings… Not quite what I was going for. We sang “Happy birthday” twice and the girls blew their candles. BeZU even hugged me while she said: “Thank you for my cake Maman!” Bless her heart, that kid is simply amazing!

Once we were done eating lunch, cake and opening presents, we decided to go to the park atop the reservoir and have a little walk. We split up into two groups and somehow, lost Rina by doing so. I thought she was with the husband’s group and vice versa. A quick run along the trails surrounding the park and I found her sitting at the lookout, just waiting there. She got a quick scolding and I thing she was pretty scared off as she was all teary when she ran back to me. I told her she did good by waiting in one place and we went over other safety things before rejoining the rest of the group.

Before we lost Rina

Before we lost Rina

This morning, I went to Crossfit and even though I wasn’t feeling it at all (still sore from 1/2 Cindy on Friday), I was determined to get the juice flowing again in my sore body. Here’s what we did:

Skill: (1 Hang squat clean + 3 Front squats) x 5 E90s

I was aiming for 95# on my last set, with a realistic goal of 90#. I ended up doing this:

75#-80#-85#-85#-85#

I was stripping my butt out of the squat and I really wanted to focus on NOT doing that in order not to screw up my sciatica even more. Also, I was using the slam ball as a guide as to how low to get to at the bottom and hoping to create muscle memory without going lower than I need to. It’s still a work in progress, but it’s getting better, I think. It’s so hard to have to re-program all my lifts and not dropping as low as I can go into them, but I know I’m taking a few steps back in order to keep moving forward injury-free.

WOD: Swing And Pop

That was my first attempt at this one and what was written on our white board is different from what’s written on our blog so I’m a little confused, but I ended up doing what was on our white board, FG:

8min AMRAP:

  • 5  DUs + 15 singles
  • 15 AKB @ 26#
  • 5 KB push press / arm @ 26#

I didn’t think I would be strong enough to do all my rounds with the 26# KB for the KB push press and I had the 18# on my mat as a back up, but I managed just fine. It was a lot of hard work and my reps were low compared to everyone else, but I am so skittish of injuring my sciatic again, that I really don’t mind. I’m still working hard and making the best of it all while remaining safe. So far, so good!

I came back home, showered, ate lunch with Béa and then I was off to finally deliver baby Bailey’s blanket. I finished it a while back and finally managed to deliver it today. She’s such a cutie and so friendly! She was singing and cuddling and just adorable! I could have squeezed her all day, but I had to go back to my chores. I made some food for dinner and then it was time to pick up Rina from school and our evening routine. Hopefully, I can get to my christmas cards tomorrow and get those done and over with! Here’s to hoping! 😉

 

 

Rina-Ism #6

Rina has the day off from school today. However, as I get breakfast ready, she’s playing and pretending to get ready for school.

Rina: “Bye Maman! Bonne journée”

Me: “Bye love, have a good day!”

 

A few minutes later, she comes back…

Rina: “Hi Mom! I’m back!”

Me: “Oh good! How was your day love?”
Rina: “Good! I didn’t die!”

Perspective is everything and this kiddo has it right! Every day you come home alive is a good day! Bahaha!

Out Like A Belly Button

I swear, the kids are adorable and all, but I sure wish they would sleep through the night. Béa was up multiple times last night which means I’m not getting the rest I need to recover from all the intensity I’ve been putting my body through lately.

She's got gorgeous brown eyes! I just wish she'd keep them closed through the night! ;)

She’s got gorgeous brown eyes! I just wish she’d keep them closed through the night! 😉

 

Yesterday Kathleen cancelled our mesh on Sunday and I wasn’t too sad she did so. She’s been bombarded with visitors and hasn’t had time to unpack into her new house, so she will make time for that this weekend. I, on the other hand, will use this opportunity to do nothing (workout-wise) and just enjoy the long weekend with Ben and the girls, before I head back into work on Monday.

I woke up startled by my alarm at 0500 and somehow managed to get up and ready for my last workout this week:

I saw this on Facebook as I was feeling up before the workout and thought: Yep!

I saw this on Facebook as I was fuelling up before the workout and thought: Yep!

 

 

 

I teamed up with Tracey for the warm-up and literally was biting my arm during the wallsits! The plank holds weren’t as bad and I felt like I could have held a little longer on them, but those wallsits were pretty horrible, considering I had just finished those air squats at a good speed (for me!)

Skill: Kipping pull-ups 4×6 E2M

I focused on my strict for these and used the red and blue, but maybe I should have used the red and purple instead. It somewhat easy to do the 6 reps, but I my hands felt like they were on the verge of ripping.

