Tuesday, April 1, 2014


The last time I checked, there were no children for sale in the aisles of an art supply store.  Of course, anything to the contrary would be completely ridiculous, let alone abusive and flat out illegal.  Why is it, then, that babies and toddlers have become such a hot prop in today’s photographic arts?

I’m sure you’ve seen at least a few examples of what I mean, such as these.

credit: Sioin Queenie Liao

credit: @2sister_angie

Granted they are beautiful pieces, worthy of all the “awws” and (nearly one million) “likes” they garner on every single social media platform.  That said, they completely freak me out.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am all for using my children as inspiration.  There is little that inspires me more than my desire to stimulate, encourage, educate and provide for my kids.  In fact, they even inspire my darker side.  I love to poke fun at their bad habits, maddening tantrums and poor handle on the English language.  I even do it publicly.

The difference is, the only material I have is what they give me naturally.  I never make up a quote, embellish a story or put them in a costume they don’t choose for themselves (infant Halloween garb aside).

In short, I celebrate who my children are, not what I can do with them.  (Like this.)

credit: @MommyShorts/Ilana Wiles
I wonder how, if at all, the situation would be different if we were using teens in the photos as opposed to infants?  As a society we have become so sensitive, with good reason, to the exploitation and bullying of our youth.  And while significant progress has been made in those areas, I cannot help but fear we are taking an enormous step in the wrong direction with our younger generation.

Parenting is the greatest gift, and the greatest burden.  There is no job more difficult, more taxing, or more rewarding.  With it, I believe, comes a silent vow not only to do no harm to the child but to do quite the opposite.

For me, every day is a journey in which I learn a little more about what being a good (or bad) parent means.  I have no idea exactly what it means to anyone else, nor should I.  I can only hope that nowhere in their definition does it say a thing about acquiring likes on Facebook.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

OK, I Didn't REALLY Give Birth

I’ve often touted my opinion that having a C-section is still “giving birth”.

Well, it is. 

Sort of.

Not really.

OK, it doesn’t even compare.

Granted my younger sister and her husband spent much of their recent pregnancy considering their birth plan, as there are so many critical options to weigh.  Natural versus Epidural?  Vaginal versus C-Section?  Breast versus Bottle? Public School versus Private?

I may not have been a huge contributor to that debate, although my sister did ask for me to share some of my two medically required C-section experiences.  Thankfully, she was able to make her own decision, which was strongly in favor of a vaginal birth.

I really commended her decision.  Having been present in the birthing suite for two childbirths as part of a PBS documentary, I had seen the… ordeal… first hand.  And it was for that exact reason, in addition to the fear I had of seeing my little sister experience such a level of physical pain, that I opted not to be in the delivery room when my nephew was born.

That is, until she asked me to be there.

This was not part of the birthing plan I had anticipated.  I expected her husband to be the only one in there, way closer to one end than the other.  So when it became a bit of a family affair, as my mother (a former labor and delivery room nurse herself) received the same invitation, I went (silently, I think) into panic mode.

Typically a strong first responder in emergency situations, I called upon some previous experiences to help me prepare.  My own medical emergencies in addition to the previous deliveries I’d seen and a front row seat for a very lengthy facial reconstructive surgery while working on Extreme Makeover were just a few of the experiences I had to pull from.  And I had survived all of those.  Sort of.

But this was different.  This was my little sister.  This was the girl who despite all the incessant teasing, bitch slaps, and painful noogies, I would do anything to protect… even if that meant watching her endure agonizing pain in order to provide the slightest bit of comfort when asked.  Damn you, Jeni.

So, I prepared now just as I did then.  I gave myself the same pep talk my mother had given me before watching the plastic surgeries.  “You will not puke!  You will not pass out!”  (Read those aloud, like Bobby Knight would.)  Almost everything after that is a blur.

Everyone had a role in the delivery room.  Mine was take photos and video, which I believe I deserve an Oscar for.  Between takes, I attempted to make my sister comfortable by placing icy washcloths on her forehead and keeping her puke bucket clean.

Long story short, 40 hours of (frighteningly) active labor, 3 hours of (blood curdling) pushies, 2 cord wraps around his neck and one very strange vacuum later, I learned a very important lesson.

The mode of transportation is completely insignificant because the wonder of holding him or her for the very first time is just the same.

Welcome to the World, Tyler James Bianco! xo

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Forget Frozen's "Let It Go"... Passenger's "Let HER Go" Is All You Need

How many songs can you really sing along with?

