Night time Babba woes…

*Sigh* …Our food drama continues…

Since lately baby (2 yr. old) has been waking up multiple times throughout the night screaming for a bottle. We were trying to wean him off bottles, formulas and bedtime ‘babbas’ but the child was legitimately starving.

We tried giving him water, rocking him back to sleep, letting him wake up, turning on his favorite videos on his tablets, singing songs etc. None of it works as fast as a warm bottle does.  Truth be told, most times we needed to go back to bed as well. When our efforts failed we tried to find ways to full his stomach. We only use almond and coconut milk and so we figured they weren’t holding him as long as we needed. Plus, frequently waking up meant he wasn’t hitting deep a sleep to me. one night he woke up 6 times and he polished off his bottle each time. We knew we needed to make a change. We needed to make baby fuller, longer. We figured he was tired of the Pediasure, so I looked at other things.  I perused the supermarket aisle and was considering a baby cereal but there wasn’t any that went up to his age.  A quick Google search suggested that greek yogurt is one food that keeps you fuller longer. I figured that it couldn’t hurt to try even though he was technically limited when it came to dairy.

I bought a small tub of organic plain to try and it worked like a charm! One tablespoon in his night time bottle and he only woke up 1 time for the night looking for his fill. He even seemed more well rested. I especially loved that this wasn’t a filler like the cereal would be but a great healthy addition with lots of Calcium benefits!

Score!

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The Skinny on Cuba….

Stop what you’re doing and download the Maps.me app and the Cuba map that goes along with it. This app works very well offline. To maximize your experience, you will need to be proactive and plan like hell. Here’s the thing, Havana is an extremely safe walking city. You can walk through streets and alley ways to get to where you’re going regardless of the time. There’s a lot of ways to get around but it will add up, especially when they realise you’re a tourist. Review your map and walk when you can. There’s also a lot of monuments you will zoom past in a car and each stop will cost yah! We walked a lot and enjoyed the many gems we ‘accidentally’ landed on.

If you aren’t a business person, you won’t need a lot of internet. We bought 3 cards, each with an hour and almost came back with 1. We shared 1 card each time and had more than enough to check in with loved ones. If you find yourself constantly buying cards to contact family, then they should have come with you as this cost does add up as well. We didn’t make any phone calls outside of the country, to family or friends. We used the phone in our casa to call the owner who came to see us when we had questions about things we wanted to do.

We brought a camcorder, 2 cellphones, a huge Fiji cam and a mini Sony Vaio. We only used our cellphones. Hubs had an extra battery for his. The Maps.me app used up tons of battery so if possible print and highlight your routes so you don’t lose juice and miss pictures. Additionally, work out some storage. I backed up to Google drive when I signed on the net but one day I had no pics because my phone space was used up.

Baby was pretty ok in Cuba. Everywhere we went people were very accommodating. People were always lifting him up and playing with him. I didn’t worry about him for a minute and that was a HUGE bonus to me. He didn’t do us any favors when it came to food though. He wouldn’t eat much of anything and mainly drank his ‘babba’. We almost ran out and had to give him Ensure a time or two. We didn’t anticipate that he would revert to the bottle only as usually he only took the bottle at nights before bed. We brought 3 boxes of coconut milk, 1 box of almond and 11/2 tins of formula. We brought an ice tray that was always set so that we could keep the coconut milk chilled on the road with no issues. We brought 2 baby bullet containers for this purpose. A few mornings he ate the oatmeal we brought and 1 morning he had cereal. Fig bars, granola, crackers and yogurt pouches on the road. Otherwise, he picked at a few things we ate but not much made it past his lips. They don’t have potato fries (his fave) there and while he ate the plantains chips, he didn’t love them.

