Life without Sam

One year ago we were getting settled in Cholula. My two biggest anxieties had nothing to do with living in Mexico – they were that my grandpa would pass away while I was gone, or that Samson would.

They lived through the winter and on into spring. Grandpa grew increasingly dissatisfied with his quality of life on dialysis and at several points talked about going off of it, but soldiered on. Samson continued to lose muscle and fur, but still trotted along for his morning walks. When we got back to Ohio in May, I had the luxury of spending most of the summer with them.

And then they both passed away. First Grandpa, just a couple weeks shy of his 93rd birthday. And then, a few weeks later, Samson.

Grandpa eventually got to the point where it didn’t make sense to continue dialysis. He had made peace with the idea, and he’d talked about it long enough that we’d made some peace with it too. I will forever appreciate the honesty with which he talked about what it’s like to live to 92. He was buried in the church cemetary on the most beautiful midsummer day.

About a week after Grandpa’s funeral we made the trek back to Boston and moved into the first floor of an old Victorian. Samson came too. One week later we let him outside late at night and he tumbled in the dark and rolled down the slope of the front lawn. Without any muscle he couldn’t regain his footing, and he fell off a ledge down to the pavement.

It’s hard to write this without crying.

The day of his fall he got up and hobbled into the kitchen, so I hoped that he was just stiff and with time he’d recover. But he never did. Over the next two days he lost more and more mobility until he couldn’t get up. The vet said he’d likely injured his spine, and it wasn’t something that could be fixed. I remember thinking that I’d always assumed Sam would lose interest in food, and that would be my sign that he was ready to go. But there he was lying immobile in his bed, willing the vet to return to the treat jar on her counter.

The night before he fell Samson asked to sleep in bed with us. He hadn’t done that in years. It seems crazy to suggest it, because after all it was an accident…the fall…but Read and I couldn’t shake the feeling that somehow he knew something.

When he took his last little raggedly breath, a long, low, sad wail came out of me. My baby dog. My once in a lifetime dog. I counted once and we’d been to 24 states together. Two cross-country moves. Something like ten apartments. He was my – and then ourconstant protector and companion.

So now we’re trying to figure out life without him. In some ways it’s easier – not having to be home at certain points or carry a baby while letting him outside – but still a sense of loss hangs over so many moments. I restarted my job and R. started writing his dissertation and the baby started daycare, so there’s been all kinds of new to keep us busy. But sometimes in the evening we walk to the neighborhood dog park just to watch them play and run around, and talk about how if Sam were there, he’d be sitting off to the side with us, watching the action and pondering the next chapter of his yet-unpublished-memoir.

In the mood for more Samson stories?
The story of how he found me
That time he jumped off the balcony
That time I got a letter about his threatening behavior
That time he returned to Hocking Hills

Together at last


I’ll never make this sweater again

And that’s not because I don’t like it, but because it required so much tinkering, frogging, and reknitting that I lost track of the edits. This was the most INFURIATING pattern. Simultaneously a work of origami-genius and a huge hot mess. My biggest complaint was that there’s no measurements schematic, and as someone who hardly ever gets the required gauge I rely on the schematics to make size adjustments. I recall that I down-sized the needle, widened the sleeve openings, and lengthened it considerably (it looks long on the pattern picture but knit up like a crop top). Oh, and I took the advice of others and knit the entire garter strip and then grafted it to the other front piece in stockinette (versus grafting the two garter halves).

When I finally cast-off I couldn’t stand looking at the thing and it sat in a suitcase for a few months. The pattern was covered in undecipherable numbers, calculations, and notes. I threw it out.

UntitledYesterday I felt ready to face the music. And much to my surprise, I don’t hate the finished sweater. I think I like it in fact. If I wear a thin white shirt underneath I think it could transition to the office…yes? Otherwise it’s a good summer shirt on its own. Here’s a ravelry link.



All I want for my birthday…

…is an email response from the US Embassy in Mexico about our daughter’s paperwork. Ugh. It’s been MIA for 8 weeks. We spent two hours on the phone today trying to get through.

In the meantime I’m working on a version of Amecameca for Christine. She picked the colors and I love their high contrast.

Things are kind of winding down in Mexico and we’re both feeling antsy about returning home. It IS peak mango season right now, which is helping, but even cheap and abundant mangoes cannot compete with my desire to pet Samson again.


Giving birth in Mexico

This post is not an hour-by-hour birth story with all the gory details (I figure most of you just breathed a sigh of relief). If you ask my mom what it was like to birth two kids sans drugs she’ll say, “Oh I don’t remember it being so bad.” Hmm. Apparently there is some really healthy forgetting that happens afterwards, because as Leela was entering the world I remember thinking, “Women have done THIS for all of human history??!”  If she’s ever to have a sibling it’s probably best I not immortalize all the memories in writing. I’ll leave those out while still reviewing what it was like to do this in another country.

