Teach Kids Gratitude during the Holidays

Teaching kids gratitude during the holiday season can be a challenge. Sometimes it feels like we spend all of our energy on creating memorable holiday experiences, decorating things just-so, and finding the right gift (a few times over) for our favorite people. Then, as the season draws to a close, we realize that there is a lot of giving but not a lot of gratitude.

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But it’s about more than gifts. As parents, we don’t need our kids to bend over backwards telling us how grateful they are for the things we give them. What we really want - the reason we jump headlong into the holiday craziness and wait on hours-long lines - is to make memories that our children will cherish. To start and continue traditions that make them happy, that remind them, and us, of how grateful we are to have each other.

We’ve gathered a few of our favorite posts to help you teach your kids about gratitude this season, and to keep the grateful vibes well into the new year.

Start a Daily Gratitude Practice with your Kids

I try to use gratitude in my home as a regular on-going conversation with my son.  When we focus on gratitude, it can create good feeling and closeness. Sometimes I will ask my son during dinner what happened in his day that made him feel grateful.

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Other times as I am tucking him into bed, I will tell him the 5 things about my day that I am grateful for and ask him about his.

There are a lot of other ways to introduce gratitude into a conversation, to make it into a game and to keep it present.  I find that talking about what we are grateful for shifts things.  It makes the mood more positive, lighter and gentler

Introduce Gratitude Games and Table Activities

I’m thinking of something that begins with the letter…

We all know the popular road trip game, where you work your way through the alphabet, guessing something that begins with each letter of the alphabet while the person who is “it” provides clues to the guessers.

Customize this game for your table. Take turns going clockwise around the table (or starting youngest to oldest). The first person who is “it” says “I’m grateful for something that begins with the letter A.” Each person around the table guesses what that is based on hints.

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This is a fun, easy, and interactive way to share what you are thankful for. It is also a natural way to start a conversation around gratitude, and to teach you what little things matter to your loved ones.

Turn Your New Year’s Resolutions into Gratitude Intentions

Rather than list out resolutions, ways we want to be different, things we want to change about ourselves or our circumstances, we are choosing to focus on intention.  All of us at Portraits that Move are committing to living and working and observing with intention. 

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Rather than a resolution to be more, to do more, to change this or that in a quest for a goal, this year, we are listening to that voice that reminds us to stop, to look at our life, at our work and at our goals and to determine how they align with our intention to find joy and to be grateful

How are you practicing gratitude with your kids during the holiday season? Share with us on Facebook!




Giving Tuesday is a Day to Share Love and Gratitude

Today and every day, we are aware of the importance of giving in order to create moments of joy for others. This year, we compiled a list of non-profits that are giving beautiful gifts to individuals and communities through hard work and dedication.

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Non-profits like these benefit from your generosity, and so do those they serve. Take a moment today to look at some of the work they are doing. We invite you to be inspired by the joy and healing they put out into the world.

Make a Wish Foundation

The Make a Wish Foundation is dear to the heart of our founder and executive producer, Susannah Ludwig, and the company that she created. Susannah’s early life was marked by multiple life saving surgeries.

This helped her to realize that every day is a gift and there is joy even in the smallest moments. The Make a Wish Foundation believes that “one moment changes everything.” The foundation helps to make wishes come true for children with critical illnesses, making treasured moments for children and their families.

Kids in Need Foundation

As a Board Member of Kids the Kids in Need Foundation, Susannah gets to see first hand the good work that this organization does in communities around the United States.

Kids in Need provides backpacks and school supplies for students living in poverty so that they are able to go to school confident and ready to learn. As Susannah shares, “it makes a huge difference for kids… you can see how having their own school supplies, something that may seem so small, improves their self esteem.”

Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation

Through Portraits that Heal, we have helped Alex’s Lemonade Stand share its mission to cure childhood cancer by sharing the stories of children the organization has helped.

Alex’s Lemonade stand, founded by parents who lost their daughter to cancer, supports funding for fighting childhood cancer by raising money for scientific research and by helping families who are living with cancer.

See more of Kaela’s Hero Story, created by Portraits that Heal.

Feeding Matters

Feeding Matters is committed to helping kids who have trouble eating. In addition to connecting to Susannah’s childhood surgeries and related challenges, the mission of helping children be nourished so they can thrive is an inspiring and important mission.

