"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.

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!

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