From the Momfilter Archives
This Seattle-based mom invented the genius Swoop Bags, which allow you to clean up Legos, literally, in one fell swoop.We first heard about Sarah from our friends Gina and Anne, who live in Seattle. After checking them out, we emailed Sarah immediately and got to know her a little bit.
Tell us about yourself: I’m a mom of two lovely and lively boys Kabe (8) and Ian (6) and wife to my mandolin player, high school English teacher, handyman husband, Jay Kirk. I have been a freelance graphic designer since my boys were born and until last year when I started my own business – SWOOP! I love all aspects of design, and find beauty in so many things…even my kids book shelf with the stuff all piled onto it or how the color of air mattress looked next to each other in the water.
We live in Seattle, Washington with our sweet cat Cabo. We are a goofy bunch who spend a lot of time together as Jay being a teacher has all the vacations that my kids do and enjoys using his personal days up! As a family, we love to eat, cook, play in our backyard, garden, camp, DIY house projects, travel, listen to and play music in our basement, read, bike, play legos, make each other laugh, climb trees, grocery shop (yes, my kids love it!) and drink lots of good coffee. Being from Seattle, there is never a bad cup of coffee.
How did Swoop come about? I started making the bags because I was getting so much great response from moms/friends who would be over at our house and would notice the kids’ Lego bag and ask where I got it. The story is that grandmother had made one for my brother some 30 years ago, and then my mom made a version for Kabe. I thought the bags my mom and grandma made could be more streamlined, modern and durable. There were a few on Etsy that I saw but nothing that got me excited so I decided to start researching and figuring out if it was possible to do this, and it was! Everything started from home and Swoop still runs out of my house, but I have my manufacturer in Seattle that does the sewing for me. It is small right now and manageable, and I want to grow it at a reasonable pace and not sacrafice quality for quantity. I basically took baby steps each day and finally after a year and a half I was able to launch swoopbags.com! Trying to balance life, two kids, freelancing and starting a business was a lot to juggle, but I realized that if I just did a few things each day, whether is was just an email or a phone call, it kept the ball rolling and eventually things got done and progress was made.
Who cooks? I mainly do, but when my husband cooks – he does it well and follows a recipe and is very proud of his all in one – smoker/BBQ/grill. I am more spontaneous and messy and don’t have the patience for recipes and try to use up what we have in the cupboards and fridge.
What’s a typical weeknight? I usually get dinner ready (I don’t spend too long in the kitchen, I make it simple) while Jay plays legos with the boys or takes them to the park or to their sport practices. I feel really lucky that my husband can get home in the early afternoon and is able to spend so much time with Kabe and Ian. During the school year we try to get the kids in bed relatively early so we can have time to do a bit of our own thing. I usually am on my computer working and Jay is on the couch grading stacks of English essays or recording some song in this little music room tucked away in our basement. We always read stories with our kids before bed and have done this almost every night since they were babies. It is one the best times of the day for both of us as we snuggle in bed together and actually relax. I love the smell of my kids’ hair and can never get enough cozy time and I am constantly sniffing them and kissing them!
Do you have a go-to dinner that appears weekly? For dinners, pasta, usually homemade pesto, teriyaki take-out, BBQ chicken (even in the winter) with brown rice and a salad almost every night. I make a frittata when the veggies are starting to get limp—add cheese—it’s delicious, fast and easy! I follow a tradition of my grandmother’s – I always have on hand a homemade jar of salad dressing – so simple and easy and tasty and even if we have just lettuce in our salad, it is still delicious with our dressing. I marinate veggies with it, too and stick them on the grill or roast them in the oven.
And what’s for breakfast? Breakfast for me has been peanut butter toast for as long as I can remember and coffee. And only one kind of peanut butter – Adams, the natural kind you have to stir the oil in – messy but worth it.
The boys have toast /cereal and we make a yogurt fruit shake with frozen berries almost every morning, too. We love breakfast and end up having two before the kids are off to school since they are early risers!
How do you feel about TV? We do a movie night on Friday night or Saturday…not much time for screen time during the week and we don’t have cable so there is nothing really to watch on TV. Usually we try to find something free/appropriate on Netflix or get something from the library. It seems to work and the kids seem fine with it.
Tell us about how you celebrate birthdays in your house: We have done all of our kids’ birthdays in our backyard – they usually pick a theme and I have to admit I kind of end up getting into it, but not over the top – just try to make it creative, fun and simple. Kabe’s Harry Potter birthday was my favorite last year as I was on the search for straw brooms so I got to scour the international district so I could find cheap brooms and eat Asian food along the way! We spray painted rocks we gathered from our yard gold and made wands out of bamboo and old fabric scraps I had laying around. One thing that I have loved over the years is we always make each other cards for birthdays. We each have a box that we save the cards and other special stuff in and oftentimes, the boys pull down their boxes and sift through their special stuff box. I guess you could say I am sucked into party favors because if you don’t do it you feel kind of lame. Plus, everyone is really generous with gifts, and I like to give back, too. It is annoying that some kids expect and even ask where the party favors are. Geez.
What websites inspire you and for which parts of your life? I don’t have as much time to search the web, but a few of my faves are: Desire to Inspire, The Selby, Lena Corwin, Bloesem Kids, The Sartorialist. I tend to gravitate toward interior sites as I am kind of obsessed with house design, too.
Tell us about a typical weekend: Soccer games on Saturday morning, house projects, lots of coffee, we both work out on Sunday mornings, birthday parties, dinners with friends, errands, yard work.
