"You will be a better mom because you are a theologian, and a better theologian because you are a mom."

Is it true? In this blog, I explore the interplay and intersection of motherhood and theologianhood.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Date Night with Jeff, or Feeling Italian, Take 2

While the girls were at Grandma Cheryl's, Jeffrey and I took the opportunity to have a friend stay with sleeping toddler so we could go to dinner on Friday evening. We opted for Italian, and drove over to a highly recommended place in the next town over. It was closed, for no apparent reason, with no sign or explanation.

So we decided to head over to another Italian place, a little pricey, but one we know is good and is in the next town over from us, albeit in the opposite direction of the first place where we attempted to eat. To our surprise, this Italian restaurant was also closed, but this time there was a big sign announcing that the family was on vacation for the week. These family-run Italian restaurants aren't like Olive Garden, you know. If the family wants to go on vacation, they have to close the restaurant. So we went to the next town over in another direction, this time to a trendier, newer Italian restaurant that is also good though not as traditional. Wow! Also closed! So I guess the first week of July is family vacation time for Italian restaurant owners.

On our drive through that borough, we happened to spy an Italian place that was open. We'd never heard of it, but by this point we'd been driving around among four different boroughs and just wanted to sit down and eat dinner. It didn't have the greatest ambiance inside, but the menu looked promising and we decided it would suffice. Upon sitting down, we were asked what we wanted to drink, and when Jeff said a glass of wine he was informed that it was BYO. This is common around here, but still takes us by surprise.

We ate our stuffed artichoke (delish!) and then were onto our entrees, when, seeing a delivery van outside, I noted to Jeff that they seem to do delivery. He replied, "Yes, cash only." I had a sudden moment of panic. "You mean, the delivery is cash only.........or this restaurant is cash only?" We both began furtively glancing around, surreptitiously trying to ascertain if anyone was paying by credit, whether they seemed to have a credit card swiper or a sign on the door. It appeared that everyone was paying in cash.

Jeff and I don't normally carry much cash, and normally I don't even take my wallet if we go out to dinner. That's why we were concerned about the "cash only" policy. Fortunately, I did have my wallet, and we both had some cash. Soon we were both checking our wallets, and we determined that combined we had $45 of cash.

By the grace of God, this was the total amount of our bill, including tax and tip. We made it out of that one OK. But the next time we're feeling like eating Italian food here in Jersey, we'll remember not just to feel Italian, but think Italian. Summertime is family vacation time. BYO wine. And pay in cash.

Date Night with Patrick

A few weeks ago when the girls were at Grandma Cheryl's and Jeff was gone for the evening, I had a date night with my toddler son. This is what it was like.

I strapped Patrick in his high chair, and put some leftover spaghetti and meatballs on a plate on his tray. I sat down   at the table with a bowl of cereal. Soon Patrick stood up, shimmying out of his strap while taking a few bites of a meatball. He climbed off of his high chair, onto a kitchen chair, and then climbed onto the table. After casually batting the chandelier a few times, he threw the remainder of his meatball into my bowl of cereal and stomped on my spoon when I set it down.

I lifted him off of the table and attempted to put him back in his high chair, but he pulled the "stiff leg" trick until I finally gave up and set him down on the floor. Then he climbed onto my chair, standing behind me and pulling at my hair and laying on my back until finally I gave up on eating and decided to put him to bed.

What a date night.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Finding Shark Teeth

(Above, the shark teeth found by Mom and Dad)
Usually on Sundays, we try to do some kind of fun family activity. Our fallback is almost always going to Turtleback Zoo, which, since we're members, is basically a "free" trip. But this past Sunday, a sweltering 95 degree day, both Jeff and I were thinking of ways to recreate our own childhoods for our kids. Given the heat, I wanted to take them to the swimming pool. He wanted to go hunting for shark teeth...something I never did as a kid growing up in Iowa.

(Above, Maia holding one of the shark teeth that she found)
Well, OK, Jeff has been wanting to go hunting for shark teeth for quite some time now. And, as it turns out (conveniently), New Jersey was once completely submerged by water. Hence shark teeth abound in NJ. Jeff located a few places within an hour of our house where they said people could find shark teeth (but there are lots of regulations as to the tools you can use and how many fossils/teeth you can take). I was skeptical of his plan because there were no real addresses, and I didn't like the plan of driving to the town mentioned and driving around until we found it. But in the end, I packed provisions and a second set of clothes for the kids, and at about 2:00 we headed out on our expedition, or "family adventure" as we called it.

Our first stop was beautiful Holmdel Park, where, unfortunately, we could not find the supposed creek that ran through the park. After spying a woodchuck and lots of butterflies, as well as sweating profusely and drinking up ALL of the beverages I had packed, we decided to try to find the spot with no address, which was in Colts Neck, near Big Brook Park. It turned out to be very easy to find (with the listing of a cross street), and we were excited to climb on down to the creek, which was shady and about 1-2 feet deep, ten feet wide, and quite refreshing on a hot day.

About an hour into our exploration, however, we had still failed to find any shark teeth. The kids were having fun, but we adults were getting a little frustrated, especially since the websites had made it sound really easy to find shark's teeth and fossils. Finally, picking up a tooth-shaped white rock, I said to Jeff, "Can't we just pretend this is a shark's tooth?" And he said, "No, no, these are prehistoric sharks, you know. The teeth will be petrified, and will be gray, black, or brown."

"Why didn't you tell me?" I asked. I'd been hunting all that time for white teeth, although, in retrospect, his comment made sense. After all, it's not like there were sharks swimming around us in the foot-deep creek. So obviously if they were there a long time ago, their remaining teeth would be more like fossil teeth than freshly lost teeth. I had wasted an hour looking for white teeth. But, with this new bit of information - and a little help from St. Anthony - I found a shark tooth in my very next handful of rock and sediment, verified by our fearless leader. After my find, we all became extremely excited, now knowing for certain there were teeth to be found. Soon Jeff found his first shark tooth. Maia and I kept searching, and soon I found another.

(Above, the first tooth I found...which gave us confidence there were more in the creek!)

Meanwhile, Patrick and Eva splashed each other and found some very exciting rocks.

By the end of our time there, we had found ten total shark teeth; Jeff and I found four each, and Maia found two. This was under the limit of five per person, but not bad considering that we didn't have any tools (like trowels or sieves).

By the end, we were also very wet and muddy, not that the kids seemed to mind. In fact, I think Patrick, soaked to the bone and with his face covered in mud, may have had the best time of everyone. Imagine being allowed (even encouraged!) to play in mud!!! Not to mention the fun of splashing and wading around in some water just the right depth for his entertainment. He even walked several large stretches in the creek without having to be carried, and he threw very, very many rocks into the water (and only a few at his sisters). Eva also had a good time, and was proud of her three rocks that she decided to take home (and paint). Maia didn't find her shark teeth until the end; she was outright refusing to leave until she had found some, so Jeff and I were relieved that she did. We wouldn't have wanted to take her away kicking and screaming.  

 We had such a great time that we stayed a little later than we should have, and we're eager to go back again.  Next time, we'll do it even better. Now we know where to go, what to wear, and what tools to have. And next time, I will definitely remember to bring my camera!