The online impression of Cuba is that they are very poor and living on next to nothing. Let me add some context to that. COMPARED to first world countries their standard of living isn’t as high. They are not in poverty. They maybe don’t make a lot but they aren’t poor. Now, I haven’t seen the underbelly of this country. As we lived like locals, on the surface it didn’t look like people are cowering for their lives. Their faces are plain but they will smile and be very helpful when approached. They are more ‘relaxed’ in their living than you would think. The low crime rate plays a factor here but perhaps I need to look into this more. 

Cuba is not a cheap destination. The exchange rate will absolutely disgust you. It is still affordable once you plan hard prior to going and do your research but it isn’t cheap. I didn’t concern myself with the CUP/CUC battle. I dealt strictly in CUC and was sure to check my change when I got it. Hubs got some CUP from our casa owner, which I guess was just for the experience. He used it to buy beer. I found some on the road and we hardly used it at the end of the day. Budgeting here is hard enough, especially when you want to try so many things! Keep one currency and call it a day!

It is very hard to give the gifts you brought with you away. Just keep your alms light. Ideally, they should be dropped off at an agency and they distribute them but the gratification comes from seeing the smiles on kid’s faces. On our day trip, they stopped the bus and I gave one bag to a little boy but I didn’t like the feeling. So, I dropped majority of the bags off at a school in Havana Vieja and to another school close to our casa. We just called a teacher to the gate, we didn’t go in as I knew it wasn’t allowed and would be very weird! We wouldn’t want strangers at our kid school!

Cuban toilets will probably be the worst part of your trip, next to dealing with taxis of course. Most don’t have lids, tissue or a proper handle to push or pull for you to flush. Some don’t flush at all. Carry your tissue or wipe, as a go around the roll will cost you! When I showed the attendant that I had my own tissue, she looked like she dam near wanted to kick me right into the fucking stall so that I could hurry up and get out.

Children are the pearl of the city. I ABSOLUTELY positively loved how they are fawned over. I felt so good. So at ease and we knew no one there. It isn’t uncommon for people to pass n play in baby’s hair or tickle him. We did the same when we could. Cubans are gorgeous people and the babies barefoot, barely clothed and running about freely made me so happy.

Mama Hotline Bling

Perhaps you will pause for a minute or scroll on by.

This Mother’s Day make sure you call your mother, at least to say ‘hi’.

Don’t send her a text, email or just a delivery.

Let her hear your voice or see your angel face physically.

Where she can touch and look upon you directly.

 

A mother can look into your eyes and know your lies.

It’s also the place that tells her you’re weak or how much you’ve tried.

She will always make your favorite meal on the fly.

Be the one that answers, Every. Single. Time.

 

Make sure you tell her you love and appreciate her

Hug up, squeeze up and draw nearer, nearer

Tell her you’re acknowledging her worth.

That you know you changed her life at your birth

Your words are heavy, make sure you don’t stutter

Joke about how you know you’re the best thing in her life

That you live happily, that will make her smile; her heart flutter.

 

Call your mother this Mother’s Day

Let the conversation linger on, let her say all she has to say

Somewhere in all the pleasantries your fears will be exposed

But do not feel guilt when she says ‘a mother always knows’.

Tell her you’re grateful she’s recognized you as an adult.

That you don’t intentionally mean to be difficult.

Before you run off the phone, say ‘I love YOU mama’.

You’re all I worry and think about

Remind her that for all 365 days, she’s all you care about.

Eating battles with babe….

