I fell in love with the Lieutenant House the first time I saw it and then when I learned that is named after the henchman of Bugsy Seigel I loved it even more. This amazing home belongs to Sara Stratford, her husband and three kids. Sara and her family live in Westchester County outside of New York City. Just like so many of us, the pandemic forced them to reprioritize, hunker down and make some decisions about what is important.

You’re going to love taking a peek at this home. It’s smartly designed and surrounded by gorgeous old growth trees — and Sara has so many smart things to say about parenting older kids. Welcome, Sara!

I’m Sara, a 46 year old Equinox spin instructor/writer/preschool teacher, married to Travis, 48, brand consultant, design snob, and all around stud. We met in college at “The BYU”… Travis had served in Sweden on his Mormon mission with my sister, Laura. We just celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary!

We have three kids: Scout is 20 and studying animation at University of the Arts London. She loves horses, Pokemon, Minecraft, and Dungeons and Dragons. And she is the most beautiful snowboarder I’ve ever seen. Calder, almost 18, is a rising senior at Edgemont High School. Calder is a stylish and kind kid who founded the Autism Awareness Club at his high school. He has a fantastic sense of humor and also snowboards like a boss. Our youngest son is Crosby, 13, non-verbal, autistic, and cherubic. He communicates with an iPad and melts the heart of everyone he meets. He is as delicious as humans get.

We live in an area called Old Edgemont in Westchester County, New York, which is a northern suburb of New York City. Our neighborhood is a short walk from the Scarsdale Metro North train station, which is what the majority of our neighbors use to commute into and out of Manhattan.

Like us, the majority of families move to Old Edgemont for the highly rated public school system. Housing costs and taxes are high: an average home in our neighborhood sells for $1 million+, and annual property taxes of $35,000 is considered “reasonable,” which I know sounds insane. But living in Old Edgemont has provided our family more room than a city apartment, an amazing cultural experience, and has provided our kids with a top-notch educational experience with annual property taxes that are less than sending several kids to private school (or at least that’s how we look at it).

Our neighborhood is charming with its mostly 1920s era Tudor homes with slate roofs, tree-lined streets, and nature preserves within walking distance. But we’ve actually found the people inside the homes to be even more interesting — many of whom are leaders in their respective fields and just fascinating people in general.

We’ve found the Old Edgemont community to be open-minded, welcoming, and diverse (our neighbors and neighborhood friends are from all around the world and from all corners of the USA.) But I admit, as Westerners living in NYC the past 20+ years (I’m from Boulder, CO and Travis hails from Lake Arrowhead, CA,) we still have a part of our hearts in “The West.”

Things close by that we love: Scarsdale Village is in walking distance, with restaurants and shops. Walking to the train with easy access to Manhattan is amazing (a 30 minute express train ride.) We can also walk to all the kids’ schools (walking culture was something we loved about Brooklyn and did not want to give that up in the burbs.)

We love to run/bike on the Bronx River Path. I’ve logged many, many miles pushing Crosby in a jogging stroller (and have the triceps to prove it). And then the obvious, Manhattan is just a short train ride away. It’s been fun to experience the city — and also have children who are comfortable navigating their way around it.

I was ready to leave Brooklyn before my husband. I wanted more kids and having two in a small city apartment was already more than I could manage.

Our first stop after Brooklyn, in 2007, was an old colonial home in Tuckahoe, New York (also in Westchester County). It had been owned by a couple in their 90’s, who hadn’t updated or renovated the home in about 50 years. Part of our purchase agreement with them was that we would clear out what they left after moving to their assisted-living home.

Some fun things I found with the GotJunk guys we hired: about 30 packages of maxi pads (hadn’t been used in 40+ years I’m guessing?), very very old Christmas cards and wrapping paper, and a wad of cash that looked as if it had been shoved behind a dresser in the 1950’s. 

We hired an architect to draw-up plans and began designing it just for us. After living in the home for several months, before the extended construction began, we realized that this particular home wasn’t a great fit for us. So we swapped out the plans and immediately began planning a renovation that would help us resell the home to someone else.

