Last year was the first year I offered mini sessions, mostly because I had a lot of past bridal couples who were begging for family photos now that they had gotten married and were starting families of their own. Fall snuck up on me this year and the weather was slightly trickier; it went from summer-hot to winter-cold without much of a mild autumn in between. We had to reschedule some sessions due to the weather, but I was so glad to be able to photograph these lovely families!


My sweet son,

This past year has brought so many new milestones for you and this next year will bring your biggest one yet, your new role of big brother. You love to feel my belly to see if your little sister is kicking and when I asked you a few weeks ago what you want for your birthday, you said, “My baby sister.” I know getting a sibling will bring many new responsibilities and challenges, but I am so excited to watch you love her and teach her and guide her. She will be the luckiest little girl to have you in her corner.

It is a little bittersweet for me to see age two come to an end. This past year has been the most fun yet and my only hope is that three will be even better because, so far in your life, just when I thought it couldn’t get better, it always has. It’s hard to recap a whole year worth of childhood in one letter but I’ll do my best.

Before your second birthday, we ditched your pacifier during the daytime, limiting it only to the crib. This year, we got rid of it completely. You were very attached to it and we expected it to be a huge deal, but somehow, you completely surprised us. I think due to teething (molars?), you kept biting through the pacifiers and I was finally tired of buying new ones so when you bit through the last one, we tossed it out and told you that we didn’t have any more. You tried to negotiate a trip to Target to get another one, but I told you no and that was the end of it. You asked for it one more time later than night at bed, but never asked again and have been fine without it ever since.
Knowing your sister is coming at the end of this year, we had a few things we knew we needed/wanted to do: get rid of your pacifier (done), move you to a big boy bed/room to free up the nursery, and potty train you. A few months ago, I started working on your new room. The guest room got a makeover with new paint and a full clean out. We got rid of the full size bed in there and bought you a twin bed. I had so much fun taking some of the items you already had and adding to them to turn your new room into a more grown up room for you. When the room was done, you immediately asked to sleep in your “big boy bed” and, though I was nervous about it, I let you take a nap in there that day. You were given strict instructions to stay in the bed and, in the same manner as the pacifier situation, you breezed through the transition without any problem. You went to sleep on your own and stayed in bed even when you woke up early from your nap, just reading books until I came to get you. That night you wanted to sleep in there again so we tried it and, same! You’ve been in your new room ever since. You’re so proud of it.
Knowing we were 2 for 3 in successes for what we had thought would be challenges, we approached potty training just 2 weeks ago with some hesitation (as least, I did!). I can’t say that you’ve been 100% successful, but you’ve also done far better than I expected you to do and you’re so proud of yourself (as you should be). By the second day, you were telling us when you needed to go (some of the time; the rest of the time was by your “potty watch” timer going off) and by a week in, you started having dry diapers overnight. We continue to try to be consistent with it and are so proud of how great you’re doing!

When you turned two, you were hardly talking, saying only a few words (I think we counted maybe 4?). Our pediatrician, though not worried, advised that we meet with a speech therapist just to get some tips. So this past January, we had our first meeting with a speech therapist. It took a few weeks for you to get comfortable with her and then you just started bursting with words. Your perfectionist tendencies were in full view as I watched you become confident enough to try and, as soon as you knew you could do it, you didn’t stop talking. After just 6 months of twice monthly sessions, you were able to graduate, something we were told rarely happens that quickly. You are armed with a plethora words and are constantly surprising us with your funny phrases (like, “You got it, mama!” when asked to go pick up your toys and “Oh, dear me.” when you drop something). Just last week your friend came over and you were so excited you started jumping and shouting, “I am jumping for joy!” You like using big words like enormous and exhausted. It has been so fun to hear your brain in action and watch your imagination explode.

You still love books and I suspect and hope that you always will. We try to vary our lineup by going to the library a lot and I’m so looking forward to our second year of doing our Christmas book advent calendar. You have many of your books memorized so sometimes you will “read” to us and the way you get some complex pages correct word-for-word blows my mind.

 You are 100% boy when it comes to things with wheels. You are obsessed with vehicles: trains, construction trucks (bulldozers, dump trucks, excavators, cement mixers, etc.), garbage trucks, fire trucks, farming equipment (tractors, combines, 4-wheelers, skid-steer loaders), and semis (which you love to count on the interstate from your bedroom window). Your daddy took you on a train ride one Saturday while I had a wedding and we all got to ride the Hawkeye train a few weeks back. You think all trains are the Hawkeye train now and they are all “going to Iowa City!” Grandpa and Grandma’s farm continues to be your favorite place to hang out. You got to ride in the combine this fall and you always beg tractor rides out of Grandpa. If it’s too cold to be outside on the real equipment, you make yourself at home with all the toy tractors and wagons that are inside. It seems like you never have enough time there and you are always sad to leave, no matter how many hours you have spent playing.