The organization “furthers advances in pediatric feeding disorder by accelerating identification, igniting research, and promoting collaborative care for children and families.” The work they do is not always recognized on a large national stage but it makes a tremendous impact on the children and families whose lives they change.



Manna

Manna, based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is more than a food bank. The organization promotes therapeutic nutrition, working hard to connect those in need with healthy food. As the organization explains, Manna “uses nutrition to improve health for people with serious illnesses who need nourishment to heal.” The Manna team does this by providing medically tailored meals and nutrition education… to improve their health and quality of life.”

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Portraits that Move remembers Manna in a special way this Giving Tuesday. Founder Susannah Ludwig’s aunt, who passed away just before Thanksgiving, was a deeply involved volunteer with Manna. We encourage those who are moved to support the organization to do so in her memory.

Brooklyn Public Library

Libraries always need funding! The contributions they make to our local communities is incredible, though often unsung. From literacy programs for kids to job resources for adults, the Brooklyn Public Library is both a cultural center and a center of service for our communities.

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How many small, special moments have you created with your kids in your neighborhood library? Help them keep making moments like these for our kids and our neighbors.

Arthur Project

The Arthur Project helps underserved middle school students. Providing mentoring to students at this critical juncture in their lives can help to transform their experience and put them on the path to health, safety, and success, as it did for the organization’s co-founder in her own life.

Susannah recently worked with Snapdragon Films to create a video for the Arthur Project and has been inspired by the work the organization does. The Arthur Project is a new non-profit tackling challenges in new and engaging ways.

The Three Questions to Ask Kids after Practice

It’s the season for sports and music and art classes. Back to School is in full swing and kids’ schedules are getting busier and busier. With that, comes more opportunity for good conversations and memorable storytelling that improve kids’ confidence and strengthen your bond.

Here’s a rundown of how to create those kinds of conversations, starting with a reminder to carve out time to talk to kids about their experiences, motivations, and emotions. When we are shuffling from activity to activity while trying to meet our own deadlines, finding time and space to have those conversations is hard.

Remember, it doesn’t take a long time to have a good conversation. Grab your moments and be intentional.

Start by asking these three questions when you pick up your kids from their next soccer practice or orchestra rehearsal.

What was the best part?

Focus on the positive. Asking your child to identify the best part of soccer practice encourages her to look for positive experiences, even if (especially if) the practice didn't go as smoothly as she wanted, or didn't live up to her expectations.

 Photo by  Jeffrey Lin  on  Unsplash

Photo by Jeffrey Lin on Unsplash

Taking a moment to assess an experience and find the good in it helps your child practice balance, gratitude and hopefulness. When you encourage your child to do this through conversation, you are helping them through the process and reminding them that they are not alone – you are there with them to celebrate and to support.

 “What was the best part” is the perfect first question because it gives your child something to celebrate, something good to share with you. It goes a long way to creating a safe, comfortable space for kids to talk to and connect with you.

Asking your child to share the best part of orchestra or soccer practice gives them a launch pad for a story and a path for a meaningful conversation. It gives you a glimpse into what matters to them, and what they value. This is the heart of real conversations. And it often makes for a great story!

How do you think you played?

This second question moves into the topics that are more difficult for your kids to talk about, but even more necessary for you to dig into together.

Be careful how you frame this question. If kids feel like they are being interrogated or judged, they shut down. Your conversation, your relationship, and their confidence suffer. 

This doesn't mean that kids don't want to share their challenges with parents - they do - but they want to do so in a way that does not make them feel more judged, or more embarrassed, than they may already feel. Sometimes your child leaves practice feeling vulnerable. If she ran into another player because the coach said "go right" and she went left, she may have been hurt, and she may have been laughed at. Don’t compound her negative feelings about herself or the situation. Let her take the lead in explaining the experience from her point of view and walk through how to address it together, carefully and respectfully.

 Photo by  Markus Spiske  on  Unsplash

“How do you think you played” creates space for kids to communicate. It signals that you are interested in how they are playing because you care about them, and you care about the things that matter to them. You are not looking for a scouting report. Their answers don’t change how much you love them or how proud of them you are.

