A Melbourne-based musician and mom of two, Sarah introduced herself, her band, and her story to us, and we loved her story so much, we had to share it here.
Give us a little background on yourself/what you do/how you came to it. How much did becoming a parent shape what your business is?
I am a music producer/song writer and co-founder of The Cool Band for Cool Kids, KIKERIKI! I have always worked for myself in a creative capacity and from home – a legitimate professional career never felt right for me, in fact, I was very headstrong about working in the entertainment industry as a teenager, for better or for worse! (Oh the advice I would give my 18 year old self now). I actually started my music career as a wedding singer (!) but I was always writing and recording songs – this lead me to a decade long publishing deal writing songs for pop stars and producing music from my home studio. When I became pregnant with my daughter it was a fairly easy transition into motherhood and staying athome (I would work when she was asleep) and 7 years and one more child later that’s kind of how it still works – except now they are banging down the studio door and helping with vocals on my tracks! My husband is a designer who mainly works from home so that has allowed us to be fairly flexible parents.
My very good long time friend and co-founder of KIKERIKI! Andrea McEwan and I met performing in Annie the musical when we were 14 years old but we lost touch again until we were in our twenties – when somewhat unsurprisingly we discovered we were both still making music. We clicked instantly again both as friends and musicians and started to collaborate in the studio – I recorded her demo which resulted in a record deal for her in the U.K and successful European tours. After she moved to Berlin with her lovely German husband, we would always jump in the studio or write songs whenever she came to visit Melbourne and during one visit whilst we were both pregnant it felt natural to try our hand at writing kids songs! Andrea is a very prolific and wonderful songwriter and she had a great idea for a song called Space Sneakers – we recorded it in an afternoon! That was the start.
I think it was on the next visit out (a year or so later) that we seriously started to think about the project and named it KIKERIKI! (which is how you say cockadoodledoo in German!) We really felt we could write some fresh, hip and exciting kids material that could entertain families all around the world and we immediately started conceptualizing a brand that could reflect our ideas about eco parenting and our tastes in art, illustration and fashion! Our main inspiration was actually a lot of our favourite children’s authors – namely Oliver Jeffers, Jon Klassen and all the old golden books that our kids love. We were interested in offering a kind of children’s entertainment that went against so much of the glossy, over produced and cheesy media on offer. Inspired by some of the classics, The Muppets, Seasame Street, and also adult comedy like Flight of The Concords and more contemporary children’s content Peppa Pig, Charlie and Lola and Yo Gabba Gabba, we found an incredible illustrator from the Netherlands, Iris Deppe to help us create some animated and illustrated friends to join in Kikeriki! Fast forward another couple of years and lots of hard work and now we have our first album released and have been invited to Cinekid in Amsterdam this October 2014 to pitch our idea to make Kikeriki into a tv series and cross media product – a super exciting time (and a very long flight by myself without the kids, brilliant!!) It’s taken a lot of hard work and it’s sometimes very difficult to stay motivated and find time, both with two young children, bills to pay and a very large time difference – but it’s so satisfying to finally hear kids jumping around to the songs and getting involved and excited about what we have created!
How old are your kid(s)… names?
I have a daughter, Summer, a strong willed and adventurous little 7 year old and son Reuben, the cuddliest 4 year old wannabe breakdancer you’ve ever seen.
Where do you live?
I live in a leafy inner suburb of Melbourne, Australia with my family in a gorgeous little white weatherboard house. We rent but we live right next door to a beautiful park – it’s a little community where everyone knows each other and we can let the kids run reasonably wild (for the city anyway!) It suits my husband who is basically a big kid with a penchant for old motorbikes and climbing trees. Our little street is a sanctuary and I hope we never have to leave (although I dream of having a dishwasher!)
Do you work in a home office, and if you do, how do you deal with working from home (while parenting)?
It’s a challenge, working from home, especially when you are building a project from the beginning. ‘Working’ is a very loose term which would usually involve some kind of wage but obviously this is not always the case early on in a business! This is the main difficulty really, justifying time away from the kids or other paying work – it usually has to happen at night which is a bit exhausting. The kids are pretty used to their Mum having a music studio in their house – it’s all pretty boring now and when I had to ask them for help to contribute their kiddie voices to the album I was often met with complaints – who knew singing a few words in the studio could become a chore for a 7 year old? I have to say thanks to ABC4KIDS (the national kids channel here in AU) for helping me get all my mixing done, although when you are recording a kids album at home it’s guaranteed there is going to be some background noise/screaming/thumping. They are very good at impersonating huge elephants thundering through the house just when I need quiet to record a soft vocal take!
What would you say is your “mom uniform”?
