A Warrior Story for a Warrior Mama

Oh friends, it's been a long time since I've posted on the L&L blog! I'm so excited to share this post with you today, though, and hope it touches your heart the way it touched mine.

This season I decided that I wanted to provide a special session opportunity for a community that is near and dear to my heart - MAMAS. I'm lucky that in my profession I get to meet a lot of different types of Mamas, and the common threads I've found are their strength, incredible love for their children, selflessness, and capacity for so much more than I ever thought possible. Their stories have been incredibly captivating and unique, and documenting those stories is always such an honor. 

Segue to, the L&L Warrior Mama Session giveaway. I asked you guys to nominate a Warrior Mama in your life to receive a complimentary session with L&L. I wanted to hear you tell me in your own words the story of why she was a warrior, and one story in particular stood out so beautifully.

Enjoy, readers, this is worth every minute of your time, and thank you to all the people that took the time to submit a story! 

Submitted by Chaz Engelkes, about his warrior wife Kate

Over ten years ago I had a crush on this girl and she had a crush on me. I’m a runner. She isn’t. For reasons I don’t quite understand, she wanted to impress me. I was headed out for a run, and Kate decided to join me. She kept pace and while I yammered on and on, she breathlessly nodded and huffed. This is to say, that was the last time I saw her run.

I’ve run solo since.

We fell for each other. Got married. Fled the country for a few years. Fled back to Iowa and eventually had two boys.

In the month of August, this warrior gave birth to our new lion, Leo. That night while laboring in our bedroom, she was simultaneously finishing up an annotated bibliography for grad school. No worries. She got the paper in before her deadline. Once we got to the hospital, in less than a half hour, Leo came into the world making a fierce bright-eyed gaze directly into Kate's heart. He stared me down too. We instantly welcomed the love we felt kicking months earlier.

Along with the newness of life from Leo, a new strength of spirit was born inside her. She figured if she could birth two boys, surely she could do more. And she did. She started slow on a treadmill. In the dreary months of winter, she’d walk and walk. One day she snapped. Kate started running. That run turned into a mile. The next day she added another mile. She wasn’t out there to impress anyone other than herself. She wanted to see how else she could push her body.

Caring for two boys can be pretty taxing (we also have a three and a half-year-old). It got heavier in the month of February.

Kate has a lovely complexion. Her freckled skin is filled with constellations. Over the past three years or more, one of those stars began to grow. It rested on the edge above her left eyebrow. I ignored it. Kate did too. Time passed and worry was swallowed. We pursued ignorance until we couldn't bear it any longer. With a swallow of pride and many pushes from friends and family, Kate made a phone call.

Once at the doctor’s office, her anxiety swelled. The doctor was all, “Uhhh yeah… that needs to come off immediately.” Soon enough she was scheduled to meet a plastic surgeon. The star gained a name, Moleficent. Get it? Following the first procedure, the doctor called Kate. I'll say it again. The doctor called Kate. This isn't a thing that happens to us.

He said this word, "melanoma."

Our world stopped spinning and stood still. Thoughts such as, "how could my body betray me," and ,"it'll be alright," and, "this is deadly. This. is. cancer," entered her head. "We'll have to take skin from above your right eye and transplant it to the new hole we'll be making above your left eye. The hole where the cancer is. It's a skin graft. Meanwhile, we'll also have to put you under for this. We'll sew your eyelid shut so as to better help the graft take. You'll have to sleep in a recliner for two weeks. Nothing can bump it. You can't pick up your toddler. You can't sneeze. You can't pick up your baby. -You're going to look a lot different."

Of all things, vanity crept in and accompanied her fear. Issues of judgment and acceptance whispered lies of rejection and potential loneliness. The operation took over three hours.

She came out stronger. In the weeks that followed Kate balanced learning to rest and recover while mothering two boys (Eli, a boy running towards risk; and Leo, an infant learning to take in the world’s wild wonder), teaching high schoolers how to write thesis driven analysis essays, and being married to me.

In an act of embracing her newness, Kate recently chopped her hair into this asymmetrical, buzzed half of her head, pompadour. No longer hiding behind strands of hair, her scars are visible for all.

The scars are now part of her story. They’re part of mine too.

And although we’ll walk from time to time, if you look close enough the scars will blur, but they’re there. We’ll cast our insecurities aside. We will run, hand in hand, side by side into this world.



