Break Out of Busy

The end of the school year comes with a rush of concerts, recitals, championship games, school events and graduations. It is an exciting time to celebrate your child’s accomplishments and the friendships you have made over the course of the school year. It can also be insanely busy. Like, makes the holiday season look restful busy.

So, how do you enjoy this busy season instead of getting overwhelmed by it?

Listen to Your Child

Make time to talk with your children. Ask them questions and remember to take the time to listen to the answers they give you. Do they need a break?

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If there is a party they want to skip and they can skip it, let them. Sometimes less really is more, so let your children lead you and give them the space to rest if they feel like they need to tap out and take time to restore their energy.

Stay Present in the Moment

Put down your camera. Set aside your To Do List, and engage all of your senses in the moment that you are experiencing. If your child is performing a song she has written, listen to it, look at her. Take in the moment for what it is.

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These moments are short, even though they represent so much preparation and progress. Do everything you can to recognize and appreciate them for what they are - and to encourage your children to do the same - rather than racing from one calendar alert to the next.

Celebrate Each Other

There is a reason why celebrate is our Word of the Year. It is so important to celebrate each other and the wonderful things we do together and on our own. Your children feel proud and happy when you celebrate them and the work they have done.

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As a parent, when you take the time to celebrate, you are also taking the time to slow down and savor the moment. You are giving yourself permission to enjoy things for what they are and to enjoy each other for who you are.

You may still feel exhausted at the end of the school year, but you certainly won’t feel like it was wasted time.

Change is the Constant, and So is Gratitude

My son has decided to grow out his hair- that is after we briefly dyed it purple. He is experimenting with his appearance even while he is still losing teeth. He likes to ask questions and then make jokes about sexuality which seems so grown up but then he  still sometimes wants a favorite stuffed animal to snuggle with.

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He wants to make pillow forts with me and then wants only to talk to his friends. One minute, he is doing impressions of Donald Trump at the family dinner table and the next he is moody and wants to be left alone with the dreaded video games.

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It is a changeable time and one that is uncertain for both of us. And with each new stage of parenting, I am trying to ride the wave, to take it as it comes and to sit with the moments of joy. I am deeply aware that the time is flying, soon he will not want to be with me and that will be appropriate. Soon, he will choose friends over movie nights at home. So, I cherish it all (even the moodiness.) And, I remain grateful, to have this experience, this human, this love in my life.

 And I am grateful to have documented him when I did, because when I miss that six year old smile, I can always look back, remember and celebrate him then and now.

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.







3 Things for Busy Moms to Do this Spring

Spring is almost here, in spite of the chill in the air here in NYC. So we’re sharing a new approach to Spring Cleaning, tailored for busy moms like us.

This spring, we’re finding ways of celebrating the every day, because “every moment matters” is more than how we describe our work, it is how we live our lives.

Stop asking "how was your day"

Avoid this question if you really want answers!

To really connect with your kids, and to get the conversation going, try some of our tips from the start of the school year.

Are these strategies working for you? What are you doing to start quality conversations with your kids? And how are you finding the time?

Choose one simple way to connect with your kids

You don’t have to be Mary Poppins to create special moments for your kids. And you don’t have to plan elaborate vacations or custom play spaces to enjoy some time together.

In fact, even small interactions like cooking a meal together, sitting around the table (it doesn’t have to be a holiday!), watching their favorite TV show with them, or listening to them describe something that they love - a hobby, sport, art project or video game) - can go a long way.

Take some time for self-care

Remember the advice they give on planes to put on your oxygen mask before assisting others when things get hectic.

Photo by  Becca Tapert  on  Unsplash

The spring season is often full of family events and major milestones (Mitzvahs, graduations, weddings). In all that excitement, and during all that preparation, the small moments that matter can get lost, especially if you’re not finding little ways to remind yourself that you matter. Practice self-care when you’re busy, not just when you feel like you have the space to carve out “me time.”

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!




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.

Camp Lessons for Mom

This summer I experienced one of the great rites of passage of parenthood, I dropped off my son at sleep away camp. I had spent weeks, putting together all the things he would need. I had mailed letters to him in advance of his departure and given him tons of extra hugs. Since I felt anxious about the separation, I read a book about it, Homesick and Happy, by Michael Thompson.