WOD: Snatch & Grab

I had never done this one before and since it involved the ever elusive snatch, I had to resort to TG for today. I felt like a wimp using such a low weight, but then again, seeing as my 1RM is 60# made it easier to swallow. Here’s how I scaled it:

4 rounds of

  • 6 Hang power snatch @ 45#
  • 8 burpee bar hops
  • 10 front squats @45#

I really thought the front squats would be a piece of cake at that weight, but man, was I wrong! I had to break them into 3 sets for every round! I tried my best to keep all the burpee bar hops Rx, but had to drop to granny-style for a few reps each rounds. Jess walked in and smiled at me after one of my rounds. She was dancing and the best I could do was to give my Bitchy Resting Face. Sorry Jess! I was trying to save every calorie of energy for the WOD and smiling was impeding on that! 😉

bitchface

I have BRF and I own it!

 

Oh well, not my best WOD at all. To be honest, I didn’t really care. I just wanted to be done. Done with the WOD, but also done with the intense week I’d just put my body through. Here were my times for the rounds:

1:35 – 1:45 – 1:45 – 1:34

Which gives me 3:19 for this WOD.

I can’t wait to go for my massage this morning! That’ll start recovery painfully well! I don’t go for fluffy massages. I prefer the deep tissue kind and my RMT is also a Crossfitter, so she knows which muscles we work and what needs to be worked on. She’s awesome in a dominatrix kind of way! Teehee! I find myself breathing through the pain when she works on certain areas, but I know I always feel better after!

In the meantime, don’t expect a lot of posts until next week, because I’ll be out like a belly-button for some well-deserved rest & recovery!

 

WallBalls… ‘Nough Said!

Béatrice has fallen back into her old patterns of waking up in the middle of the night and it’s taken its toll on this Mama… My alarm woke me up at 0500 for this:

190c173bbe188425fc6132e3c1c76f56

Albert said it best!

 

Skill: Those we new today and it was fun to learn new technique. I teamed up with Marika, Tracey and Telsey and we got to learn the different techniques. We worked up to about 105# for the trap bar and that was enough for me. As for the axle bar, I think Telsey and I were working with around 60# and my grip was definitely challenged with this weight, even with a reverse grip.

WOD: Money Ball

The last time I had done this one was back in December 2013 and I had scaled it with 10# wall balls. Today was my first attempt RX and I teamed up with Telsey. I had forgotten that 14# wallballs were RX for women and I thought I was still scaling it down. Telsey stuck with the 14# ball even though she had been off for 6 weeks for an ankle issue. I realized mid-WOD that we were both doing RX and the rowing was killing me slowly. I tried to break down the wallballs in sets of 5, but the erg was just sucking the life out of me. My pace was beyond crap and I was hanging on to the handle for dear life.

Telsey had to drop the erg on the second go at it because her ankle was bugging her too much and she switched to the Airdyne and pushed through the wallballs. She managed to finish her last stint on the Airdyne, but had to leave, so Tracey was kind enough to finish the wallballs (unbroken, such a BAM!!!) after I was done with mine.

Overall time: 25:43 RX! Pretty happy to add another RX next to that one because that means a new PR for me!

I came back home and kept going with the deep cleaning of the house. I finished the upstairs as well as the staircase and Nanny was nice enough to help me sort out the girls’ crap toys while they were in their quiet time upstairs. 1 full garbage bag of crap was pulled out and will be going to the dump (toys that are useless to other kids, missing parts, broken, etc…) and we can now close the lids of the window boxes. On the books for tomorrow, vacuuming downstairs and then, resting a bit before tackling the downstairs! I’m pretty optimist that I will manage to clean the entire house before I head back to work!

Cuba Sì

As promised, here’s a review of our week-long vacation in Cuba.

We were traveling from Victoria to Montreal, in order to meet up with everybody else on our trip at the Montreal airport. We made our way the day before our Cuban departure, sleep in a hotel by the airport that had a shuttle service and had no issue with that at all. We repeated the same experience on the way back with the same service. I had to call for the shuttle bus to come and get us and it was there within 20 minutes. From Montreal, our flight to Santa Clara was close to 4hrs-long, followed by a bus ride of about 90 mins to the resort. I was ready to go sit and relax when we finally got to the resort. The girls traveled beautifully, sleeping on my lap at times, playing, eating, iPad-ing, and signing songs. Béatrice was being potty-trained and we put her in pull-ups for the flights, but she was good about asking to use the washroom and mostly ended up with a dry diaper after the flights.

Currency: If you love in Canada, don’t bother changing your money for some US funds before your departure as you get penalized once in Cuba. Their currency for tourists is the CUC (a tourist cuban peso) and isn’t worth anything outside of Cuba. Bring your Canadian currency and change it once in Cuba (either at the airport or at some local currency office (we had one on the resort with the rate exchange similar to the US $ ($1 CAN = $0.70 CUC). Make sure you get rid of all your CUC before exiting the country as you won’t be able to do so once back in Canada.

