Over Memorial Day weekend, my boyfriend Jason introduced me and the kids, Dexter, 10 and Vivien 8, to his parents at their cabin, an off-the-grid slice of heaven in Vermont. I admit I was nervous, but didn't need to be. His parents were warm and welcoming.
We experienced a wonderful weekend filled with delicious food off the grill, trips to the local swimming hole, a meaningful Memorial Day ceremony followed by parade and ice cream cones.
My kids thrived, and learned to live for a weekend without electricity. We used lanterns to navigate the dark hours, but everyone was so tuckered out from the fresh air that heads hit the pillows early.
On the four-hour drive home, we all felt recharged. The kids slept most of the way home after a sun-soaked day spent swimming in the river.
Upon our arrival to the house, I noticed that the door wasn't completely latched. Jason, a former police officer, canvassed the house, making sure there wasn't an unwanted intruder.
Once we got the green light, the kids crashed out in their respective beds.
Jay jumped in the shower to rinse off the yucky film that sitting in a car for multiple hours produces. I went to the bedroom to get ready for bed. That's when I heard her.
"Mom! Mom! I don't feel good. I think I'm going to throw up."
I raced up the stairs to find Vivi white as a ghost. With Jason in the sole bathroom I attempted to get her to the kitchen sink.
Instead of following my lead, Vivi bent over and unleashed a combination of gummy bears, pasta salad, hamburger, salsa and tortilla chips all over the floor. I immediately dry heaved and yelled at her to get to the sink. She took a second step and spewed out a second round of vomit.
I went to help her and she slipped in the first pile. Her feet flew up in the air and she landed on her rear end, sitting in her own puke. Pieces of pasta salad decorated her hair while a river of curdled crud formed on the back of her shirt and shorts.
Meanwhile, Jason, who was already on high alert because of the unlatched door heard the commotion and feared the worst.
As I got Vivi to the sink he flung the door open, ready to do battle in only a towel. His steely blue eyes glared out with an intensity that surprised me.
"What's going on?" he barked in a panic as the water from the shower stayed on full blast behind him.
I stood shocked, unable to explain. The smell must have hit him just then because his nose crinkled. He then caught sight of the piles of puke.
"Oh," he said. "I'll be right out."
With my daughter still hurling at the kitchen sink, I looked over to find my English Bulldog, Lyla lapping up Vivien's second serves.
I continued to dry heave.
Jason emerged from the bathroom, now fully clothed, and went to Vivien at the sink. He rubbed her back and helped her wash her face and hands while I tackled the mess on the floor.
In between gagging and nearly puking myself Jason walked over to me, grabbed the mop and took over as I ushered Vivien into the bathroom to take a shower.
As Jay cleaned up, I tucked Vivien back into bed. Her color returned and she quickly fell asleep.
Once the chaos had passed, I started to laugh uncontrollably. Tears streamed down my face as I replayed what had transpired in the last 20 minutes.
Jason looked at me as if I were crazy.
"I'm glad you think it's funny, honey," he chuckled.
I already knew how much I liked him, but in that moment I realized just how much he loves me, and more importantly how much he cares about my kids.
In my 20s butterflies in my stomach were created over romantic dinners, wine and sweet nothings whispered in my ear.
But at 40, the butterflies took flight. Instead my stomach churned as I found love in a pile of puke.