Henry, I cannot imagine our lives without you. You have brought more joy and laughter to us than we ever dreamed. I think I imagined that parenting would just be this big challenge (and some days it is!), but I never imagined that parenting would be such a joy and a privilege. Your personality continues to shine and I’m so proud of who you are. We know that we are leaders by example and, though that weighted responsibility is terrifying, we hope to continue to guide you to love others, seek out the lonely, and be respectful, gentle, patient, and kind towards all of humanity. You will never fail if you love God and love others, that I promise you. Your life has purpose beyond our wildest dreams and I am so excited to watch you grow into the plans God has for you.

Being your mama has been my highest achievement of honor. I love so very, very much, my child.

Happy birthday, beautiful boy.



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Loves: dairy products, “toast” (french toast bites), Puppy (your stuffed best friend), reading books, playing outside, anything with wheels, technology of any kind, “typing emails” which consists of using a keyboard, singing songs and listening to music, and painting
Wears: 2T and 3T in clothes (you are skinny and tall so it’s a challenge with pants!)
Sleeping: 8:00PM-7:30AM plus 1 nap during the day

They first met in Ames while she was attending Iowa State University, though technically, she says, they met in Iowa City a few years prior, but never really talked at that time. He was visiting with mutual friends and they hung out briefly for the two days that he was in town and then continued texting until they went on their first date a few weeks later.

“I wouldn’t say I remember a specific date or time that I knew he was the one,” Anna says. “Over the first year, I could tell our relationship was real and completely different than any other that I had ever been in. After my first year of optometry school (we would have been together around 2 years at that point), I knew that if we could make it through that, we could make it through anything. [That] first year was so trying on our relationship because of my school schedule. We managed to see each other about twice a month and text/FaceTime when we could. He was (is) my biggest cheerleader and continually supported and motivated me throughout my schooling when I doubted myself. I’m sure he repeated the same speech multiple times a week and he did so without complaining. During my first year, we found our relationship getting stronger while most of my friends at school were breaking up with their long-distance significant others. I know many people would not have held on and made long distance work for five years.”


Travis proposed last Christmas Eve. “She was getting close to graduation from optometry school. She was either going to come home to work or do a residency outside the state. I knew I wanted to propose but wasn’t exactly sure when or how. I went to look at rings for fun and little did I know I would spend 3 hours in the store deciding between rings. After picking a ring, I needed to decide how to do it. The first thing I did was ask permission from her parents and brother (they said yes, of course) and then I needed a plan. Annie was coming home 3 days after I bought the ring and I decided I would propose while she was home for the holidays. Her parents and I came up with the idea to ice skate at her family pond/cabin (she had wanted to ice skate together for some time now). I organized a photographer to be there, who was set up in an ice hut on the pond (with a heater). I also informed close family and friends to gather at a local bar to celebrate afterwards. The day came and I was able to convince her to ice skate and that we should try on the pond, and she somehow agreed despite the light sleet. We ice skated for a little bit and then I got on a knee and asked her to marry me. She said yes and we proceeded to have dinner with our families and then celebrate at the bar with everyone.”

We had to reschedule this session once due to nasty weather and, even though it ended up being cold for this too, the sun brought us the most magical light and we found some shelter from the wind. I’m so glad we were able to find some color left in the trees (look at that orange and red!) and this couple brought all the love in the world for me to photograph! I have way too many favorites from this session, but I consider that a wonderful problem to have!


I always ask the couple a few questions before their session, including what they love most about themselves (e.g. eyes, hair, smile) so that I can make sure to highlight that in their images. Travis’ response to that question was simply, “Annie.” But with her eyes, cheekbones, and smile, you can see why he’d say that!


This is my second pregnancy and I have some new things that I am loving this time around. (Here’s what I loved last time. I still advise the TempurPedic, by the way!)