Everyone wants to get better - that's why they practice. Let your child know that you are not asking these questions because you want to see immediate results. He does not need to master every note in his orchestra piece today. You are engaged in the learning process, warts and all. You are present for their stories and you are ready to help them achieve their goals.

Part of achieving those goals is discovering what they need to work on. That’s why “how do you think you played” is a good way to help kids evaluate where they are and where they want to be without judgement or pressure. It is much more productive – for your conversation and for their development – than “what did you do wrong” or “why was the conductor yelling at you.”

It also gives you, as a parent, the opportunity to share your own stories. Kids love to hear about what parents were like when we were their age. If you can share an embarrassing story, or an example of how you faced a challenge, your child feels less alone and more encouraged. Remember, when you are sharing your stories, this is not the time to take over the conversation, to air out old grievances, or to show off. Let your child take the lead.

What are you looking forward to next time?

Look-ahead questions create interesting and honest conversations. When you ask your child what she is looking forward to next time, you are encouraging her to move on from disappointments and build on successes. And you are doing that without commanding her to “move on” or “work harder.”

 Photo by  Fede Casanova  on  Unsplash

Even more importantly, a look-ahead question like this signals to your kids that you are with them for the long haul. You did not start this conversation so that they could deliver you a report that you can file away. You did not ask them to open up to you simply to fill the time on the way home. You are engaged with them and supportive of them. You are in this together.

Every question you ask your children is an opening for them to share their stories, to build their confidence, and to strengthen your bond comfortably and safely.

This is a busy season. We – parents and kids – too often feel like we are rushing through our lives, never taking time to look back, to look forward, or to be present in the moment with each other. Taking even a small amount of time to have an intentional conversation with each other slows everything down just enough so that we don’t miss these precious moments and we don’t rush through opportunities to connect with each other and celebrate each other.

Ask your child these questions. You’ll still make it to your next activity on time.

- Elizabeth Eames, September 2018

Elizabeth Eames is a professional communicator, a parent, and a member of the Portraits that Move Team.

Brooklyn Family Photographer Raquel Frechette Features Susannah Ludwig in Mornings with Series

I met Raquel Frechette a few years ago and have been inspired by her and her work ever since. When she mentioned her new photo project to me and we discussed our participating, it was an easy yes. 

 Image by Raquel Frechette,   Mornings with Series  , 2018 

Image by Raquel Frechette, Mornings with Series, 2018 

I think Raquel has an exquisite, intuitive eye and working with her was easy and filled with fun. It was moving and interesting to experience being on the opposite side of the camera, but she made it comfortable and fun for me and for my son. I didn't feel self conscious - and as you can see in the images, neither did Jack.

I had the feeling that my son and I were given the opportunity to learn from a master. And I feel grateful to have had that. Raquel and I share the same professional/life philosophy, namely that these small, everyday moments of our lives are the ones to cherish.  I am so thankful that Raquel took the time to cherish our moments. These photos are a gift - one that I will hang onto always and that I feel privileged to share with you. 

My Portraits that Move Moment: Confessions of a Mom with too Much

No more stuff!  I must not be alone in this mantra, as we emerge from the holiday madness and our mailboxes, physical and digital, start filling up with Valentine's Day announcements: Sales!  Gift ideas!  Don't forget gifts for your pets!  Buy one, get one!  More, more, more.  

It has never been so clear to me that my family is at odds with our lifestyle.  We truly do have an abundance, but we are not living abundantly, not even close.  And it feels like we are moving farther and farther away from gratitude.  We are well past taking the advice to do more with less.  Now, it is time to have less - and to do less - in order to appreciate more.

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Looking around at all of this stuff, I realize that what I really want is three minutes.  I want three minutes of peace and calm.  Three minutes to give myself permission to do nothing but enjoy my daughter, to awaken gratitude, to replace the stress of excess with an awareness of abundance and a real appreciation for it.

I don't want tokens scattered across every empty surface to gather dust.  I don't want more photo albums I have to file.  I want three minutes that I can call up whenever I need to remind myself that underneath all of this mess, there is a beautiful, vibrant life and that there is a way to slow it down, to steady it, to bask in it. 