Tonight was a very emotional night in our home. I noticed after my son was sick in February that he no longer swallowed his food easily and his eating changed significantly. We started planning to wean him from the bottle and so eating solids needed to be an all-time thing. Tonight proved we may just be in for the delay of our life. I gave my son a spoonful of beans and chicken against his wishes and asked him to ‘eat up’. He paused, and with his mouth closed tears started falling down his face. I began watching him and he managed to say ‘love you’ while trying to hold the food in his mouth. It broke me down and of course I scooped him up. I didn’t let him spit it out as I wanted to really see what would happen. Especially since this was the first time I was forcing him to eat. It hurt me so much that he used ‘love you’ in that way; as if he’s apologizing for whatever he did that put him here. I held him for a while and coaxed him to chew and swallow. He just cried and cried. It was in such a mature way, I felt so guilty. He would say ‘ok’ and hold his eyes trying to not let the tears fall. I encouraged him every step of the way but it wasn’t working. For some reason, every time he swallowed I gave him another spoonful. On the third spoonful, I decided to not give him any more as I could feel his stomach quiver when he saw me loading up the spoon. I have never seen him so….broken and sorry. Even though he didn’t do anything wrong. He’s not quite 2 yet but he was so emotional about eating. It was as if he really couldn’t help it. I felt like such a bad mom. I didn’t cry in front of him but I lost it when I thought back to how long this has been going on. I felt so guilty for not being around more for him. He used to be home all day 4 days out of the week and we used to be together all day for 2 and now his one on one time has been cut way down. He now attends daycare full-time as I changed jobs and the weekends are split with daddy and me. I can’t help but feel like if I was around more, then he would be eating home meals more. I woke his father up and he comforted him. I managed to record him whenever I told him to chew and noticed he wasn’t using his teeth but was just moving the food around. His father let him spit out what was in his mouth and he ate a lil banana after awhile. Turned out he hadn’t swallowed any of what he was fed. I couldn’t just sit around. I grabbed my handbag and went to the supermarket. I got Pediasure, multivitamins, pouch purees, All Bran, Fibre 1 and a rusk he became fond of during our stay in Cuba. When I got in 1 gave him a teaspoon of cod liver oil. This weekend we will be taking him to take a look at those tonsils; just to be sure. I never thought we would be going through an eating war as he used to eat EVERYTHING! Sigh. Guess things can’t go smoothly for too long!

Adios almost….

We all slept until 12pm due to the weariness of our day trip. Baby and I had some oatmeal we brought with us and we just hung out for a bit. My hair was a mess and I did not bring a single comb or brush with me. I had to rely on an old toothbrush I found in my bag, water and some hair oil I brought to work some magic. After I did the best I could, we got dressed and made​ our way through the door.
I had a set of gift bags left and so we took them to a primary school close by. We went to the bank to change money but there was a problem and we didn’t quite understand so we got stuck with the hotel rate. This wasn’t so bad as we had a WiFi card we had to use and once that was done we cruised down to the Malecon. The rain caught us and we ran​ back to Hotel Presidente and as soon as we got there it stopped! Not even a minute! We were grateful as we didn’t have an umbrella. There is one in our casa but we left it.  

Anyway, today we were going to go the Museum of Belles Artes (again), the museum of chocolate and the jardin for Princess Diana but we were cutting it too close. So we changed course. 5pm is the common closing time for most attractions and we left the hotel to 4. We hailed a cab and asked to be brought to the Ferry. Here, we paid $0.10 CUP each and hopped on. We were going to the island of Casablanca. We enjoyed peanuts and chicharron from the vendors. The ride was very short and smooth and we enjoyed the view. We were going to see El Christo de La Habana. That is, if we didn’t miss and fall in the water. You literally had to jump off the boat on to land. It was quite interesting.

Kids have a way of bringing people together and as avid football fanatics, baby asked to walk when he saw a ball being kicked around. Hubs and baby played a bit with the guys on the street then we were back to our hike up a path. The view of Havana was beautiful. I imagined at nights it’s even more glorious. We took our pics and once again baby found himself a new group of friends. This time, musicians. They wittingly gave him 2 maracas and allowed him to play as they sang and played their instruments. We later learned that we grossly overpaid for the instruments but as per hubs it was for the memories.  There is also an electric train to see here but we weren’t sure about walking around and so we decided to catch the next ferry. We bought some churros from a street vendor and while they were yummy, they almost made me sick. I knew they looked bad, they way they were being made wasn’t sanitary either but they were delicious. Immodium saved the day thankfully. We went back to Havana and walked about the city before stopping in to get our very last peso pizza. 1 CUC of deliciousness. This time with peppers and onions! We sat beside an older man on a bench and ate as he cat called the girls as they went by. All while telling hubs that he can’t look! Lol. We decided to walk to see the canon show but as we were 2 hours ahead we cruised on the Malecon as we went along.  At 9pm, it went off but we were at the wrong spot and it wasn’t a big a bang as we expected. We laughed at our misfortune and started walking towards our home before hailing a cab.