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On the day we got to camp, it was a sunny, beautiful day. The weather was perfect. Music blared from loud speakers. The staff was welcoming. It seemed like a big, fun party in a gorgeous location. We got my son settled in to his bunk, made his bed, put his things away and made introductions to his counselors and bunkmates.

When the time came to leave, I had a pit in my stomach. But then something amazing happened. In an instant, my son had his bathing suit on and was making plans with his new friends to swim in the lake. He was excited and already engaged. He barely said goodbye to us.

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And suddenly, I did not feel sad anymore. I felt the relief of knowing that the decision we made to send him to camp was the right one for him. He was ready and now was his time to grow. And I guess, as his mom, I was ready to grow too.

The pace of parenthood always moves me. It goes by so fast. Yet, somehow, when we take time to stop, be present and trust in the growth, it can be beautiful.

Those are the moments we capture on film. Those are the moments we return to when we need them most – as filmmakers and as parents.

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

What Do Our Children Really Think about the Holiday Season?

Busy parents are a whole new kind of busy when the holiday season kicks into gear.  We have all seen that mom - or been that mom - who is running around to holiday shows, parties, picking out gifts for teachers, wrapping late into the night, and baking... and baking... and baking.

By the time we get the chance to sit down and enjoy a meal or a party with our family, those of us moms who have been running around since the week before Thanksgiving making lists and checking them more than twice, are ready to drop.  In our quest to create seasonal magic for everyone around us, we have exhausted ourselves.  And we have to wonder, have we exhausted our kids, too? 

Is there any joy left to the season, or did we schedule and plan our way out of it?

It's time to rewind and slow down before our kids become as overwhelmed as we are and the first step to doing that is by asking our children.

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Asking the right questions and creating space to really listen to our children helps us to determine what traditions matter to them, and what we should skip this year.

Their answers might surprise you.  Maybe they enjoy doing a holiday craft or taking out ornaments with their baby pictures on them.  Maybe they look forward to watching a favorite movie because they like how you sing the words to all the songs and, more than anything, our children want to see us happy.  They want to know that they can bring us joy and we can share joy with them.

The gifts, the parties, the Instagram-ready decorations and desserts can be wonderful, but ask your children what moments really matter to them, what moments they think of when they consider what the holidays mean to them.  The moments might be smaller than you think, and far more special.

From all of us at Portraits that Move, we wish you a season filled with the small moments that matter, with the people that truly bring you joy.

A Gift for You

Purchase a Signature Portrait by December 31, 2017, and receive a 20% discount with code HOLIDAY2017.

Maybe the fact that we can't slow down time is not a bad thing

Often as my son heads back to school, I am reminded of the "what I learned on my summer vacation" assignment.  Since I am always looking for new ways to tell stories and learn lessons from my experiences and the experiences of those around me, I explored the question for myself.

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The answer might be a bit surprising, and I am excited to share it with you and to hear your thoughts.

What I learned on my summer vacation is this: maybe the fact that we can't slow down time is not a bad thing.

The speed at which time moves, which seems to feel even faster for parents, as we all can attest, reminds us that these moments are worth preserving, remembering and returning to for glimpses at what was and clues into what is to come.

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On our annual trip to Cape Cod, it struck me how much my son has grown over the year since we last visited our favorite place.  His observations, insights and interests have changed so much.  It made me nostalgic for the moments we have shared - the times when he needed to hold my hand on our hikes, the times before he was able to swim on his own.  At the same time, I felt proud to share this life with him, proud of who he is and who he is becoming. 

I can picture him now bringing his own family here, telling me stories and making me laugh, as he has always done so brilliantly.

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This is why, for me, documenting moments so that we are able to return to those stories, those jokes, those moving images of our lives up to this point is such a unique and beautiful gift.  All of those moments have led us to the here and now and they pave the way for the future.

As I celebrate change and look ahead to growth and opportunities for my family, I am all the more grateful to have small, treasured moments in time that I am able to view and to share.  I see now so clearly that our story is woven with what was, what is, and what will be, and I can’t imagine what it would be like to leave even one chapter of that story undocumented and uncelebrated.

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.

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.

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.

