Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Dear School Bus

Dear School Bus,

Have you any idea how daunting it is to hand off my children to you each and every school day?  You are a moving vehicle mode of transportation operated by a single person bus driver that we are forced to must trust entirely.  Maybe 'daunting' doesn't even come close to how I feel on the first days of school. 

Past bus mishaps already make me freak out weary about surviving the day to see my kids back home without any bus-related incidents.  When my Dear Daughter began kindergarten, she was both nervous and excited to take the bus.  I saw other moms drive behind the school bus to follow it to school, but I talked myself out of doing that.  However, when she got home on the first day of school, she cried and said that she didn't want to take the bus anymore.  She sobbed and told me that when she got off the bus at school, she followed the wrong line and went to a different playground than the one she was supposed to go to and got lost.  Luckily, an adult found my terrified and crying DD.  Since she knew her kindergarten teacher's name, she was successfully redirected back to her playground.  But that lost and scared feeling is tremendous for a 5-year-old, so who can blame her for not wanting to ride the bus anymore?  It all eventually worked out, as her teacher stood by the curb and waited for her to get off the bus personally the very next day.  The rest of that school year was thankfully without incident.

On the first day of First Grade, we assumed that DD would be fine since she knew the school grounds well and would not get lost, but she still got off the bus to come home sobbing like it was The End of the World.  Apparently she had forgotten that the bus makes a loop in our community to drop her off right in front of our driveway.  She thought the bus driver had forgotten her stop all together.  DD panicked, and was just as frightened as she was when she got lost the year before.  (Insert deep breath here).  So now that we had gotten the bus thing down to a routine, and Second Grade started without a hitch, I thought I was done with bus mishaps.  Not so.

One of the scariest things that can happen to a parent is to not see your child get off the bus.  One day, the bus came, stopped, and no one got off the bus.  The bus door closed and drove off.  My Dear Husband was at home that particular day, so I screamed at him to run after the bus hoping to Dear God that DD just forgot to get off at the bus stop.  No such luck.  DH came back and said her classmates said she wasn't on the bus.  Now is the time to PANIC.  I immediately called the school, and as I was talking to the office staff, I remembered that DD was to have a play date at a friends house exactly a week from that day.  Maybe she went to her friends house?  Hang up.  Frantically look for friend's number.  Call friend's house.  Sure enough, she was there.  PHEW.  So first I had to apologize profusely for my DD showing up at their house uninvited.  Then I had to call the office to bitch clarify that I DID NOT write a note to the teacher nor to the bus driver LIKE I WOULD HAVE HAD TO in order for DD to take another bus with a friend home.  (Insert another deep breath here).  It turned out to be an honest mistake from DD, and she felt terribly afterwards to have made us worry.  But safe and sound is all I ask.

At the end of last school year in June, my Dear Son decided he wanted to take the bus to school this year, too, since he watched his sister go off to school on the school bus everyday with envy.  His preschool is only half-day, and at a different location, so the kids would not be on the same bus.  Hesitantly, I signed him up.  He was excited since he rode it once on a field trip and thought it was so much fun.  First day of school came (dun, dun, dun, DUN...), and I was ready with my purse and keys already planted in the car in preparation to follow the bus to school (I was taking no chances this time around).  DS went on the bus eagerly with a big smile, and kissed me goodbye (I was floored because I half expected him to break down at the last moment).  As I drove behind the bus, I mentally noted that the nice lady driver turned on her signals at every turn, and made complete stops at stop signs.  (She definitely scored brownie points in my book).  I hid behind the buses to watch DS get off his (received by his teacher assistant), walk inside the school, and line up in the hallway, all in great spirits!  All I could think of was, wow.  I guess when they are ready, they are ready.  DS' past school experiences were nowhere near this smooth.  I almost had to pick my jaw up off the floor to see this all happen with my very own eyes.

Later that afternoon, I went outside to the driveway to wait for the bus to bring DS home.  Of course, there had to be a line of trees in my view to see the bus turn the corner.  So there I was, bending over and sticking my arse in the air every 30 seconds to look under the row of trees for the bus.  After a good 10 minutes of waiting and bending over, it arrived, and delivered my still-smiling DS into my arms.  Ten minutes later, a bigger bus delivered my new third grader DD safely home.  It was a really good day for me.

