Small friends, school, and survival 

Last weekend at the cottage I found my little half-tail friend! And like no time had passed, s/he took peanuts straight from my hand again.

Half Tail is back! And s/he took the biggest peanut.
I think Half Tail is going to take the biggest one again…
It had been over a year since I’d seen Half Tail, since this summer was rather cold, buggy, and rainy. But on the very last day before we went home we found each other. Amazing that s/he remembered after so long. 

The meeting was bittersweet. For me it marked the end of another summer. The next day would be a flurry of back-to-school. Well, back-to-school for my 7-year-old son, and the very first day of school for my 4-year-old daughter. Nervous prickles started to line my skull and my stomach.

My own very first day of kindergarten is my earliest vivid memory. I remember thinking that my mom was going to stay with me, so when she turned to leave I flew into a panic. I chased her down the school’s hallway, howling with tears streaming down my face. Bless Ms. Loveland, my kindergarten teacher, for having patience and for calming me down.

I like to think that I couldn’t have been too traumatized since I ended up staying in school long enough to get my PhD…

So on my own kids’ first day of school when I saw the tears well up in their eyes, I understood. And it all came rushing back to me. I tried to think: what eventually calmed me down? I honestly can’t remember. My husband and I tried to soothe our kids but to no avail. I told them how I used to cry, too, but I learned that everything is okay. We eventually had to leave them, tear-streaked and stressed. 

Oh, what a long day at work that was…

I picked them up as early as possible. My son was just fine, chattering away about who is in his class, how his teacher changed the seating arrangment because my son was talking too much (!!!)… Is this the same kid I dropped off this morning?

My daughter, on the other hand, looked haggered. She apparently cried for an hour after drop-off and cried again during the transition to the after-school program. Oh, my heart broke to see her looking so sad! Cortisol rushing through her body all day….she must have been exhausted. I gathered her in my arms and gave her the biggest hug possible. “You made it through your very first day of school,” I whispered proudly. She just buried her face deeper into my neck.

I was a full week of tears. And the beginning of this week, too. 

I know my daughter is in good hands. Her teacher is a tiny willow of a woman who always wears bright, happy-coloured head scarves, and who is not afraid of giving a hug when one is needed.

I know my daughter will survive. But I want more than just survival for her. I want her to enjoy school. To love school. To look forward to it every day.

Maybe one day she will. And maybe she won’t.

For now my husband and I will do our best. To reassure her. To comfort her. To love her. 

School is a big transition. It will get better. It will get better, it will get better…


My first visitor!

I was sitting on our new patio yesterday afternoon when I heard a BzzzzZZZzz…

My heart did a little skip. I looked over at my flower bed and saw…a bumblebee!

My first fuzzy-buzzy visitor to my little garden! And she chose some purple flowers that I had thought would catch the eyes/antennae of a bumblebee or two.

I’m not sure what those flowers are called, but the bee did indeed spend quite a bit of time on them. Then she moved on to my spray of catmint.

I was thrilled to finally see a bumblebee on my flowers! Not only just for the sake of having bees in my garden, but mainly because I’ve seen so few bumblebees in general this year. It’s rather alarming.

One thing we do know about bumblebees is if they find a good patch of flowers, they tend to return to it over and over again. Will I see this little cutie on another day?

Sure enough, this morning I looked out the kitchen window and spotted a speck hovering amongst the catmint. A bumblebee! The same one as yesterday? I went out to have a look and she looked similar, but I’m not certain. 

It still amazes me that as big as the world is compared to the size of a bumblebee, she was able to spot my flowers amongt everything else in the backyard. Are the purple blossoms like a bright, blinking beacon? Or was she reeled in by the scent, almost undetectable to the human nose? Or both?

Please come back, busy-buzzy bee! And bring your sisters and friends.

What is it about horses?

Yesterday our kids went to a birthday party at a horse farm, where they got to groom and ride horses and ponies.

My daughter grooming a horse named Henry. She insisted on wearing a ballet outfit.

The kids did such a good job brushing the horses that most of them almost fell asleep.

They rode the horses in circles in an arena for quite a while. On occasion the horses were instructed to go a bit faster, and it was a hoot to watch the semi-terrified-but-thrilled looks on the kids faces as their backsides bounced significantly up and down on the saddle as they sped up.

Henry woke up in time to give my daughter a tour.

As I watched the kids ride around and around (and around and around…), I noticed each one had a huge smile and were enjoying themselves immensely.

(I also noticed I had a slight twinge of envy, having never rode a horse myself.)

I couldn’t resist giving some of the horses a rub on the nose or a pet on the side. And to just stare at them for a while.

What the heck is it about horses?!

The attraction is different than that to dogs, cats, or other domesticated critters. It’s deeper down in the gut, more fundamental. More primitive. Or maybe more mystical, like there’s a part of my brain that’s still 5 years old and expects the horse to sprout a horn and/or wings and transform into My Little Pony. 

Or maybe there’s a cultural archetype burned into the female psyche of a princess and her loyal steed (I admit I’m rusty with my Jungian psychology…). That as soon as she mounts the horse she is no longer [insert name here] but is now Princess [insert a much more flowery name here]: Ruler of Lands and Fairest of them All. Forever and Ever.

Who knows. I’ll try to ride a horse one day and let you know if I channel my inner princess.

A horse named Honey. She was a bit grumpy but I liked her.

I’m glad I went for a run today

Bzzzzzzz… There goes the alarm on my Fitbit. 

It’s 6 a.m. Ouch. I promised myself yesterday that I would haul my butt out of bed early and go for a run. Before I could let my gloriously comfortable pillow convince me otherwise, I sat up, swung my legs over the side of the bed, and told myself this was a good thing.