Keep the Conversation Going: How to Communicate and Connect with Kids from Wherever You Are

This morning I boarded a plane for a work trip to Orlando to attend a board meeting for the Kids in Need Foundation. I was looking forward to the trip. I am proud of the work we do and I always leave our meetings feeling inspired and energized.

Still, I felt sad as I said goodbye to my son. I hate missing time with him. And even though the tasks of parenting can sometimes feel monotonous, I enjoy making his lunch, our walks to school and our evening routines.

This morning he seemed a bit quiet which made me feel that he was having similar feelings. At nine years old, he may not be able to express them, but I think any time we are separated from our children there is a slight amount of discomfort for everyone involved. And perhaps with children of divorce this may be even more so. 

It got me thinking about how to stay close to him while I am traveling. How can we both stay in tune with each other when we are hundreds of miles away? I think technology is an amazing tool we can use. I will facetime to connect with my son when he gets home from school. I will show him my hotel room and encourage him to do the same for me. I’d like to see his homework sheet, his dinner, the smile on his face. 

And we can stay close by asking some good, deep questions. Here are some questions that evoke answers that go beyond yes or no:

  • What was your favorite part of your day today?
  • What was the worst part?
  • Did someone do something for you that made you feel really special?
  • Who did you have lunch with?
  • What is new with your friends (and name them specifically)?
  • Did you learn something today that made you feel excited? If so, what was it?

I will also tell my son details about my day, the same way I do at home. That way he has a sense of where I am and what is happening. I will do the same tomorrow, all the while, reassuring him that I will be home tomorrow evening. It will be great to be reunited and in the meantime, we will stay close and our conversations will continue.

 

Parent Challenge: Reactivate and Celebrate Imagination

I have been lucky to have had Elizabeth Eames as part of the Portraits that Move family for the last couple years. Liz has helped me to clarify and  communicate my vision for the company with leadership and with love and I am so happy when she shares some of her thoughts on parenting, life and joy with us on the blog, as she did here, and as she does today.

This piece is a reminder to our children, and to ourselves, that we can dream and we can achieve, whether we aim to be the first female president, to make art that moves people's hearts, or to do things, big and small, that make this world a better place.

Do you ever have one of those moments when you think that kids have it all figured out?  A moment you are sure that, even though we are the ones making the lunches and the appointments, registering for all the classes, finding the best this and researching the right that, that it’s our kids who possess a certain kind of wisdom that we lack?  A wisdom that we may have had, once, but can’t seem to access or to activate?

I had one of those moments this Halloween, walking through my neighborhood that had been transformed into a series of haunted houses and pumpkin patches, a place that seemed to have been taken over by the power of imagination and a collective desire to tell stories, and to play.

And our children led this transformation.  On Halloween, we give our kids license to let their imaginations run away with them, more so than we seem willing, or able, to do on the average Monday afternoon.  And they embrace it, they take to it like it is their natural state.  Because, perhaps, it is.

They pull on their costumes and it is less about knocking on doors and asking for candy and more about embodying the stuff of their imagination, becoming the wolf, or the tiger, or the superhero of their dreams.

Halloween tips parenting imagination creativity portraits that move elizabeth eames

As I watch my friends who have children older than mine, for whom fall has come to mean middle school and high school open houses, test preparation, and weighty decision after weighty decision, I am all the more aware of what a special day Halloween has become, of what a treat it is to allow our children to imagine, and to play. All too quickly, the time of vivid imagination and abandon fades as our kids move from one stage to the next. As adults, we end up having to relearn how to connect with imagination and how to let go if we want rich, creative lives.  If we want the kind of lives we are working so hard to build for our children.

This week, as you are cleaning up candy wrappers and marking down all of the November events on your master calendar, take this challenge with me. Try to contain your anxiety about your children’s future, about what they will do, about who they will be, and revel in what they are doing now, truly look at who they are right now, in all their messy, wonder-filled glory.  Put the brakes on competition among our children and among ourselves.  Use the moment that they are running down the street a little farther from you than they could have last year, skipping and singing, roaring and clanging their imaginary swords, to realize that they are exactly what they should be.  They are children, finding perfect joy in a perfect moment.  And we should, too. 

