Why Mitzvahs, Why Now?

 I wore a white frilly dress and my grandfather’s tallit (prayer shawl.) My hair was permed and my braces had recently been taken off for the event. I felt strong and filled with pride. I was continuing my family’s tradition and it meant something to me. 

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I remember so clearly what it felt like to stand up in front of my friends and family and tell them about how I wanted to contribute to the world and about how the experience of preparing for the special day had changed my perspective. I felt it then and looking back, I still feel that now.

The decision for us to make Mitzvah Videos at Portraits That Move may seem like a bit of a left turn, since so much of what we do is about capturing the average day in the life of kids and their families. It actually isn’t and here’s why.

To me, life is all about the following truths: family, closeness, celebration, tradition, joy and gratitude. Every day that we create videos for Portraits that Move, I have these truths in mind. Making mitzvah videos allows us to create something that is about all of them at one time.

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Bar and Bat Mitzvahs are celebrations with family. They are filled with joy and tradition.  I see a wonderful opportunity to enrich the experience that a family is having by giving them the chance to document their own feelings about the process. This is super empowering for kids and for parents. The result is something that they have to share with their guests and to look at and remember forever.

The empowerment of going through a mitzvah process cannot be underestimated. It can be a defining moment for a child. We want to be part of that - to document that shift and to celebrate, celebrate, celebrate. Let’s celebrate together.

Celebrating 5 Moments that Changed Us

Today, we’re recapping our 5 Moments in 5 Days anniversary celebration. It was hard for us to pick only five moments, because all of the moments we have created, documented and celebrated over the last five years have filled us with joy.

Each of the examples that we chose focuses on our mission of documenting the every day moments that matter to families. They demonstrate how we make and honor history, milestones, legacy and new beginnings every day,. This is exactly what families do, no matter their shape, size, or circumstances. We hope that you enjoy reliving these moments as much as we do, and we are grateful that you continue to share and celebrate your moments with us.

When the Little Moments Add up to the Story of Childhood for Two Siblings

We love working with families like this one year after year. This family hired us to create their first video the year Portraits that Move launched, and we have been documenting their lives ever since. What a wonderful way to preserve the moments that make up a family’s history, as those moments unfold.

Here's a look at the first film we created for them

And here is the most recent film..


Much gratitude to this family who keeps us smiling year after year!

Bringing Together Years of Small Moments for one Big Mitzvah Montage

All of these moments make up the stories of our lives. Mitzvahs provide the perfect opportunity to celebrate that life as it is growing and changing.

In this Mitzvah Montage, we take time to look back on these moments, to celebrate them, and to share them with friends and family who come together to support and honor a child during a milestone moment.

Capturing 3 Generations in One Film

What an amazing opportunity it was to create a film that brought the lives of three generations of one family together in celebration and joy.


As filmmakers, when you work with multiple generations of the same family, you are able to see the large and small ways that each individual’s experiences, observations, and personalities come together to create a complete, rich story of a family.

From the great grandparent down to the newest family member, we are able to see how history, tradition and love come together to create a story that is entirely unique to them, and that, at the same time, resonates with us all.

Meeting Baby, Meeting the World

From the eldest generations to the newest, we delight in bringing moments to life on film. Our Baby Videos are precious, especially when we are able to captured firsts - like baby’s first time touching snow - on video. So much more than a set of infant or baby photos, these moving portraits give us the sights and sounds of a baby. And they allow parents to talk about what it is like in those first few months in an honest, open, and joyful way.


It is often said because it is so true, time moves more quickly than we can imagine. And as much as we are convinced we will remember every detail of our baby’s first months and years, we don’t. They are gone in a flash, and it is so gratifying to have something to look back on to remember exactly how it looked, how it felt, what it sounded like when there was a new baby in your home.

Celebrating Healing

One of the most profoundly gratifying and joyful experiences we have is creating videos for our Portraits that Heal project. In these videos, we honor and celebrate the lives of children who live with chronic, life threatening illnesses.