We packed our things and headed to dinner at Idillio’s again. I began to feel sick after eating the paella and so we took off. I had a headache from when we were chilling on the Malecon and it wouldn’t go away. Plus, all that street food was starting to ride my stomach so I knocked out and left the boys to party.

 

Vinales….

I thanked hubbs for waking me up at 6am but didn’t actually move. He was the only one that heard the alarm; thank goodness. Baby and I hugged up on each other and slept as he grew tired of trying to get me out of bed. When he started to cuss us out, I thanked him again and crawled to the washroom. It was 6:30am and we had less than an hour to make the bus. I sterilized bottles them showered while he prepped baby bag, snacks and water.
We were about to miss our bus and so I quickly dressed baby, grabbed the garbage and we were out. I ran all the way to Hotel Presidente in an effort to hold the bus, only to get there and be told we were on the list! We paid 134 CUC for this trip!  A phone call later and our bus was a different one from the tour we booked with and hadn’t arrived yet.  I ordered us some breakfast and as we were about to partake the bus came. Off to Vinales we go, or so we thought. We made a number of stops to pick up passengers at other hotels then we were off at 8:45am! Baby was knocked out soon after thankfully. We made a washroom stop and the attendant was displeased when I didn’t need to buy her tissue and shared my flushable wipes with the lady beside me who chatted me up as we waited in line.

If she could have kicked in into the dingy stall she would have! Lol We were en route again and the scenery was very relaxing. Our first stop was the Guayabita rum factory, where we got to see the bottling of rum and taste the fruit. We purchased 4 bottles from their shop for 20 CUC and were en route again. I knocked out and when I woke up we were being shown 2 men dressed as indians with a eagle and a Cuban hutia. It was very odd to see as they were just in a circle with no other indians around. I get that it was a re-enactment but it was very weird to see. I went to use the washroom during this part of the tour and before the attendant would let me in she said .60 CUC. I was a bit confused and was about to walk away but I really needed to pee and she let me pass. I was extremely annoyed at this practice, because people will tip on their own. The only coin I had was 1 CUC so I paid it as she literally stood in the entrance when I was about to exit. Either you were being pushed to buy toilet tissue or access to use the fucking toilet??! Disgusting. Later at lunch, I was offered the child seat and instead of bringing it over the same woman was beckoning me to come to her.
I didn’t go and we held our baby in our lap. I wasn’t going to pay to use a fucking seat! Anyway, after I passed the ‘indian’ mess they had displayed, we all watched as fresh cane was grinded with slices of fresh pineapple. This was 2 CUC and we enjoyed a cup. It was even more delicious with some Guayabita for 3 more CUCs. I had promised baby ice cream from the day before and the lil bugger remembered so I bought a small tub for us all to share. Then came the adventure we were waiting for! We ventured in and through a cave. This was an amazing experience and was very much worth it! It was majestic to me, I felt so cool! As a plus, in order to exit we got a boat ride around the cave and out to nearby steps. A hat was passed around and I kindly passed it forward.
This was a pretty neat experience. We all piled into the nearby restaurant and ate a very nice lunch of fruits, salad, chicken, pork, rice, potatoes, rice pudding and coffee. Man, I will miss Cuban coffee, it is definitely a delight. I stopped drinking it at the start of the year and refuse to even purchase a bag to take home with us! Sigh. Our next stop was at a tobacco farm. This was so serene and felt unreal. We watched one being rolled then all took turns at the delicacy. It was delicious! We bought 10 for 20 CUC and was ushered off the farm to the Mural de le Historia. This is a must see but will leave you with questions. First being, why? Lol. Baby rode a cow and we were amazed that he wasn’t scared at all. We were told to give what we can so I gave 2 CUCs and we enjoyed sipping on a pina colada for another 3 CUCs. Our last stop was at the lookout and this was majestic as well. Vinales is really the ‘Garden of Cuba’ and the ride home was just as scenic. We couldn’t wait to get through the door and shower. We were starving and tired! We showered, packed our luggage and bought dinner at El Idillio to go and came back home. I finally got to try Ropa Vieja and hubs got shrimp and lobster. They were both ok, a bit heavy on the sauce but we had our fill and was chilling about for the night!

