I’m so happy to get to meet Sabrina. She and her husband and two kids have a beautiful home in Vancouver they have lovingly remodeled from the ground up. Sabrina has that unique knack of finding vintage and used pieces and pulling them all together in really smart, handsome ways that feel collected and curated rather than messy. And Sabrina has been the solo parent for the last four months while her husband has been stuck at their other home in Kenya during the pandemic. You’ll appreciate her wisdom and candor and her stylish home. Welcome, Sabrina!
Hello! I am very happy to be here as a long time reader of this blog. All of the moms (and few dads) have inspired me so much throughout this special series. They have given me hope and ideas, and made me laugh and cry. Very honored to be among them. We are the Lloyd-Smith family. I’m Sabrina, my husband is Ross. We have a 12 year old daughter, Florence, and 7 year old son, Tiber. Rounding us out is the most difficult dog in the history of canines, our basset hound Sally.
My husband and I met over 20 years ago on an island off Belize. He was a farm boy from Canada and I was an actress in New York City. It was the perfect blending (colliding) of opposites and while we had our starts and stops for the first few years, I knew the very week I met him that he was the one I would spend my life with.
After years of long distance and both of us finally settled and together in NYC (Ross was now working for the United Nations), one day he said, let’s get married and move to Africa. I said yes and left everything I knew behind.
So many people asked, and still ask, how could I leave such a successful career? How could I give it all up? My answer was and still is, how could I not? I knew the acting world so well. I knew the streets of my city so well. And here was the love of my life stretching out his hand saying let’s go see the world. Let’s go live all over it and it’ll be messy and it will be hard but let’s go have an adventure. Of course I went! Best decision I ever made. And yes, it’s also been messy, and hard.
Within a few months in Uganda (our first stop) we started the adoption process for the most wonderful little girl in the world. I was volunteering at a babies home and saw her. It was love at first sight and I just knew she was meant to be mine. I was meant to be hers.
After 2 years in Uganda we moved to Rome and had our son (every woman should have the chance to be pregnant in Rome!) and after 4 years moved back to Uganda.
After another 2 years in Uganda the idea of “home” was eating me up inside. People would ask the children where they were from and an answer was not readily found. My husband and I decided we needed a base. Somewhere to go for summers and Christmases and a place the kids could connect to and feel a part of.
So we did the crazy thing of googling every city in North America and hours and hours and days, weeks, months later stumbled upon this little island off Vancouver. I think I needed the smallness of a place, after a big world. I needed boundaries and the feeling of being cocooned.
So we hopped on a plane and then took a ferry over and hit house-hunting hard. The market was booming and offers were coming in above asking so we had to move fast.
I didn’t love this house when we first saw it. I had in mind a more traditional white-picket fence idea whereas my husband loved the wildness of the mountain and all the land around it. We kept looking and looking and nothing was speaking to us, so I suggested we take another look here. I don’t know what changed, but on our next visit I felt like I was home.
We had a lot of renovation to do, starting with putting down a wood floor overtop of the cement one so little bodies has some nice cushion when tumbling. We removed beams, moved the wood stove from the center of the room to the wall. We had to re-drywall the entire house. But most important: I wanted a yard. The mountain is mostly shale, and I knew it would not be easy, but never underestimate a mother’s desire for her kids.
I bought bag after bag after bag of soil and laid it layer by layer over the shale, sprinkling seed as I went along. I realize now, looking back, I was literally planting myself. That’s how desperately I wanted roots for us all. I made our yard with my bare hands, with soil and seed and a wish.
My husband is that super smart, well read, great taste in music type of guy who saves the world for a living and can build a house with his bare hands. Yeah, he annoys me with all that too. He’s also fully human, so he’s much more complicated (and interesting), but I think of life as a stormy sea and I definitely got into a boat with the right person.
I am an overly emotional actress without the outlet of acting these days so you can often find me hanging from a chandelier. But don’t worry. I usually find my way back down. I also write, paint, make pottery and occasionally blog about food and our travels. As long as I am creating something I am happy.
Our daughter is very much like me and is all things creative. She is all things books and art. If she’s not drawing, she’s reading, but she’s almost always drawing. She’s ridiculously talented and I cannot wait to see where she goes with it. My very favorite thing about her is her brilliant sense of humor. She gets me. And I get her. It’s a beautiful thing we share and we both talk about what good friends we will be when she’s older. I look at her and feel more proud than I have ever felt in my life. My goodness how I love this child.