This is why I love working with Portraits that Move, because the filmmakers on this team use their professional experience and their artistry to hand deliver much needed moments to parents like me.

Elizabeth Eames, February 2018

Looking Back - Favorite Moments of 2017

2017 was filled with some wonderful moments for us at Portraits that Move, both on camera and off.  

Watching our Portraits that Move videos and seeing the work we do and the smiles and stories we capture for families inspires us to do even more. In a special #MondayMotivation edition of our blog, we are looking back today at some of the moments we brought to life on film that bring us the most joy.

When Zach kisses mom.

The day Charlotte explained why "Rose" is her favorite word.

Violet, wise beyond her years, teaching us what it means to be in love.

Siblings Eli and Lilah sharing what they love about each other.

Hearing Ethan explain in his own words what his Bar Mitzvah really means to him.

Spreading holiday love with Mama and Tata.

Seeing how proud Alex and Noah are when they talk about their mom running the New York City  Marathon.

Listening to Amelia and Seamus' stories about their 2017 travels.

Witt and Lou Lou talking about the joy of living with their grandma.

Joy is our guiding word at Portraits that Move and it truly is our pleasure to help document and share it with you.

Here's to a new year filled with joyful memories and moments with all of you!

Practice Gratitude by Giving

It’s Giving Tuesday, a day that we cherish at Portraits That Move. We love it because we value helping others and teaching our kids that they can have an impact on the world around them.

This year, we are giving 10% of all bookings made today to the KIDS IN NEED FOUNDATION. Kids in Need is an incredible organization that gives school supplies to children who can’t afford them. I have been involved with KINF for several years and sit on its Board of Directors.

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I was moved to learn that when kids don’t have the supplies they need it can affect how they perform in school, and even more than that, how they feel about themselves. The simple act of giving children pencils, notebooks and other supplies can have a huge impact on their days, their school years and their futures.

Please have a look at KINF’s mission, consider donating or getting involved with the foundation!

With much love and gratitude,

Susannah

Gratitude and Transitions

This time of year is always an emotional one for me. This week, my son, will have his 10th birthday. A whole decade - wow - the time has flown.

His birthday this year is on Thanksgiving. What an incredible gift to have a day meant for gratitude, family time and closeness also be the day we get to celebrate the joy of having him in our lives.

The age of ten for a New York City kid is an intense one. They are still kids, playful and curious, but in this urban world, they are just on the edge of being teenagers. They are pushing for independence and yet asking for closeness. It is a time that is overwhelming for him and for me. I wonder how do we shift into this next decade together. What will it look like?

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I find grounding in gratitude. If I stay in touch with all the reasons I am grateful for him - the way he winks at me, the joy in his belly laugh, his power of observation, the kindness he shows with younger kids, his comedic impersonations - the gratitude keeps me present and enjoying today. And then, once I am there, I have ease in knowing the rest will come as it may, in its own time.

I think this is what we are offering to parents with our work. A time for them to be present and then to look back and enjoy that presence fully. Our videos capture these moments for them so they have them to keep and to hold close.

It’s a beautiful time of year to create a Portraits That Move video, a holiday card, an annual portrait or even if you are celebrating a special occasion.

I am grateful to be able to do the the work we do, for this holiday season and for the gift of getting to be mother to my son. Here’s to the next year and next decade!

Happy Thanksgiving!

xo,

Susannah

Teaching Kindness to Kids in a World Filled with Anger

These are the lazy days of summer.  We're supposed to be watching our kids play on the beach, staying up late for game night, and telling old family stories, passing on our traditions and making new ones.  If we are lucky, many of us are doing this during these last weeks before the start of the school year.  But even if we are, these simple joys are competing with the very real strain of witnessing a world that feels like it is absent of kindness.

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As parents, what do we do?  How do we teach our kids to practice kindness in a world filled with so much anger and hatred?  How do we nurture them and prepare them to spread good in our world as a counterbalance to all the bad?  How do we do that without destroying these treasured, peaceful family moments that we want to preserve?

Moments like this are actually the foundation for teaching about and building kindness.  The more time we spend with our children, the more spaces we create for them to ask and answer questions.  We allow them to hear their own voices and to know that we are listening to them, respectfully.  This gives our children the tools they need to develop the empathy and confidence that will help them create and engage in a better world.