In summary, we did not regret choosing to do this in Mexico. It was an overall positive experience and we felt comfortable, listened to, and well taken care of. However it did require some flexibility on our part, particularly with regard to delivery and post-delivery protocols.

Birth Plan
My good friend is an anesthesiologist in San Francisco and has been present at a lot of births, so I asked for her thoughts about prepping for this one. She said ridiculous birth plans are becoming commonplace at her hospital…like 15-page novellas complete with long lists of words no one within earshot of the mother is allowed to utter. “And in the end, hardly any birth follows such a rigid play-by-play, nor can people predict how they’ll feel during labor. My advice? Know what’s important to you, but stay flexible.”

I’m not too keen on making detailed plans ahead of time anyway. For anything. So talking through what was important to us felt like a much worthier use of time, and out of that conversation came this very simple plan:
– pick a hospital where they’d let me move around during labor
– try labor without an epidural
– avoid an unnecessary c-section (more on that in an earlier post)

Due Date
At just over 30 weeks pregnant I flew home to see Samson and family. I was uninsured in the states, so if the baby came early it was going to bankrupt us, and every day I’d repeat don’tgointolabordon’tgointolabor. Fast forward two months and it had changed to pleasegointolaborpleasegointolabor.  My doctor told me he would induce at 41 weeks (one week earlier than most U.S. doctors) and I’d read that induction more often leads to c-sections.

P1130633At 39 weeks I tried hiking to the top of this butte in Atlixco in hopes it would spur labor…it did not. It did, however, yield some beautiful shots of Mt. Popo at sunset.
Atlixco, MexicoAt 41 weeks my doctor refused to wait longer on the induction, but I did some self-advocating around starting the induction as slowly as possible, and at home. By the time we met him at the hospital some mild contractions had started, so we didn’t end up using petocin. We just checked into the labor room and waited.

We had an entire room to ourselves, including my own bathroom and shower. We checked in at 11am, and throughout the afternoon and evening it was pretty much just the two of us with occasional check-ins from the doctor and nurses. My doctor stayed in the hospital the entire time, which we really appreciated.

I tried negotiating my way out of the IV since walking around with the stand was awkward, but it was pretty much mandatory. Oh well. Stay flexible Katie.

P1130724At some point in the afternoon my water broke which started the clock ticking. If more than 12ish hours passed without delivering, my doctor was moving to a c-section. From what friends have told me this is similar to policies in the U.S., the exception being some midwifery practices.

I turned down the epidural because I heard it typically slows labor. But then my labor turned to back labor, and it was….rough. I endured the worst of it for 6 hours with hardly any progression. “At this rate, you only have 18 more hours of labor left,” R. cheerfully joked. I think my response was something like, “Come here. I want to punch you in the face.”

If it was all heading to a midnight c-section anyway I figured the pain was pointless, so we called for the epidural. The ironic thing was that after the epidural, everything sped way up. Maybe because my muscles weren’t so clenched? Regardless, I’m so glad we stayed open to different ideas. Just after midnight my doctor said we were getting close to delivery.

There was hardly anyone in our labor room all day, but for some reason there were something like 11 people in the delivery room. To this day I have no idea who half of them were or why they were there. That might be more about our hospital – it’s affiliated with a university and I think there were a lot of doctors-in-training around.

Probably the saddest I got during this whole process was when I saw that they were going to make me go all old-school for the delivery. Like flat on my back, legs restrained. Ugh. But getting worked up over it wouldn’t have changed anything, so I just rolled with it. My sense is that this kind of set-up is more common in Mexico, even in the modern private hospitals.
They let us hold Leela for a few minutes. After that she was taken to the nursery, where she was put in an incubator (even though her Apgar score was a 9…I think it’s just more about the Mexicans’ obsession with warmth) and given a bottle. None of this was our preference but it was already 3am and they promised to bring her into our room in the morning.

I was put in a “recovery room” for an hour, which was really just a dark corner of the hospital where I was hooked to an annoying beeping machine. It seemed weird but eh…it was only an hour. R. was not allowed to sit with me, but he was allowed to go with Leela to the nursery while they measured and weighed her.

If I remember correctly, the only vaccination that was non-negotiable at birth was Hepatitis B. For the others we just went with the CDC’s recommendations.

The next morning they wheeled Leela in and we had some nice family time. Around noon our doctor called and said he felt I was ready to go home if I wanted, so that’s what we prepared to do.
P1130737Claiming they needed to do a couple more measurements, the nurses took Leela back to the nursery. We found out that this is more about putting the baby in lockdown until you pay your bill. Verrrry clever! R traipsed all over the hospital paying portions of the bill and gathering receipts and approval stamps (they love multi-step payment processes in Mexico). Only after presenting it all at the nursery door were we handed our baby.