This is not to say that there will be no more bus incidents in the future, and I must brace myself for those to come (knock on wood).  But in the meantime, as my kids get used to the entire routine, I think I can breathe a little bit better now knowing that they have both found riding the bus a normal part of school life.  So thank you, Dear School Bus, for taking the well-being of my kids into your hands, and being this amazing link between home and school.  I'll still worry, that's for sure, but that's just a freakish normal mother's mind at work.  So long as DD and DS are happy on their short ride to and from school, I will grin and bear whatever comes my way.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Dear Unfinished Business

Dear Unfinished Business,

You are like an exclamation halted in mid-sentence; it's something that should be followed through, because it had impetus and started off so well.  You are like having trimmed just eight of ten fingernails; it's something that needs to be finished, because it would just be annoying to be walking around with two longer fingernails.  You are like waking up in the middle of a really good dream.  Damn it, just go back to sleep and continue the dream; except you're fully awake already.

I have some unfinished business.  I cannot stand that they are incomplete, but I just cannot bring myself to finish them.  I started to knit a pair of beautiful Viking cabled socks last summer.  It's fun to knit socks in the summer because the project is short (supposedly), the yarn is lightweight (usually cotton and very thin), and they travel well (a little baggie will do).  Well, it turns out that the cables are complicated, and it takes a lot of concentration to not make mistakes.  It turns out that knitting a large piece of garment in simple stitches is much easier than knitting this pair of socks, because it is impossible to multitask with it.  I didn't even make it past the heel. 

I have been knitting for a decade.  During that time, I made sweaters, hats, vests, teddy bears, shawls, mittens, scarves, socks, and even leg warmers.  I had this sort of indescribable obsession with knitting; seeing rows and rows of neat stitches gave me a joy that only people with OCD can understand.  Then I stopped, cold turkey.  I started reading again, something I haven't done in years (why, you ask? because I was knitting).  So far, I have read 9 1/2 books this year.  Notice that 1/2?  Well, it's that book in the picture up there.

Critically acclaimed by literary reviewers, yet not so well-loved by the general populace, this book was a hard nut (for me) to crack.  DH loved it.  He said it is very well-written and expresses certain sentiments in ways that few writers can put into words.  It took me forever to read half the book.  Nothing really kept me wanting to go back.  Finally, I gave in and began another book.  And then another.  Now, it is back on my nightstand again, because I really want to just finish it.  It has been sitting there for 3 weeks.  Unopened, untouched. 

I feel like I am at a crossroads.  Do I finish that pair of socks that I have absolutely no inclination to finish, because it means taking time away from something else I now love to do more?  Or do I just waste all that time I spent knitting what of it I have?  Do I waste more time reading a book I have not thus far enjoyed?  Or do I just waste all that time I spent reading it and move on to another book that is fulfilling for me?  I am really torn, because either way, time is wasted somewhere, somehow.  Maybe I just have to get past the heel, and maybe I just have to get past the part about the cerulean warbler, and it may be smooth sailing to the end.  Maybe.

But until then, these two items just sit and wait.  They will continue to wait for me as I try so very hard to find good reason to finish them.  Perhaps I should just count my blessings and recognize that I actually have the luxury to choose to complete them or not, since there are plenty of other things that leave me no such choice.  I cannot exactly clean Tucker's tank halfway.  Or put off making dinner or cleaning the house.  Or leave this post...


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Dear Glider

Dear Glider,

In honor of National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, I am reminiscing a story about you and my Dear Son.  This is not a campaign for breastfeeding, nor is it explicit in any way.  It is just a simple, endearing story about how DS took a hold of my heart one day and gave it a kiss worth so much love.

When I was pregnant with my Dear Daughter, nine long years ago, we bought a glider, a platform rocker type of rocking chair, so that I would have a comfortable place to nurse the baby.  Due to a complication and with a broken heart, however, I had to wean DD early.  But the glider was still a nice place to feed her or to rock her to sleep.