Kindness Begins at Home

We teach kindness by demonstrating kindness.  For parents, this means exercising a little extra patience, especially when we are busy and really don’t have the time to slow down as much as we would like. 

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Teaching kindness starts with respectful listening.  Listen to your kids when they ask the hard questions.  Also, remember to listen to your kids when they are telling their stories, whether they are about building Minecraft worlds or imagining shooting into the galaxy with a stuffed monkey. 

When we listen to the little things, we make time and space for their voices, and we model for our children the values of respect and empathy.  We also give them the confidence they need to speak up in defense of those who are treated unfairly, and on behalf of those who need and deserve kindness.  Remember, kindness needs courage, and courage comes from confidence.

Celebrate Kindness

When you are spending time with your kids, enjoying the last days of summer, and during the busy season of school and sports and rehearsals, always take a moment to encourage, share and celebrate acts of kindness.

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We have spoken about getting your kids to talk about their day, and the value of using targeted questions (to avoid the generic “How was your day?/It was fine.” conversation).  As you go through those specific questions with your children at the end of the day, during the trip home from school, around the table, or at bedtime, ask for an example of when they showed kindness.  Ask them to tell you about a time during the day when they saw someone else demonstrate kindness. 

Then remember to ask the harder questions.  Ask them if there was a time someone didn’t show kindness.  Other questions should include: Did you encounter a situation where someone needed to be shown kindness and wasn’t?  Sometimes, is it hard to be kind to others?  Why?  What can we do about that?

Share Your Own Experiences

If we expect our children to feel comfortable speaking with us about things that are difficult – and we can all agree, sometimes it is difficult to show kindness to others – we need to be honest with them. 

Tell your children about your own struggles.  Maybe you have a co-worker who frustrates you, maybe you are so tired that you feel you can’t find the energy to ask someone if they need help, or how you can do something to make their day easier.  Tell your kids about this.  Ask them if they have ideas for how you can practice kindness more often.

Keep the conversations going and let your children know that we all need each other.  In spite of the anger and the hatred that we see in the world, we can do better, if we can come together.

Let Kids Take the Lead: New Ways to Celebrate Mother's Day with Family and Friends

Make this Mother’s Day special by brainstorming with your kids about how to celebrate the day in new and more inclusive ways.  Talk to your kids about the women in your circle – your family, friends and neighbors, – and ask them how they want to connect with and celebrate the women who help to shape their lives.

As is so often the case when we take the extra time to have conversations like this with our children, the answers may surprise you.  The list could include grandmothers, neighbors, godparents or teachers. It is always a moment of discovery when you let your children lead conversations about what means the most to them. 

By engaging with your children in this way, you learn who is important to them and what they are observing about their family and community.  You also come to learn how your children are practicing empathy and gratitude as they grow and change.

5 Ways to Celebrate Mother's Day through Storytelling and Sharing

Schedule Facetime or Skype calls with special women in your child's life

Seeing and hearing each other is a wonderful way for your children – and for you – to connect with the important people in your lives.  We are fortunate to have technology at our fingertips that allows us to do that.

 

Ask your children who they would like to connect with and schedule a time for a call the same way you would schedule an in-person meeting.  Make it an event, make it special, and most of all, let your children take the lead.  Far away friends and family will be delighted to connect one-on-one with your kids.  Your kids will feel proud to share and to celebrate these special women on Mother’s Day.

Share their Artwork

For younger children, look through art work and classroom projects and select some favorites to send to the family members on your list.  Encourage your children to share the story of why they love this piece of art, what inspired them to create it, and why they chose it for the recipient.

Sharing artwork and allowing children to talk about it helps to build their confidence, and reminds them that they have the power to bring happiness to the people they love on holidays like Mother’s Day and throughout the year.

Create Unique, Special Messages

For older children, ask them to create a unique, special message for each person on the list.  This could include writing, drawing, making jewelry or other small gifts.  This encourages your children to share their stories and their observations to help connect them with their loved one.  It gives them the chance to use their creativity and talents to let someone know that they care about them, and why.

Share a Mother's Day Video Message

Our clients love sharing Portrait Videos and Video Cards with their loved ones for Mother’s Day and other holidays.  Especially for families that do not get to see each other as much as they would like (which is all of us, really!) our videos help to give the gift of more time with the ones you love.

