Category Archives: Oregon!

Advice Boundaries & Birds

Image: The Fairy Pig looks at a great blue heron by popping out of the sunroof on the car. She’s borrowing K-Pants’ binoculars.

Let me tell you a story. I’m a birder. Until recently, I thought I was simply the daughter of a birder. Growing up, my mom would suddenly pull the car over, rattle off a list of very-specific characteristics of the bird she was looking at, then tell us to remember what she’d said so she could look up the bird in her Audubon guide when she got home. I knew a lot through osmosis.

Then a few weeks ago I headed to Sauvie Island with my friend Tony, his two boys, and the Fairy Pig. After a focused ten minutes spent discussing shorebirds with our binoculars pressed to our eyes, I realized a) I am a birder independent of my lineage, and b) I have my first birder friend. Tony and I were looking at a group of western sandpipers. 

Upon reflection, it’s possibly not the casual nature fan who can differentiate similar-sized birds in-flight. The bald eagle flaps its wings like it’s lifting weights at the gym; the turkey vulture soars like it’s the Platonic ideal of a glider plane; the great blue heron flies so slowly you think it might fall out of the sky.

This time of year on Sauvie Island (the country’s sixth largest river island, sitting near Portland in the Columbia River, attracting thousands of migratory birds), apart from the farms and locals, you’ll find a lot of birders and duck hunters. We occupy the same areas. But the birders keep outside the hunting borders because we like to stay alive and not bother the hunters. 

You can tell the birders because we’re usually not driving trucks, and we pull over at seemingly unexplained spots. 

On Sunday I took a crew to Sauvie: the Fairy Pig, Boy Woww, our new au pair, and me. We hopscotched viewing spots with a few other cars. At one point, a swoop of sandhill cranes took to the air right over our heads. I jumped out and started to video. It’s magic to watch anything take flight, but a group of sandhill cranes with their dinosaur-like rolling calls, their gangly spindle legs, and elegant opera-glove wing tips, well it makes me have a childlike sense of wonder and joy. And I’ve been video recording some of my favorite times in nature for mini-meditations on my Instagram page (@EvelynShoop). 2022 knocked me over with a coronavirus tidal wave and is demanding that I hold on and find moments of peace wherever and whenever possible. 

As I was walking back to my car, another birder car pulled up with an older man inside. He rolled down the window. “Can I give you some advice?” he said. 

Now if you’ve known me for a while, you’ll be sucking in your breath. I welcome advice if I ask for it. I welcome advice if you have walked a rough path of parenting or grief or self-discovery with me. If our lives are entwined and I reach out, I am all ears. But otherwise, no. N.O. I have to hold this boundary for self-protection as a human who parents. I have received so much unsolicited parenting judgment, errr… advice… that I am not interested in your advice even if it’s life-altering. Most often your advice comes from your own personal experience and it’s helpful and comforting to you for me to receive it. But not for me. And I already have a frickin’ awesome, all-star slate of advice-givers… some professional and some personal. 

So when my new friend The Anonymous Birder rolled up and asked if I wanted advice, it was very easy to just say, “No, thank you.” 

This was not what he was expecting. So he decided I should hear the advice anyway. It was something about not getting out of your car because you scare the wildlife. He didn’t get all the way through his monologue, though, because I repeated “NO, THANKS.” And I walked away. At which point he yelled “FUCK YOU,” and sped away. Which for birders in the wild is like 15 MPH. 

Advice is a lot about assumptions. He assumed I didn’t know what I was doing, that I hadn’t been to this exact spot five times since November, that I wanted to birdwatch like him. His advice was about his frustration that I wasn’t doing things like he does and that because of it I had altered the experience he wanted that day. 

So here’s the thing. On a normal day, I would be proud of myself for setting boundaries, but I would also be boring holes through Anonymous Birder Friend’s skull with my laser beam eyes. I would add the karmic insult he enacted upon me to EVELYN’S INVISIBLE VAULT OF GRIEVANCES. I always have it going. But this time I stopped and had a little chat with myself. 

I’m not taking this personally. It’s about him. I’m doing a great job raising little birders, and he can go shove it. 

Confetti and marshmallows and dark chocolate did not rain down from the sky, but maybe next time. Or the next. Maybe you need to fill your punch card with 10 zen moments before you get your reward. Or maybe somewhere down the line I’ll be a less angry person in general and that’s the reward. [scratches forehead and ponders]

In case you have a lingering wonder about me scaring the wildlife, well, getting out of your car definitely annoys the song birds: the sparrows, the chickadees, the finches. They are fickle and often prey. Generally being alive scares them. But my experience is that the sandhill cranes, the snow geese, the cackling geese, the Canada geese, the great blue herons, the American coots, the mallards, and the great egrets could really care less. I mean, like, don’t chase the birds. But at this same spot back in November, my husband and K-Pants played football, the Fairy Pig and I ran up and down the road, and Boy Woww chilled in the car reading a book. The only thing that bothered the birds were three bald eagles dive-bombing them, which frankly created the most beautiful soaring cacophony I’ve ever seen or heard.

