October 22, 2014

On Marriage: An Interview with Lydia and Adam of Photography Hill

As you may recall, September was Marriage Month here at NCoN. The interviews I shared then received such great feedback that I've decided to continue posting them periodically, and today is the first day of that continuing series.

I'll still be using the same questionnaire to which each of the previous guest posters responded, but I may change things up a bit. For example, for this post we get both sides of the story!

Lydia has been a long-time friend of David's family, and she and her husband Adam are one of our favorite couples to hang out with. Along with being parents and working other gigs, they are the brains and the talent behind Photography Hill, the source of some of my favorite photos of our family to date. They asked if I would let them answer these questions together, and of course I said yes! Take a look at their his-and-hers peek into their awesome marriage.


Tell us a little about your family.

Once upon a time, we met in Calculus class at BYU. After four seasons and a roadtrip, we got married. We have been married for 7 years and have a 6 year old son, named Rigby. We think we have figured out what we want to be when we grow up, and that is to work together. Photography Hill is our photo company.

What first made you decide your spouse was “the one”?

I never believed in predestined soulmates because of how I feel about agency. But I really thought Adam could be the one pretty early on. We made a great couple and had the best conversations. But life got in the way, and we (he) broke up to figure out some personal stuff. I always hoped he would come back to me, but after a while of being "just friends," I started dating someone else. It was kind of my way of saying, "If you don't want to choose me, then I will find someone else that I jive well with." That didn't last too long and I'm pretty sure you can guess how this story ended. 

It took a while, for which I take full blame. We dated for a couple months after we first met, and then broke up. For about the next nine months, even though we weren't dating, we stayed close. We went through some pretty unbelievable personal trials together, and through it all, you might say we got a bit attached to one another. I had always thought for sure that we wouldn't get back together, even though Lydia would have been willing, but then I started to see things in a little bit different light. There was one week where I just had this gradual epiphany that we should be together. Like, for good. We talked about it over a couple of days, and she decided to end things with her (not serious) boyfriend, and then literally overnight, we were back together, which basically meant we were engaged. I think the quick reversal after so much time surprised a lot of people, and it was kind of dramatic in retrospect.
Why are they still “the one”?

Every day I love Adam more than the previous day. And I choose to love him more everyday. He makes it easy because we work so well together. He is my biggest supporter and making our marriage work is equally important to both of us. Recently I was reading the book Allegiant, by Veronica Roth. In it was a quote that says everything about how I feel about Adam:
"I fell in love with him. But I don't just stay with him by default as if there's no one else available to me. I stay with him because I choose to, every day that I wake up... I choose him over and over again, and he chooses me."

The more time passes, the more we united we are, and the more we love each other. You hear about marriages where people evolve differently and drift apart, but because we've prioritized our marriage above all else from day one, we have only grown closer together. The fact that we're on the same page when it comes to all the most important things in life is a huge blessing, and it's why Lydia's still the one for me. After 7 years, I'm still excited that I get to be with her.

What do you love most about being married in general? What do you love most about your marriage specifically?

I love that marriage is a team effort - that we experience the successes or failures through our own choices and those choices reflect our level of respect, love, and devotion to our spouse. What I love the most about my marriage is that Adam and I are absolutely equal partners. We are totally and completely devoted to each other. Another thing I love about our marriage is the fact that we don't nag each other. Not to say we don't each have annoying habits, but we don't get hung up on them. I have had some amazingly bad examples in my life of naggers, usually about the inconsequential things, and I decided that that would not be welcome in my marriage. It makes all the difference.

I'm still pleasantly surprised at how good it can be. What marriage does for a couple's relationship, generally speaking, is to raise the stakes. In other words, when it goes badly, it goes REALLY badly, and drags everything else down, but when it goes well, there's no upper limit to how good it can be. Of course, getting there takes work, if you can call it that. We've all heard about, "oh, a good marriage takes a lot of work", but it's sort of like, if you knew where there was some huge buried treasure, and you had a shovel, you would totally do that work. You'd be first in line to volunteer! And you wouldn't feel like you were "working" or "digging", you'd feel like you were getting rich. That's what the "work" of a great marriage is like. Even a major effort is so small, compared to the potential rewards.
The best thing about our marriage specifically is probably how we view our relationship. We both, in different ways, have come to see our marriage as a permanent oasis from the troubles and drama in our families of origin. It's our chance to start fresh and do things right, and to let go of past burdens. We see that happening in small ways almost daily, and it's a great source of peace.

What is one of the most difficult things you’ve had to overcome in your marriage?