- Elizabeth Eames, November 2016

A Surprise Party

This past Sunday my sister visited us for brunch.  I cooked and then we went for a walk to the local playground. We hung out there for a while and then went home.  That was when an incredible thing happened: I was given a surprise birthday party. 

lessons learned surprise party portraits that move

If you know me, you know that I LOVE my birthday. I love everything about it, the gathering of friends, the well wishes and of course the cake. I feel deeply grateful to be alive every year and I love celebrating that. But a surprise party - wow!!! That takes the feeling to a whole other level. It was incredible. 

And that got me thinking about surprises - how they feel and what they bring up for us. After feeling the adrenal rush from the surprise, I was, of course, happy and filled with gratitude. A surprise party forces presence. You are with your feelings in that moment. And everyone attending is with you in that moment, those feelings, as well. It is a pretty miraculous thing.

presence and surprise parenting tips managing emotions

A couple of the kids there had never been to a surprise party.  They were riveted and excited. Even my son, who is pretty cool most of the time, said, "Mind Blown, Mom." 

I wondered how could we prepare our kids for such quick gear shifts, when surprises come in the form of parties, or other unexpected events. Is there some way to teach our children ease and peace in these kinds of situations? And at the same time how do we encourage the fun and exuberance that they feel naturally? 

Most of all, and my surprise party was still another way to reinforce this lesson, we need to teach our children that the passage of time is important and meaningful, as is the ability to be present to experience the moments that mark, and make our time together. 

It is truly incredible that we get to be here every new year, celebrating, and it is my birthday wish that we continue to do so, by sharing our stories and documenting our lives, together. 

When Our Children Stop Needing Us, What Happens to Our Connection?

I have been lucky to have had Elizabeth Eames as part of the Portraits that Move family for the last couple years. Liz has helped me to clarify and  communicate my vision for the company with leadership and with love. We recently had a touching conversation about the bittersweet feelings that accompany our children growing older. I encouraged Liz to write her thoughts and feelings. The result is the beautiful blog post below. I am grateful for her contribution, I hope you will feel the same.

My daughter is six years old and up to this point, time has been marked by milestones that help her to need me less.  Before we head into the Big Kid Years and careen into the tweens and teens, we look at the passing of time as the gaining of independence, and the ease that comes with it.  I eagerly awaited the new things that we could do together - our conversations, the opportunity for me to hear her observations, her own stories.  I couldn’t wait for the day I could take her by the hand and walk to the subway, the two of us heading off on an adventure together.  No diaper bag, no stroller, no extras toys to keep her occupied.

The summer my daughter was an infant, I looked forward to the next year, when she would be running around in the sand.  The summer she was a toddler, I looked forward to next year, when I wouldn't have to pack diapers or plan around naps.

There were days, early on, that I admit to feeling a sense of relief when veteran moms told me how quickly time passes.  Sometimes, we lose sight of the short years when we feel trapped in the long days.

connection parenting when they dont need us eeames

But something happened this summer.  While she was swimming farther and farther away and I was standing, watching.  Something happened when she was snuggled up next to me listening while I was reading.

Six years old.  This feels like a tipping point.  The changes time is bringing aren’t so much making it easier for us to be together, easier for us to get through our day – our shared day – as they are giving her the chance to make each day, each experience more her own.  And that is exciting.  And it is humbling.  It feels, now, like we are not only gaining with time, we are losing.  Losing the need for constant attention, losing the need for help with little things.  All those little things that connected us.  That kept us close together, in our space and in our hearts.

Next summer, she won’t need me to read her The House at Pooh Corner, the funny book with all those Chapters.  The book that launched her into hours of playtime, and inspired her to get lost in her imagination.  Will she want me to read to her?  Will she ask me to, if she does?  Will she invite me into her imagination?  Will she allow herself to spend enough time there?

In our rush to achieve, in our desire to look ahead to the next milestones, the easier day that’s around the corner, are we forgetting the joy of the journey?  Are we hurrying to a time when we remember the past fondly, forgetting that so much of that past was spent looking to the future?

I want to remember these moments, the summer of independence that we shared.  The start of a school year that I know is pulling her away from me and towards herself and all that knowledge and friendship and imagination will help her to uncover about the world. 

