WE MOVED! First week in California

WE MOVED! First week in California

This pacific island girl has moved to the California coast!

And my life looks wildly different than it did last year.

Heck, it’s a stark contrast from my life just a few months ago.

Some big milestones and life goals were met — wowowee — and there are even bigger dreams I want to make reality in my not so distant future.

Here’s a little photo diary of my first week as a Californian (??) … ew, can I say that? Whatever, I said it, so there.

We got a new car! And not just any car — a brand spanking NEW 👏🏽 ELECTRIC 👏🏽 UTILITY VEHICLE!! This is by far the biggest purchase I’ve made in my life. It was a splurge for sure, but we’ll also be able to save money from paying for awful fuel and fuel prices.

A snap from our second morning in Santa Cruz. I woke up early to the sound of the rain pattering against the window in our loft. We were supremely cozy, and I was stressed out over a lot of things but this view and the love I have for these two, becalmed me.

Alava’s grandparents are here too!

They’ve been so wonderful — they made the road trip with us up the coast and are here for our first month to help us adjust to our new life in Santa Cruz. Plus, they get to get quality grandbebé time!

I am so in love with this cutie pie. She’s growing so fast, and she’s changing every single day! I’m in awe at how much she’s learned and grown in just two months. She’s already a world traveler with something like 20,000+ miles under her belt.

Alava was born with something called “talipes equinovarus” commonly known as clubfoot, where the foot curves upward and inward due to a short achilles tendon. Even though it’s apparently quite common (about 1 in every 1,000 babies is born with it), there isn’t a known cause for it. Thankfully, it can be completely treated with the Ponseti method, which includes a series of weekly castings to straighten the foot, a tenotomy in the event the tendon needs to be stretched and lengthened, and then a boots and bar (BnB) brace to keep it in place until it’s set permanently. By the time the treatment is complete, babies are able to walk and run at the normal developmental pace.

We wanted to start her treatment sooner, but with traveling and moving, we planned to do it as soon as we got to Santa Cruz. Ian was able to set up the appointment with the best orthopedist doctor specializing in club foot on the west coast. We were nervous at first because we thought it might be painful for Alava, but we were pleasantly surprised to find the whole process easy peasy, and it took less than half an hour for the whole thing. She’s got her first cast on now, and we’re so proud of her for being a champ throughout!

As for me, I’m working on finding balance again. In the last five months, I’ve had moments of complete overwhelm, and now that I’m in this new place with this new baby, and everything feels new… I feel like I’m reprogramming myself for this next level in life. Parts of me are still sad about leaving our comfort zone, but there’s a big part of me that’s thrilled (and scared) for what’s yet to come.

I’m proud of myself and Ian for being so on top of it — with our big move to California, finding a sweet landing pad, setting up all the appointments, figuring out our work schedules, and still making time to chase sunsets (and sleep and shower and eat food too lol) with our honey baby 💛

Cheers to us for still making time for chasing sunsets 🥂



AmSam crew in Hawaii

AmSam crew in Hawaii

Met up with some of our AmSam friends during our layover in Hawai’i. I love that our connection to our AmSam crew is so strong because of our shared experiences in Samoa. Time and space may have separated us over the years but we’ve had such an amazing community, and now that we’re all over the place, we’ll still meet up whenever we can and pick up where we left off.

So thankful for the ladies especially, Mia and Meagan, who organized this particular hangout in Waikiki and rallied some of the crew to meet baby Alava <3

Life Lately: 5 months of change and evolution

Life Lately: 5 months of change and evolution

Helloooo there. It’s meeeee. Nerelleeeee.

It has been a hoot of a while — and I have missed this space of mine to document my ever-changing life, romanticizing it in a way, and to express my gratitudes in words and images.

A summary of the most inexplicably changing and evolving 5 months of my life thus far

TLDR: Some big updates…

I gave birth!!

I have a baby!!!

And, I moved!!!!

As it goes in life, it has been a journey.

Here’s a little summary for memories sake.

October 2022

In October, I had to travel to the mainland for my birth. It was a decision I did not take lightly as I had originally wanted to give birth in American Samoa, because A) it was far cheaper than giving birth in the mainland, B) it’s where I was born and I liked the idea of giving birth to my babe in AS too, and C) I would be comfortable at home immediately after birth (i.e. I wouldn’t have to go through the hassle of traveling with a newborn). However, after a miscarriage in my first pregnancy not even a year prior, an early diagnosis of placenta previa, and some very debilitating pelvic girdle pain for a portion of my 2nd and 3rd trimester, it became the obvious choice to put health and safety first for me and baby. Also, I’m incredibly fortunate to have family in the mainland with space to house me and Ian. We spent the month of October preparing for our extended trip to the mainland. We sold a bunch of stuff at a local swap meet, we hung out with our friends as often as we could, we lined up our work plans, and our best friends put on a baby shower for us before we left.