Most of the difficulties we have gone through stem from my heath. Our first year of marriage was difficult because my depression was at its worst - aggravated by pregnancy hormones and Hyperemesis gravidarum. I was shell of a person and all my energy was focused on growing a baby and then caring for an infant. It was a terribly dark time. Adam was so supportive, helped me get the help I needed, and held my hand as I made way back to myself.


Lydia described it pretty well. Her pregnancy was so bad that at one time she had something of a brush with death. A drug prescribed by her attending physician at the ER probably saved her life. That year was a really low point for us in a lot of ways. I remember one conversation we had back then where we were lamenting that we had nothing in life figured out, except for our marriage. Academically, socially, and professionally, it was just chaos and we felt directionless, except that we were absolutely sure that we should be together. The fact that we could at least depend on that has made all the difference.
What kinds of things do you do (or have you done) to strengthen your relationship?

I have a bachelor's degree in Home and Family Living. Before we were engaged, I took a marriage prep course and Adam read all the books associated with the course. Info from that course gave us a strong foundation in the practical aspects of marriage. I was still working on my degree after we were married, so I opted to take a marriage enhancement course. It focused on understanding differences and strengthening communication skills. While our relationship was already good, this course made it that much stronger.

Setting apart time to spend alone with each other has been huge. Sometimes it's planned and sometimes it's not, and it lets us have moments where we can just focus on "us". The rest of life and the world seems to stop for a while. A short vacation, or a long late-night talk, and we remember yet again why we love each other, and how good that is.

If you could give any marital advice, what would it be?

Get educated, especially if you need a little help knowing what is normal and healthy to have a successful marriage. Marriage is hard, but there are lots of resources out there to help ease the journey. My top three recommendations are to take a marriage strengthening course, read some books (highly recommend Why Marriages Succeed or Fail by John Gottman and The Great Marriage Tune-Up Book by Jeffry H Larson), and take a communication class.

Some of the best marital advice I could give is almost more like dating advice, and that is to get to know your spouse as well as you can before marriage. Lydia's starting phrase about "four seasons and a roadtrip" is a rule of thumb we find ourselves repeating, because it's long enough that you've seen the other person at their best, and their worst. You know what it's like when they're angry, when they're sad, when they're sick or injured or tired, as well as when everything is going fine. You know their flaws, and their virtues, and their hopes and dreams. The fewer unknowns you have going into a marriage, the better. Some things you just can't know ahead of time, but it pays to be an expert on everything else. I'm going to butcher and paraphrase an LDS scripture, Doctrine and Covenants 130:18-19, to help make my point. "Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto as regards our spouse while dating, it will rise with us in the marriage covenant. And if a person in a courtship gains more knowledge and intelligence about his future spouse through his care and observation than another, he will have so much the advantage in the marriage to come."
Another piece of advice I have would be to keep things in perspective. To use another scripture, "Cease to find fault one with another." Some stuff just doesn't really matter. If something bothers you but it's not a question of personal worthiness, health or safety, family responsibilities, or another non-negotiable, then consider letting it pass without criticism. Or at least make a polite request instead of an accusation. Be your spouse's advocate, not their nagging roommate.
Finally, communicate early and often, about everything of any consequence to your lives.


My favorite part? That even when everything seemed to be a complete disaster, they knew with absolute surety that they could rely on each other. I think that's what everyone wants: to have a partner they can depend on, no matter what.

What about you, friends? Did anything either of them shared ring true to you?

Thanks for sharing with us and for being such stellar examples of a husband/wife team, Lydia and Adam!

October 21, 2014

Tolmachoff Farms Pumpkin Days

We aren't often on the west side of town, but when the Phoenix LDS temple open house took us there last week, we figured we should swing by the Tolmachoff Farms for their Pumpkin Days festival while we were in the area. Between my not-so-little brother, my sister and her family, my parents, and me and the girls, we had quite a little crowd and quite a lovely time.

There was a mini corn maze, just right for girlies to wander through...

...duck races with water pumps...

...a huge bouncy pillow thing (kind of like a bounce house but wide open and enormous)...

...pedal cars...

...giant tires...

...lots of animals to stare at (and that stared right back!)...

...and a box of dried corn that was pretty much the best thing of Margot's life.

Even Mila couldn't get enough of it.

(She made a corn angel.)

The cousins had so much fun together.

And my girls were entranced by all the pumpkins.

We only brought one home, but I don't think they minded.

It was pretty warm and humid, since it had rained earlier, but it was worth the pink cheeks to explore and play for a couple hours. If you're a west-sider, you should definitely stop by before the season ends. The Tolmachoff Farms website has a coupon for a dollar off your admission; they'll be open daily through the end of this month and weekends in November. I know a couple little girls who would love to come if you need a friend to go with you!