I want to be present, to be present for what is, right now, for her and for me and for us.  And as we look ahead and dream together, and look back and remember, I want to find - and to honor - what connects us.  Maybe that connection is need.  The need to love and be loved, the need to find and share joy, the need to embrace the life and the time we have been given.  And to celebrate it, together.

- Elizabeth Eames, September 2016

Activities with Kids that Spark Conversation

Engaging our kids in activities that make them feel comfortable, creative, inspired and open encourages them - and makes them feel comfortable  to have good, honest conversations with us.

Because celebrating the real voices of our kids, their insights, dreams, observations, and joy is so much a part of our mission as filmmakers, we have come up with some ideas for fun activities that create conversation.  These are great things to do over summer vacation and throughout the year.

Play Outside

The outdoors is full of inspiration for kids and adults. As stimulating as the out of doors is, it is free of the distractions of home.  You won't be tempted to try and put away all the toys in the playroom or check your email "just one more time" when you are outside, immersed in nature. 

activities with kids

Playing a game of catch, going on a nature walk, collecting shells, or searching for the perfect shady spot in the park all provide opportunities to ask and answer questions about the world around us and to get insight into what is on our children's minds and in their hearts.

Go For a Walk

Again, you are limiting the distractions that try to steal attention away from our kids, and you are limiting the distractions that prevent kids from focusing on their thoughts and engaging in conversation with us (it's pretty difficult to answer a question fully when they are indulging in some screen time).

take a walk together stop and smell the roses

Walking together gives your child the chance to fill you in on his or her day.  If possible, walk home from camp or from school.  Ask a mixture of precise and open-ended questions to remind them of different moments in the day, and to get a sense of what they enjoyed, what they didn't, and what those moments made your child think about and feel.  

Questions like "what was the best part of your day" or "who did you sit with at lunchtime" are easier for kids to answer than "how was your day."

Build Something Together

When we work on something together we need to communicate and to focus.  All of this helps to create a comfortable environment for conversation and for sharing.  We feel connected when we are working on a project together and kids gain confidence and feel proud when they are able to build something from start to finish. 

build something together

Get out some puzzles, look through craft books and science experiments and find a project that is challenging but not intimidating, that is collaborative and fun.  Talk with your kids first and let them help you choose what project you want to do together.  Talk about why you are choosing that project and talk, as you go, about what comes next, how the steps connect, and who should do what to make your project work.

Learn Something Together

It's good for our kids to see that we can still learn something.  Kids feel less shy when they see that we also need to go step by step and they feel excited, right along with us, as we make progress to learn something new.  

learn something together

Learn simple sign language, or try another new language (especially if your child is taking lessons in school or through an afterschool program).  Discover facts about animals or regions of the world, try out some new dance steps, or go to a music class together.  Learning something new together gives you a sense of shared accomplishment.  You can practice together and discover together, all the while nurturing an environment of communication, trust and support.

Cook a Meal

Integrate conversation and special time with your kids into your daily life.  Cook breakfast or dinner together.  Let your child help you choose what to make and include him or her in the preparation process.  Reading recipes and measuring ingredients helps younger kids build literacy and math skills and making a meal together sets the stage for good conversations.

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If you are making breakfast, talk about your plans for the day.  If you are making dinner, talk abut your favorite moments of the day.  Talk about ingredients, flavors, and family traditions.  Preparing and eating food is a time honored way of connecting and sharing with others.  Using this time intentionally with our kids passes along traditions and infuses an everyday task with joy.

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.  

mothers day portraits that move mother and son lessons

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! 

I Never Want to Forget these Moments

Parents tell our Portraits that Move producers all the time that they never want to forget the precious, fleeting moments of their children's early years.  These moments are not limited to the milestones - the moments like the first day of school, graduations, and other celebrations.  For the milestone moments you, or a professional is at the ready with the camera. 

socer sibling photo portraits that move

But those little moments, those blink of an eye, moving moments are harder to remember.

What moments do you never want to forget?

When my daughter got her first tooth.

When the silly pronunciations and made up words disappeared..

family videos moments to remember

When my daughter made her baby sister laugh for the first time.

 What they were like on any given day, last year.

memories videos for families

When my son climbed the monkey bars for the first time. 

What do you want to remember most?  Tell us the memories - and the moments - you most want us to preserve.

Share your answers in the comments and on facebook.