Then a few years later, DS came.  I had the same complication while attempting to nurse him, but miraculously, and by accident, I figured out how to work through it and was able to successfully nurse him.  For a LONG time.  In that glider.  Every day and every night.  My memories of nursing him are usually highlighted by all those sleepless nights where I would drag myself from the comfort of my bed at 2, 3, or 4 AM to sit in that god-forsaken glider to nurse DS.  His need to nurse heightened when he was teething, which meant that I would have to go not once, but multiple times each and every night, and that happened about every other month and would last a few weeks.  I think what kept me going through this period of sleep deprivation was the fact that I felt like I was making up for not being able to nurse DD like I had desperately wanted to.  Finally, 20 months later, DS decided that he didn't need to wake up at night to nurse anymore.  My sister-in-law was pregnant, and I gladly gave her the glider since DS gave me my sleep back.  Hallelujah. 

After my Dear Niece was born, we would visit every now and then.  During one particular visit, DS discovered that our glider, which he hadn't seen in many months, was in DN's room.  At this time, DS was about two and a half, and he always carried his lovey, Bluey Bear, with him everywhere he went.  He was not very verbal at the time, so usually he communicated with his actions.  Now I wish I can tell you this story firsthand, but unfortunately, I did not witness it.  I had gone to the restroom, only to come back out to hear the most fascinating story from my DH.  And my MIL.  And my SIL.  And DD. 

Apparently, when DS recognized the glider, he went right to it, climbed onto it, settled himself on it, and started to rock himself back and forth.  Then, my darling little boy, cradled his Bluey Bear to his chest, looked at it with the sweetest of eyes, and held it close as he continued to rock on the glider.  I think this is when DH watched him in total surprise to realize that DS was nursing his Bluey Bear.  DS sealed the deal when he had Bluey Bear "switch sides."

Can you believe that I missed the whole thing?  But I heard the story afterwards, not only from all the witnesses, but I heard it in their voices, in the excited ways they were telling me, and in their incredulous expressions.  I heard what DS was doing: he was remembering the special times we had together in that glider, and he was nurturing that same bond with his Bluey Bear.  I just looked at DS, who had already moved onto another piece of furniture, and I think my heart melted into gooey sweetness, and my eyes may have been a bit more dewy than usual.

To celebrate the month of August as Breastfeeding Awareness Month, I just wanted to walk down memory lane and tell about the wonderful times we had together.  You were the place where I fed and nursed my children, where I rocked my babies to sleep, and where I spent so many sleepless nights wondering when I could finally get rid of you for good.  But in the end, you will remain forever held close to my heart, in the same exact way DS held his Bluey Bear close to his.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Dear Cleaning

Dear Cleaning,

You are aware of my love-hate relationship with you, are you not?  I begin my weekly rendez-vous with you the night before, where I sulk, agonize, and grimace about the next day.  That day inevitably comes, and I really have to kick myself to get started cleaning.

We used to hire cleaners, when the kids were under age three.  Then it got to a point where I couldn't bear paying someone else good money when both kids were in school (at least part of the day).  So I set a pretty rigid schedule for myself, since if I didn't, cleaning would just never get done.  I clean one floor on alternate weeks, so it's like having the cleaners come bi-weekly.  No one likes to vacuum and dust and scrub toilets, but I did come up with a few reasons why I do do it:

  • I count it as exercise.  After I am done cleaning, I smell am drenched (sweating, check); I am out of breath (cardio, check); I am tired and sore the next day (weights, check). 
  • I get exclusive kids-free time.  If the kids are home while I'm cleaning, I get to shake my hands free of them.  If they are killing each other fighting, then it is none of my business Daddy's job to break it up.  I get to completely ignore the kids' never-ending yapping, their commands for snacks, or demand for potty help.  It is heaven to my ears.
  • No one will clean better than I.  Let's face it, no one I pay will do a better job at cleaning my house, because I love this home and the people living in it. 
  • I get a huge chunk of time to think.  Free of kids duty and doing repetitive labor means I have a stretch of 4 to 5 hours of constructive brain time.  In fact, I wrote this entire post in my head while I cleaned today.  That's what I call productive.

In all reality, the reward of cleaning is in the moment I finish, when I look up and see a very clean house, free of dust, spots, stains, and clutter, and I feel SO GOOD.  And I better feel so good during that brief moment, as any second now, the kids will be trekking in dirt from outside, dropping crumbs from their snacks, or spilling juice at the most opportune time.  Oh, there's one more added bonus to cleaning for me: it is also a cooking-free day.  DH takes us all out to dinner so that I don't have to do another chore, but most importantly, perhaps we can keep the kitchen/dining area clean for an extra 12 hours.

