An Arctic Bumblebee

It’s been a while since I posted about bees. My post about Costa Rican bumblebees gets quite a few reads, and apparently it’s pollinator week! So I thought I’d go to an extreme place to find bees this time and post about Bombus polaris, an Arctic bumblebee.

Bombus polaris, courtesy of the New York Times.
What?! There was a postage stamp with Bombus polaris on it, and I missed it?! Image courtesy of Canadian Postage Stamps:

I had a hard time finding anything on this cutie. I’m guessing it’s at least partly because research in the Arctic is expensive and it’s hard to get up there. Plus, I’m sure the Arctic is not the first place people think of when it comes to bumblebees and pollination!

However, I did find one study done in the ’70s on pollination of Arctic flowers at Ellesmere Island, Canada. Bombus polaris was one of the main pollinators of a number of plants such as the Arctic willow (Salix arctica) and the Arctic lousewort (Pedicularis arctica). But the main pollinators of Arctic flora? Flies!

Bombus polaris lives in a unique area of the world where the growing season is very short, there’s 24-hour sunlight, and temperatures might only rise to 10 degrees Celsius in the summer. To adjust to this cooler climate, Bombus polaris is fuzzier than temperate bumblebees and as a higher body temperature.

Recently there was a New York Times story on Arctic bumblebees. Perhaps with increasing interest in pollinators and effects of climate change, there will be more to report on this fuzzy critter in the near future!

Heinrich, B., & Vogt, F. D. (1993). Abdominal temperature regulation by Arctic bumblebees. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, 66(2), 257-269.

Kevan, P. G. (1972). Insect pollination of high arctic flowers. The Journal of Ecology, pp. 831-847.

Wikipedia. Bombus polaris. Retrieved 22 June 2017 from:

Wikipedia. Climate of the Arctic. Retrieved 22 June 2017 from:

Bunnies, best friends, and birthday parties

So I’ve been woken up at around 5 a.m. the past couple mornings to a little voice beside my bed: “Momma, I want to go count the bunnies!” 

Two mornings ago when the four-year-old’s belly was sore, she was up at the crack of dawn and I suggested that we take the dog for a little walk. “It’s your job to count the bunnies we see,” I told her. 

Every morning now the four-year-old has been accompanying me on my dog walk and counting bunnies. I guess she believes in long-term employment.

She’s also been noticing little things along the way.
Like the two little pinecones that she picked up and carried home with her, “because they are best friends.”

(By now we are up to four bunnies. Seven is our record.)

Lexi said she picked these pine cones “because they are best friends.”
Or a bunch of ants swarming on the sidewalk. “Maybe they’re having a party,” suggested the four-year-old. “A big birthday party!”

(Eight bunnies! We passed our record!)

“Momma, the moon is following us.”

After about twenty minutes or so of walking, the four-year-old starts to lag behind. She has a trace of dark circles under her eyes thanks to her early morning risings. Oh, if only she would sleep in and get her rest! 

But then we’d miss the bunnies.

(Our new record is nine.)

Little bouquets 

“Momma, my belly is sore.”

And so the four-year-old lay down on the couch at 5:24 p.m. When I checked on her at 5:27 p.m., she was completely zonked out.

6:03 p.m.: A spaghetti dinner (one of the four-year-old’s favourites) is steaming away on plates at each place setting. I try to rouse the child. No success. I let her sleep.

6:43 p.m.: “Lexi, do you want something to eat?” Nothing. She rolls over.

At 7:23 p.m. I lift her off the couch and carry her up the stairs. I change her into her jammies and tuck her in. Maybe she’ll sleep in tomorrow morning, I muse.

Yeah, right.

12:17 a.m.: “Momma, my belly still hurts.” I open an eye to see the four-year-old standing beside my bed, three inches from my face. I ask, “Do you want something to eat?” I see her shadowy figure nod. “Want some toast?” Another nod. I drag myself out of bed.

Somewhat bleary-eyed with a slight I-should-be-sleeping headache, I pop a piece of bread into the toaster oven. While it toasts and the timer ticks away, the four-year-old and I sit at the table. She is resting her chin on crossed arms. Her eyes are bright and alarmingly awake. Oh-oh, I think. Here it comes…

“Momma, what’s six plus nine?”

“Why does the moon look like a watermelon?”

“Do you have a baby in your tummy?”

“What’s two plus nine?”

“Why do dogs have four legs but people have two legs?”

My brain hurts trying to keep up. DING! Oh good, the toast is ready.

The four-year-old starts sucking the butter off the toast, takes a few bites, and then is struck with an amazing dose of loquaciousness.

“Did you know, Momma, that Olivia wore flip-flops to daycare but you’re not allowed to wear flip-flops at daycare but Olivia did and I have flip-flops too but I don’t wear them at daycare and do you remember when by nose bleeded when I jumped off the couch?…”

Yes, sweetie. Just eat your toast, please.

