Monday, December 28, 2015

Hello from Guatemala…Katie’s mom speaking.

I have been here a little over a week now and seriously feel like I have gone to heaven.  This place is magical and having Katie and Brandon as my hosts makes it even better.  I am amazed at how Katie just keeps going and going and going.  Before I arrived she was a bit nervous about feeding me for some reason and I must tell you all she has mastered the fine art of cooking here, every meal has been delicious.

Today we went to Pana.  Brandon did all the grocery shopping while Katie and I got pampered, we both got haircuts and I am loving mine. I really needed one.  Tomorrow we are off on yet another adventure, cliff jumping.  I say I am up for it and that I am going to do it but we shall see.  I think more than anything we all would like Baby Kukowski to make his entrance but that little guy is in charge so we patiently wait.  I will tell you all Katie is ready and wants this little guy out!!!!!

I’m also keeping up with my card playing, fortunately Katie and Brandon are fans of Hand and Foot so all is good here in Guatemala.  I highly recommend for those of you that do not have Guatemala on your bucket list of places to visit that you put it on and make it NUMBER ONE!!!!!

Fresh haircut and a pina is good. 

Bobbie, Katie, and Brandon

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

My mom is here!

My mom arrived last Friday. She did well but there was some drama on our side. The driver that we hired to pick her up at the airport called us in the morning to tell us that he was not able to get through as the roads were closed due to protests. I immediately started crying. My mom is a tough woman but this is her first time traveling out of the country alone, she doesn’t speak the language, and I told her someone would be there holding a sign with her name. We spent a little more than an hour arranging for a new driver who was already in the city to pick her up. She did great! She even managed to ask to use his phone so she could call us. It was great to hear her voice!!

Bobbie's first boat ride. 
I’m 39 weeks today and so we are trying to get out and see things before I give birth. So far we have been over to our friends home for a holiday party (we had to hike and Bobbie did great!), took a lake tour with our landlord and their family to the villages of Santiago, San Pedro, and San Juan, and did our weekly grocery shopping in Panajachel. Today we are going to Jabilito for a market and lunch.  While in San Juan Bobbie found 2 paintings that she is interested in purchasing. We may go back today for her to make her purchase.

Age and Bobbie on the boat to Santiago
Pickup truck ride in Santiago

We do not have a Christmas tree or other decorations and we are not exchanging gifts, but this is the best holiday season that I have ever experienced.


Katie, Brandon, and Bobbie too.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

It seems we have a social life.

Things have really been picking up in our social life the past week or so. We have been invited and had lunch with a few folks at their homes, our landlords arrived and they had us over for dinner.  Our neighbor Eric, who owns a 12-acre property directly behind us with amazing gardens, rentals, pool, and a view invited us over for wine. Brandon has not had red wine since I have known him because it has always given him heartburn (Brandon thinks his recent weight loss has helped).  Eric is a Lord from Norway and only drinks red wine so Brandon of course did as well. 2 bottles of wine later no heartburn but the next day…a titch of a hangover.

Eric's main house. Photo taken from our bedroom window.
We met a woman from Milwaukee when we were here in January. We shared a shuttle to the lake. She was moving here for what she thought was going to be 5 months at that time.  We ran into here fairly quickly after arriving and she let us know that she has decided to stay. She and her boyfriend live in Panajachel. I have had coffee with her but this past weekend she and her boyfriend came to Santa Cruz and the 4 of us explored our small village, had lunch, and then finished the afternoon with a few beers in our garden (not me ☺).

Place we had lunch in Santa Cruz

Sunday was Packer game day. I believe I have mentioned before that we have made friends with a couple who recently moved her from New York with their 2-year old son. They came over Sunday for fried chicken, nachos, beer, and brownies…a good old American football Sunday.  The Packers did win.

All of this socializing has left us, me mostly, tired!

38 weeks tomorrow…the little guy is welcome to arrive anytime now. My mom arrives at the lake this Friday and I cannot wait!!! She may have to do a guest blog post while she is here.


Katie and Brandon

Sunday, December 6, 2015

95 days

This is how many days I was in Guatemala before I received my first scorpion sting. And actually I was stung twice! Once in both arms buy the same scorpion. He had made my bag his home I guess. I hadn’t used the bag in about a week. I’m usually really good about shaking everything out before putting in on my body but I was sloppy this time.

Brandon killed him and laughed at me as I nursed my wounds (can't wait for his first encounter). I am glad that it is out of the way and I now know that it truly feels like a wasp sting. This doesn’t feel good by any means but it was not as painful as I had made it out to be in my mind.  Also, LindaBlue had left us some homeopathic remedies and one was perfect for my ailment.

Katie and Brandon

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Preparing for our home birth

Today I am 36 weeks and 3 days. I am finally in the safe zone for a home birth! If the baby were to have come any earlier it would have needed to be a hospital birth. LindaBlue came over this past Thursday for a prenatal visit. It is so amazing to have our care provider come to our home.

Meet the lovely LindaBlue.