Sunday Musings & Studio Prep

Hello friends!

Happy Sunday! We've had 3 days of sunshine, warm weather, birds chirping, & so much teething. Yes, we are teething. I say "we" because Ephraim teething = equal amounts of crying & sleeplessness for Mama. I was laughing at something ridiculous that came out of my almost 3 year old's mouth this morning & couldn't figure out whether it was actually funny or I was just delirious. As depressing as this stage started out for me, especially after having a firstborn that slept more when teething, I've quickly realized that I'm still in charge. I'm still in charge of my reaction to no sleep. Lack of sleep can & is a game changer. It heightens emotions, can make you feel slightly lackluster, & has this annoying habit of giving you a weird constant headache. However, I can still choose joy and that has power. Ephy doesn't sleep well but the snuggles are out of this world, & I can make him feel better. It also means that it's easier to convince my husband to get me latte's, and to sleep in, or sleep at all, in the morning. I also feel like I really earn my naps & down time, because I am killing this parenting thing all night. So that's our life. 

On a studio note, things are coming together to get the studio ready for you all to book your Spring sessions! Our Creative Collaboration/Art Ordering Appointment room is finished & awaiting a projector for viewing your lovely images, & the studio is spotless in anticipation of all the Storytelling Sessions that will mess it up in the most beautiful way. I can't wait to get started & tell your stories, being creative together is such a joy. 

Have a lovely start to your week, & enjoy this gorgeous weather!

Much Love,


Lav & Lime Photo | Fine Art Photography for Children & Their Families

Welcome to Lav & Lime!

Happy Friday, lovelies! The sun is shining, my coffee is lukewarm, & I've had more than 5 hours of sleep. Life is fantastic. Ever since we had children (two beautiful boys, Malachi, 2.5, & Ephraim, 11 months), my standards for what makes a day wonderful have gotten a bit lower. Now, this may sound like a bad thing, but in all honesty it makes for the smallest things becoming a game changer for the day. Hot coffee is an elusive pipe dream, but on the days it happens, I'm on cloud nine. Showers? Getting dressed? Blow drying my hair? Doing my make up? Getting up after 6:00 am? Someday those will all be realities, but for now, I'll just take a hot coffee. With absolutely no complaints. Hi, I'm Anj, & I'm the face behind Lav & Lime Photo, a fine art photography studio specializing in children & their families. Here's my two favorite boys in the whole world & why I do what I do.

Malachi & Ephraim

Malachi & Ephraim

I love children. I love deciphering their quirks, hearing them giggle, listening to their stories while marveling at their imagination & yes, I love them even when they're throwing tantrums & being terrible, because it teaches me something about the way they're wired. The caveat? I appreciate these qualities all the more when they're not my own children. Parenting is hard. That's it. There are days where it feels like the minutes are ticking by too slowly, my patience is wearing thin, & I have nothing left. And then there are days that surpass everything I imagined in the most joyful way, & it's a reminder to take a big breath & snuggle a little extra while things are good. Throughout all of those big feelings, there's a child coming into his/her own, learning something new everyday, becoming more & more special, & trying so hard to find who they are. I want to tell their story for you & with you. 

I want to hear you tell me how wonderful they are & why, what their favorite foods are, what they love to play with, what frustrates them, what makes them giggle, what makes them laugh so hard they can't breathe, & together with you create beautiful works of art. Your child is a work of art. Your family is a work of art. 

I want your walls adorned with portraits of your children & family, reminding you all of how beautiful you are, how important your relationships are, & how much you value each other. On particularly rough days, when all of us are crying at different moments, it truly does give me perspective to look up at lunch time & see our boys' newborn portraits hanging on the wall. It reminds me of their innocence & beautiful beginning. While cleaning up the chaos of toys after a long day, I can look up & see a portrait of Mal pushing Ephy in a grocery cart. It reminds me of their sweet love for each other & makes my heart soften. I love walking up the stairs & seeing a portrait of our family playing in the leaves in front of our house with real, beaming smiles. It makes me think of moving back to Des Moines, finding this beautiful home & property, & how far we've come since then. Portraits are those tangible time-outs that help lift you up on dreary days or make an already amazing day that much sweeter.

All right, friends, it's time for a second cup of coffee, Josh Garrels on Spotify & some Friday snuggles from two sweet boys. 

Much love,


Lav & Lime Photo | Fine Art Photography for Children & their Families