November 2022

In November, I spent the 9th month of my pregnancy catching up with all the doctors visits: including detailed ultrasounds, asking a multitude of questions, planning my birth, and enjoying the lovely customer service I forgot existed elsewhere in the world. Yeah… my prenatal appointments in American Samoa were basic, to say the least. Not to go too much into it, but all my “appointments” at LBJ Tropical Medical Center (American Samoa’s only hospital) were essentially walk-in visits. To paint a picture for you: It would take me an average of three hours of waiting, starting at 7am, outside in the heat or rain, depending on the day, fighting for chairs when they were rolled out at 8am, lining up like cows behind the prenatal clinic with the A/C unit exhaust fans blowing at our backs, and getting seen on a first come first serve basis. But mind you, all the prenatal visits in American Samoa are $free ninety nine! So you get what you pay for. Still, thank the good Lord for my work-provided health insurance that covered a large portion of my bills whilst I was in the mainland. I also spent the month having quality time with my Arizona family, resting as much as I could, and being grateful for my health and this baby that was about to join us so soon.

December 2022

In December, I was full on pregnant and my due date was towards the end of the month. I took it easy. I waddled like a penguin. My belly bump dropped. I went into labor. And then I became a mom!! And it was really beautiful. And so so so hard. Still, I’m the luckiest gal in the world because not only did I just give birth to the most gorgeous baby girl — Alava Laine Ann — but I had the love and support of my husband and all our families combined. It was so great to have quality time spent with our families all together under one roof. Our families celebrated Christmas all together, a first of hopefully many more. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to come to the mainland for the remainder of my pregnancy and for the birth and postpartum period. I learned SO MUCH about myself, my body, and my baby. My body grew a living breathing sentient human being, and I continue to grow her by nursing her, providing for her, and loving on her.

January 2023

In January, I continued to learn ALL the things. My heart was full. And my hands were full too — of diapers that needed to be changed, leaky boobs to wield, and most especially of a darling baby to hold, love, and feed. And even as I was surrounded and supported by a loving family, I still struggled mentally, emotionally, and physically. My postpartum recovery felt slow and hard. Some days just felt gray because I wasn’t confident in my mama skills. My relationship with my husband became strained because we were both figuring out life with a baby, no sleep, travel plans, recovery, work, and our upcoming move. Half the time I felt like I was in survival mode. But we took each day one day at a time. It was the hardest time of my life, even harder than delivering a human out of my vagina. But I digress. During this time of learning, Ian and I were also constantly talking about next steps. We had our big move coming up and we had so much to do, and so little time. Somehow, by the strength of our will, and despite lack of sleep, we lined things up and proceeded as best we could. We put a payment down for a new electric car (!!) and found a cute furnished bungalow in Santa Cruz to be our landing pad for our move. We packed and repacked our bags (so much baby stuff!) and traveled to Hawai’i and then to American Samoa… with a newborn! We had a marvelous layover in Hawai’i, which helped us to get back into the groove of traveling. It was touch and go at times, but it turned out to be a pretty decent experience.

February 2023

In February, we rocked and rolled. We were in American Samoa for such a short amount of time — a little less than a few weeks — to tie up loose ends with work and life on the islands. We stayed with my parents, mailed our stuff up to our new address in California, reconnected with friends in our neighborhood, and gave our baby girl a taste of life in Samoa. We took her for her first ocean swim (we dipped her to her bum in Waikiki but don’t really count that as a full swim), had a really lovely baby dedication for her at my parents’ church, took her on a hike at Vatia Lower Sauma trail, introduced her to everybody (her adoring fans!), and spent lots of time with her godparents, Gabs, Traci, and Ano. We packed our bags again and had a pretty horrible travel experience back up to the states. The weather was really bad – rain, lightning, and thunder – on the way out of American Samoa, so our flight got postponed to the following afternoon. which meant that we missed our connecting flight, we arrived to Hawai’i at midnight, had to overnight in a hotel nearby, and had to wake up at 5am to make it back to the airport to catch our 8am flight. Whew. We got to LA tired and grumpy, but the very next day, we got our brand new car!! A 2023 Chevrolet Bolt EUV with the trimmings. We were stoked but also so tired, and in the midst of a winter storm in LA, and it was cold and blustery for the next few days. We spent the next days catching up on rest, and packing yet again, and hopefully for the last time in a little while. We packed our new car up to the brim with all the stuff of our lives, and all the baby stuff, and spent an entire day driving up the coast to Santa Cruz, our new town. Brimming with excitement, we immediately unpacked a majority of our stuff on the first night we got to our place. It’s a cute furnished bungalow just a few blocks from the beach — a perfect little landing pad for me and my little family to get more familiar with the town and settle in. Ian started his new job, and I’m doing remote work and caring for Alava. And thankfully, my in-laws came to help with us for the first little bit.