We start our time together with lunch. I don’t like to cook but for some reason preparing a meal for the woman that is going to help us through this experience doesn’t feel painful.  We enjoy our lunch and talk about our questions and fears, tell stories about things not related to birth; we are working to really get to know one another. The power was out during this visit and so we discussed how we would handle the birth without electricity, as you can never predict these things.  The biggest issue would be not having access to clean water so we will purchase 2 large Culligan size water jugs.

When we have had enough to eat we move to the bedroom for the exam. Linda takes my pulse, measures my belly, feels the baby, listens to his heart, and has me give her a urine sample. Brandon took his turn with the stethoscope too. The dogs gather round and are very curious about the whole event. I asked Linda to measure my waist. The tape measure wasn’t big enough so we improvised. I currently have a 40inch waist. Again, everything is healthy and on track!  We will see Linda again on 12/12/15.

She was really feeling him...he is still head down and she thinks almost 7 pounds!

40-inch waist folks!
We need to have names and contact numbers for multiple boat captains incase the baby comes in the middle of the night. LindaBlue lives in Panajachel and this is a 15- minute boat ride from our home. There is not access to lake transportation after 7pm unless you have arranged for a private boat. Brandon worked with Cruz, the Guardian of the house to contact 5 captains, let them know when I am due, and to ask if they would be open to being on our list. We have 5 just in case the first 4 do not answer their phone!

Another part of preparing for a home birth is gathering supplies. Linda gave us a list of things to have on hand.  Below is the list:

Supply list for homebirth

2 pkg of underpads: Chux

Large bottle of hydrogen peroxide

1 roll of absorbent paper towels

Extra Toilet paper

Plastic cover (i.e. to cover bed) - a shower curtain works well

Duct tape – to attach plastic cover to bed

2 large dark plastic trash bags

1 large zip lock bag

rescue remedy cream

Peri bottle

Oil for massage: coconut oil or olive oil

Bendable straws

Sanitary napkins (approx. 12 – thick pads not thin super absorbent for the first 24 hours after birth)

Food for Mom during labor (small protein snacks, protein drinks, juice (usually citrus is not a good choice), fruit, yogurt,  honey, etc.)

Please have the following items located together in a box, bag, shelf in closet, etc.
1  sets of twin sheets (1 for birth, 1 for after birth)
4  large used bath towels (double the amount for a water birth)
clean clothes for mom (after the birth)
clothes for baby (undershirt, gown, diapers, socks, 2 receiving blankets)

My mom is bringing some of the items when she comes because they would have required a 4-hour trip to Guatemala City (Thank you so very much mom!!).  We spent the majority of today walking around Panajachel picking up the items that we could find here.  We did run into LindaBlue on the street and of course she had the biggest smile on her face. She always does! She told us that she is getting a new tattoo tomorrow so we should try to not have the baby tomorrow!  Both Brandon and I feel very safe and ready for this!

The last piece is to have a plan B. We need to have a plan for if things are not progressing or if Linda feels that we have some type of emergency. There is a hospital that is a 20-minute boat ride across the lake that is a part of plan B. Linda is going to check out a private clinic in Panajachel that she has used in the past this weekend and then Brandon and I will go and meet the doctor.  Better to be over prepared than under prepared!


Katie and Brandon

Friday, November 27, 2015


We had a wonderful time yesterday afternoon into the evening eating great traditional North American Thanksgiving food, chatting with newlyweds who had recently arrived at the lake and were in awe of it’s beauty, and chatting with expats who now call the lake home. I did not take any photos of the event…working on being in the moment instead of in the future.

We walked home with Paul and Pat, a couple from Minneapolis who now reside here. Pat is an accountant. The two of them have lived in some fantastic places due to her accounting career. I never would have thought that accounting could offer so many cool opportunities. This little place is full of people who have such amazing stories to tell.

I feel so grateful, appreciative, and thankful that I have been afforded the opportunities that I have had in my life. I know that I am privileged in many ways and I hope to not forget that. I am so lucky to have found a great friend who wanted to marry me and who is also willing to take huge life risks and adventures with me. I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else.

 I am also constantly reminding myself of all of our friends and family who both encouraged and challenged us as we planned this big move. The love that was behind all of it will never be forgotten.

Thanks for helping us work towards this. 


Katie and Brandon

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Life as of late

About a year before this move I decided that I would grow out my super short pixie hair cut. I didn’t want to be getting haircuts every 5 weeks while living here.  We were looking for simplification for heavens sake!

I had my last haircut/shape up with my amazing stylist of 9 years the week before we left for Guatemala. She did a fantastic job of making the growing out phase as painless as possible…keeping that mullet at bay. It had been 3 months since the last haircut and the mullet had returned!

Our midwife’s son’s girlfriend is a stylist here and so yesterday I had got my first haircut in Guatemala. After tip the total came to $14.00. No color; just cut at this point. I’m hoping I can hang with the grey hairs for a while…fresh haircut always feels great and I think I am out of pixie stage and entering bob stage.

On our boat ride back to our house after our Costa Rica trip we met Chris. He, his wife, and their 2 year-old son had just arrived at the lake. They, like us, left their life behind in the states and are in the process of making Lake Atitlan their home for the next year. They have been staying about a 2-minute walk from our place.