What’s the story with that tree house?! Jay built it. Since he has summers off, he likes to do some fun projects and this was one he did last summer. He does the hard part and I do the easy parts of projects—like staining it.
Any family rituals you carry on, or that you have created? Our rituals seem to be the most occurring during the holidays. Thai food for Christmas dinner, always hand made cards for birthdays and Christmas.
Where did the ritual of Thai food for Christmas dinner come from? We have a stong connection with Thailand as Kabe was born there. We lived there for three years and love everything about that country and try and incorporate as much Thai-ness in our Seattle life as possible, and Thai food is one thing we all love and eat and make often.
Favorite activities for when you’re stuck indoors? Kabe loves to orchestrate little activities like making traps, forts, figuring out how to make a new game for the cat, making concoctions with whatever I will let him use – his latest was making house freshner – he took some left over vinegar and not knowingly he added hand soap, sunscreen, shampoo, bathroom spray and chili powder and was mixing it all around in a big vinegar bottle pouring it into little dishes and hiding them around the house (it actually smelled pretty good!) He is always up to something like that and can turn the house upside down fast, but I love it because he gets pretty creative and messes can always be cleaned up! Ian is pretty content with his legos, pens and paper. He makes a lot of “books” and can hunker down and be really focused playing with whatever interests him. They are both good buddies and usually just a few feet away from each other at all times.
What kind of music are you into? Jay is always getting CDs from the library and figuring out new bands that he likes, which I always like in turn…music is in his family’s blood and he plays the banjo, mandolin, guitar and we have some keyboards that can be plugged into amps that are set up in this music room. There is a microphone, too, which the kids are able to run and figure out along with the keyboards. They can make some pretty wacky sounds but very entertaining and it is a hit when the boys have friends over – they often head down to the music room first. I like the new Death Cab for Cutie, The Head and the Heart, Stars, and whatever Jay is listening, too. We always have music going and the kids listen to what we listen to; however, we did make them a playlist for our road trip which included Justin Beiber, Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift and Tao Cruz to name a few! The car was a rockin’ and we had the windows down and all of us were singing. It was pretty fun!
What’s the thing that always stays on your to-do list and never gets crossed off and nags at you? Photos, photos, photos – I take way too many and have all these ideas of making photo books and going through and editing down my photos but I can never find enough time to make it happen. I do manage to print out photos, and have been pretty good about getting them in albums but I am also two years behind now. That was one of my favorite things to look at growing up was the photo albums my mom kept over our entire childhood. I think that is what really cements my childhood memories are looking back on all those great pics!
Top 3 favorite books—for your kids, top 3 for yourself?
Kids – Iggy Peck Architect, The Seven Silly Eaters, Harry Potter
Me – A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, Waiting by Ha Jin, Memoirs of a Geisha by Authur Golden
What’s your fail-safe beauty routine/products you love? Rubber bands! I am always putting my hair up as I don’t wash it everyday. I have found over the years that my skin looks the best and reacts the best to basically no products. Fancy stuff doesn’t work for me and I usually use water in the morning, mascara (Cover Girl that I have been using since 7th grade) and Neutrogena chapstick or Burts’ Bee lip gloss. I don’t like to fuss and spend time in the morning. At night I use Dermalogica face cream and wear my friends Furlesse patch that she invented to reduce that furrow line – it really works and she gives them to me for free as we swap a lot of stuff! In the summer I am pretty good about putting sunscreen on my face and use a chemical free SPF 30 by Dermalogica, too. Oh, and I have finally found a perfume that doesn’t give me a headache (sensitive to smells!) I hadn’t really worn anything for about 15 years and finally I found Narciso Rodriquez Her – I wear it almost daily and it makes me feel like I have really gotten ready in the morning even if I am know I will be home all day!
Your favorite family trip ever? I would have to say, I loved our most recent trip this summer to Priest Lake, ID with our good friends who have the same age kids as the boys. It is truly a magical lake where the water is crystal clear and you can walk off to the “drop-off” where the lake starts getting deep about 100 yards out from the shore. The sand is white and warm and no rocks in the water – it feels like you are on a tropical island, but you are surrounded by pine tree filled mountains. The smell of the trees, the hot dry air and the kids just having a ball swimming all day and playing in the sand…was simply the best! The kids entertained themselves and so we had a lot of time to catch up with our friends who we only get to see once a year! Cocktail hour on the beach was a highlight of the day, too. The kids helped make appetizers and we all had our “special drinks.”
Personal a-ha tip? Keep life simple and laugh a lot. I am always purging our kids’ rooms as they share a small space. As Jay always says, “stuff owns you; you don’t own stuff.” I like to buy a few really nice furniture pieces that will last a lifetime instead of transitional pieces that you get sick of in a few years or that are too trendy. I like small spaces and we have gotten really good about being efficient with our space and we try to have a spot for everything so we can find things without raging through the house looking for something. I move artwork around the house a lot and it makes it feel somewhat updated and interesting.
You feel your best when? The sun is out in Seattle, I am fully caffeinated and my boys are all smiling.
Favorite clothing item and why? Vintage leather boots! I am always on the look out for a good solid used pair of leather boots –and big oversized chunky sweaters to keep me warm. I am always cold and the weather is damp in Seattle so I need to bundle up during the day but don’t want to go around the house in a coat.
Proudest moment in parenting? Hard to say. Just watching them be who they are makes me proud everyday and the close bond that my boys have for each other.
What do you feel you could be better at? Reading for pleasure instead of getting on my computer.
What makes you feel guilty? Playing “words with friends” on my iPhone in my car before I go in and grocery shop. Sometimes I make the kids wait until I finish my turn!