I am one of those people that can’t remember what I had for breakfast yesterday (likely because I didn’t eat it) but I know every world to Neneh Cherry’s 1988 hit “Buffalo Stance”.  Even the part at 2:18.  Seriously.  I'm that good.

For me, lyrics aren’t just about repetition or memorization.  They are stories.  They are private jokes and personal dreams.  They are darkest memories and greatest aspirations.  They are enormous tragedies and irreplaceable gifts.  And songwriters, from Eminem to Taylor Swift, are the vehicles that transport us through and graciously allow us to make those most powerful moments our own.

I am unsure whether it was my early fascination with poetry (evident by my mother discovering fragments of paper with poems on them between my childhood bed sheets) or my raw love of the written word, but something led me to a magical place where a single lyric can transport me anywhere.

There are times when the excessively redundant playlists on Sirus XM make me want to rip the speakers out of my car and toss them like any girl with no arm strength would, but this hasn’t been one of those weeks.

While I guarantee that Passenger’s single “Let Her Go” has brought many a listener to tears repeatedly, for a myriad of reasons, one particular lyric leaves me inspired for hours.

Everything you touch surely dies.

It’s true.  Whether a hand, a pet, a flower, a friendship, a bank account or a dream, eventually… it dies.

So before it does, make sure you’ve done all you need to do.

And I’ll just leave it at that.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

50 Super Quick Things I Want My Kindergartener to Know on Her 100th Day

Today my daughter hits a big milestone.  And while I may have little understanding of why the 100th day of Kindergarten is such a grand ordeal, I recognize that it is one to her.  Therefore, I want to make sure she has something special to remember it by (other than the baggies of 100 beans, pennies and paperclips she will collect at school).  So, here is a list of 50 super quick things I want to tell my 5 year old on her 100th day of Kindergarten.

1. Read the names of all the Crayola Crayons once in a while.  They are pretty cool.

2. Always wipe front to back.

3. Find an enormous tree, lay at its trunk and look up at the leaves.

4. When you don’t want to get out of bed in the morning I come at you with a big cup and threaten to pour water on you, just like my father did to me.  99% of the time, the cup is empty.

5. You are genetically predisposed to loathe cilantro.

6. No matter what it is, believe in something bigger than you.

7. Get every season of Friends on DVD.  You’ll thank me later.

8. Floss, floss and then floss again.

9. I’ve met Justin Bieber.

10. And speaking of Justin Bieber, “Never Say Never”.

11. Try cheeses other than mozzarella, American and Swiss.

12. A personal email can never take the place of a handwritten note.

13. No matter how many times we brush your hair, it would take decades for it to grow like Rapunzel's.

14. Always have a firm handshake.

15. Be part of a charity, but keep it a secret.

16. Beginning on the morning of December 26th, Santa Claus immediately begins coming to town.

17. Watch every John Hughes movie at least 3 times.

18. Keep your passport valid.

19. Blotting the grease off your pizza isn't worth the effort.

20. Call your mother.

21. If you must take a selfie, do it from above…

22. … but no duck face.

23. Reduce, reuse, recycle and retweet (if applicable by then).

24. Pay parking tickets immediately. Trust me.

25. I’m so sorry for all the times I dressed you up in silly outfits just for a photo. #sorrynotsorry

26. Keep a journal.

27. Make sure your pets have enough water.

28. The most important rule to follow in fashion is that there are no rules in fashion.

29. Don’t use an asterisk in words like God or fuck.  You aren’t fooling anyone.

30. I let you be the last one to say “I love you more”, but that could never be true.

31. Color outside the lines, often.

32. If you choose to get married, try on dresses that are the complete opposite of what you see yourself wearing on your big day.

33. Visit a third world country.

34. Never send a holiday card without at least something handwritten on it.

35. Whatever “it” is, you can do it.

36. Count blessings, not sheep.

37. Read as many books as possible…

38. … then read more.

39. Drivers are most likely to run a red light just as yours turns green, so proceed with caution.

40. New year, new underwear.

41. Speaking of underwear, always check for panty lines.

42. Watch “Stand By Me”.

43.  Living in New York will not make you hard...

44. ... nor will living in Southern California will not make you soft.

45. Remember you are beautiful.

46. Join the P.T.A., even if you do it ironically.

47. Save your favorite pieces from your wardrobe… if I am lucky enough to have a granddaughter one day, she will love them.