Medical Clinic: Yep, I even got to try this one out! I had started an eye infection on the flight from Edmonton to Montreal and despite using Polysporin eyedrops for 48hrs, it wasn’t improving and I ended up with a huge black eye from the infection, so I hired a cab (1927 Ford!) and made my way to the closest medical clinic on Tuesday. I walked in at 1330, saw the MD at 1332 and walked back out with my bill and prescriptions at 1345. It took a little longer because I had been told by the customer service rep at our resort that I could pay my meds with a credit card. Turned out I couldn’t and had to take a cab to the closest ATM to get some money. My cab driver was nice and waited for me while I sorted all of this and even waited for me while I was being seen at the clinic! I was given steroids, antibiotic drops and anti-inflammatory ointment, all for 50 CUC, including the medical consult. Total cost: 60 CUC including the cab rides. Not too bad!

Cuban Accommodations: We went along on this trip with my parents, my brother and my niece and my brother’s girlfriend (one of my friends 🙂 ) and her kids too. All in all, there were 6 adults and 6 children on this trip. Our resorts was Cayo Playa Santa Maria, located in Santa Maria (north or Cayo Coco). The resort itself was nice enough, but not super luxurious. I seem to remember we had chosen this one because they had a “Kids’ Club”, to which we didn’t end up taking advantage of. Live and learn! The rooms were clean. We had issued with the tub and shower draining properly, and although we had someone look into it for us, it never got resolved. The rooms were done on a daily basis, although sometimes, late in the afternoon when we were trying to get the kids to rest a bit. The fridge was filled with beer, pop and water everyday as well. One thing I was missing when we were there were facecloths. Apparently, they are nowhere to be found in Cuba, so I’d bring a couple if you really can’t do without them. I ended up using a bath mat / towel when I needed one. I think the only drawback was for checking-in. Long line-up, with only 2 clerks at the desk to do 2 buses worth of check-ins: fail! The staff we had to deal with were all very friendly and attentive, on the other hand. AC was available in both the adjoining rooms we had (King bed and 2 twin beds for the girls) as well as a ceiling fan.We never had our patio door open (other than to go hang laundry out on the chairs) as it was too hot to do so with temperatures between 32-35ºC everyday. E only had one day of partly cloudy skies, no rain over the 7 days we were there and saw plenty of heat lightning.

Food: We had a choice of 3 À La Carte restaurants for dinner, but were only able to book 2. All the other time slots had been booked solid after our 2nd day on the resort. My advice would be to go on book those early on in your trip. One of our restaurant was the Asian one and the food was ok, with limited choices for kids. The other one was the Seafood one and only 4 of us ended up going to this one because our reservations was for 7:30pm , after a long day on a Catamaran excursion, on the eve of our departure and the children were too tired to come out to eat. (More on that later).

The buffet was ok in my book. Not terribly bad, not amazingly good. I think, overall, there were only 2 dishes I really didn’t like. Most of the fish I had was absolutely delicious, although, I was the unlucky one with all the bones in the fish. They made a pretty awesome fried rice where you could chose your components, same with omelettes in the morning. You had to be there early though as the lines filled up fast. Not a lot of choices for Whole30-compliant food, but I was on vacation, so I didn’t stress about it. I tried to focus on fruits, meats, vegetables and rice.

Lettuce is almost unheard of there and the only “greens” they had were green bell pepper and cabbage. That got old pretty quick.

I can’t really comment on the booze as I’m not a big drinker. We had wine a few times, I had a Sex On The Beach and a few sips of Mojitos and that’s about it. The drinks were good, from the few I had.

Gym:  I had a quick look at the gym (usual treadmills, stationary bikes, some free weights and benches for presses) and the AC wasn’t supper effective in the little facility so I decided to make my own WOD on the beach:

4RFT:

  • 400m run
  • 25 burpees

I didn’t time myself, but tried to hustle as best as the 33ºC permitted. I would go in the water to rinse off the sand and cool off before the runs. That was my one and only workout while I was there. My bother had brought his TRX and managed a few more workouts than I did. Good for him for not slacking off!

Spa: Ben and I booked ourselves a 1hr-long couple’s massage and it was nice to go relax while my parents watched the girls. The only thing is they had a musical cue on their CD that told them when to move from limb to limb. It was a bit distracting. We were allowed 1hr of relaxation in the jetted pool, but we hadn’t brought our bathing suits. No problem, we were allowed to come back the next day to enjoy the pool.

Beach: This is where we spent most of our time everyday. We would go after breakfast and never had any trouble finding 12 lounge chairs under the shade. We had brought our own tarp and pegs for shade on the beach and never ended up using it.

There were a lot of big rocks/boulders submerged under the sand where the chairs were and you had to be careful about your steps making your way down to the water. The sand was soft and white and, apparently, the beach had suffered some erosion since the previous year (as per previous vacationers).