  1. I’m still loving this Mother’s Special Blendoil. I used this during my first pregnancy and it was the first thing I ordered again this time. It claims to help prevent stretch marks and that has been true so far for me, but the real benefit here is that it helps prevent the itchy, tight skin that pregnant women complain about! I use this after every shower or bath. I added 10 drops of Frankincense and 10 drops of Gentle Baby to it as well to help keep my skin healthy as it continues to stretch and expand.
  2. Here’s a roundup of some of my most-used essential oils during pregnancy (I use Young Living oils): Gentle Baby, Frankincense, Lavender, Peppermint, Ginger, Sleepyize, and Lemon. I forgot to add Thieves, but I also use that because no pregnant woman has the time to get sick and if you do get sick, there’s pretty much no medicine you can take while pregnant anyway. So here’s a quick breakdown:
    1. Gentle Baby: this one is probably one of my favorites! It’s super versatile as it’s both a calming oil as well as a healthy skin oil. It helps reduce stress and it’s the most wonderful smell ever (it has Rosewood, Geranium, Palmerosa, Lavender, Roman Chamomile, Ylang Ylang, Lemon, Jasmine, Bergamot, and Rose in it sooooooo basically your all-star lineup). It reduces stretch marks and scar tissue and is super soothing for chapped skin. It’s great for babies too (thus the name; it was designed for pregnant mamas and newborns) so it’s a good one to have on hand for after your baby arrives!
    2. Frankincense: supports beautiful, healthy skin so you can just go right ahead and apply a drop to your face after you wash your makeup off. (It also reduces wrinkles and helps prevent stretch marks and fades scars so there you go!) This is one I’m planning to use after labor as well as it is a mood booster and increases focus and concentration.
    3. Lavender: it’s the everything oil, but I love it most for it’s calming scent. Diffuse at night or rub on the bottoms of your feet. Put a drop in your mascara for some lovely lashes. Add a few drops to your unscented body lotion. Drop some in a 1/2 cup of epsom salt for a relaxing bath. Use as a skin moisturizer. Make a linen spray with lavender, witch hazel, and water and your bed will smell like a spa.
    4. Peppermint: this one is generally not advised for use in the third trimester, however, it is powerful during the first 2/3 of your pregnancy, especially for morning sickness! Also great if you get a craving for peppermint brownies.
    5. Ginger: again, morning sickness
    6. Sleepyize: this is in the kid’s essential oil line, and it’s just as great for adults. I diffuse this at night to help get lots of rest (and to help me go back to sleep after I get up to go to the bathroom for the 408th time). (The Tranquil roller is also amazing for sleep!)
    7. Lemon: morning sickness (the fresh citrus is amazing) and it’s also great for later on when acid reflux hits! Just rub a drop on the front of your neck/sternum in the evening. (I also love to add a drop to my water!)
    8. Thieves: build your immunity. There’s no time for getting sick.
    9. DiGize: morning sickness and acid reflux! This one is a game changer when it comes to eating food and not regretting every decision you just made.
  3. Ningxia Red for energy and boosted immunity! Just 1 ounce has the same antioxidant power as 100 oranges, 814 blueberries, 22 medium carrots, 10.85 pounds of spinach, 59 broccoli florets, 73 strawberries, and 93 apples. Drink it plain (I like it cold; not room temperature!) or add it to a smoothie! I prefer the 2-ounce packets because they’re easy to take on the go, but if you’re a pour and drink kind of person, you can grab the bottles of this magic juice.
  4. This Deep Relief roller is so great for those achy muscles. I have worked out during both of my pregnancies so there’s been a lot of general exercise aches as well as growing aches (evenings seem to be the worst). Deep Relief is great for pounding temples as well as any tender tension areas like shoulders, low back, and neck.
  5. I didn’t have a pregnancy pillowduring my first pregnancy and I didn’t really need one until I hit about 30 weeks in my second pregnancy. And by “need”, I mean “want really, really badly.” If you don’t have one, you can obviously make do with a fort of about 8 pillows around and under you, but a pregnancy pillow just makes sleep life so much easier. I especially like to have some pillow support under my belly and between my knees.
  6. Longline, basic tank tops are so great in normal life and I’ve been using these from H&M for my whole pregnancy (they’re not maternity, but they are stretchy!). They are slender enough to easily wear under sweaters or as layering pieces and are also perfect for bedtime!
  7. Super B vitamins are a life saver! My doctor recommend vitamin B6 to help with nausea and then I started taking Super B. Folate is essential for the healthy development of the fetus, especially in early pregnancy and Super B contains Orgen-FA, which is a naturally derived source of folate from lemon peels, plus all 7 other essential B vitamins! I take it in the morning because it gives me a huge energy boost (which is especially helpful since I ditched caffeine) and if you need another boost, take a second one at lunch.
  8. AlkaLime is formulated to neutralize acidity and maintain desirable pH levels in the body so, you know,  bye-bye reflux.
  9. Gin-Ginswere a lifesaver during the first trimester and I bought them in bulk so I still have plenty left for car rides.
  10. Find yourself the most comfortable maternity leggings and wear them every day of your pregnancy. My favorite are these Isabel Maternity ones from Target. They are just thick enough that you can’t see through them, but are not too thick that they’re hot. They also have just enough spandex in them that it’s easy to brush off crumbs and other things that you will inevitably spill on yourself.
  11. As you can tell, I’m all about basics this time around. I’m already a mom so my priority for clothing has been minimalistic, affordable, and comfortable. I’m on the floor playing, I’m cleaning up potty accidents, I’m cooking meals…I need an easy wardrobe. I grabbed this white maternity tee on clearance at Target when I first found out I was pregnant and actually hated it at first because it seemed too long. It wasn’t until I got bigger that it fit exactly how it should and now I wear it several times a week; as often as I can throw it in the laundry! Since I alternate between being cold and hot all the time (hello, third trimester!), I often wear this with my leggings and layer a cardigan over it.
  12. Progessence Plus serum helped me a lot with nausea. I put a roller on the top of the bottle and did a swipe on the back of my neck every morning during that first trimester.
  13. Pregnancy is not the time for buying a ton of new bras. You change sizes quickly and you’ll probably change a few more sizes up or down before it’s all over (and afterwards!!). But if there’s one thing I can recommend, it’s finding a really comfortable bra (no underwire!! It’ll hurt so bad once your belly is big enough to press up against your boobs!). I adore these from True & Co and bought several because I wear them every day. They have them in regular sizes and also in larger sizes for those of us who got more than we bargained for. The wide straps help distribute weight so there’s less back and shoulder pain and it’s an easy pullover design with no weird bulges.
  14. I just recently got Claraderm. It soothes dry and itchy skin and is great to massage onto pre- and post-pregnancy bellies. And in other news, it’s great for promoting healing to stressed skin before and after childbirth.