In addition to demonstrating the resiliency, tenacity, and hope that these children and their families embody every day, our Portraits that Heal videos also remind us, and those who watch them, about the beauty, simplicity and joy of living every day. We are inspired and amazed by these children and we are deeply honored to be able to preserve their lives and their words on film..

Share Your Joy with Us

Contact Portraits that Move to book a video celebrating your family’s daily life, and the history you are making.

2019 Word of the Year - Celebrate!

Do you choose a word of the year every new year? We are big fans of this practice. It helps us focus on a guiding principle that leads to our goals and reminds us to stay grounded in what matters as we start the new year.

Looking at all the opportunities and adventures that lie ahead in 2019, we know that this year at Portraits that Move, what we want to do most, is celebrate!

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Celebrate Moments

Every moment matters, and every moment is worth celebrating. We don't know how many years we get in this life, or what may come our way. What we do know is that every year, and every day, is made up of moments small and large that connect us to each other, that are filled with joy, that remind us of gratitude.

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This year will be filled with moments that make us smile and moments that lead to discoveries, for our children and for ourselves. We’ll have unexpected moments with our children that we look back on and realize were some of the most treasured experiences of our lives, even if those moments are small and simple.

All of this is worth celebrating. It's why we create our films for families, so that the can see and celebrate who they are right now. And so they have something to look back on to celebrate how they became who they are.

Celebrate Milestones

There is nothing like a milestone to ignite celebration, and the joy that parents feel watching their children grow, change, and thrive in the world. That's one of the reasons we love creating Mitzvah videos for families.

Our Mitzvah videos allow families to add a truly special element to a milestone day filled with joy, enthusiasm, and not a small amount of nostalgia (how often we hear from Mitzvah moms and dads that they can't believe how fast the time goes!).

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The thing about celebrating is that it is so much more than the exuberance of a party, just like your child's Bar/Bat Mitzvah is about so much more than all of the perfect party details and exciting extras you have planned for your child and their friends. To truly celebrate our families, ourselves, our lives, is to look at life in all of its dimensions, the small moments and the milestone moments, and to realize how grateful we are for the life we have, for the joy and the challenges that fill our days.

Because time really does go too fast, and if we don't stop to celebrate who we are, where we have been, and where we are going, we will have missed out on the chance to celebrate how sweet and beautiful all of this is.

Celebrate Every Day

Clients, friends, family, that's our wish for you this new year. Find a way to celebrate each other, to celebrate with each other, every day.

We guarantee you will have better days because of it. And we can't wait to celebrate them with you!

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!




Thanksgiving Conversation Starters

We are big fans of Thanksgiving at Portraits that Move because it brings together our favorite things - family and gratitude (and food!).

There is nothing like gathering together around a table to share stories and relish in the small moments that make our lives, especially our family lives, rich and memorable. But, as natural as it is to have conversations with our loved ones, the conversation doesn’t always flow naturally.

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Don’t worry. We’re here to help you get the conversation started and keep it going this year at your Thanksgiving table. Try these tips for a fun, stress-free Thanksgiving for families of all ages and sizes. Our conversation starters and Thanksgiving table games are guaranteed to bring joy to your table, and to teach you things about your family that you never knew.

Make the Alphabet Game the Gratitude Game

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 Thanksgiving 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.

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.

Popsicle Stick Conversation Starters

Craft stick conversation starters are one of our favorites! We have a complete DIY guide to creating these fun, reusable conversation starters that are perfect for Thanksgiving table games and throughout the year.

DIY Popsicle Stick Conversation Starters for Kids and Tweens
What you need:
2 mason jars
1 pack of large craft sticks
markers (we chose brightly colored and metallic Sharpies to make it extra fun)
a list of creative questions for kids

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See more suggestions and tips for creating your own craft stick conversation starters. For Thanksgiving, you can customize the colors, add festive stickers and coordinate your sticks to go with your table and decor themes. It’s a great way to get the kids involved in holiday prep and to keep their hands busy while you are finishing up your last minute cooking and decorating!

