Last weekend my daughter was an overnight guest at her stepsister's house. I would never have imagined, in a million years, that would have happened but it did; and from all reports it went just fine. I was concerned that Anna would have a hard time not being able to have her stepsister all to herself and I was right, but she powered through only crying " that's not fair" once.

I have never seen inside the ex's apartment and now house. I have however, cleaned the house she once lived in with my husband before we put it up for sale. And OH MAN! It was gross. My stepdaughter would tell us little snippets of information that let us know she might be overwhelmed as a single mom being that housework was obviously not a priority. For example, my stepdaughter got lice and two months later she tells us that she doesn't have sheets on her bed. When asked why she told us she hasn't had them back on since her mom washed them because of the lice outbreak.

And then there was the staph infection. My stepdaughter ended up in the hospital for a few days with a staph infection on her leg. This happened during our court battle to modify custody so I had plenty to say about how I thought she got staph. Super judgemental about the ex's level of parenting and cleanliness. But what it really came down to was getting my stepdaughter to wash her hands more and to actually soap up and wash in the shower not just get wet.

I say all of this because even though I will admit I was totally curious what her house was like I did not ask my daughter when she came back from spending the night. I am turning a new leaf and to be honest it has been a lot less stressful not hating the ex-wife. However, my curiosity was relieved anyway completely without my prompting.

When I was unpacking Anna's bag from the sleepover I asked which clothes were dirty. That was when she told me that she didn't take a shower at the ex's. I said ok and thought nothing more of it. But then Anna told me why she didn't take a shower; she was scared. Scared? I asked her. Yes, she said because her shower was all black and moldy even on the walls and it was too scary. Inwardly, I was all about the smugness but said oh, okay that's alright. later I told my husband that it looks like his ex's cleaning habits have not improved with age.

So, when my husband found out yesterday that his daughter might have another staph infection and has to go on a round of antibiotics he became a little upset. Without even thinking about how tenuous my newly form alliance is with the ex he let her know that Anna said her bathroom was dirty! I immediately cringed and was all no, no, no, do not say that. He was all like, what? what did I say? I died. It was going to go back to stepmom against biomom.

Come to find out all the enamel is gone from her bathtub and shower walls so that no matter how much she cleans she can't get the mold out. I am ashamed and not so smug anymore. Now we just have to concentrate on what taking a shower actually means and singing Happy Birthday while washing hands. That will also include getting the kids to consistently wash their hands without having to be reminded.
Some things have changed in our post divorce family. I am not going to say we are now blended or that we are going to be co-parenting in a wonderful kumbaya way but all our baby's mommas were together in one house. For the first time ever, my husband's ex-wife was sitting on my couch eating birthday cake and telling me her tales of horror dealing with my husband's stepmother. I don't think my husband said much all night and when asked later about something that was said he seems to have blocked out most of the night. I thought it went great, he would like to never do it again and was a little blown away when I suggested to- let's just call her G.U, as in Golden Uterus-GU that we do this again for their son's birthday.

It was a bit surreal. I don't know what came over me but in the middle of icing a chocolate cake I made Monday night on a whim, I asked my husband what GU was doing for their daughter's birthday Tuesday night. He told me nothing because they were going to celebrate with GU's family Wednesday night. It was at that moment I did it, I made the call. While he was on the computer I got his cell phone, looked up the ex's phone number, and called her, from our home phone. She had to be reminded who I was, not in a dismissive way but more of a is the sky falling way. She agreed to come and we would see them after dinner. And then she did what she always does, she called back just to confirm and ask if she could bring anything. My husband looked like you would expect someone to look when they literally see, before their eyes, two worlds colliding. He commented that now she knows our home phone number. Then he asked me how much I have had to drink.

On the night the Golden Uterus was to arrive I made sure the entire house was picked up and floors were swept. Tony had multiple glasses of wine and Anna kept asking when GU was going to be able to see her room. I was pretty calm, not nervous at all, I just wanted GU to be nice and not act like she was Mother of the Year. She was and she didn't. The kids were excited way more than they usually are when they first come back from their mom's house. The littlest one was all lovey-dovey with me which was pretty weird. He kept hugging my leg and kissing it. Then he wanted me to hold him and when I picked hum up he proceeded to pat my back and squeeze my neck over and over. The only weird moment was when I was taking pictures, no one knew where to stand or who to stand by. After serving the cake and ice-cream the kids went into the playroom and we went into the den.

Within my husband's family there have been some issues with his dad's wife and her daughters. It is not pretty and it is completely wrong and downright hateful. In the past while we were dating and first married I was told all the problems were GU's fault and I believed them. They made some great points and I never heard her side of the story but now the exact same things are happening to me and our family. It is ugly and hurtful and this is where my stepkid's mom won me over, she called my husband concerned that my daughter was being mistreated by her ex-mother-in-law. Wow! maybe she actually does have a golden uterus. So we all talked and tried to come up with a plan to deal with the manipulation and unequal treatment of my daughter and my stepkids. During this time there were some moments when GU was obviously saddened and emotional. She said that 90% of their fighting had been about Tony's stepfamily and how they treated her and their family. I assured her that it was no different now even though I was led to believe she had been the problem. We now know who the real problem is. The only snarky thing she did was to tell me that I can quit cooking and baking so much because Tony has never had that before so I don't need to try so hard. I let that go.