(For a video of sandhill cranes in flight, check out my Instagram page, or request to follow me: @EvelynShoop.)

The Best Day of 2019

There were many. And if I catalogue them my heart will fill with the helium of gratitude and fly off into the sky until the sun or the air pressure bursts it into a thousand vaguely biodegradable pieces. This is the gift of memory and nostalgia.

But one day.

There’s a favorite spot for hiking the boys and I have in Hood River. We don’t actually hike. We adventure to places that have interesting views or nooks and meadows to explore or hills for sledding. To get to these payoffs there may be a mildly noteworthy amount of walking.

We went to our favorite spot. When I say “our favorite spot” in relation to anything, it refers to a place I take my children that they cannot opt out of. Their actual favorite spot is the arcade. I hate the arcade.

Our favorite spot is up high, over the river. There are little paths and hills to scramble up. There are drop-offs. I do not like heights. But it’s fucking beautiful.

K-Pants begged to go to the top of the triangle hill that juts out over the meadows.

There’s this thing I do when I find something terrifying. I yell to myself in my head, “YOU’RE DOING SOMETHING TERRIFYING! YOU’RE DOING SOMETHING TERRIFYING!” I’m more open to terrifying things now. They are eye-level with the rawness and stimulation of parenting.

At the top of the little path of the scramble-up hill K-Pants’ soul left his body. He wanted my phone to take photos and video. I hadn’t brought it with us. I could see the car like a beetle down below in the parking lot—phone inside.

There are so many streams of consciousness and so many little decisions in living each day. As a group we decided Boy Woww and I would go down to the car, leave K-Pants on the hill, and come back with the phone. “YOU’RE DOING SOMETHING TERRIFYING! YOU’RE DOING SOMETHING TERRIFYING” leaving your child on a hill.


I love him. Very very much. He doesn’t admit that he loves me except in Mother’s Day cards and birthday cards. He took this photo of me from on top of the hill.

Hill down

I love him.

The Minutia Behind Unstructured Summer Adventure Days

My friend Gretchen asked how exactly we make this get-to-the-beach-with-young-kids thing happen on a regular basis.

Beach With The Boys. MomsicleBlog

First, the backstory: I worry that K-Pants is going to be depressed or possibly is depressed. He says things like “I’m a terrible, stupid idiot,” or “I’m a terrible boy,” or that thing happened “because I’m so bad”—like when he can’t pick out sugar-cereal at the store, or a drawing doesn’t look just right.* And I keep reading everywhere that more nature equals less depression.

*I don’t want any advice about how to make this black-and-white thinking stop, but thank you for your very well-intentioned help I didn’t ask for. You might be thinking, “You say that, but I have to say something because the No Drama Discipline book changed everything for us.” I understand. I do the same thing to others. But I just don’t have the mental energy to take it in right now.


What sealed the deal on our no-camps, get-into-nature plan was that my friend Sara shared an article that suggested that the rise in depression in kids is partially due to the fact that they don’t have unstructured play time—time without an adult nearby who will intervene to make things fair or solve problems.** The argument went something like this: People feel depressed when they feel like they have no control over their lives, and modern kids always have an adult in control.

I don’t pay much attention to the newest research, but it happened that this study came into my life when I was feeling like my kid was going to be prone to some severe depression and anxiety, and that I didn’t want to add more appointments and activities to our life because the logistics of three kids was adding to my own postpartum depression.

Here we go talking about postpartum depression, again, and I am totally off track….

*What?!? You let this Sara chick share unsubstantiated research with you and you won’t let me transform your life with No Drama Discipline? You are totally right. I have double-standards, and Sara has privileges. I’m a mess.


….I’m stalling because it feels awkward to share strategy and tips. I try not to be a know-it-all on the blog. Momsicle’s tagline could be, I don’t know anything, but I’m still here.

Or Everything I’d planned went totally off-course.

Or Please don’t share your “expertise.”

{Segue here, or Segway, if you’d prefer a two-wheeled tour.}

Apocalypse Mobile. MomsicleBlog

In order to be ready for adventure, here’s what I keep in my car no matter the season (photo above):

  1. Plastic tub filled with extra clothes and shoes for me and the kids—some warm stuff like fleece jackets hats and scarves, and some lightweight stuff. I don’t check forecasts, so this is crucial.
  2. Plastic pull-out drawer filled with emergency supplies and snacks. This is the bin that gave our car the nickname, “the apocalypse mobile.” This bin may at any time include first aid, water bottles, twine, granola bars, extra tooth brushes, sunscreen, jerky, plastic forks and spoons, plastic bags large and small, extra cash. Who knows what we’ll run into?
  3. Giant sun umbrella. This was a $50 investment after we were at the beach with some cousins-of-cousins who owned the beach with a sun umbrella. Now I keep it with us all the time for sports events, fall-festival downpours, and the occasional snow picnic (below).
  4. Two picnic blankets—one that folds and zips up with a carry handle and is water-resistant, and one fleece one that also doubles as a kid-warmer.
  5. A pack of diapers and wipes.