Plan a New Kind of Mother's Day Get Together

This year, let your children take the lead in planning a Mother’s Day get together for your whole tribe.  Include all the women your child loves.  For us moms, this new approach does mean sharing our day, but what a gift it is to know that we are able to also share the joy and love of our children – and the joy and love we have for those who care about our children and contribute to their happiness.

Mother's Day Special 

Book a Portrait between now and the end of May 2017 and save 20% when you mention the code MOM2017

One More Moment for Moms

One of the most common things we  hear from moms, and a feeling that is shared by the moms on the Portraits that Move team, is that we never seem to have enough time. 

Moms are so busy making moments, or trying to document them, that we lose the opportunity to enjoy them.  We lose the chance to live these moments with our children and our families.

This Mother's Day, speaking for all of us on the team, and I venture to say, for all moms, the one thing we want, is more time.  

We want five extra minutes in the morning to sit down and talk about the coming day - or even one extra minute to give our precious children a goodbye hug. 

We want more time to listen to their stories, more time to share our own, at the end of the day.

All day, every day, it seems like we are grabbing for that extra minute, one more second to breathe in the life that we are creating - to look at our children and really see them for the wonderful, unique people they are, for the gifts they are to us and to the world.

So, this Mother's Day, I invite you to take an extra moment.  Take five minutes to look and to listen to your children, to celebrate them and to celebrate you.  Put down the camera, shut off the phone, and savor five minutes of quiet observation, of reflection and stillness.  Take it all in, and allow yourself a moment to be grateful for your life, for our lives, as mothers.

Leave the Documenting to Portraits that Move

The Portraits that Move filmmakers understand that moments matter, and all of the moms who help make those moments possible matter.

In honor of Mother's Day, our gift to you is 20% off a Signature Portrait.

Book a Portrait from now until the end of May 2017 and get 20% off when you mention the code MOM2017.

It's the perfect Mother's Day gift - extra time with your children, preserved on film.

How Seeing and Hearing Our Children Helps Energize Us

The busy-ness of professional life can leave us feeling low on energy and in need of inspiration to help us get the most out of our time in the office and at home.  Sometimes, taking a few moments to center ourselves and celebrate our family can revive, encourage, and remind us of all that we are helping to create every day.

What we notice, through this practice, is how we can create small moments throughout our days that are restorative and filled with gratitude.  At Portraits that Move, we are driven by the idea that every moment matters. It is in that spirit that we create all of our custom videos. 

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Sometimes, You Need a Moment

Parents are watching Portrait Videos while they are on business travel and even in stolen moments in the middle of hectic work days.  

Being able to listen to and see our children when we are away from them reminds us that we are doing so much right, even though the stress of managing work life and home life all too often tries to convince us otherwise.

Yes, parents love to receive Portrait Videos as holiday gifts, especially around Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, but the real gift is having something that to turn to every day - any day - that lets you savor a moment with your children, wherever you are.

The Power of Seeing and Hearing Your Children on Film 

Portraits that Move client Sabrina talks about the true gift of Portraits that Move, explaining that for her busy family, their Portrait Video “gave them the gift they always wanted – more time with the children.”

Other clients have shared with us that they are surprised by the final video product, and its ability to allow kids to “[share] things about themselves that we rarely, if ever, get to see.” 

As parents, we are always looking for tools to help maintain work-life balance. Our videos have become a surprisingly joyful way to do that.

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Embrace Your Moments

We salute you on getting through another busy day. And we are here for you to help document the moments that you can savor now, while things are frantic, and later, when you are looking back at this time wondering how it all went by so quickly.

How Our Passover Celebration Reminded Me about Documentation and Moments that Matter

Passover in my family is quite the celebration. My father writes an original Haggaddah (prayer book) every year. My mother is an extraordinary cook and her food is delicious on every holiday, but it is important to note, this is even true on Passover, which can be challenging for even the best cooks.

Most of all, though, the fun, these days is about the kids. At our table, we had 5 boys under the age of 10. It was energetic and loud and silly. The prayers this year were kid- friendly. My son read the four questions and my sweet nephew dressed up as Moses. It was an evening filled with laughter, fun, and closeness. Exactly the way holidays should be.