They first met while serving in the Iowa Army National Guard. She recalls him coming in for a site visit with the chaplain and she greeted them and escorted them to the individual they were meeting with. “We had very short interactions with each other when we were both serving,” she says. Five years later, they had their first date. “I invited him to wake up early and come with us [to the Cedar Rapids Farmer’s Market], but then he ended up staying all day and I made dinner for the two of us. I felt warm and comfortable with him. He was easy and fun to talk with,” Elizabeth remembers. Seth adds that he “felt like I wanted to spend more time with her.”

They both knew early on that their relationship was the real deal. They wanted the same things and had the same values. They discussed a lot of that early during their first date and they knew they wanted to enter into a relationship with the goal of marriage.

He proposed earlier this year when they were in New York. “It was our last day,” she says. “We were packing up to go home. I was trying to make some room in our suitcases to take everything home and started unpacking his suitcase to fill with some of the items we had purchased. He quickly came over to assist me and removed the ring.” In a simple romantic gesture, Seth says, “She was digging through my luggage and found the ring. I asked her if she wanted it.”

Though neither of them are morning people, they agreed to a morning session since we had limited time to get it in while the leaves were still on the trees. Unfortunately, though we did get some beautiful sunlight that morning, it was incredibly windy and so, so, so cold outside! I’d definitely rank it as one of the top 3 coldest sessions I’ve ever done, including that blizzard wedding last December! Thankfully, they trusted me and we moved quickly and I just love how these images turned out! I’m so excited to join them and their two daughters this next spring as they get married under the [hopefully warmer] treescape out at Rapid Creek Cidery.





It’s always an honor to have one of my couples’ weddings featured on any blog, and I was particularly excited about this feature as it’s long been on my wish list to have a wedding on The Black Tie Bride! Alexa and Michael’s wedding was so much fun to photograph! It’s every photographer’s dream to have plenty of details to shoot and to have a relaxed, sweet couple to work with. Alexa and Michael fit that dream to a tee. Alexa actually requested we cut out some other photos that day to make extra time for just her and Michael’s photos and we were able to create so many portraits during that time!

We drove nearby to a beautiful timber area that looks like it’s straight out of the movies and then met back with the bridal party at a local park for the rest of the photos. But aside from all that natural beauty, the real stunner came at the reception when Alexa’s parents completely rehauled the look of her dad’s shop to turn it into the most elegant reception space she could’ve ever dreamed of.