We hired an architect to draw-up plans and began designing it just for us. After living in the home for several months, before the extended construction began, we realized that this particular home wasn’t a great fit for us. So we swapped out the plans and immediately began planning a renovation that would help us resell the home to someone else.

Around this same time, we became familiar with Old Edgemont through some friends and began spending our weekends driving around the area, evaluating houses, and even leaving notes at some of the homes we liked asking if they would be willing to sell. Given this was 2008 and at the height of the real-estate market, there wasn’t much inventory available.

We eventually toured a home called The Lieutenant House, but it was not an instant-love connection for Travis. The house name came from the fact that infamous mobster Bugsy Siegel lived next door during prohibition (before he left to build Las Vegas) and our home was where Bugsy’s main henchman (or lieutenant) lived. 

Since I had pretty much forced Travis to buy the Tuckahoe house, I let it go. BUT THEN. I was doing Tae Bo (shout out to Billy Blanks) and realized that Travis was judging the home by its dated decor: not by its bones. So I enlisted the help of our friend Ryan. When he came through the house with us, he saw what it could be and convinced Travis that “this was the place.” In 2009 we bought it.

We didn’t completely comprehend at the time how perfect the home and location were for us. It’s been magical.

Key benefits include: it’s a ten minute walk (or five minute sprint) to the Scarsdale train station, which makes commuting into the city easy for Travis. It has one of the few large, flat back yards in the area. And since Old Edgemont is a no-bus school district (and driving kids to school in the morning can be a process with narrow roads and a lines of cars), we love that our home is about a 10 minute walk to the Elementary school and about a five minute walk to the middle / high school campus, which makes walking considerably faster than driving. 

I’ve always been a mom who loved summer and loved having my kids around me. I enjoy them 99.9% of the time. When Scout went to college two years ago, I was sad, realizing that her summer commitments (she works as a counselor at Birch Creek Service Ranch in Utah), and her studies in London, meant our extended time together was coming to a permanent end. She’s so fun and interesting and we love to cook together and talk, so having her home for shelter-in-place was not only a relief (I was terrified she would get stuck in London all alone), but I enjoyed it immensely.

Calder had been “over” high school for a while (he’s a 40 year old adult stuck in a teenager’s body). He’s actually enjoyed the learning from home, and the flexible schedule.

And Croz… well he lives his best life all the time, so he has been more than happy to lounge around all day with his favorite people available to tickle him. We are lucky that many of his therapists were able to shift to Zoom therapy for him, so his learning has not suffered. And with me helping him with his distance learning, it’s been fun to realize he is capable of so much more than I recognized before “home schooling”!

Travis has been extra busy at work during COVID, so while we are thankful that his company is able to work remotely (and has work), it’s been difficult to see him working around the clock while the rest of us have less going on. 

But the hardest part of COVID-19 for me has been worrying about Travis catching the virus. He suffers from chronic asthma, which could make him more vulnerable to coronavirus. We decided it would be safest for me to assume the role of “supply run” specialist (I take extreme OCD precautions when going out).

It’s also been tricky to keep Crosby quiet (he “stims” VERY loudly) while Travis is on work calls and the big kids are trying to concentrate on school projects. But relative to what others have been through during COVID (and are going through now), our experience seems trivial.

As part of going through this pandemic, I’ve realized I need so much LESS than I thought I did. Less errands, less time at the gym, less running around, less “stuff.” I love having everyone home at the same time for dinner, which we rarely get due to Trav’s work hours and travel schedules. I’ve learned to slow down and live in the moment… the way Crosby operates all the time.

I think everyone has slowed down immensely. It will be interesting to see if society ever goes back to the non-stop business so many of us maintained pre-COVID.

Given our additional family down time, we’ve had such interesting conversations about race and religion and politics — things I’m not sure we would have been able to fit in before. All in all, I think we (and others) have learned to slow the pace of life and enjoy it more. I hope it lasts!

I hope our kids remember the values we’ve tried to teach them here in our home: to be compassionate, to be kind, to be honest, to be critical thinkers, and to be their own “pioneers”. I hope they forget the handful of times we as parents have lost our shiz and taken it out on each other (and them).