Hello Havana…

From the night before our casa owner let us know that they would be replacing the elevator and so it wouldn’t be available from 9am-12pm. We were supposed to wake up and leave with him to go on the road but when he came by at 8:45am we couldn’t make it! Lol. We did stay awake though. We washed and sterilized bottles then prepped for the day. We booked our tour with Cubatur at Hotel Presidente then went to the bank to change money. Now listen, the eyebrow game in this place is something crazy. Men and women alike have well done brows and well, I got a little jealous. We made a stop at a barber shop down the road and for 1 CUC I was brought up to standard! I loved them!
We walked down to the Malecon and caught a cab to what should have been Almances San Jose to do some souvenir shopping. The driver was unable to find the place despite asking multiple people on the way, so we decided to just go to El Capitolo and sort ourselves out from there as it is pretty central. All that driving for only 3 CUC was a steal to me. It was just a bit annoying that taxis in Havana don’t know a lot of places. Even when they asked other taxi drivers. As faith would have it, we got dropped off on San Jose street and there was a sounvenir shop right there! Sigh.
We went in for a bit, but the prices were out of our reach.  While walking down the street I felt a loose grip and realized that my slippers had gone rogue and no longer wanted to protect my feet:-(

  My hero got me a new pair for 7 CUC at said souvenir shop. *facepalm*. Once back on track we made our way to Sloppy Joes for a delicious lunch! My gosh! The meals were so good and we had a very refreshing Coke! Our sloppy joe, chicken with vegetables sandwich, mojito and coke came to 19 CUC.  We couldn’t complain at all. It had a North American flair and was the perfect break we needed from all things Cuban. It felt like we were in an embassy lol. Once we hit those doors, the annoyance from struggling to communicate all over, picking food conscientiously to avoid illness and dealing with the unorganized taxi system just floated away. It truly felt like a safe haven and the food being excellent was a much needed bonus! Even baby ate a lil. We have no complaints even though we had to maneuver eating while controlling him on a stool as there’s no tables and chairs. I wanted to go to the Museum of Belles Artes but as they were closed on Mondays​ we went across the road to the Museum of the Revolution.
It was 8 CUC each and while it was very interesting, it was also extremely biased. A few pieces were in English and an English speaking guide is there if you so desire.
There were a few pieces of blood stained clothes of warriors that gave me the creeps. As we walked through each room every one was very quietly, it was as if they were all taken aback at the blatant victimization in the language or the brutality in the revolution itself. Either way, it’s a MUST see. My hubby thoroughly enjoyed it and seeing military artillery such as planes, boats and trucks was very cool as well. Not to mention we got souvenir pieces, 10 pieces for 5 CUC, a leather covered ball for 2 CUC and 3 shot glasses 5 CUC. We shared a small tub of ice cream before heading out. We walked 7 mins to Plaza Vieja where we just chilled on the side of the curb for a good hour. I walked around for a bit but there wasn’t much more here for me as it was a bit hard to understand and locate the attractions in this area.  Nothing is in English as the country doesn’t cater to English speakers despite the fact that Cubans don’t visit these attractions or know of them! Due to it popularity, I tried a croissant with ham and cheese from Cafe Bohemia and much was left to desired. After a while we decided to go home. We walked toward the Plaza de la San Fransisco to find the Malecon spot we left from before. During this walk we saw some teachers outside a school and gave them a few bags of the gifts we brought to give to the students. At the plaza we found the Jardin de Teresa Calcutta. As an extremely non religious person, I enjoyed this garden so much! I was raised in Catholic schools all my life and so the works of Mother Teresa was taught all over. It was a very beautiful, serene rest spot and I would recommend it as a break from the crowds, haggling and hustle of the streets. We spent a few minutes here then caught the cab of a lifetime! 