48. You will always be my sunshine.

49. Just be you.  No one can do it better…

50. But, call your mother while you’re at it.

Enjoy your 100th day of Kindergarten, and every single day that follows.

Love,  Mom

Monday, February 3, 2014

Are Drugs The New Cancer?

(Props to Banksy)

I remember vividly my father playfully calling my mother an addict because of her need for several cups of coffee in the morning.  I was in grade school at the time, and a bit frightened by his association.

In the years since, I have considered myself "addicted" to many things.  Fountain Diet Coke, carbohydrates, exercise and the Frozen soundtrack are just a few of the things that have consumed me to the point of being unhealthy.  But, is it really fair to call these relationships “addictions”?

Yes and no.

Yes, because addictions can negatively impact our lives in any number of ways, on any number of levels.  And no, because I’d much rather give a two-sided, wishy-washy answer to that question than really debate it with you.  I can speak only for myself.

I think drugs are the new cancer.

But before you go getting all pissed off and tell me that I have no right to compare one of life’s greatest medical mysteries to a significantly more understood and controllable one, let me clarify.

I know the wrath of both quite well.  And while one may begin with a person’s “choice” or predisposition to use a substance in a harmful or illegal way while the other really comes down to nothing more than fate or fucked up genetics, the outcome is quite the same.

You either die, or barely escape death, but always have it looming over you.  (In that vein, life is a disease in and of itself… isn’t it?)

For years many have found comfort (or misery) in numerous variations of the expression that each of us knows someone significantly touched by cancer.  Unfortunately, the same is nearly true of drug addiction.  It is for this reason (and this reason only) that I compare the two so simply.

Forget Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Heath Ledger and, most recently, Philip Seymour Hoffman.  I am talking about your neighbor, your friend, your uncle, your sister, yourself.

It isn’t a weakness.  It is a very serious illness, quickly approaching the point of an epidemic.  There is no cure, and no one is immune.  No one.

The good news is, there is always hope...

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

I Won't Judge What You Do With Your Privates, If You Don't Judge What I Do With Mine

I usually share stuff here before I share it on other outlets, but last week The Huffington Post beat you guys to the punch.

So in case you missed it, here's a preview of what I had to say about... well... my vagina.

"There is an enormous difference between a breast augmentation and a Cesarean section. Or is there?

On one hand, you've got an elective surgery that may slow, reverse (or at least cover up) skin damage caused by excessive strain on a female body part. On the other hand, you've got... well, sort of the same thing. So, maybe that explains why I feel judged like Heidi Montag exiting the plastic surgeon's office whenever I mention having delivered both of my daughters via a C-section? Either way, I'm tired of it."

And if that's got your interested piqued, here's a link to the article.  Enjoy!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Warning: Crayola Crayons May Be Hazardous To Your Health

Keep or toss?  I ask myself that question most often not about important bank statements, day-too-old leftovers or clothing I haven’t touched since the (first) Bush Administration, but about my daughter’s artwork.  As a result, the art on the walls of my home rivals only the funkiest of modern art museums when it comes to the need for title placards.

Isla said, "this a gingerbread house, but the dot isn't mine". 
Three days later she said, "it's a lion... and a frog".

Lately I have been trying to examine why I hold onto so many of their doodles.  Is it because I’m worried that my two baby girls are growing up so quickly that I am trying to preserve all that I can from their childhood, or maybe because I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that I gave birth to a mini Jackson Pollack?  Really, it’s neither.

I do not believe that the complete story of one’s life can be told from elementary school or adolescence forward.  So much of who we are is determined long before we step foot onto the kindergarten playground and I want to help document that growth as much as possible for my children, much like my own mother did for me.

This is a family portrait that I drew in kindergarten, hung in my mother’s home beside similar portraits drawn by my siblings. 

I don’t remember coloring the masterpiece, but whenever I look at it, I am reminded of a much simpler time in my life.  I am reminded of the innocence, peace and joy of my childhood, and long for the time when so much could be expressed perfectly with one sweep of a red Crayola crayon.

Open up a box of 64 Crayola crayons today, and the result would be quite different.  Tickle Me Pink, Razzle Dazzle Rose and Fuzzy Wuzzy are just a few of the options our children have to choose from these days.  And while I can fully appreciate the myriad of choices available to this generation that weren’t available to mine, part of me also wishes for them a time when life wasn’t so “colorful”.

As my 3 year old made quite clear with her piece shown above, sometimes the most beautiful things in life are monochromatic.