Meet the Parents: Brooklyn, New York

Tatum and Sophie at Coney Island
Do you ever wonder what it'd be like to live in Brooklyn, New York? Check out how one couple juggles raising their daughters and running a busy restaurant.
Courtesy of the Shea family
Courtesy of the Shea family

Meet the Sheas

Ever wonder how other parents do it? Or what it's like to raise a family someplace else? Welcome to "Meet the Parents," a new feature that lets you peek into the lives of other families across the country.

Meet the parents:
Laura Shea, 37, and David Shea, 37

Meet the kids:
Sophie, 6
Tatum, 3

What they do:
This husband-and-wife team own and run Applewood, a much-praised restaurant in Brooklyn, New York; and the recently opened Applewares kitchen goods store.

How they met:
"Dave and I met at the Culinary Institute of America and we got married in 1998. After culinary school, we lived in Manhattan, and then Chicago for a few years. We worked together in kitchens, trained as chefs, and had the goal of opening our own place one day. When we came back to New York, we felt ready."

Courtesy of the Shea family
Courtesy of the Shea family

Home on the Slope

Where they live:
The Park Slope neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, a 15-minute subway ride from Manhattan.

Why they love their 'hood:
"Park Slope is very beautiful, with rows of brownstones and tree-lined streets. It's like if you took the best of Manhattan and Chicago and put them together. It's got a quiet, residential, almost suburban feel, but with all the convenience of an urban area."

Their place:
"We rent a one-and-a-half bedroom, about two blocks from the restaurant. [The girls have] the bedroom and [we] take the half room. The house is not so much decorated as a collection of things we've accumulated over the years. It's 'early garage sale.'"

What the kids' room is like:
"It's a huge room in a very small apartment and it accommodates all their books, games, toys, and clothes. Everything on the walls is their artwork, and they each have full-body silhouettes that they made in school hanging up. They have bunk beds and more often than not, they'll both sleep in the bottom bunk."

Courtesy of the Shea family
Courtesy of the Shea family

All About Applewood

On the restaurant:
"Applewood opened in September, 2004. Sophie was coming up on 4 years old and I was nine months pregnant with Tatum. [Opening the restaurant] made being pregnant easy because I didn't have time to think about it! I was like, 'I'm big and fat and uncomfortable, but this still has to be done!' Tatum was born three weeks after Applewood opened. I ran the dining room while carrying her around in a sling."

How did the kids feel about spending so much time in the restaurant?
"Kids are so resilient. It's just what they did. I think Sophie had a real sense of pride about it. We have a great picture of her in her nightgown, sitting on a cutting board, telling her dad a story. Tatum just knows where the pastry chef keeps the cookies. Though I think Sophie is starting to become aware of the fact that other people have normal lives...."

Courtesy of the Shea family
Courtesy of the Shea family

Making It Work

How they make things work:
"We use our mornings the way most people use their evenings. We've already played card games and painted toenails today. And we typically have Sundays and Mondays off. We spend all day Sunday as a family, and when school's in session, we devote Mondays after school to each other.

At the end of the day, they know we love them like crazy. If some things are sacrificed as a result of a time crunch, I can be sad about it or know that they know I love them and make that little bit of time together as good as possible."

Courtesy of the Shea family
Courtesy of the Shea family

Out and About

Where they hang with the kids:
"We use [Prospect Park, a huge nearby park] like crazy. We're not even a block from Harmony Playground [in the park], so that gets a lot of attention from us. We love riding bikes around there, and going to the carousel."

Courtesy of the Shea family
Courtesy of the Shea family

School Days

Where do the kids go to school?
"Tatum goes to preschool in the neighborhood, and Sophie goes to public school in [nearby] Carroll Gardens -- it's a magnet school, and she got in through a lottery. Door-to-door, it takes about a half hour to get there. But she's typically on the school bus, which picks her up around eight a.m."

On school-day craziness:
"We make lunches the night before and have the backpacks set to go. In the morning, we get up and make breakfast, pick clothes, do hairdos, tooth brushing -- it pretty much takes an hour and a half. Sophie and I will try to do a part of a project, like making a birthday card, if we have time."

Courtesy of the Shea family
Courtesy of the Shea family

Mom and Dad Time -- What?

Alone time for Mom and Dad?
"I have no idea what that means -- we don't have any! On our days off, we really want to see the kids. We rarely seek time way from them. But we do have a babysitter and a date for this Sunday night."

Palate Pleasers and Picky Eaters

On cultivating kids' palates:
"Both of them have really, really great palates. They love sushi and avocado and kale and miso. Our only food rule is that you have to take a bite of everything, at least once. If you don't like it you never have to eat it again. If you like it, you can eat as much as we have."

Advice for picky eaters?
"I think you get a picky eater by catering to them with PB and J and making them separate meals. Tatum was eating duck confit by the handful when she was a baby. I think it's about trying and putting it out there."

Courtesy of the Shea family
Courtesy of the Shea family

Photo of the Year

On her most recent "aww" parenting moment:
"We just had an awesome vacation on Cape Cod, and we had lots of moments when they were pretty stinking cute. I take a picture of them every year and that's the picture we make into an 8x10 and frame. I get it just by choosing a moment and firing 25 shots in a row. One always ends up being good."

At the End of the Day...

Overall parenting philosophy?
"Never have more than two kids because then you're outnumbered!"

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