So now that I have convinced myself of why I am so punctual on seeing you on a weekly basis, perhaps I must read this letter on those nights-before-cleaning when I am suffering from the dread of our date.  Then again, maybe not.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Dear Now and Later

Dear Now and Later,

I want it now,
I cannot wait.
I need it now,
Before it's too late.

There's a toy at Target,
That I have to get.
I just don't know which one,
Since we haven't met yet.

My tummy is starving,
And I need a snack.
Don't make me wait one minute,
Else I get a hunger attack.

I need to go potty,
So hurry up and take me.
I'm already doing the Pee Dance,
I'm getting too wiggly!

I want to play outside,
And ride my scooter and bike.
So put on my helmet now,
And just come do what I like!

Do I have to now?
I'm not ready yet.
Can I have more time,
So I don't get upset?

Do we have to leave?
My show is not finished!
Can I keep watching
So I don't feel punished?

I don't want to brush,
My teeth are not dirty.
I still have more time,
It's not even 9:30.

I don't like only three books.
Please, Mommy, just one more?
It's really not that late yet,
And this book I really adore!

I'll do it eventually.
I'll do it soon.
I'll close my eyes now,
And say, goodnight, moon.

Me (through the eyes of a four-year-old)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Dear Shuffle

Dear Shuffle,

Dear Husband and I have very opposing views about your function on our music player.  One of us loves you, and the other despises your presence.  Let us muse, for a moment, your role.

We have over 6,600 songs on our primary iPod, from all kinds of genres and languages.  DH likes to listen to music from the docked iPod station in our kitchen/dining area with the shuffle function ON.  Which means we are listening to loud pop music followed by a quiet classical piece, followed by a Motown song, followed by a soprano opera, followed by rhythmic Latin music, followed by haunting contemporary music, followed by exotic Indies music, followed by a Chinese children's folk song, followed by DD's tweeny pop song, followed by explicit rap, followed by a sultry French song, followed by a Suzuki violin piece, followed by a Chinese ballad, all interspersed by songs we don't really remember.  Half the time, DH sits from afar with his nifty little remote control and skips a song because 1) he doesn't like it, 2) the lyrics are too explicit when kids are around (and they are always around), 3) the song is suddenly too quiet or too loud to listen to, or 4) the song is not fitting for his current mood.  While we are skipping around, I seem to have ants in my pants as I have to get up every time I don't know the name or artist of a song and have to physically go find out the answer.  Worst of all, I get completely discombobulated and overwhelmed by the bombardment of musical genres thrown at me all at once.  My brain is just not capable of switching gears every 3 to 4 minutes. 

When I listen to music (when no one's around, usually when I am cleaning), I listen to one album at a time.  I pick the album that reflects my current mood.  And as the music plays, it draws out a particular sentiment in me that makes me adore the artist(s) even more.  But best of all, I know exactly what song is coming up next.  I may not know the name of the song, but I know the tune and how it starts.  It's like that with every album I love.  I hear it, I feel it, I absorb it, I love it.  Enough said.

DH argues that with the shuffle function, we are able to hear more of our music, and not just the selective few we really like to hear; that we own the music for a reason, and that we should give those less well-liked songs a chance to redeem themselves.  To a point I understand this argument, although I still prefer to shuffle within an album instead of the entire library.  I withhold my complaints, most of the time, since I am too lazy to create any sort of playlist myself, so I suffer through the massive schizophrenic attack of musical amplification into my poor ears and mind.  Okay, I'll admit that it is quite nice to come across a beloved song from yesteryear (every once in a long while) while we have the shuffle function on, and I get all nostalgic and wonder why I haven't listened to that song in such a long time...

Whether it is because I am particularly rigid in the head or that I have no tolerance for this kind of variety, I still stand by my preference of music listening.  But alas, it seems to me that our little disagreement on this topic is slowly becoming a moot point.  Out of the speakers of our music player are more and more often the voices of Selena Gomez, Miranda Cosgrove, and Demi Lovato.  And if you don't know who these people are, you will, when your child enters the tweeny bopper stage (did you hear 8 is the new 12?).  Soon enough, what DH and I think won't matter anymore, because even DS has been brainwashed to love those tweeny bopper songs, too.