They invited us to their place for dinner last week and we had a really nice time. They ended up finding a place to stay long term about a 25-minute walk from us and they are moving there this Sunday. We decided to invite them over for dinner before their move…our very first dinner party. 

Friday nights have become pizza night here (inspired by pizza party Fridays that I attended with Larson, Annie, and Guse) so that is what we had. It was a nice night. It was bit nerve racking as baking/cooking is still a bit challenging for us here (altitude makes a real difference people!) but we pulled it off. We make the dough and the sauce from scratch…pretty impressive we know!

LindaBlue (our midwife) returned to Guatemala from the states last week and we had our second pre-natal visit with her! She came to our home this time. I made brunch and we sat around and chatted about the upcoming birth of our son. She then did a physical exam. I am measuring right on track (good news to me because I thought I was massive!), my blood pressure is great, he was in the head down position and had a strong heartbeat.  I love that reassurance and I really needed it!

We had not seen Linda for 6 weeks due to her being out of the country and the last week or so had been emotionally rough for me. Fears about birth were beginning to creep in, I wasn’t sleeping well, my exercise had slowed down, and I also wasn’t communicating very well with my one friend here, Brandon. 

The day before Linda came, Brandon and I had a heart-to-heart about everything that was going on in my head. We decided that I needed to get back on the exercise wagon as that really helps my mood and we thought it would also help my sleep.  This along with having Linda back has really helped me to feel less fearful and more excited about the birth of this baby!

Dressed in my hiking clothes...34 weeks 3 days. Everyday counts people!

And in case you were wondering, I do still brush my teeth. 

Check out the lamp that we created for our living room! We picked up the lampshade (basket) at the market in Panajachel and Brandon created that stand out of bamboo. The lightening situation is really shaping up in this cozy home!

The pace is slow and life is good.  Come on down and experience some Guatemala life with us!

Katie and Brandon

Friday, November 13, 2015

Costa Rica

We recently returned from 5 days in Costa Rica. At this point in time our passports need to leave Guatemala every 90 days. We decided to use this as a reason to head to the beach. Neither Brandon nor I had been to Costa Rica and I was looking for some time to have my feet in the sand and to see the ocean.

I do not feel small standing by the ocean!

We stayed in Tamarindo. Our shuttle driver informed us that the locals call it Tamagringo due the amount of American tourists. The ocean was beautiful and the food was great. It felt really nice to not cook, grocery shop, or do dishes for a whole week! We also found some of our favorite vices to indulge in.

We had a list prior to the trip of items that we hoped we would be able to find on the vacation. Below is a list of items we brought home:

    3 bath towels
     Face wash for Katie
     All natural body lotion, shampoo, and conditioner  for Katie
     2 pairs of flip flops for Brandon (his 1 pair broke a few days before the trip)
     2 very roomy rompers for Katie (she is pretty large these days) from a very cute boutique.
     Tea light candles
     12 IPA beers (that Brandon will ration until our first visitor…my mom)
     A pizza cutter
     Measuring spoons
1   A pizza pan (we are trying to perfect our homemade pizza)
1   A pack of poorly made tennis balls for the dogs (Jackson destroy one already)
1   A hanging cord with light socket attached so that our craftiness can continue with the making of a lamp.
1   A string of white Christmas lights.

It was hot and humid and I started to really feel my pregnancy. Sitting was probably my favorite thing (except for when a woman walked by me and said that if I wasn’t careful I may just have the baby on the beach…I’m only 33 weeks so the comment didn’t feel the greatest). Brandon spent one morning taking a surf lesson. He did amazing and got up right away. He paid for a 2-hour lesson and came in after about 1 hour due to his need to take a break. They went back out for about 20 more minutes and then he was done! He was tired and sore but happy that he had the experience.

 By the end of the trip I was ready to go home and our little place in Guatemala is what felt like home! This was exciting to me…the fact that it feels like home. It may have been because our dogs were there but whatever the reason, I was excited!

At the airport check in counter Brandon and I were both weighed with our carry on bags due to the fact that the first flight of our return was to be on a 12 -passenger plane! I had no idea that this was a part of the plan.  Folks, Brandon thought this was the coolest thing ever and all I could think about was safely landing on the ground.

There were 4 rows of 3 seats and Brandon and I were lucky enough to be in the very first row. This meant for me squeezing down a very small isle that I wasn’t sure I was going to fit down…embarrassing!  I made it to my seat and it felt like I was driving the plane.  We were directly behind the pilots. So close that Brandon had to move his leg so that the pilot could put his armrest down!

That is my bag on my lap...that is how close we sat to the pilots. 

Our view of the runway during landing

View of the entire plane.

Our flight arrived in Guatemala City at about 6pm so we ended up spending the night in Antigua. We finished the journey home the next day and were greeted by our very happy Kirby and Jackson. Our next 90 days is the first week in February…the baby will be here and I can’t wait!

Our new countdown is December 18th…Bobbie arrives!


Katie and Brandon