It depends! I went through a period of really overdressing for the day – I got so sick of getting around in jeans and trainers I would work out outfits for each day and rock up to school drop off and everyone would say – oh are you going out to lunch? No! I was just sick and tired of not having a reason to dress up! I am more relaxed about that now – usually it’s jeans and oxfords with a t shirt and oversized coat – or sometimes my New Balance trainers and some tailored pants – I like fashion and am lucky enough to also work part time for a very lovely Melbourne fashion brand, Gorman – all my much younger colleagues keep me inspired to not dress my age! My absolute favourite thing to do is go to the op shop (thrift store) and look for bargains – it’s the way I relax! My kids are used to it, they come too and head straight to the toy section where they entertain themselves whilst I meditate among the racks of possibilities. I have a serious pinterest addiction and I use it for outfit inspiration – then I try and find what I am after when I go to the second hand stores! It’s the power of attraction! It often works and I score a diamond in the rough!
Do you cook much–if you don’t, what are your ways around not cooking, and if you do, what are your go-tos–both for yourself, and for your kid?
I love cooking. But I have to say this question has caught me in a bit of a lazy cooking rut. My husband has two dishes he has only recently learnt to cook, Fritatta and Pizza. I think we need to expand the options! We are mainly vegetarian so it’s a lot about veggie salads, vegetarian antipasto with home made hummus and healthy pastas and warming soups in winter – I love soups for hiding kale and other very healthy foods my son is averse too, the bamix is the best invention ever! I also try to restrict my kids access to processed food and sugar although it’s easier said than done – my go to sweet treat is home made raw cacao balls – simply throw some nuts, coconut oil, a little bit of honey or a few dates and some coconut and raw cacao powder in the processor and then roll into balls and keep in the fridge! They love them thank goodness. Not as much as me though!
What’s your weeknight family dinner routine?
Oh golly, this is really showing me we don’t have one at all. It’s a scramble usually although now the weather is warming up again we enjoy eating on our little back deck. We chat about our day, endeavour to get my son to try a spoonful of something new and try not to fight too many battles. We pick and choose. Dessert is usually some natural yoghurt or a banana before bath, a quick play or game of UNO and 7pm bedtime with an old Ipod quietly playing a yoga niddra meditation or Enid Blyton story. Okay, that’s a good night – I should also be truthful and say that there are also days where the tv goes on at 5pm, a bottle of wine is opened and we all watch My Neighbour Totoro whilst trying to get my son to eat at least one sustainable fish finger before we fast track them past a bath and into their PJ’s. Don’t tell anyone! Oh and my husband is the best human dishwasher in the world. That’s all I can say!
How do you celebrate your child’s birthdays?
My children’s birthdays are only 10 days apart so we have a one year on, one year off approach to parties. We try and keep it cheap, old fashioned and simple – we bought a disco light for my daughters party, a bunch of glow sticks and blacked out the windows for a disco party this year and it was a huge hit! Pass the parcel and statues for my son and we were done and dusted. We also tried one year asking for no presents – Summer was really great about it when we explained that she was really lucky and already had a lot of toys and books and we were trying to be mindful about waste and the environment – it wasn’t very well accepted by the party guests though! Something to think about.
Best kid purchase/bang for your buck?
I have to say the few simple wooden Ikea toys we have purchased have been fantastic for both kids – although the best thing was a balance bike we were gifted as a hand me down – my son learned to ride so well on it and it has been so fantastic – he went straight onto a normal bike with pedals without any need for training wheels – it helps so much as we all ride around as a family and to school and for errands! It helps that they are both independent in that way!
Any rules about TV/screens?
Yes but we find it is a fluid thing too – depending on how stressful our lives become! Every few months we realize we have become too relaxed and then we reign it in again. We don’t let the kids use computers and we don’t have an Ipad in the house or have computer games. Sometimes I might let them watch a video on my phone or play a game if we are out at an appointment or I really need them to be quiet as an emergency out of the house! But not at home. We do however let the kids watch movies and tv.
We sometimes allow tv in the afternoon/evening as I am preparing dinner or it’s something we enjoy together as a family – watching a movie or sometimes we are super naughty parents and let them watch a few minutes of Friends re-runs (appropriate parts only of course!) before bed. My son is already obsessed with Jennifer Aniston! Ha! Movie nights on the weekends are fun and we recently were given a digital projector so have been trialing our outdoor cinema in the back yard. We love old fashioned Disney movies, anything from Hayao Miyazaki and anything with Julie Andrews. Oh and Singing in the Rain! We are not averse to technology but we are trying to keep it as old school as possible whilst they are young. We imagine we will have enough battles when they are teenagers – am I naive in thinking I can prevent them from having their own phones until they are 16?! Probably.
What websites inspire you and for which parts of your life?
My favourite social app is Instagram although I do still check my Facebook way too much. It’s becoming so news focused and negative though I feel. I try to stay away from the news, it’s all so negative and awful! A friend just introduced us to WeChat which is hilarious My never miss daily reads are Cup Of Jo, The Design Files, Bloesem, Design Sponge and Wit and Delight and for fashion I love Garance Dore, Tomboy Style, GoFugYourself and I love Pinterest! Addicted. For cooking I love 101 Cookbooks, Smitten Kitchen and I Quit Sugar. Otherwise I am always putting things in my cart and then leaving them on the following shopping sites – Boden (for kids clothes), Marks and Spencer, ASOS, and Cotton On Kids. And I love Mom Filter of course!