Favorite Things and Follow-Ups

After everyone is seated at the table, instruct them to put their place cards in a hat (or a pumpkin, cornucopia or Thanksgiving themed cup!). The person at the head of the table pulls out one name at a time and asks that person to name one of their favorite things.

After that person shares a favorite thing, encourage everyone else around the table to ask questions about it so they can learn more. Questions can include “has that always been one of your favorites?” “What makes you like that so much…”

Other favorite things follow-ups should include things like “That’s a great book! When I was your age, my favorite book was…”

This is an easy way to learn more about each other. Favorites and follow-ups is a particularly good game if you have tweens and teens at your table who want to share but don’t always know how, and who sometimes feel too on the spot when they are barraged with questions. The key to getting kids to talk honestly and openly is to create space in which they feel comfortable, rather than exposed.

Cheers to comfortable spaces, laughter around tables, and conversations that create memories well beyond the holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving!

When Mother's Day is Hard

If you know one thing about Portraits that Move, it is that we love to celebrate life's moments of all sizes.  Our love of celebration most most certainly includes holidays, and Mother's Day holds a special place in our hearts.

As much as we love celebrating our fellow moms, we understand all too well that Mother's Day can be a painful holiday for many.  Many of us have experienced a complicated journey to motherhood, or have found that our motherhood experiences are in sharp contrast with our expectations.  We know that Mother’s Day, more often than not, can be a reminder of our losses more than a celebration of our lives.

For these reasons and so many more, as Mother’s Day approaches, we are working hard to pause, to create space for feeling, working through, and sharing all of our emotions surrounding this holiday that ends up being much more than a Hallmark moment, whether or not we had planned for that.

Our message to you this week is simple.  As you prepare for Mother's Day weekend, we invite you to look to your children for lessons and to let them take the lead in celebrating the holiday.  It is inspiring – and so impressive – to see what children are able to do when we create space for them to be heard, to share their emotions, their enthusiasm, and their ideas.

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This weekend, remember to flex those muscles that motherhood hones so well: patience, gratitude, openness.  Acknowledge and honor your losses privately and with those you love.  Release your expectations for the perfect day (it doesn’t exist!).  Resist the temptation to compare your day, and the feelings you have about Mother’s Day, to your Instagram feed.  Remember to celebrate your family, your motherhood journey, and your experiences, however imperfect you may think they are.

Happy Mother's Day,

The Portraits that Move Team

Our Mother's Day Gift to You

Schedule a Portraits that Move Signature Portrait consultation by the end of the month (May 31, 2018) and get 25% off, with code #HAPPYMOMDAY

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

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

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.

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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.

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. 

How We are Celebrating Volunteer Week at Portraits that Move

I have been trying to teach my son about the value of service, of giving back and volunteering.  National Volunteer Week is a great time to put those lessons into practice for him, for me, and for Portraits that Move. 

I have vivid memories of volunteering with my synagogue as a young child. We went to an elderly care center and performed for the senior citizens there. It was moving and emotional and made me feel proud to have added some joy to their day.  And that lesson of going into the community and sharing joy and support stays with me to this day. 

 

As a parent, I am often trying to find ways to weave this lesson into our daily life. This week, my son and I and made sandwiches at a soup kitchen. It was fun, easy and meaningful. He told me that he was happy that the men would not have to look for lunch that day and that it made him feel good to have helped them.

 

In the collaborations for Portraits That Move, we make it part of our mission to give back and to inspire others to contribute their time, attention and compassion, too. Recently, we created a Kickstarter campaign video for a local family who is opening a children’s book store in Brooklyn.

 

Inspired by our work with Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, we walk in the Alex’s Million Mile event every fall and hold lemonade stands throughout the summer to support this organization that helps bring joy and hope to so many children and their families.