So, Shuffle, I'll tolerate you for now, in the company of DH.  One day, when we don't get to listen to our songs anymore, I might actually even miss you.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Dear August

Dear August,

You are the blurriest month of the year.  I don't know the things that will either make my life a well-oiled machine or a living hell.  The things are, in fact, my schedule during the upcoming school year.  So until the kids start school and everything is set, I feel like I don't have my glasses on.

If you were I, you wouldn't be able to see the large E on an vision examination chart.  I am that blind.  And that's how I feel right now. I can't see which days will be easy-and-quick or take-out dinner days.  I can't tell which are my Chauffeur Mom days where I 'm driving like mad from point A to point B.  I can't see which days I can schedule to do those precious things that are exclusively for me.

To make my OCD life manageable, I depend on a calendar.  I AM a calendar freak.  I need to have everything placed on my calendar, pronto.  I used to be all Franklin Covey, pen and paper about my calendar, but I have finally converted to a digital one that syncs between my smartphone and Google Calendar.  I LOVE it.  It means I have my calendar with me at all times.  I love being able to press the Repeat button and have all my weeks fill up automatically.  I love to see a well organized, evenly spread, and happily balanced calendar.  And my calendar is itching to be filled with repeated events of the school year. 

Before the 2011-2012 calendar kicks into gear, there are still many things up in the air.  We're waiting to see which teacher my Dear Daughter will have for third grade.  We're waiting to see if my Dear Son has AM or PM preschool.  We're waiting to see which day and what time will be DD's violin and repertoire lessons.  We are waiting to schedule gymnastic classes for both kids.  I am waiting to see which parent volunteers are going to help me (the newly appointed chair of Healthy Snack at DS's preschool) buy and prepare fruits and vegetables for the kids every Thursday of the school year.  I am waiting to see what my role entails as a new board member of the organization that oversees DD's music school.  I am waiting for the full schedule of DD's music concerts so that I can plan for my moments of panic just before her performances.

That is just to name a few of the things I am waiting for.  Not to mention all the adjustments and revisions that occur before the schedule is set in stone.  The anticipation of knowing all these answers is just about blinding me!  But until then, my calendar is still empty, events waiting to be scheduled.  I just cannot wait to have 20/20 vision again, soon.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Dear Pie Crust

Dear Pie Crust,

I had you at wax paper.  I'm not afraid of making you from scratch, and I am going to tell everyone my secret.

I am not a fan of making food directly on my kitchen countertop, because I think it's a pain to clean up afterwards.  This includes kneading dough or fondant, rolling out pie crusts or cookie dough, and anything else involving getting flour or butter all over my countertop.  Because as you know, flour can space warp and you will find it 5 feet away from where you were kneading, and butter is just a pain in the arse to clean off.  My flaky pie crust never even touches the countertop.

My secret?  Wax paper.

The pie crust recipe I use is from Joy of Cooking. I make the dough in a large bowl.  I use 2 forks to mash the cold pieces of butter and vegetable shortening into the flour.  When the flour and butter is evenly mixed, then I do a quick knead of the dough right inside the bowl.  Here are the next steps.  Shape the dough into a flat disc.  Tear out 2 square pieces of wax paper.  Place one sheet on the countertop, put the pie crust dough on it, and place the other sheet on top.  Roll out the pie crust while it is between the wax paper to the size and thickness desired.  When finished, simply tear off the top layer of wax paper, handle the pie crust with the bottom sheet of wax paper, turn it upside down over the pie baking pan (it doesn't tear!), and tear off the wax paper.  Voila.  Pie crust in place.  If you are making double pie crusts, repeat and place second pie crust on top of filled pie.  Seal the pie edge by crimping or fluting, and slot the top crust to vent.  Brush on an egg wash if you like the aesthetics of it.

After the first round of baking (and before turning down the temperature for more baking), I always cover the edge of the pie with tinfoil to prevent it from burning.  This is a painful process (for me).  It takes 3 strips of tinfoil to cover the entire circumference of the pie.  And each strip falls off about 10 times before I can get them to all stay in their places while I burn my fingertips.  One of these days I am going to buy myself that circular thing that serves that purpose, even if it costs me too much money.