Now it’s March, and I’m a bit in shock at how fast the time has flown. My baby girl is growing so fast. Our lives are changing rapidly. I’m taking it all in with gratitude and trying to get as much rest as I can in between. I’m excited to be in this new space, a new chapter to be sure. There’s a lot to explore, and I’m ready for new adventures with my little family <3

If you read all the way to here, thanks for sticking around and catching up with me. I haven’t properly journaled in the last 5 months, so this was cathartic and exactly what I needed.



Underwater Mama

Underwater Mama

Black and white edits of some maternity pics that Ian shot of me at almost 32 weeks pregnant with Alava.

And some random color edits I liked as well of most of the same pics.

Coconut Point sunrise with Alava

Coconut Point sunrise with Alava

It felt so good to be back home.

Everything was just as it was. Except it wasn’t.

Same same but different.

Coconut Point. Sunrise. Me and Ian.

Different how? We have been joined by our sweet darling baby Alava. We moved out of our place at Coconut Point, the cutest apartment that we made our home nest together.

We were untethered, no place to settle for now.

We were temporarily living out of suitcases, with boxes and bags of our belongings spread out between American Samoa, Phoenix, and Los Angeles.

We stayed at my parents’ house while we were home to tie things up for our move. And our wonderful friends and neighbors, Traci and Ano, invited us over to spend several nights at their place at Coconut Point.

It was nice to be back to enjoy the sunrise and be surrounded by the views that we associated with home for almost 10 years.

And with Alava, our little ball of love. Nursing her here in the treehouse where Ian and I got married. So much to be mushy about.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Everything is changing so fast and I just want to hold on for dear life to what we have, but alas, a new dawn has come — and as before, the sun will rise again 🌞

Random pic I took of Gabs in her backyard sometime last year 2022. Such a mood.

We sold all our stuff at the Rotaract x Moso’oi Fest Swap Meet

We sold all our stuff at the Rotaract x Moso’oi Fest Swap Meet

We decluttered our house in prep for our baby girl, and sold a bunch of stuff at the Rotaract x Moso’oi Festival Swap Meet back in October.

We’d somehow accumulated more and more stuff despite our number of attempts at minimizing what we own. It was a chance to get rid of the unused masses of mess and allowed us to focus on a ‘fewer but better’ approach — especially with baby soon to come.

It turned out to be a blessing too because we have since relocated. We did the darn thing and actually moved off the island, after many many years of saying ‘maybe next year.’ And now that year has finally come, with opportunities for growing our little family.

I don’t miss our stuff so much, but I am very happy that we got to re-home pretty much all of it! Grateful for the Rotaract x Moso’oi Festival teams for making this swap meet possible. It was also really nice to see American Samoa embracing this mode of sustainable living — using and exchanging things already on island so they continued to be used rather than sent to the landfill.

Climate Change is not just an issue that is happening to us, it’s happening because of us. 

Living proof in the tropics

Living proof in the tropics

A throwback to an undeniably gorgeous day in Tutuila. My new yellow LifeProof FRĒ case arrived in the mail and it was the perfect day to break it out for an outdoor ocean adventure. I packed my snorkel and mask in our wet bag, along with some bevvies and my pole spear, and got on my Starboard stand up paddle board. Ian and Creighton were my buddies for the day. We paddled over to the tidepools on the other side of the airport peninsula near our village. We jumped in to clear warm water and were immediately greeted by schools of needlefish. Spearfishing was a relatively new interest, so I didn’t take it very seriously, aiming and shooting a couple of times when I saw big enough fish, but ultimately letting the fish live another day, as they should. I could blame our pup Yodi, who came too, for announcing my presence and scaring them away, but nah. It was a great day. I saw a stingray with bumps on its back filter feeding in a cloud of sand. I snapped video clips on my LifeProof protected phone to compile for my LifeProof Ambassador program IG reel. After, I hung out on the beach with the guys and ‘hydrated’ ourselves. We floated around in the shady lagoon before paddling back home, and hanging out at the beach with friends.

Missing days like these in the tropics…

as I write and reflect at 39 weeks + 1 day pregnant (!!!) in wintertime Arizona…

Toodles for now!

xo, Nerelle

Maternity shoot x Alafaga

Maternity shoot x Alafaga

My best friend gifted me with some of the best memories as a soon to be mama.

I’ll always look back at these photos and remember all the weekly bumpdates you made me do when I wasn’t feeling it, all the apple waters you fetched for me when I was at my most potato-y, the trip we took to Manu’a, and all the hours we spent huddled over our laptops editing late nights at my office.

Thank you for being there for me at every trimester.

Love you forever my soul sister @alafaga 💌