3 Questions to Ask Your Kids to Connect to Nature and Each Other

The weather is beautiful in NYC today! Take a moment when you can (or even when it’s so busy you feel like you can’t) to ask your kids these three questions. They’ll help you connect to the beauty around you, and to each other.

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So power down those screens, and encourage your kids (littles and bigs) to look up, down, and around. They’ll discover the beauty, the simplicity, and the power of the natural world around them. And you are very likely to be reminded of the beauty, simplicity, and power of the children you are raising. It’s all about those small moments that matter, friends, as we head into Earth Day, and EVERY DAY.

Look Up - What shapes do you see in the clouds?

This one never gets old, but how many times do we stop and ask it? Finding shapes in the clouds is the first step to creating and sharing stories. '

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Before you know it, your kids will be scanning the sky for characters to add to their tales. And you will be joining right along with them. Suddenly, the walk home from school, or the trip to run errands won’t have you feeling so sluggish. You, and your kids start to feel energized by the stories you are creating, the world you are discovering, and the nature all around you that provides an endless source of inspiration.

Look Down - How many sprouts do you see?

Have no fear, city moms, this question is just as much for you as it is for our friends in the suburbs and out in the country. Get your kids to look down at the base of trees as they’re walking along the sidewalk. Ask them to peek in people’s front yards (no matter how small), and even the cracks in the concrete.

How many sprouts can your kids see? Are some of them crocus plants, are others grass? Have them guess what is growing, how big it will get, what color it will be.

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Let their imaginations run wild! Is that little weed you see growing between the sidewalk cracks going to grow up to be a tree? If it did, and we climbed it, where would it go, what would we find? How many birds would call it their home?

With a mix of imagination play and nature learning, you will be amazed by how much creativity and joy you awaken - for your kids and for you!

Look Around - How does this street look different today than it did yesterday?

The world around us is always changing, especially during springtime. Try to catch as many of those moments as you can by taking stock of the space around you and recognizing all the little changes that happen in such a short time.

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This exercise is a great way to get conversations going with your kids, and to challenge them, and you, to really LOOK at everything around you. At first, you may not notice that there are more blooms on the tree, or that the petals are starting to give way to summer style leaves, or that the buds have started to turn into flowers. But when you ask about it, and start to look for changes, and talk about what you see, you and your children will realize everything that happens in a day, and just how lucky we are to be able to experience it.

And that, friends, is a moment that matters.







4 Self Care Tips for Bar Mitzvah Planning Moms

Bar Mitzvah planning is a hectic, often overwhelming process. You are likely to find yourself second guessing, worrying over details large and small, and wondering if you are doing enough to support and celebrate your child. Basically, it's a microcosm of parenting.

There are so many decisions to be made, from the Bar/Bat Mitzvah planner to the venue, to the theme, to the Bar Mitzvah montage video, to the guest lists and seating charts. It is a recipe for stress, especially for already busy moms.

Original Photo by  Lonely Planet  on  Unsplash

Original Photo by Lonely Planet on Unsplash

Work with a Planner and Delegate

Do not attempt this on your own! Hire a Bar Mitzvah planner that you trust, who understands what you want, from the vibe to the budget. When you hire a planner, you are bringing in an expert who will connect you with Bar Mitzvah vendors that save you the stress of feeling like you have to reinvent the wheel, or manage the entire world.

Here’s the catch, though, and it is essential to self care: delegate. Let your planner do what he/she does best and do not stress over whether or not they will do what they say. If you hired the right person, they truly understand what is at stake, and they will not let you down. After all, their business, and their reputation, are on the line.

Delegate to your family, too. Involve your child, who will no doubt have ideas of his/her own. But be sure to come to them with calmness and with appropriate sized jobs and reasonable expectations, otherwise you compound the stress for both of you. Use the planning (and delegating!) process as time to talk with your son or daughter about the experience, and to encourage self care - for both of you – as you prepare.

Be Confident in Your Decisions

Once you make a decision, whether it is about the venue, the Bat Mitzvah dress, or who to invite (or not invite), check it off the list and move on. Nothing is more exhausting (and less productive) than second guessing yourself. Now is not the time to add more exhaustion to your days and nights - you will be busy enough moving on to the next Bar/Bat Mitzvah planning details.

We have seen too many parents about to crumble when they are picking images for the Bar Mitzvah montage portion of our videos. As a parent in the midst of this process, if you don’t take time to slow down and practice a little self care, suddenly, you can’t make a single decision without fearing that it is the wrong one. Remember the advice you got when you brought home the little baby that’s now not so little and nowhere near a baby: you will know what’s best.

You know what’s right for you and for your family. You know the moments that matter most to you and to each other. Those are the moments you want to include in your video, those are the moments that have led to this one. Be confident in all the right decisions that you have made and are making. They are what brought you and your child to this point, and they are what you are celebrating.

Check in with Friends

Way back when you were a new mom, you met a group of friends that were your safe space to ask questions about diaper blowouts and how many times to check on the baby once he finally fell asleep. Guess what? Those same moms are going through the Bar/Bat Mitzvah planning process, too. Rally your group of moms, whether you have been in touch on a daily basis or not. Meet for a drink, have a few laughs, and talk about the ups and downs of this process in a way that only other moms going through it will understand.