My son is our piano playing, animal obsessed, science minded, ridiculously smart child. He’s got more energy than a hummingbird at an espresso bar. He thinks his sister is the most amazing thing in the world and that to stop talking for even one moment would be to waste it. He’s opened up our worlds so much and sees everything hidden under flower petals and feels everything so deeply. I am beyond in awe of him and cannot wait to see what he does with it all. My goodness how I love this boy.
We split our time between this home and one in Kenya, where my husband is now posted. So half of our things are here and half there. There is so much we still want to do with this house — first and foremost redo the kitchen — but are limited by the time we spend here.
The style is very much me. Eclectic and cozy. As much as I love all the cream and white designs and monochrome look (will someone please tell me how you keep it clean with kids?!) I am just always drawn to things that have a story.
I love sitting in my 19th century chairs wondering about all the people who have sat in them before me. Chairs I bought in my 20’s that have been shipped all over the world multiple times. I can sit in them and feel my own history, which is why I tend to buy things I plan to keep forever. I love my wooden handmade chest and think of the artist in his little shop who made it. I want my things to have history, someone else’s and my own, or to have come from someone who made them tenderly.
I absolutely love this island in the Salish Sea. The small farm stands that still have the honor system for paying. The wineries and boat docks and whale sightings from shore. We hike and take long beach walks and it’s a very quiet and peaceful existence. I love Kenya as well, but this place is where I feel most happy.
We were supposed to be back in Kenya by now but a pandemic went and happened. We’d already been home for 8 months, after a year away, but my husband was able to come in and out from Nairobi. Because of the lockdown I have now been on my own for 4 solid months, 2 in complete isolation. There may have been some crying in closets.
Luckily for us, I was already homeschooling so not too much has changed. The kids are certainly missing their extracurricular activities and playdates with friends, but we are very fortunate, and I give thanks every day to have so much space for the kids to still run around and be in nature. It could be so much worse, and when people ask me how I am doing it all on my own without going crazy, I tell them I was already crazy and I just stay in gratitude. That’s my secret to life, the one that I have learned moving all over the world and living in developing counties. My biggest prayer is: Thank You.
I’ve always loved the answers to what do I want my kids to remember and what do I want them to forget. Of course, like most, I want them to remember how much fun we had. The dance parties and driving around the island singing at the top of our lungs. I hope they remember me reading to them every night at dinner and getting choked up and laughing and feeling how much literature can move you. I hope they remember this social isolation time as the time we painted and gardened and curled up together to watch the stars come out.
I hope they forgot nothing. Because I want them to see that it’s okay to falter. That it’s okay to mess up. I want them to learn to heal and repair and to keep trying even when it’s hard. I haven’t been perfect, not even close. But I know in my heart that my kids see that I strive everyday to be better. I don’t want to hold up some ideal of motherhood or of being human. Life is hard! So, it’s okay that they see me lose my patience sometimes. It will show them that they are okay when they lose theirs. Life isn’t over when you mess up. Just get up and try again.
My absolute favorite thing about living with my kids is that they just make me so happy. No matter how much time I spend with them, I want to spend more. I will miss them so much when they are off, deep into their own lives, and I think about that all the time while we are locked down in this pandemic. This moment of togetherness, this closeness, I cherish it and know I will always hold this memory close.
I wish someone had told me that when you have (find) your first child, at the moment you are falling in love in a way you never even imagined, that you would have to say goodbye to yourself at the very same time. Yes, you can hold onto many things, but that person you were, that moment your child is placed in your arms, a fracture happens, and then a shattering. The person you were is gone. Forever. I wasn’t ready for that whiplash. But oh my, what an adventure lay ahead. What love.
Thank you, Sabrina! What a beautiful home. I love that look of the collected and curated pieces. And I love what Sabrina said about buying pieces that last and really appreciated their history — whether it is your own history with the item, or the history that someone else created with that piece. It does give things a sense of permanence when you know they were here before you and some of them will be in use long after you’re gone.
My heart really goes out to all of the single parents during this crazy time. Both those that are single parents all the time (which is an impossibly complicated job, I’m sure) and those who are single in situations like Sabrina, where one parent is far away, or perhaps where one parent is self-isolating because of the work they do on the front lines. This is tricky for all of us to get through and must be particularly hard for people who are doing it on their own and keeping everything afloat for their kids.
Are you going through this pandemic on your own? Do you have a partner to help you? How do you divide your workload to make it all manageable?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.