12:34 a.m.: Child is tucked back into bed.

5:04 a.m.: “Momma, my belly doesn’t hurt anymore!”

Child is alarmingly awake. Again. Rather than negotiate that she go back to bed, I get up and suggest we take the dog for a walk. Both the child and the dog are thrilled at the idea.

The sun is just rising as we step out into the pre-heat morning coolness of mid-June. The calm and quiet is almost magical. I find myself thinking, The child has me all to herself–of course this is magical! “Let’s count how many bunnies we see on our walk,” I suggest. Child thinks this is a fantastic idea.

As we pass by a neighbour’s lawn filled with daisies, the four-year old crouches down and before I could yelp a protest, she plucks a big fat daisy from the bunch. “Look, Momma! I picked this for you because I know you love beautiful flowers!” She holds it up with a smile that could light up the sky.

I point out a plump rabbit hunched down by some bushes. The four-year-old gasps and holds up one finger. Soon we see another. She holds up two fingers. Then three, then four… “It’s your job to keep track,” I remind her. She falls a bit behind me and the dog as she peers at ants on the sidewalk, a leaf on a tree, and walks along a jaggedy crack. Rather than run she skips to catch up.

5:23 a.m.: We are up to six bunnies and two more flowers for Momma’s bouquet.

We see our last bunny as we make our way up our driveway. The child exclaims, “Seven!” The bunny high-tails it to the backyard.

Once inside I put the little bouquet in some water and place it in front of my place setting at the dining room table. It is there to remind me of midnight loquaciousness over buttered toast, and magical walks while most were still asleep.

5:42 a.m.: “Momma, let’s make PANCAKES!”

I need a cup of coffee…

Sometimes I wish you could step inside my mind

Yesterday the sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and a whole beautiful Saturday was stretched out in front of us.

I sat with my morning coffee and felt dread seeping in. Why? Because my mind felt heavy and thick, I couldn’t concentrate, and my body felt immobilized.

I was getting an emotional migraine. That’s the term my husband and I give to my Blue Days. 

I hate them. And I especially hate them on beautiful sunny days. It makes me feel all the more guilty for having them.

All of my insecurities, regrets, and I-can’ts come raging to the surface. All I want to do is shut myself in a room and cry. 

And I usually do. Yesterday morning I cried for a while in the bathroom. Then I gathered myself together the best I could to get dressed and prepare for a day out with the kids. I told my husband it was a Blue Day (even just telling him helps). He offered to take the kids but I knew that today the kids would help: their smiles, their excitement at going to a big park, even their random, incessant questions (“What’s 5 with a hundred zeroes after it?” “Why do some people only have one kid?”).

On my Blue Days I wish you could step inside my mind. See the nasty black fog. Hear the swirling voices blaming, accusing, and chastizing. And understand why I cry, and why I just…can’t. Why I just want to disappear, if only for that day.

Then I would like you to give my mind a hug. Then please whip out your vacuum and suck up the voices, the fog, and all the tears-inducing I-can’ts. A temporary solution, I know, but at least you would be helping me enjoy the rest of the day migraine-free.

I’ve experienced emotional migraines long enough to know that I can usually sleep them off and the next day will be migraine-free. I woke up this morning after a 12-hour sleep (!!!) as if nothing had happened. I would like you to step inside my mind again, dig around, and see if you can find this secret emotional-reset button. Maybe you could press it for me earlier in the process.

Eight (or twelve?) reasons why I love June

Today is June 1, the beginning of my favourite month of the year. 

Why do I love June? Here are six reasons:

  1. It’s spring! The sun is warm! The grass is green! Flowers are blooming! (Wait, have I used up four reasons already?! I must be excited.)
  2. Bumblebees are out and about after their winter-long stasis. (Although I haven’t seen many thus far this year, making me somewhat worried…)
  3. There is the anticipation of summer.
  4. I can drink iced tea and not feel like it’s out of season.
  5. Daylight stretches until 9:30 or 10 pm, meaning I can sit on the porch and read for a bit after the kiddies are in bed.
  6. Three awesome ladies were born in June: my mom, my aunt, and my grandma (I miss you!).
  7. The month reminds me how lucky I am to have found my husband, since our anniversary is in June.
  8. The name “June” with its “oo” sound is gentle-sounding and pleasing to say. And I find that’s what June usually is: it’s gentle and pleasing.

Happy dog!

Hi! My name is Spirit and I am a happy dog. Do you know why? Because today one of my Masters took me to a park with trails and a forest and he let me off my leash! Woo-hoo!! MY MASTER IS AWESOME!!! 

I love to run! I love to jump! I love the grass and the sun and the air and the trees and I am a puppy so I love EVERYTHING!!!

Except for baths.

I noticed something recently. My world is getting bigger. It used to be just the house where I live. And my Masters and their two little human puppies. Now it’s also the neighbourhoods where we walk. And the people who meet me (I LOVE meeting people!). And now this park with trails and a forest.