At the end of the night she was given a tour of our house and was able to see her children's bedrooms. This is where I saw a change, very slight change but there all the same. I do not know what she expected. Did she think I would have kept them in a closet? A stark room without any color or accessories? I am not sure but I think she was hurt. Maybe it was because her daughter's room was clean because she asked why it wasn't at her house. I told her the rule in our house is they can play and ride their bikes as soon as their bed is made and their floor is picked up enough to run a vacuum through. GU said that we need to communicate more so that the rules are the same at each house. Now it was my turn to look up to see if the sky was falling.

Golden Uterus has pulled some pretty destructive stunts. Her frivolous custody challenge cost us over $8000. Her motion to modify did not change the custody arrangement. It did open our family up to scrutiny from social workers only to have them confirm what I already knew, I am not a child abuser she was a vindictive ex-spouse. This weekend was my stepdaughter's slumber party for her birthday and my daughter was invited, which is a post of its own. These are steps in the right direction, I guess, but I am taking this slow, real slow.
There are so many subjects that I feel strongly about. When I was younger, the friends I had and the people I worked with would receive an earful not knowing they were the audience surrounding my soapbox. However with age came maturity, acceptance, and the ability to keep my mouth shut. Then I became a mother and my soapbox has been dusted off. Since then I have taken a few stances and broached a few subjects that has guaranteed me never winning a Miss Congeniality title. In fact, just this summer I lost a friend, someone I had know since 7th grade, because I decided to confront an issue instead of just saying oh well, that's just how she is. I had no idea at the time that expressing my opinion and hurt would effectively kill a 25 year old friendship. But it did teach me, albeit painfully, where I stood as her friend.

But does it seem like every four years your personal values, the values you teach and show your children , the same values you wish others had are tested? I find that I am defending my own beliefs and values and not just with others but to myself. And if I express the beliefs I have and the values that I hold important I must support them with facts, not just paraphrases, not just ideals and common sense, but with hardcore facts. Am I the only one that does this or feels like this?

Yes, it is true the best way to not have to defend your beliefs or values is to refrain from talking about religion or politics. But every four years I am captivated by the spin, the prospect of a new leader, the anticipation of victory or defeat. Plus, I have some very intelligent friends with some very distinct values and beliefs that are similar in some areas but polar opposite in others. Debating the issues of the day or a live debate becomes something worthy of discussion and not something to suppress.

I am learning to listen and I am open to the idea I could be wrong, presenting the facts, just the facts, without a viewpoint can help firm up or shape what I believe and stand for. And I appreciate that here in America we have the right to these discussions that can at times be heated and disappointing. We also have the right, if not the duty, to research each others viewpoints and how they reached that conclusion. We can then discuss, or argue, what we have heard or read without fearing imprisonment or retribution. Researching and learning both viewpoints while constantly checking the facts against your own beliefs should not be compromised.

The facts are out there, they just have to be unearthed and then separated from the talking points. Compromise is important for building and maintaining relationships but so is integrity. And sometime having integrity will mean standing up for an unpopular viewpoint, it can mean leaving an organization that no longer has the same values you hold dear, and sometimes it can mean a loss of a friendship. (or in some cases deleting a blog from your google reader)

But if anyone is learning to compromise it is me. The mother to my step kids and therefore the ex-wife of my husband is coming over for cake and ice-cream to celebrate their daughter's 10th birthday. This will be the first time she and I have been in the same room outside of a courtroom. You know what is bringing us together? Our values and our belief that all children should be treated fairly and that children are more important than ourselves.
This was an old recipe from Tony's mother's collection, and even though I am not a huge fan of hamburger meat dishes, I thought this seemed very good. Because it was so good and became an instant hit in my house, preserving its spot in our dinner rotation, I thought I would share. It only takes 10 minutes of prep and 20 minutes to bake. Perfect timing for a non-crockpot recipe and a home by 5:30pm mom. Plus I love crescent rolls, yum.

1 lb hamburger meat
1 small diced onion
1 can of crescent rolls (8 count)
1 8oz can of tomato paste
1 packet of taco seasoning
2 cups of shredded mozzerella
1/2 cup of shredded parmesean

Preheat oven to 400.
In a skillet, brown hamburger meat with the diced onion.
Pull apart the crescent rolls and place in a 9" pie pan. Flatten the triangles so that they join together to form a crust and leave about a half an inch hanging over the pie pan.
Once meat is thoroughly browned and the onions are stir in tomato paste and taco seasoning.
Sprinkle the crescent roll crust with parmesean cheese
Place half of the meat mixture in the pie pan and cover with 1 cup of mozzarella cheese and then repeat one more time.
Take the excess crescent rolls and fold over the meat mixture to make a crust similar to a crostata.
Bake for 20 minutes.