 

 

We also support the Kids In Need Foundation, an organization that supplies schools supplies to kids who would not otherwise be able to have them. 

 

Volunteering teaches kids that the world is bigger than they are and that it is important to give back to those who are in need. Ultimately, volunteering, and participating in Volunteer Week in whatever ways we can, is a gift we give to ourselves.  And it is easy to incorporate into our lives.

 

How do you and your family give back? What suggestions do you have for others looking to do the same?  Share with us! 

We're Turning Two

We’re celebrating!

This week marks TWO years since we launched Portraits That Move. It has been incredibly joyous, as we have so loved getting to know all of our families, spending time with their children and creating treasures for them to enjoy for years to come. We made this little video to celebrate our anniversary:

I have enjoyed thinking about innovative ways to meet families and dreaming up new ways to serve them. I view this work as an offering, a way to share our joie di vivre, and our philosophy about being present in each and every moment.

In the year ahead we will be releasing some new types of videos, referral discounts, video packages, and new opportunities for us to document your beautiful moments. Stay tuned for a;; these great things!

I am looking forward to meeting new families and I hope our existing clients continue to come back for more, so we can share with them, the beautiful ways in which their children have grown.

Most of all, from the bottom of my heart, I wanted to say thank you. Thank you for believing in this work, for becoming our clients, for reading this blog, for sharing our videos and spreading the word - and thank you for trusting us. You have allowed my dream to come true and I am grateful beyond measure.

And now, thanks for celebrating with us! You know I love any excuse to party, and this is a pretty amazing one.

With much love and gratitude

~ Susannah

With Gratitude on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love the food, the chance to be with family - the formal kick-off to the holiday season. It is also the week of my son’s birthday - the most empowering day in my life so far - a moment I love to remember and cherish.

Most of all, though, any formal reason to express and discuss gratitude is significant to me. Personally, I feel gratitude every day that I wake up alive, every morning I see my son’s smile for the first time - every time I get a moment to be in nature and look up at the sun. I have a daily gratitude practice that keeps my life centered and filled with optimism and my son and I practice gratitude together each day.

I recently created a video for a client who did the same with her sons. It was wonderful to hear what they were thankful for.

At our table this year, my nephew mentioned he was grateful for his parents, my other nephew was grateful for stairs.  Here is my quick gratitude list today:  I am grateful for my health, my son, my parents and family, pumpkin pie (my favorite!), the coffee my father made me this morning, and the tremendous gift of getting to do this work  that I love.

Thank you for working with Portraits that Move, for allowing us into your homes, for letting us get to know your families, for sharing your truths and for reading here on the blog. I am deeply grateful, more than you can ever imagine.

Happy Thanksgiving!

On Birthdays, Thankfulness and Documenting

This month I had a birthday. It was a quiet but joyful one. I spent the day doing things I love, walking in my neighborhood, eating yummy food, and speaking to loved ones near and far. It was not what I expected or planned, but it filled me up. I felt loved, I felt connected and I felt grateful.

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I think every year we are here and get the privilege of having another birthday is miraculous. Every morning that we get to wake up and have another day is worth celebrating.  And this value is at the core of Portraits That Move.

We love holidays and birthdays, of course. They are important to recognize and gather around. But it is the small moments, the everyday meals and walks, experiences and time together that bring us deep joy.

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On my birthday this year, I felt both ways. I loved that it was my day and I loved hearing from those whom I love. And I loved that it was a Sunday, like any other, and that I am alive.

That, in and of itself, is worth documenting and celebrating.  

What a Multigenerational Vacation Taught Me about the Past and the Future

We recently returned from a lovely two week vacation with my parents. It was incredible. We had amazing weather, the idyllic setting of Cape Cod, delicious food and many of the summer adventures and activities that one thinks of when they imagine a summer vacation filled our weeks.

cape cod multigen vacation

The best part of all, though, was spending that time with my parents. My family lives in Philadelphia and we see them frequently. Typically, though, it is just for a day here or a couple days there. This summer, we had the gift of more than two weeks.