Here's a bonus to my pie crust secret.  Do the same for cookie dough that you will use cookie cutters to cut out.  Instead of shaping your cookie dough into a flat disc and waiting for hours for it to harden in the fridge (and by the time you roll that out, your wrists hurt and it's no longer chilled), roll it out between 2 sheets of waxed paper to the thickness desired, and it takes 10 minutes for the dough to harden in the fridge.  If you continue baking your cookies in batches, there is no wait time between making the cookie dough and baking the cookies.  Peel off top wax paper layer, cut dough, transfer to cookie sheet, gather leftover dough, roll between used wax paper, repeat process. 

I love my wax paper, which allows me to love making flaky pie crusts from scratch.  It leaves your countertop free of dusting-with-flour or greasing-with-butter.  Plain old wax paper and nothing else!  It's been a while since I've made my apple pie.  I told the kids I make a mean apple pie.  They are waiting to see what a mean apple pie looks like. 


Monday, August 1, 2011

Dear Behind-The-Scenes

Dear Behind-the-Scenes,

Only you and I (and, well, my Dear Daughter and Dear Son, too) know what really happens during our projects.  They are not always as well-oiled as they seem.  Yes, I take has nice photos of the kids doing what they are supposed to be doing.  I add personalized touches of the kids' reactions or remarks about what they do.  What I don't include are the messes, the goof-ups, and the "challenging DS" days that come with every project we do.  Those parts belong here, and you will soon see that I am not always as patient, as capable, or as creative as you think.

The picture above was during the time we made popovers.  This happened right after I asked DD to pour in the melted butter and DS to pour in the Pyrex glass of milk simultaneously.  He poured, and instead of pulling the glass back to set it down, he put it straight down, knocking over the bowl and all its contents (milk, butter, and eggs).  As soon as this happened, DS began to howl.  ON THE TOP OF HIS LUNGS.  You see, he does this when he knows he did something wrong but doesn't know what will come next: a very angry mom or a forgiving mom.  As it turns out, I knew the person at fault was really me.  I REALLY wanted to snap a picture of both the kids pouring liquids into the bowl at the same time (I got the picture I wanted, and I also got to spend the next fifteen minutes on my hands and knees).  I neglected to help DS with that very heavy Pyrex glass full of milk while he was standing on a step stool a little too far away to hold his balance.  This shows you how deserving I was of having to clean up that mess.  I calmed DS down, told him it wasn't his fault, and that I would go clean up.  Fifteen minutes later, we had to start all over again.

How about the time when we made paper cup telephones and DS did not want to go use it?  What did I say to him to make him do what I wanted?  Something about buying a new toy from Target?  I really don't remember (and if you can see my face now I have a very convincing I-am-innocent look).  Or the time when DD was hurt pretty badly from a sewing needle I neglected to put away?  Or whenever I ask DS to dictate a story using The Important Book model or Because a Little Bug Went Ka-Choo model, he just sits there and moans and groans and takes FOREVER to think of what to say?  Or when after we made the popovers, DS refused to try it so I can take a picture of him taking a bite, and I had to settle with him eating a tiny piece for a meh picture?  Or the time when we made play putty, that because I had a brain fart, I forgot (gasp!) an entire step, and I kept wondering why the putty texture felt completely different than the way I remembered it from when I did it in my classroom?  We had to do the entire project all over again in the afternoon the right way.  Or how about the time we made homemade popsicles a second time, and because we added blueberries and changed the juice, DD did not like it and didn't eat a single one after taking only one bite?  And so the list goes on...

But in all honesty, the kids really have been great with most of the projects.  This was the first real mess I've had to clean up (I sure hope I've paid my cleaning dues for a while).  And they do follow direction pretty well so that I am usually able to snap away while they are hands-on.  We don't do second or third takes.  If I've missed the moment, we just move on.  I don't see the point of altering the sequence of a project just to make my blog look better.  Except when I have to clean up milk, butter, and eggs on the floor, of course.

So like well-edited movies that have scenes that did not make the cut, these are the many parts that didn't make it on my blog.  Not to say these parts are not important, memorable, or necessary, I just think they would take away from the point of the blog.  But I do feel that they must be shared for the sake of emphasizing that our activities are not perfect, nor do they have to be.  We learn from our mistakes to avoid future mishaps.  And you had better believe that I WILL sacrifice a perfect picture for not having to clean up a mess like that the next time around!