What’s a typical weekend like?
Sleep in til 8.30, pancakes for breakfast (Summer is learning to do it on her own), lots of laundry, a bike ride to the bakery for a croissant and a look in the bookshop, yoga for me, friends or family over for a 5 o’clock dinner, nice cheese and a lovely bottle of wine (my Dad has great taste and usually brings over way too much of both plus fresh pasta from the Italian grocer). On Fridays sometimes we just have fish and chips in the park with all our friends and their kids from the local school – sometimes until dark! It usually involves wine and lots of laughs for the parents, a way to let our hair down after a long week.
We are also really lucky to have lots of family live fairly close and they are all very important in thr kids lives and their upbringing. In fact time spent with our family and siblings and the kids is really the most joyful part of our lives. We love entertaining and talking about travel, the kids and movies and politics (sometimes!)
What’s the thing that always stays on your to-do list and never gets crossed off and nags at you? (Photo albums? Organizing your kids art projects? Planning a family trip?)
Oh my gosh, how did you know? All of these things you suggested above! I am terrible at printing out photos and organizing the kids art! Terrible!
Do you have a fail-safe beauty product or routine?
It’s tried and true but I really just love coconut oil. Face, lips, to eat, I use it to cleanse, moisturize, as a base under my sunscreen! Love it! Make up wise I am a mineral bronzer and mascara girl. Also, I love Bite Beauty organic lipsticks – my favourite colour for going out is Zinfandel, a bright orangey red.
Best family trip?
We have actually done a lot of travel in the past year, we took the kids (as part of a work trip) to Dubai where my sister was living and then onto Europe – it was incredible but such hard work and so tiring! We underestimated the toll the 24 hour flight would have on them for the three weeks we were away. The Waterpark in Dubai was the highlight for them of course! We also took them to the snow for the first time last year which was wonderful but freezing – we stayed in a chalet and it was divine. To be honest though the best family trip was simply going camping down to Wilsons Prom, an incredible National Park down on the southern tip of Victoria over Easter this year with some friends and their kids. It was cold and raining, the tent almost blew over but we all got about in the nature and just had the most relaxing time – there really is nothing like it! I caught two fish! (we threw them back though of course).
Any small business advice–like what is something you wish someone had told you when you started your business?
Oh golly I am still waiting for some! But the advice I am trying to give myself all the time is to TRUST MYSELF and my gut instinct. Also, I am always the first person to believe everyone else must be an expert and would automatically be much better at doing something than me – but that is not always right! Often you know what to do and you are as capable as anyone else! So every day I am always trying to remind myself to be strong in my ideas and abilities. And to stay positive and expect the best – then the best will happen!
Also I am not sure it’s necessary to work so hard you can barely see straight and be worked to the bone to feel successful – I think that can be really damaging and set you up for a routine that is impossible to keep up with – this idea that we can do it all and be everything to everyone, including yourself. Sometimes you have to let things go and that’s okay. But mainly let go of the guilt! I spent so many years feeling so much guilt about my parenting, my body, my career, my diet, whatever. It’s such a waste of time and energy! If I am going to miss yoga, I don’t feel guilty, if I have a shouty day with the kids, I apologise, try and calm down and I get on with it. Or if I accidentally buy something for myself on ASOS without telling my husband! I try and tell myself I deserve it! Ha!
And what is something you just can’t live without (could be a techie thing…)
My Macbook Air, our Apple TV and the Pay By Phone parking app.
Any personal/parenting “a-ha” tips?
Oh golly. Not really apart from my rant above! I am still learning every day and just trying to go with it and do the best I can and be grateful for the good things and enjoy it as much as possible. It’s so hard though sometimes. If anyone has any advice on how to stop them from screaming at each other that would be fantastic! Also saying the F-word silently to myself throughout the day helps relieve stress! Is that too honest? Sorry Mum!
You feel your best when?
On payday, just after a 90 minute power yoga class, about to head home to a dinner of crispy skinned salmon and a glass or two of white wine with my family!
Raw chocolate, pop/country music and cheese popcorn! And episodes of Nashville!
Proudest moment in parenting?
When I first helped out in Summer’s classroom at school – to see her with all the other kids and to realize she is a helpful, considerate member of the class. I was really proud. Also, my son makes me proud a lot cause he got dealt some super cute genes – but mainly when he says, hey Mum, did you have a good time at yoga or how was work today Mum? He is very caring.
Best parenting advice you ever got?
“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!” (A gem given to me by my beautiful mother in law Robyn who passed away this year, in response to my worries about their future and the adults they are going to become). Lovely advice. Any advice not to worry is always the most welcome as a parent, don’t you think?