Thanks for visiting, family! We sure had fun!

October 20, 2014

Mila Monday

Amelia: 177 weeks and Margot: 79 weeks

Another day...

...another carousel ride.

We're tired but mostly happy, which is exactly as we should be after a few hours at the zoo. What are you up to today?

October 18, 2014

The Bloom of the Week || 17

It's a day late, but...excuses. For our Saturday edition of TBotW, here's the Baja Fairy Duster.
baja fairy duster
Isn't that name so perfect? Slightly exotic and dainty at the same time...just like these flowers.
baja fairy duster

I shot these ones at the library too. They just have such good landscaping there! Plus, like I said before, I don't care that much anymore if people think I'm a weirdo for taking photos of plants on my phone while my kids play in the rocks.
baja fairy duster

See that little bee hiding up there? They were everywhere. Evidently the fairy duster is a favorite among the pollenphiles.
baja fairy duster

And that saguaro hiding in the background? So perfect. (This shot was much better, by the way.) Sometimes I really dig the desert.


I love this honest (but slightly tongue-in-cheek) post by Alicia. And if you didn't read her interview during Marriage Month, you should. It's a good one.

I'm also digging Deidre's Fashion Fits Everyone series. Her most recent post is a good introduction to the series, and a great reminder that we can--and should!--feel confident and beautiful just the way you are.

Which reminds me: if you haven't seen this cover of "All About That Bass" you are seriously missing out. Her voice is flawless. And every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top. :)

Most of my family came down to visit the Phoenix LDS temple yesterday. It's breathtaking. If you are local and haven't had a chance to see it, you should go. The open house is free and runs through mid-November. I'd say it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but since we had the Gilbert temple open house earlier this year and will have one in Tucson in the not-too-distant future, so...what can I say? We're spoiled. And so so blessed.

After the temple, we hit up Tolmachoff Farms to play and pick out a pumpkin. The kiddos had so much fun! For those of you in the west valley, I highly recommend it. Does anyone on the east side want to go to Vertuccio Farms with us so we can compare?

Hope you're all having a beautiful weekend!

All photos taken and edited by me on my iPhone using the VSCO Cam app.

October 16, 2014

Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

My friend Rachael turned me on to this cake and OHMYGOODNESS I am so glad she did.

I made it for dessert on Sunday and everyone loved it. Some several of us had seconds, it was so good. It's dense and soooo moist and absolutely the perfect amount of pumpkiny goodness. Actually, it reminds me a lot of my mom's pumpkin bread, which has long been one of my favorite fall treats. I wouldn't be surprised if the recipe is very similar if not identical!

But I am not gonna lie: the glory of this cake is its frosting. The first cake I made was in just a regular bumdt pan and I frosted it heavily. The second time I used my Nordicware Jubilee bundt pan, which lends itself better to drippy glazes. I thinned the frosting with milk so I could drizzle it on top, but I may have gotten a little carried away because...well, just look at it. That's a pretty heavy "drizzle."

I want to eat this frosting by itself with a spoon. Maybe I've already done that. You'll never know for sure.

I lightened up the original recipe to decrease the amount of sugar and oil. The texture was ever so slightly different; the bottom of the cake rounded up more in the oven. However, since I still want to eat like half the cake by myself, it's safe to say this version is on par with the original. Dare I say better because it's a little bit healthier?

Maybe we should do a side-by-side taste test. You know, for science.

Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from Lick the Bowl Good

Pumpkin Bundt Cake

1 cup sugar
4 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup applesauce*
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
15 oz pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large bowl, whisk together sugar and eggs until slightly bubbly and light in color. Add applesauce and oil; whisk until well combined. Add baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla to egg mixture, and whisk together. Stir in flour with a wooden spoon, making sure to get out any lumps. Add pumpkin and stir well.

Grease a bundt pan very well and pour in batter. Bake for 55-65 minutes, or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely in pan, then turn out onto a cake plate and frost.

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
4 oz (half a package) cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste**

Beat ingredients together until well combined and smooth. Frost cake as desired. (For thinner glaze, add milk until desired consistency is reached. Don't skimp on this frosting though. I promise you'll regret it.)

*I used my mom's homemade applesauce which is well spiced, so I omitted some of the cinnamon. Just FYI

**You could use regular vanilla extract, but I LOVE the flavor the paste adds to things. It's more expensive so I don't use it often, but this is the perfect recipe for it. Mmm...so good.

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