I put some salsa and sour cream on mine but no one else did and they loved it. Anna wanted some for lunch until I asked if she was sure. She decided that leftover taco soup was a safer choice.
We might not have spent $442,000 on a spa weekend but we did see a booth that had spas.

And some lovely couples looking at spas. That grey haired person is a man and yes, he is wear shorts over leggings!

We even saw some seals. I bet those AIG executives didn't have the nature show I did while they were having massages and facials at St. Regis Hotel in Dana Point. Nothing is more relaxing then communing with nature.

I even spotted some Okies in their native dress.

But this is how other Okies dress and for just under $100 we celebrated the Bailout in style at the Tulsa State Fair. None of us took out a sub-prime loan to buy our houses. In fact, all of budget our money and practice self control for things we can't afford. But hey, we celebrated paying more taxes for us anyway!

Mostly because instead of riding one single ride, we spent most of our evening in the Beer Garden.

During an excursion into the midway looking for a bathroom and the monkeys that take your change, we played a friendly little game of skeet ball.

Where Sonja won a Husky! Thank goodness because her husband, much like the AIG execs, recklessly spent his cash by paying off an 8 year old so that all of us could play together and so it could be one of us that would win.

But having the ability to frivolously spend $100 for a chance to win a stuffed animal, get a free t-shirt, and consume copious amounts of crap on a stick? That my friend eased the pain of being royally screwed by our government.

We had Anna's birthday party last weekend. We rented a room at the Embassy Suites and invited some girls from her school and her day care. The birthday package included swimming, pizza, pop, movie rental, popcorn, a disposable camera, and a made to order breakfast for everyone. All I had to bring was the cake, perfect.

The girls loved swimming, and so did the birthday girl's parents. The water was warm and the kids had a blast.

Anna had asked for a cupcake cake. I checked with a brand new cupcake shop in town and they do not make one. I checked with a very popular bakery and they make one but it is just one giant cupcake not individual cupcakes. So I did some internet searching and was able to find several pictures of cupcake cakes.

I used a boxed cake mix and filled the cupcakes all the way to the top of the wrapper because I wanted a slight overflow, similar to a muffin. There were seven people all together so a flower design worked perfect.

I found this frosting recipe on line. It was delicious and super easy to spread but not too thin because it held together perfect where there were slight gaps between the cupcakes. I found some cake decorations that I think I bought when I hosted a shower in, get this, 1994! Thank goodness I have a little bit of my mom's pack rat gene in me. I let Anna tell me how to decorate the flower design and she put on the sprinkles.

After swimming and eating and then swimming again, the girls decided they wanted to get ready for bed and watch a movie. I said goodbye to my husband and stepson and braced myself for the slumbering part of the party. It was not bad at all. The girls all slept in the two double beds in the bedroom and I slept on the pull-out in the living area. At eleven o'clock I had to tell them to quit jumping and banging on the the walls. (I actually have no idea what they were banging on, I just kept telling myself that it was not my home so who cares) Apparently, jumping and banging around was what kept them awake because in just a few minutes I heard nothing. The birthday revelry had come to an end.

I have moved this Apple/Potato Peeler from South Carolina to Oklahoma and then to Chicago, where it never came up from the storage locker in the basement of my apartment. I repacked it into another box when I moved to California and was charged $25/box by the moving company. (I threw away my lampshades on that move because I thought I was saving money, completely unaware of how much lampshades actually cost when I went to replace them.)

I left California and moved to Oklahoma, where this peeler remained unopened in three, count them, three different kitchens. But now in its fourth kitchen, and almost fifteen years later, I have broken the seal, removed the plastic, and used this incredibly efficient and time saving device. So thank you Mom, thank you for this wonderful housewarming gift you gave me when I moved into my first apartment. You knew it would come in handy one day just like the antique steamer trunk you gave me for my sixteenth birthday, every 16 year old's dream present, an antique steamer trunk!

When I saw this Apple Cake recipe on Smitten Kitchen yesterday I was compelled to make it, immediately. After work I sent Tony and Anna to the store to get the apples and more eggs. While they were gone I hunted for my never used, brand new, fifteen year old apple peeler. What a time saver! Before we sat down for dinner I had this cake in the oven. It takes quite a while to cook, mine took almost an hour and fifty minutes. During the last half hour our dog was going over to the oven and licking the side of it.

What a perfect breakfast! My mom makes a pretty awesome apple cake but I really think that this recipe is even better. Due to the fantastic turnout of this cake my Apple/Potato Peeler has a permanent home, smack dab on the counter. At least until I find a more convenient and accesible place for the best housewarming gift a twenty-three year old could ever have.