I always struggle with the pull of staying in the moment and enjoying vs. documenting the events of the day. I think most parents in this digital age feel the same. I am grateful for these few photos that my partner shot. I am grateful for the joy, my family, the freedom and this beautiful time of year.

What traditions are important to you and how do you celebrate them?

Portraits that Move client Michelle Roos shared her story about why documenting holidays, particularly Passover and her grandfather's birthday has meant so much to her.  Read her story on Kveller and share with us here and on Facebook how you are treasuring your family traditions now and throughout the year. 

All photos in post courtesy of David Marcus.

What My Son Taught Me About Listening

The other day I took my son to the pharmacy with me. When I got to the counter, the woman there, who has helped me many times noticed him and our relationship. "He is so cute she said, how old is he 9?" I agreed and then we got into a conversation of how fast the time goes, and how special life is with a young child.

Then something else happened, the woman started opening up to us. She told us that she had never had her own children, but had a nephew. She had been unemployed for the first year of his life and had been very involved in his care. He was very dear to her, almost like a son to her. She was deeply connected to how fast he was growing up, how short the time is and how precious each moment is. The conversation went on for a good ten to twelve minutes.

Eventually, we paid and left the store. After a pause, my son said to me, “Mom, she really wanted to talk to you today. She had a lot of things to tell you.”

I hugged him and said, “That’s true honey, but sometimes the best gift we can give someone…” He interrupted me: “I know mom, the best gift we can give someone is to listen because everyone has a story to tell, right?”

My eyes filled up with tears. I was so grateful that he knew this intuitively. He was open to her and to listening. My son showed me that he values storytelling and, more importantly, human connection. As parents we often wonder if we are doing a good job. We question whether the life lessons are sinking in and making sense. On this day, I was thrilled to realize that my son, had things to teach me.

And I was grateful that I was able to listen.

This week, take an extra moment to listen to the stories of those around you. Most importantly, take a moment to listen to your children, and to find those opportunities where they can teach you.

We are Celebrating New Beginnings with Huge Gratitude and Joy

We do great things when we work together.  This is true in business and in family life, and it is so apparent to me today, as we launch the brand new Portraits that Move website.

I am grateful to work with talented professionals, including women who help to enrich my life, enrich my business, and connect me with clients that enrich my daily experiences.

Our new website comes to you as Portraits that Move enters our fourth year of creating documentary-quality films for families.  Over the course of the last few years, I have had the privilege of getting to know you and your children, and I have had the honor of creating films that reflect back to you the connections, the beauty, and the unique magic that makes your family your own.

Together with my filmmaking team, we are building a legacy for you and your families, and for our own, through the work we do with and for you.

Thank you, again, for those who have been with us from the beginning, and for all those who are joining us now.  I am so happy to be on this journey of joy and connection with you.

With much love,

Susannah

Resolution vs. Intention: Choosing Joy and Gratitude

There is an energy to this time of year, when we sit down and list what we want to do and how we want to be. We welcome the changes that a new year brings.  We write down our goals, we make plans to achieve them, we may even resolve to be more present, to savor the moment.

This year, at Portraits that Move, we are taking a slightly different approach to the coming year.  Rather than list out resolutions, ways we want to be different, things we want to change about ourselves or our circumstances, we are choosing to focus on intention.  All of us at Portraits that Move are committing to living and working and observing with intention.  Rather than a resolution to be more, to do more, to change this or that in a quest for a goal, this year, we are listening to that voice that reminds us to stop, to look at our life, at our work and at our goals and to determine how they align with our intention to find joy and to be grateful.

filmmaking family

We are lucky because doing so is exactly how we live out the Portraits that Move mission through the work we do as filmmakers every day.  We get to find and celebrate joy and gratitude every time we document the lives of families, and we have the unique privilege of being able to reflect that joy and gratitude back to them when we deliver their Portrait Films. 