My son and my parents have always been close, and I am so deeply grateful that we had this extended time together. It is in the small moments of this type of time and space that the most important memories are made. My son did enjoy the miniature golf games, ice cream and sailing adventures, but if you asked him about the highlights of his vacation, he would cite reading next to my father, making ice cream with my mom and playing catch in the pond with me.

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And with these actions comes a deeper knowing, a relaxation, an ease and a closeness. It is also with this time and its ordinary conversations that the deeper reveals happen.

My parents spoke to my son about their childhoods and mine. They imparted quiet lessons to him and most of all they just enjoyed each other and loved each other.

Frank Bruni wrote an op-ed piece about this in the New York Times and he took the words out of my mouth.

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While on this multigenerational vacation, I realized again how grateful I am for the technology we have and for our ability to document moments like these.

When my son grows up and thinks about this summer, we will have photos and videos to share, along with our memories. They are gifts that will keep on giving, they give my son and I the ability to return to the wisdom, the closeness and the love of his grandparents.  

On Gratitude, Ronald McDonald House and Teaching Our Children

I recently did some work filming at a Ronald McDonald House in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The Ronald McDonald Organization is a national charity that provides housing for families when their children are having extended stays in the hospital.

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At each location they offer housing, a kitchen, and other support services for families to make the challenges of their situation a bit easier.

Their mission is to keep families together, as they believe that in doing so, there is healing for everyone involved in dealing with childhood illness.

As I spoke to some of the families, my perspective shifted. It is easy to take things for granted when our children are healthy and our families are home. The families I filmed are grateful for having a meal cooked for them, access to wi-fi, a bedroom that feels personal, and smiles from people who are familiar when they are far from home.

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Listening to these families, I saw that their gratitude was deep, overwhelming and intense. It created opening and closeness.

Talking to Kids about Gratitude

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.

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.

Daily Awareness of Gratitude

In that spirit, today I am grateful for

  • My son
  • My good health
  • My family and dear friends
  • The beautiful morning light coming in the window as I write this
  • The gift of getting to do what I love
  • The good books I have read this summer and the joy of reading
  • The challenge and fun of writing this blog
  • The day ahead

Sharing What We Are Thankful For

What are you grateful for?

How does gratitude open a conversation in your family?

On Freedom

Freedom is a word that has come up a lot in the last week.  As we gear up to celebrate our country’s birthday, we have gratitude for the freedoms we have in this nation. They feel meaningful, important and unifying.

In the last week, thoughts about freedom have felt even more significant in celebrating the United States Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage. Over the years I periodically have participated in gay pride celebrations, but this year I decided that it was important to bring my son to the Gay Pride parade in New York City.

I knew it would be fun, a big party, flamboyant and joyous. What I did not expect was the flood of emotions I would feel to be there. Every cheer felt soulful, every moment of applause extra vibrant. I wept and cheered and wept some more. And my son was in it with me. He laughed and we danced and he cheered and was fully present in the celebration.

 

When I think about the fact that gay marriage will be legal for his generation and generations after that, without question - I feel overwhelmed with joy. It is incredible to think of a future where everyone can have whatever type of family they choose. This is the definition of freedom to me. We have so much to celebrate today and every day.


What does freedom mean to you? How do you celebrate it? How do you document that celebration?

Celebrating Father’s Day - and My Dad

I love any excuse to celebrate, especially one that honors our family. As far as fathers go, I hit the jackpot. And, to be honest I have struggled to write this because it is difficult to express how much my father means to me (and my son) within the limitations of a single blog post.