6 CUC to take us to the monument of Calixto Garcia. We said no, and it went down to 5. We decided to take it and things got interesting. I wanted to stop and take a photo of a beautiful monument of a face I saw and somehow we communicated that. I showed him where it was and he turned around in the street and allowed me to take a couple pictures. It was so beautiful. When I was done I got back in the car but he didn’t drive off. He spoke and all I caught was ‘Donde?’ And I told him the same destination and he got so upset, hitting his steering wheel and all! I said Cuantos, quentas? (How much?) and the tirade continued as we sat quietly watching him. When he was done, he said 8 CUC to Hotel Presidente and we said ok. We had no issues paying more but his reaction caught us so off guard. When he got to Hotel Presidente, would you believe he got out, ran around to my door helped me out to the point of almost lifting me. Then, he took out all of our bags and took my son who was sleeping from the husband and helped him out as well. Introduced himself and asked us our names then he did a curtsy!! What a quack!! I thought this was hilarious as this comes after mentioning to hubs that almost every tourist I saw had a very shocked look on their face when their cab rides come to an end. We even witnessed 2 quarrels between taxi and guests over the cost of their splashy old car ride. The taxi world in Havana is very funny, a sad funny if you will. They hardly learn to communicate with you and they make up their prices as they go. The biggest trip we found was when we said no to their prices, they would say they are not a ‘collectivo’ when they are! As they will toot at people asking if they need a taxi while you’re in their car. When you say no they will also lower the price! You have to haggle twice as hard, or just walk! Havana, I must say is a walking city. There is TONS to see and do everywhere, so the walk isn’t dreadful. There are monuments all over the city and even though you can’t Google ino on a lot them they are still unique. There’s a lot of Greek influences across the city as well. We mainly took taxi or collectivos to far areas but walked around for the most part with baby in hand. The only regret is not bringing an umbrella stroller, which while it might not make it due to the roads; would have eased the child carrying burden somewhat. We had a good laugh at crazy man ‘Luis’ and walked home to prep for our day. We realized we needed to change more money for our final 2 days as we blew the budget of 40 CUC per day. While daddy when to Hotel Presidente, baby and I went to the park but the slide was broken and almost ripped a chunk of his skin out. Another section had no bars on either side and he got scared to play so we left. When we went home a Celine Dion concert was going on in English and we sang out our little hearts as she belted hit after hit after hit! Even hubby ‘air guitared’ it once or twice. Dinner was a to go box of queso pizza from Razones after prepping for our day tour to Vinales and doing a light packing for our departure home. There was a music video countdown going on and we had fun in bed singing all the songs​ and dancing, enjoying the fact that Cuban people would know certain entertainers such as Justin Timberlake, Sean Paul, Shawn Mendes, Alessia Cara (Btown represent!!), The Weekend, Selena Gomez, Chainsmokers, Imagine Dragons, Maroon 5, Sia and Rae Sremmurd. We especially cheered when Sean Paul hit the screen​ singing Rock a bye baby, rock a bye! As ignorant as it sounds we cheered as if these artistes ‘made it’ lol. Sadly, there was no Drake or Justin Beiber. Dia Cinco was complete!