This year, our team will work with all kinds of families.  For each of them, the coming days and months will take twists and turns.  In what seems like a moment, their children will grow, change, discover and surprise them.  In those moments - the unexpected, the everyday and the in between - they will discover joy and gratitude, and we will help them to witness it, and to preserve it. 

new years resolution vs intention

To you, the families we have grown with, and the new families we will meet this year, as you set your goals and state your resolutions, try to remember the peace and togetherness you found in the holiday season, or the peace and togetherness that you may have found at more unexpected, unplanned moments throughout the last year.  Like all of us, you are busy, every day, building your lives and your memories.

Our wish for you, our intention for, and our promise to you in the new year, is that you choose joy and that you choose gratitude through all of the beautiful, messy, ordinary and chaotic days this new year has in store.

Love and Thanks for Sharing a Beautiful Year with Us

Dear Friends,

2016 has been such a wonderful year for us. We were thrilled to release new kinds of videos from Portraits that Move including our Generations Video, the Portraits that Move Baby Video and our brand new gift card (perfect for your last minute holiday gifts!).

We worked with several families for the third year in a row and wrote many blog posts - including some for A Child Grows in Brooklyn.

We were also lucky enough to be featured in Forbes, Working Mother Magazine, the Women Killing It podcast, and NPR's Only Human.

last minute holiday gifts for families

Most of all, though, we were so blessed to have spent time with you and your families. We love all of our time with you and can’t believe our good fortune of getting to do this work. It is deeply fulfilling to share a moment in time with you, to get to know your children and to share in their brilliance. Thank you so much for trusting us, for believing in what we do and for sharing our work with your friends and family.

I want to wish you and yours a happy and healthy holiday season. May it be one that is filled with magic, joy, shimmer and hope.

We look forward to sharing some new things with you in 2017.

Until then, thank you, thank you!

With deep love and gratitude,

Susannah and the Portraits That Move Team

Portraits that Move Review: Dad Calls Video "One Of the Most Valuable Things I Own"

My son Finn was one of the first Portraits that Move videos.  I was a little nervous about it at first.  

He can be shy and reserved with people, especially if he’s the center of attention, but Susannah has a natural kinship with children.

Finn opened up right away, taking the crew on a little tour of his life. He talked about his parents, his room, how much he loves books, then we went to the park to show off his bike.

He felt like a star.

The whole process was so simple, really just the afternoon, and within moments of Susannah’s arrival I knew she could get something special from the day. The results still choke me up, mainly because children change and evolve, sometimes it seems, overnight, but my family now has a moving snapshot of the little person he was at that age.

I really can’t recommend Portraits that Move more to people, and I’m always happy when I see Susannah and her crew in the neighborhood capturing the life of another child. The video is truly one of the most valuable things I own. 

- Michael Buckley, Portraits that Move Dad

On #GivingTuesday

We love #GivingTuesday. We love it because it highlights so much of what we are about at Portraits That Move. Sharing in joy, being generous, helping others and telling important stories are all things that we talk about every day, but especially during the holiday season.

We are giving our time (and our resources) to a number of organizations this year and we wanted to tell you about them, in the hopes that you may be inspired to do the same.

Here is our list: 

Kids in Need Foundation

KINF gives school supplies to children who cannot afford them. The organization has many important programs including backpack drives and a Second Responder Program. We have helped KINF tell their story through making a video about Jayshaun. 

 

Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation

Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation is an organization that supports funding for fighting childhood cancer. They do so both by raising money for scientific research and by helping families who are living with cancer.

Through Portraits that Heal, we create Hero Stories for Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation.

Meet Maggie, whose story we recently had the opportunity to share. 

 

Ronald McDonald House, NYC

Ronald McDonald House is a national organization that supports families of children suffering with chronic illness. They do this by providing an affordable place for families to stay when children are hospitalized for long periods of time.

We shared our experiences with Ronald McDonald House and how it helps to promote gratitude every day.

City Harvest

City Harvest provides food for New York’s hungry. This time of year it is especially important to help take care of the hungry and homeless in our city.

Portraits that Heal

We would be remiss in not mentioning our own Portraits That Heal. We accept contributions towards our work of telling stories of children suffering with childhood illness.

Learn more about Portraits that Heal and let us know if you know about an organization or an individual whose story needs to be told on #GivingTuesday and every day. 

If you know someone who has a sick child whose story needs to be told, tell us and we will do our best to tell it. All children have stories and the legacy of kids with childhood illness is valuable. Help us tell more of their stories.