One of my favorite pictures ever - my father with his mother, Rose and my son

One of my favorite pictures ever - my father with his mother, Rose and my son

My father, Steve, is the perfect combination of attributes that make any parent an ideal one. He is quiet and strong, yet filled with enthusiasm. He is a hard worker and an excellent provider, yet is always present at every important event. He is an incredible listener, amazing husband, brother, teacher, colleague, friend and grandfather. His joie di vivre is infectious - he is always up for a new adventure or experience, yet loves his home and creating a home. My father is highly creative, generous and loving. Being in his presence is a gift.

My father has always made me feel like he had full confidence in me, and in my dreams. It has felt as if, in his mind, there is nothing that was impossible for me to do or be.

Watching him with my son has been nothing short of blissful. They both treasure their time together and my son often asks about my father… what he would think of something, what he is doing, where he is at any given moment. 

 

So today, in honor of my dad, I celebrate all the fathers we love. The ones who work hard and play hard. The ones who bring joy to their children and to their families. Those who we are close to, and those who we have recently had the privilege of getting to know.  Here’s to you! 

I hope you feel as loved and as celebrated as you make us feel every day.

 

Honor the fathers in your life in a special way with a Father’s Day Portrait from Portraits that Move.

Remembering Albert Maysles - Father of the Modern Documentary - and Mentor

I want to take a moment and pay tribute to Albert Maysles, who passed last week. Albert was considered the father of the modern documentary and even more than that, he was a beloved husband, father, friend, teacher and mentor to so many young filmmakers.

Albert Maysles, photo via IMDB

I had the wonderful blessing of working with Albert on two films and being in his presence was life changing. He was full of light - his energy and enthusiasm for life lit up a room and were contagious. He loved filmmaking and people and the fact that he got to spend his life making films about people. He was warm and loving and filled with fun. He had more energy than most people I know, even people much younger than he. Most of all, Albert Maysles had a strong passion and commitment to truth, to intimacy in filmmaking and to beauty.
 
His philosophy was to “get close,” and to “love your subject.” When you watch his films, you can feel that. Every frame is filled with love and admiration for them.  It is beautiful and heartfelt. This philosophy has certainly influenced our approach at Portraits That Move. We love every child we have the great opportunity to spend time with. I feel lucky to have been able to get to know Albert Maysles, to learn from him and to bask in a few moments of his beauty.

Thank you, Albert, what a gift your life has been.

Thank you - The Best Prayer Anyone Could Say

“'Thank you' is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding.”

-Alice Walker

This month marks a year since we publicly announced the launch of Portraits That Move, and what an incredible one it has been.

Who could have predicted that, when the inspiration hit me – in the middle of the night, no less – how deeply meaningful this work would be for me and how much passion it would inspire in me on a daily basis.  It has been completely amazing in all senses of the word.

yearofjoy

So, in celebration of our first year, and in consideration of the quote above from Ms. Walker, it’s my turn to offer up my sincere gratitude for the Portraits That Move adventure so far.

First, I am so grateful to the kids who have let us videotape them. It is not always easy to have someone asking questions and a camera there- but all of the kids were incredible. They were present and joyful, they were honest, and they had fun. I laughed and learned at every single shoot.

girl drawing year of joy

Second, thank you to the parents who have become our clients - for trusting me with your children and for believing in the importance of documenting our lives. It has been with tremendous joy that we have done this work. Thank you for allowing us to do it and for spreading the word to friends and family, and for supporting us in all the ways that you have.

As well, thank you to the whole Portraits That Move team – the best team ever. Every one of you is special and crazy talented, and brilliant, and energetic and generous. I am grateful for all of you. The teamwork makes the journey even sweeter.  

family documentaries

Of course, without the backing of my friends and family, I would have given up 11 months ago.  Your support has been limitless and there are not enough words to tell all of you how much it means to me.  Thank you!

And finally, I am most grateful to my son. To be his mom every day - to see the world through his eyes and his voice - it is truly the greatest gift of my life.

city kids striped sweater brick wall

Thank you all for your words of kindness, for joining us on social media, and for being a part of our community.   Stay connected for special offers, new announcements and sneak previews: join our community mailing list today.

With much love,

Susannah