They didn’t really, but don’t underestimate a hunk of Camembert, a wedge of Bleu, and some artfully arranged Cracked Pepper crackers. Why? Because to me sophisticated finger foods sounds a lot like Date Night.

Date Night in the olden days of my marriage (back in the 1800s, haha) meant a movie in a theater, an overpriced dinner out that left us praying the rosary for our checking account (and we aren’t even Catholic), mooshy cards written to each other, high heels, cologne, and a walk holding hands.

Love to me was a costly candle in an exotic scent from a store in the mall, or a snapshot of the two of us to remember the occasion. Love was choosing which eyeliner to apply, and which perfume to spritz. Love was demanding to get out of the house before I lost my ever-loving-mind. Because staying in just didn’t cut it.

Somewhere along the way, I discovered love was just as good in our own house, with a platter of cheese and crackers and an episode of something funny on the television.

Moments are frozen in time for me according to the scent of Gouda or the theme song from M*A*S*H. Our first daughter nursed during Everybody Loves Raymond every night at midnight for the first three months of her life, while I was in bed in the basement of my parent’s house.

CheezIts will always remind me of the contraband box we kept in our bedroom closet when we had a house full of ten foster children and couldn’t keep enough groceries in the cupboards. The show 24 will always make me think of the few months of unemployment we spent on a CareBear blanket on the floor of my in-law’s house.

Love became the click of chipped coffee mugs as we toasted with cheap red wine to a night of successful bedtimes before 10 p.m.  Love became the tiny piece of dark chocolate we secretly passed to one another in the front seat while driving through Wyoming and the kids snacked on raisins. Love became a sandwich wrapped in aluminum foil with a Sharpie smiley face delivered to work when I knew he was too busy to eat. Love came with a ten dollar bill and the order to go spend an hour or two at the bookstore when I was overworked at home.

Love became the click of chipped coffee mugs as we toasted with cheap red wine to a night of successful bedtimes before 10 p.m.

Occasionally we still step out and do the date night thing. And it’s always nice, always fun, always needed. But more often than not, the kids are in the backseat too, or they’re running amuck through the living room as we shout, “Mommy and Daddy are on a date! Make yourself scarce!” Their cooperation is bought with bags of Skittles, popcorn, a tent with sleeping bags, and a stack of movies. If they insist on interrupting us too often with requests for potties, hot cocoa, tattling, or complaints, then we start smooching and they run away, hollering with their hands over their eyes.

Love is letting him pick the movie even if it’s Tommy Boy, even when you really want Anne of Green Gables (all three).

Love is sparkling cider in mason jars and thinly sliced salami. It’s fancy olives dancing in oil and spices, or French bread dipped in balsamic vinegar. It’s learning to make Chocolate Pot De Creme and eating it as the main course for dinner. It’s having a bag of salt and vinegar chips in your closet for emergency purposes, and knowing when to take your husband to the book store with you because he had a bad day, too. It’s having a child old enough to be your sitter and returning with a carton of Cake Batter ice cream all for her. Love can be bought for less than $5. It’s a fact.

Love is ignoring each other’s love handles and muffin tops and zit cream and peeling toenail polish and harsh words spoken when we’re tired. Love is forgetting the mistakes you made when you were both just married, and winging it. Love is realizing he’s making this parenting thing up little by little, year by year, the same way you are, no matter how many parenting books you read and he doesn’t. Love is not being the first to say you’re sorry, but the first to say I love you.

Love is being the first to say I love you, especially when you have to say it through clenched teeth or hot tears.

Love used to be a matching set of pink bra and panties. Now it’s going to bed in an over sized walk-a-thon tee-shirt from a walk-a-thon you never actually participated in, with a spit-up stain on the shoulder. Love used to be satin sheets, and now it’s sheets that may or may not have baby pee on them (you know have more than one baby when you don’t freak out and run them through the wash on Hot/Sanitize but instead do a halfhearted spot clean and dry with a blow dryer).

Love was once the stuff of butterflies, giggles, games, and warm fuzzies. Now it’s the knowledge that you’ll never leave each other, not ever, not even when your stretch marks outnumber the hairs on his back.

(I don’t know about you, but at this point, we’re tied.)

Once upon a time, I wanted dinner out and a quiet table in the corner. I wanted flowers and late night movie tickets and a reason to dress up. Love came gift-wrapped … once upon a time.

Now I want leftovers eaten off paper so there are fewer dishes in the sink, the sound of a toddler splashing his bath water all over the floor in the next room, a dvr that pauses every six seconds for the ten year old’s life threatening emergencies, and matching pajama bottoms. I want an interruption from the four year old to ask me if Boba Fett wears underwear, and I want the phone to ring at all the wrong times because it means someone misses me. Man, that woman from the bank misses me a lot.

At the end of the day, I want a love that looks like cheese and crackers. You know what they say about cheese: it’s better aged.

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Love isn't always what it used to be