Photo by  Becca Tapert  on  Unsplash

Listen to their recommendations about DJs and party supplies, but also ask them the questions you can’t ask anyone else. How am I really going to feel? What happened to my baby? What can we do to support each other from the party details to the new reality of parenting older kids? Just as you supported each other in your early days as moms, you will see the value of supporting each other now – of being heard and understood by people who really get it. There is no substitute for the energy we get from other supportive moms. It’s the perfect way to restore our sense of balance at this time (just be sure this is a circle you trust – we’re talking about collaboration, not competition!).

Step Away and Spend Time with your Child

Let this be your mantra: "this is about my child." Do not lose sight of the reason you are doing all of this Bar/Bat Mitzah planning. This is a time to celebrate your child, and there is no better way to do that than to spend a bit of time with them. Listen to what your son has to say, not just about his Bar Mitzvah theme ideas, but about what the preparation process feels like for him. How is he growing and changing? Does he have any fears about the day? Ask your daughter to show you what she is reading, and how she is preparing. Talk with her about what her Bat Mitzvah experience means, and how it is preparing her for her next steps in life.

These conversations ground us, they restore us. When we take a moment to talk with our children we not only remember what the Bar Mitzvah experience is about. We have the opportunity to practice self care and model that for our children, and we get to move from feeling overwhelmed to feeling excited, and grateful as the day approaches.

- Elizabeth Eames, August 2018

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

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

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

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.

Lessons from My Son in Honor of Mother's Day

I always knew I wanted to be a mother. I have always loved kids and have enjoyed being around them.  As a teenager I babysat and was a camp counselor. I am very close with my mother and have admired her and emulated her. I have found mothering with many other women in my life and have consistently sought it out. Intuitively, I knew that mothering would come easily to me and that I would enjoy it.  

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Motherhood has, however, been wonderful in ways I did not expect. In the past eight years I have learned so much about myself, and about life in general, through the lens of parenthood. In honor of Mother’s Day, I thought I would share some of the surprises that have come along the way:

  • Meaning can come out of the mundane ~ I walk my son to school every morning and in the 9 minutes it takes to do that, we often have profound conversations. I cherish this time with him and the fact that we both know it is something we share. Before I was a parent, I would never have guessed that something so routine as a walk to school could be so important.
  • Joy is everywhere ~ My son loves to laugh, tell jokes and be silly. He can find something funny in almost any situation or setting. I am a more naturally serious person, so seeing life through his eyes has opened me up to much more fun.
  • Things can be healed quickly ~ When there is an issue between my son and I or when I witness one with his friends, I notice that he has the ability to get over things quickly and easily. I have learned from him to let things roll more easily, to focus on the closeness and the positive rather than the negative interaction.
  • Asking for what you want is critical ~ Kids have the ability to be clear about what they want and need and to ask for it. As adults we are much more clouded by what we think SHOULD happen and the rules around that, so we often favor manners over directness.  It has been eye opening to admit that asking for what we need feels good and is the route to honest relationships and deeper fulfillment.

This weekend and always, I celebrate all of our client who are mothers and all of the special women in my life who have mothered my son and me in all kinds of ways. I tell my son every day that I am grateful to be his mom. He laughs it off, but I believe he knows I mean it.  I love this life we have together - the lessons, the surprises and the fun.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Give the Gift of Portraits that Move

Celebrate your family and the lessons you learn and share with your kids this Mother's Day.  Give the gift of a Portrait or Snapshot Film to a mom that matters to you - or to celebrate yourself! 

Happy Mother's Day

To all the moms, grandmothers, special aunts, godmothers and everyone of you who loves and cares for children, we wish you a Happy Mother's Day filled with the joy, pride and love that you find in your children every day.

No matter how you celebrate this weekend, remember to choose joy and remember how loved and appreciated you are.  And how much everything you do matters. We are grateful for you and to be among you. 

Thank you, moms.  Happy Mother's Day! 

With HUGE love,

Susannah

Planning vs. Staying in the Present - A Multitasking Mom's Daily Struggle

Staying present is hard. I am a planner, a list maker, a person who loves structure and organization. It is hard to be a planner and also to be a person who lives in the moment. The planner part of myself takes over.  It keeps the list close, has an ongoing LOUD voice that reminds me of all I have do to do every day.

I feel good when I listen to that voice, when I accomplish and check things off.

 

The deeper, quieter, more soulful part of myself is more knowing. She knows that we have this one moment, this one breath, that it can be taken quickly and over before we know it. She knows from experience how short life is and she whispers to the planner, “slow down, enjoy, be in this moment, savor it… you have this time, this now, this moment, this chance.”

 

The planner usually wins out over the voice that reminds me to stay in the present.  But it is a battle every day, every hour.  I think most moms feel this way.

 

The strength it requires to listen to the voice that keeps us in the present and still feel relaxed when the house is a mess, dinner is not made, work is not done… is some powerful strength.

 

But it is right. This voice, she is wise and soulful and I want to listen to her more.

 

I once heard that what a person teaches is what they most need to learn. I think that applies here. With Portraits That Move, we attempt every day to listen to the voice that keeps us in the present. We want to give you that, because once you see and feel and experience a moment of calm presence, a moment of that simple joy, you want more.

 

Our team, made of professional filmmakers committed to this idea, documents for you the feeling of the present so you can watch the videos and laugh and cry with your children and remember the choice we have every day, every hour, every now.  

 

Please enjoy the gift we are so pleased to share with all of our clients every day.  Now, I am going to go snuggle with my seven year old, while I still can.