Here we are leaving the hospital less than 12 hours after her birth. I don’t think they would’ve made us leave that soon if we didn’t want to – recovering at home just seemed more appealing to me.
Before leaving the hospital we provided information for the Acta de Nacimiento (record of birth). Rebel Heart’s blog contains a detailed post on this process, which turned out to be very helpful, particularly the note about how the mother needs to write her MAIDEN name on the form…not her married name. Even after reading this we messed up the form and had to ask for our doctor’s help in officially amending it.

The Acta de Nacimiento is then taken to Civil Registry, where you apply for a Mexican birth certificate. After going through the process of obtaining visas we were well-versed in the nightmare that is Mexican bureaucracy, so when our doctor suggested we hire a lawyer to handle the process for us, I think our exact response was, “You can DO that?! YES PLEASE.” We gave her our records and then met her at the hospital a week later to receive Leela’s birth certificates (we paid to get extra copies, thinking that would be much easier than trying to request some years later). It cost approximately $50, and honestly, we probably would’ve paid three times that for all the trouble it saved us.

After you have the birth certificate, you set up an appointment with the U.S. Consulate at the nearest embassy to apply for the Consular’s Report of Birth Abroad (essentially the equivalent of a U.S. birth certificate). Their website contains detailed instructions on all of the paperwork that needs to be assembled. Our appointment there was very straightforward and now we’re just waiting for her CRBA and U.S. Passport to arrive in the mail.

Ear-piercingP1150620Last week Leela made an appearance at the English class where I volunteered before she was born (the teenage students wanted to throw her a “baby shower”, which was super adorable and sweet). They were varying degrees of shocked and horrified to learn that we didn’t pierce Leela’s ears. All little girls here get it done, which I suppose explains why the public assumes our baby is a boy. “It’s less painful if you do it when they’re a baby,” is everyone’s reason. Call me crazy, but after seeing the cutest little gold hoops on a baby last week I’m half-tempted. In the meantime we just get to hear a lot of “hermoso” and “precioso”.


Other posts in the “Moving to Mexico” series:
At home in Cholula
Transporting a pet to another country
What to pack for a year abroad
Animals in the murals and on the sidewalks
Preparing to have a baby abroad

Four reasons baby knits are the best


1. They finish quickly. Even when the gauge is tiny.
2. Compared to adults there’s not the same angst over fit and sizing. A baby body is shaped like a sack of sugar with four sausages coming out of it, which everyone loves and the baby is not trying to disguise, so why fuss over a slimming neckline or the exact placement of waist darts?
3. Little knits are great stash-busters, especially for partial skeins (bring on the stripes!).
4.  A baby is too small to have an opinion about a garment or, let’s be honest, look anything but cute in it.



Tomorrow our little dual-citizen will be two weeks old. Defying overwhelmingly skewed prediction odds from friends, family, and strangers throughout Mexico, we had a little girl. We named her Leela. I’ll write more later about her birth, but all in all it was a very positive experience.

P1130817It took less than a week before we were admonished for not wrapping her in enough blankets. I knew it was coming. Mexicans are SERIOUS about infants and piles of fleece – it’s rare that you glimpse any part of a baby being carried down the sidewalk. No face, no hands, nothing. Everything’s swaddled into a super thick cartoon fleece baby burrito.

The woman who approached us in the park had an agenda, but she tried disguising it amongst friendly baby chatter:

Woman: Oh what a cute baby. How old is she?
Me: One week.
Woman: So pretty. But you need another blanket on her. It’s very cold out.
(it was sunny and 75 degrees)
Me: We are from the United States and it’s not very cold for us. It’s warm.
Woman: Did you have the baby here in Mexico?
Me: Yes, in Puebla. My husband is studying here for the year.
Woman: So she is a Mexican baby! How great. You should put another blanket on her though.

……and so it continued. Social niceties interspersed with PUT A BLANKET ON YOUR BABY BEFORE SHE FREEZES!! Exasperated with our lack of shared urgency over the situation, she eventually left.


In general, Mexicans seem more excited about babies than Americans. Or at least the average random person here is much more likely to want to see the baby, ask questions, and gush over him/her. That part is fun. I just have to also expect that they might voice concern over her dying of exposure.

In between baby care I’m working on some little sweaters for her, and together R and I are moving forward on all of the paperwork for the Mexican and American birth certificates.

Other posts in the “Moving to Mexico” series:
At home in Cholula
Transporting a pet to another country
What to pack for a year abroad
Animals in the murals and on the sidewalks
Preparing to have a baby abroad