There’s always a space of time when my feet first hit the pavement and I’m huffing and puffing before reaching a rhythm when I wonder why I do this to myself. But then I get into a groove and I reach the trails and I know it’s worth it.

Especially today. I rounded a corner and suddenly this came into view:

A gorgeous surprise on my run this morning. At what point did it hear me coming? It was pretty chill.

I’ve never seen a deer on those trails before. And I’ve never been so close to a deer before, either: it was about 10 feet away.

I thought it would bound away as I scrambled as calmly as I could for my camera, but it stayed and continued to munch.

And then it came closer.

Hello! Did you know you are totally making my day?

It was seriously about six feet away from me. It was surreal. I could see the velvety fuzz on its antlers. I could almost reach out and touch them. 

We gazed at each other for quite a while. What was going through that deer-brain? Why wasn’t I scared of me? Regardless, it was certainly a Moment.

I eventually turned and continued on my way. Later on my route when I circled back, it was gone.

So I’m glad I went for a run today. Had I decided to snooze for a few minutes longer, I might have missed the whole thing.

Will I get up early again tomorrow to see what I can see? Depends: I pulled a calf muscle on my way home (grrrr…). Plus, I have a feeling that deer doesn’t make many repeat appearances.

Four bits of magic

Cottages always hold such potential for little bits of magic. We went up to our cottage last weekend, kept our eyes open, and we were not disappointed.

1. If we leave peanuts out for the chipmunks, will they find them? The answer: yes! Well, at least something took them. We didn’t hang around to see who or what, since the mosquitoes were out in full force.

Lexi on her way to see if the peanuts had been taken.

2. Sitting in the sun, minding my own business, when this big blue friend stops for a visit. We hung out for quite a while. I wonder what it was about my knee that was so attractive? Regardless, it was a treat to marvel at this big beauty up close.

A big, friendly dragonfly. I don’t think I’ve ever had one land on me before.

3. What I think is a damselfly landed on my foot after I had gone for a swim. I transferred it to my hand and it stayed to visit for a while. It even let me put it on my son’s hand, too, before it decided to fly away.

I think this is some kind of damselfly… Whatever it is, it liked our hands!
Our (blurry) damselfly friend on my son’s finger.

4. “Mommy, can you find me some sea shells?” I searched and searched and found these snail shells in the water next to shore. I think my daughter kept them clutched in her fist for the rest of our trip.

Three “sea shells.” The long nails on my daughter’s hand are actually fake Canada Day-themed nails.

I wonder what bits of magic await us for the next time?

Cupcake, the Dock Spider

Hello. My name is Cupcake. 

You might not see me very well, but I’m hunched in the corner of this metal thing. A few seconds ago I was stretched out in all my hideous glory–a perfect photo opportunity–but the humans got too close. I high-tailed it to the closest, darkest corner I could find. Their yelps suggested they were shocked yet impressed by my speed.

The human boy gave me my name. Cupcake? I sense he was not intimidated by me.

I was successful in scaring away the smallest human. I could feel her trembles. I could also tell that the adult was putting on a brave front but was inwardly both disgusted and terrified.

Now they are gone. And so I wait. Wait in the shadows until the urge to swim hits the humans again. Then I will make another grand appearance, and imprint myself forever upon their summer memories.

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:

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.

Sit. Stay.

As I write this, there is a sleeping puppy in my lap.

I was busy cleaning the kitchen of dirty supper dishes, preparing lunches for tomorrow, and thinking of 39485938457 things that I still needed to do when I happened to look down and saw Spirit sitting on the floor, looking up at me with her I’ll-melt-you eyes.

I put down the dishcloth. I sat cross-legged on the kitchen floor and little Spirit happily bounded into my lap. She flopped down with a satisfied sigh.

And you know what? I sighed, too.

I breathed.

With puppy in my lap, I just sat and let my 39485938457 thoughts swirl down the drain.

I stroked Spirit’s fur. Felt her warm body on my legs. Marvelled at how soft the fur on her ears are. Soaked up the quiet.

Spirit fell asleep. I fell into peace.

Puppies can sure make a household busy. Crazy busy. But at the same time, I realize that they can teach you to stop, breathe, and enjoy the moment.

No matter how busy you are, you can always take the time to stop and love your puppy.

Welcome to early morning walks…and lots of other life changes

This morning I went for a walk at 6 a.m.


Because of this:

Yes, a puppy! My husband and I took the plunge. The kids are ecstatic. The house feels so much warmer.

She’s nine pounds of border collie and Labrador, and a ton of steal-your-heart. We named her Spirit–an homage to our wonderful old border collie Lab who passed away about a year and a half ago. Plus, she seems to have a beautiful spirit: curious, loving, sensitive, and smart. (My daughter started crying over some perceived injustice and Spirit immediately sat in her lap. Spirit already walks well on a leash, and knows that a hand in my pocket equals treats!)

I’m sitting here in my bookstore/coffee shop with 75% of my brain distracted by the fact that I can’t stay long because Spirit is at home in her crate. Almost like leaving your child with a babysitter for the first time: you relish the temporary freedom but you can’t help worrying…

And my brain is like a foggy windshield, temporarily swiped clear by caffeinated washer fluid. At eight weeks, Spirit’s bladder only lasts 3 hours, tops. Baby-induced late nights have returned!

At 6 a.m., Spirit was full of beans and ready to go. We went for a walk. I forgot just how quiet and full of peace the world outside can be when it is dark and everyone is still asleep. I soaked up the windless mild air and the fact that there was a little black furball bounce-running beside me, everything new and wonderful and amazing. She didn’t care what time it was.

And you know what? I didn’t care what time it was either.

With two kids and a new pup, the days will be longer and leisure time will be scarce. At least for a while. 

Then I feel a little body curl up on my feet, or hear my son and daughter laughing, and I know it is all totally worth it.