As for me, I want to remember how cool it’s been to see Trav on work calls; “doing deals”, in his element. I don’t get to observe that part of him very often, and in total honesty (sorry Mom!) it’s a real turn on. I hope his co-workers DO NOT remember the time I walked past a company-wide Zoom call completely naked. This year’s CASE holiday party could be awkward.

My kids are my best friends. They are respectful and fun, and honestly better company than most adults I know. I love when they laugh at my jokes or when we find a show to watch together. I love having their friends over (they have excellent taste in people). I hope they move near me when they are settled. They constantly entertain me with memes and YouTube videos. Calder and I have had a side-hustle of buying and reselling Supreme streetwear which was unexpectedly delightful.

They are also incredibly kind and helpful with their younger brother. Both kids are willing to watch and play with him whenever I ask. I’m thankful they get to experience unconditional love at such a young age. I love observing their interactions with him and will miss seeing that on a regular basis. Travis and I don’t plan on ever not living with Crosby, so I hope I never have to miss him! 

I wish someone had told me (and I had listened!)… I’m going to answer honestly, but it’s a gut-wrenching for me. When I was pushing Travis to leave Brooklyn for the suburbs, my father (who has since passed away) pulled me aside and said, “You do not have easy kids. Why have more? Two is a great number and you already have your hands full.”  

Our religion at the time was Mormonism, and large families are both the norm and highly encouraged. Plus I loved having three siblings and always pictured myself having four or five children. It’s hard on days when I’m struggling to meet each child’s needs (Scout has ADHD, Calder suffers with anxiety, and Crosby, though delightful, will always require supervision and lots of extra help.) I sometimes wonder what life would be like if I had stopped after two children.

Would I have been able to have a real career, instead of piecing together jobs here and there, that can mostly be done from home? Would my older kids have gotten more of my much-needed attention, if I hadn’t been managing the revolving door of therapists in and out of our home and Crosby’s constant needs and demands on my time? I don’t know.

My father passed away when Crosby was just two — when so much about his capability was unknown. I do remember my dad telling me that everything would be okay. At the time, I had taken that to mean that Croz would learn to talk and I would have the life I envisioned when I was young.

Now, 11 years later, I understand “okay” means that life is not perfect or easy. Nor does it meet the expectations we had when we were young. But it IS okay. I refuse to think of Crosby as anything other than a blessing. I choose every day to focus on all that he CAN do, and the joy he brings, rather than how my life might be limited by him. Being his mother has taught me immense lessons I doubt I’d have learned otherwise.

P.S. — We’ve know the Blairs since they lived in New York. In fact, Gabby’s eldest child was one of our first friends we made in Westchester after moving from Brooklyn. At a group picnic, Ralph Blair noticed Calder was sitting alone, and though he was 4 years older, Ralph gave Calder some Lego guys and invited him to play. Ralph taught Calder the importance of empathy and being a kind “big boy.” The Stratford family will forever be big fans of the Blairs!

——

Thank you, Sara! What an absolutely breathtaking house. I love the mix of the modern furniture and spare aesthetic with the more traditional exterior. And the yard is so stunning. What a beautiful place to get to spend summer evenings. And I can only imagine that autumn is even more spectacular.

I also really love Sara’s honesty about life and the choices we make and the “path not taken.” We all make choices in our lives, and sometimes the making of one choice completely erases the possibility of another choice. And there is a lot of wisdom in being cognizant of that and noticing and appreciating the differences. I don’t think there is anything wrong with recognizing that you could have made choices that would have made your life easier, while still loving the more challenging life that you are living now.

Are there choices you made in your life that changed the direction of everything? Do you wonder what life would be like if you’d made a different choice? How does that reflection help you grow and better understand what you have?

SOURCES

Vintage Cado Wall Shelves

Entryway Chandelier

Toto Toilet (with bidet feature!)

Eames “Hang-It-All

House Numbers


Living With Kids is edited by Josh Bingham — you can follow him on Instagram too.

Would you like to share your home in our Living With Kids series? It’s lots of fun, I promise! (And we are always looking for more diversity in the families we feature here. Single parents, non-traditional parents, families of color, LGBT parents, multi-generational families. Reach out! We’d love to hear your stories!!) Email us at features@designmom.com