I wonder how much bigger my world will get? Just how big is the world out there?

I’m a little curious (after all, I’m a puppy!). But really, it doesn’t matter. Even as a puppy I know that all I need are my Masters and their human puppies. That is all I want. They give me food and water and toys and walks and snuggly-cuddles and company and I love everything they give me!!!

Except for baths.

I cannot resist the alpaca…

Sometimes I just need to visit a yarn store to wander, soak up all the colours, to touch the textures… It calms my mind. It sort of floats in a pleasant space, going back and forth between serenity and a happy jumble of ethereal, half-baked ideas.

Then I come across alpaca yarn. So soft! The colours! And it’s so nice to work with. And hey, who doesn’t like alpacas? 

I didn’t intend to buy anything. But then I saw the alpaca yarns and I literatlly stood there for 15 minutes trying to decide on a skein. 

I finally chose this one. Reminds me of fall and apples. And it’s soft! So soft… 

My wallet is whimpering a little bit, but my eyes and fingers are thankful.

A wink of purply-blue

Today I found these little beauties that had somehow popped up in our winter-ravaged, ragged-looking lawn:

I’m not sure what it is. A wildflower? A weed?

Whatever it may be, these small winks of purply-blue spell S-P-R-I-N-G!

And they gave me prickles of hope. Hope for warmer weather, hope for more green, more colours overall, more warmth, and more sun. 

Hope for a thaw.

A thaw from winter. A thaw in my brain from the icy plug that has slowed my words to a mere trickle these past weeks.

Hope that these small winks of purply-blue also spell T-I-M-E-T-O-W-R-I-T-E. Hope that I will carve myself out some time amongst the busy-ness that is small children and puppy and 9-to-5.

The purply-blue gives me hope that I can do it. That the words will flow again. That a balance of patience, perseverance, and persistence is what I need.

I have already written this much–hooray! I have snatched a moment of playing children and napping puppy to breathe upon the page (or screen). And it feels great. Like going for your first run of the season and remembering how good it feels. Realizing how much you missed it and how you want to feel it again and again and again.

Inspiration can come from small places.

Thank you, dear little flowers. 

Prague: Antidepressant beer and bees

My husband and I took a trip to Prague, Czech Republic: I had to attend a conference and he tagged along. I had a full conference-free day so we squeezed in two 3-hour walking tours: one of the Old Town and one of Prague Castle.

Somewhere in Old Town, Prague

I love the architecture! The cobblestone streets!

The Astronomical Clock and our tour guide, Rob, in yellow.

At one point a bee landed on our tour guide’s shoulder and stayed there for quite a while. I was surprised because it was cool and windy that day–not a good combo for bees.

Spooky spires. Does Dracula live there?
No, this is not a Dementor from Harry Potter…

A view of the city.
The exit to Prague Castle (the entrance was way less interesting, trust me).
Changing of the guards.

One of my favourite parts of the tour was when this truck pulled up near us…


Apparently a group of monks nearby brew a beer they call “Antidepressant Beer,” and there are zombies on the van. A pretty hip bunch of monks if you ask me.

My first traditional Czech meal. I have no idea what it’s called or how you pronounce it.

Finally, when we returned, outside our hotel there was a big, blossoming, bee-friendly tree (apple tree?). Despite the chilly breeze I stopped to look for a minute or two. And there was a bee! I had to zoom in quite a bit, since she was rather up high, but here she is. She’s probably a honeybee or a solitary bee.


Now to go enjoy a few (antidepressant?) Czech beers before we head back to Canada…

Exhaustion (yawn…)

It is 7:17 pm and I feel like I could crawl into bed.

My husband took the kids and the puppy to a park to burn off some of their interminable energy. I know my husband is likely just as tired as I am so I am eternally grateful.

There is the dull ache of fatigue at the back of my head and strain around my eyes. It hurts to think. Yet I feel restless.

Sometimes I wonder what I’ve done. Two kids under seven and a puppy. What was I thinking? Am I insane? These days I go to work to relax.

To summarize some of my day:

Let puppy out for a pee / Supervise three-year-old as she goes for a pee / Make lunches / Make breakfast / Eat breakfast / Referee emotional warfare between three-year-old and six-year-old / Let puppy out for a pee / Clean up kitchen / Shower / Let puppy out for a pee / Referee emotional warfare between three-year-old and six-year-old / Clean up dog poop on floor (Dammit! When did that happen?!) / Brush children’s teeth / Referee emotional warfare between three-year-old and six-year-old / Clean up more dog poop on floor (Seriously?!?!) / Engage in high-level negotiations for three-year-old to get dressed / Coax puppy into crate / Haul backpacks, hats, children, into car…

And that was before 8:15 am.

I know many people will say these are “special times.” Yeah, they are special because I feel I can hardly breathe. Sometimes I think the kids and the dog have so much energy because they suck it away from their parents…