Snow beach party. MomsicleBlog

Here’s what I prep the car with for summer:

  1. Swimsuits and beach towels and additional extra clothes, because we go through more changes of clothes when sand and water are involved.
  2. Beach toys. The usual stuff plus some old gardening equipment, yogurt containers, and a Neti pot. Weird stuff make good beach toys.
  3. A giant box of granola bars and extra water bottles. Making sure the gremlins are fed and watered at all times is critical—and let’s be real: I melt down from hanger just as much as they do. We like Nature Valley crunchy honey oat bars and whatever the cheapest box of Larabars is. I found the best prices this year from
  4. Parks passes that allow us to have parking privileges for the season without stopping at a kiosk or waiting in a line.
  5. Sand sports games like koosh tennis and a giant soft Frisbee. These are new additions this year, and are mostly aspirational. I’m still trying to find the ideal sand-tennis partner.
  6. One or two fold-out camp chairs.

Here’s what I throw in the car the morning of:

  1. A squishable cooler with a bunch of cut-up fruit and protein (mango, blueberries, watermelon, sausage, pizza, chicken and rice, etc.).
  2. A bunch of water bottles (more than the number of people in the car).
  3. The biggest game-changer this year, with me being on my own with the baby and the boys (last year my husband had time off for paternity leave), is hiring a summer nanny to come with us each time we go. Below is Tris with the baby at Cape Lookout State Park. She took the Fairy Pig on a walk down the beach to get her to take a nap, but first she got excited about the rocks from Goonies. Without help, I would have been trying to figure out how to take the boys to the state-park bathroom while the baby screamed and crawled under the bathroom stalls and the boys freaked out about mosquitoes and I yelled, “GET OVER IT AND GO TO THE BATHROOM, NOWWWW!” No longer.

Here's Why We're Surviving. MomsicleBlog

Then we all get in the car.

I like to leave by 9 a.m., because every minute after 9 a.m. is like telling the entropy gods that we are easy bait they should destroy us. So I yell “GET IN THE CAR” a few times.

No He Doesn't Use This Seat. MomsicleBlog

I tell the boys they can have a granola bar when they’re buckled in. Boy Woww, the three-toed sloth, gets the phone for screen time until we start driving. Suddenly he’s very fast. I have no idea why K-Pants hasn’t figured out that this is wildly unfair, and I don’t care. Hopefully it will last.

We're There. MomsicleBlog

Here’s what happens when we get there:

  1. Everyone helps carry something (we do it all in one trip—that’s a must). [I just wanted to say “that’s a must,” because it sounds so blog-expert.]
  2. I get 15 minutes of set-up time when the kids can’t ask me questions or talk to me. I like to have the umbrella set up, the cooler under it, the picnic blankets out, and the bag with towels and clothes somewhere safe from getting splashed or sandy.

Then we chill out on the sand. The kids play and build stuff. They fight less at the beach. I shove food at them. When they do fight I tell them to figure it out—and it’s much easier for them to solve problems or get distracted at the beach than at home. I’m tired of solving their problems, and the beach is the place where they do it themselves, sort of.

Beach Problems. MomsicleBlog

Here’s what happens when we leave:

  1. An hour before we go I warn the boys, in the vain hope that they won’t melt down. But they always melt down when we leave. I don’t care anymore. Not caring has been a nice game-changer.
  2. I pack up our stuff while our nanny takes care of the baby and helps me if the baby isn’t too fussy. The boys don’t really have jobs at the end of the day. People look over and think, “Kids these days are so spoiled. Look at that mom! She’s picking up everything!” Once again, I don’t care. What do I have to prove? K-Pants and Boy Woww have been out in the sun all day without a rest or nap break and if you poke them just right they’ll turn into psychotic spawn of Satan. I would rather clean up and work on their entitlement issues another day.

Here’s what happens when we get home:

  1. The boys watch shows basically until bedtime. We stop to feed them leftovers. They do bedtime routine stuff. They melt down in blazing balls of fire.
  2. I unpack the cooler and refill it with clean cloth napkins, silverware, and plastic trash bags, so we’re ready.

It all sounds like a lot, I guess, but really all I need to do the day-of is pack the cooler and the water bottles. And I am so happy when we go to the water; and the boys are so happy; and the baby gets to explore instead of wandering the house looking for me like a forlorn puppy.

I will do anything to get to the beach.

And then all of the other days, when we’re not at the beach, I can look at the car and think “If we needed to have a beach party right now, we could.”

Beach Time. MomsicleBlog



Oregon Explored: Astoria and the Columbia River Basin (Wordless Wednesday)

Hammond Marina, Columbia River. MomsicleBlog

Peter Iredale Shipwreck, Sunset Beach. MomsicleBlog

Cargo Ships Near Astoria, Oregon. MomsicleBlog

Astoria, Salmon-gutting. MomsicleBlog

Hammond, Oregon, Columbia River. MomsicleBlog

Fishing Boat Headed to Pacific Ocean via Columbia River. MomsicleBlog