The water was a ver clear aqua colour and you spot some barracudas often. We only saw 2 small jellyfish on our entire trip. Depending on the wind, some days the water was calm and others, the waves were a bit stronger.

There were free smaller catamarans excursions (max. 4 people) that lasted about 30 mins and free-kayak rental as well.

Animation was on the beach in the morning and moved over to the main pool in the afternoon. We never partook in the activities as we wanted to sit and relax.

Pools: We had a pool very close to our room and although there was music poolside, I think they closed the pools around 6pm daily, which meant you could get a full restful night of sleep. The pools were well maintained, although lots of sand and oil residue from the sunscreen could be found. The water was hot all the time and even hotter in the afternoons. Finding chairs in the shade was a little harder at the pool than it was at the beach, but we were never there very long and usually retreated to our rooms for some shade and nap time when we’d had enough. The little ones enjoyed the pool more and the big kids enjoyed the ocean more. We compromised by doing the beach in the morning and the pool in the afternoon.

The girls and Ben, playing in the pool

The girls and Ben, playing in the pool

Excursions: There were a few tempting excursions I would have liked to do had we been without kids, but we settled on only the one full day Catamaran excursion. There was one where they flew you into La Havana overnight that I would have liked to do (too expensive with the kids), another one where you went to see Buena Vista Social Club perform live (finished around midnight, again, not happening with the kids) and one where you went into Santa Maria to see the Che Guevara Memorial as well as some of the city and churches. I would have love to learn more about that piece of history, but with temperatures being what they were beach-side, I really didn’t want to drag the kids too far from the water.

The one excursion we settled on was the day-long catamaran excursion. We booked it for our last full day in Cuba, Saturday (so that all the kids could get on for free). Kids are free all the time if they’re 6 and under, and on Saturday, it’s free for kids 12 and under.  We had to be ready to go at 0800 which left us ample time to grab breakfast at the buffet (starts at 0700). We hoped on a bus that took us to the marina (20 mins), where we boarded a super clean catamaran, with a crew of 3 on board. There were 2 bathrooms that were kept immaculate throughout the day. The rest of the boat was wiped off of water often and kept immaculate as well throughout the day. We left using the motor for the first part of the day, making our way to the “reef” where we had 1hr to go snorkelling. All kids had to wear life vests and adults who were strong swimmers didn’t have to. Ben brought his GoPro with him so we were able to capture some pretty cool photos and videos.

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Once we were done with that, they served us a light snack of tuna salad on crackers. It was a hit with everyone and was gone in minutes! We motored around, until they brought us to a the dolphin sanctuary. This would not have been my choice had it not been included in the day. I’m not a fan of dolphins in captivity, but the girls liked the little show they put on:

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Once the show was done, we also had the opportunity to interact with the dolphins. Ben had his gGoPro and took some footage, but it was a bit hard seeing as we had to hold the girls in our arms. We had water up to our chest and the dolphins swam up to us so we could touch them. Our dolphin had one cloudy eye and the other one had plenty of scars on its back… 😦 We had lunch at the sanctuary of lobster tails for the adults and chicken for the kids. After lunch, we got back on board and Rina needed the First Aid kit (she cut her toe and was bleeding) and the staff was quick and attentive.  They teased us with sights of beautiful sandy beaches before dropping us off in a sandbar that was rocky and choppy. Not my favourite part of the day (and I think nobody enjoyed this very much out of our little group).  We quickly came back on board and we set out on the water and finally opened the sails and cut off the motor. That was MY favourite part of the day, fo’ sho’!

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The music was blaring, people were dancing and drinking and we all had a blast! We came back to the marina, back on the bus and everybody was tired. I debated about going for our dinner reservation (at 7:30pm) at all, but Ben offered to take the girls to the buffet and put them to bed so I could enjoy a last dinner with my parents and brother. His girlfriend fed their brood at the buffet as well so it was just our little family of 4 that night. It was nice to reconnect with that part of my life and although the food was ok, we laughed a lot at my mom’s fear f the gecko that was inching closer on the ceiling and just life in general.

We had to check out at 0545 the next morning, back on the bus at 0645 (late as per Cuban time) to make our way to the airport for our flight at 1145. That was a long wait at the airport, but we managed fairly well. Béatrice sang the whole time she was on the plane and it was bittersweet to say goodbye to all my lovely family. It had been almost 2 years since I’d seen them all and with the cost of flights to go back home, who knows when we’ll be able to afford to go back? That’s also why I didn’t really care about our accommodation or the quality of the food. To me, this trip was about spending time with my family, for my daughters to get to know their cousins and for us all to really soak in the sun and relax. I’d say our goal has been surpassed x 100 and to me, that means a very successful trip!