Progress Over Perfection – Part 1

Before I became pregnant with Miles, my last documented weight on my medical record was 121 pounds in April of 2013.  It was the slimmest I had been since working out for my wedding back in 2007. But last year’s weight was all due to running, not strength training. So in essence, I was skinny, but I wasn’t strong.  At my last “pregnant” OB appointment (when I was actually a day overdue), I weighed 156 pounds.

Today, after a solid month of working out pretty much every day between Pure Barre, Boot Camp, and now training for the Nike Women’s Half Marathon, I am back down to 137 pounds. I was actually disappointed with the number on the scale because I had a goal of being closer to 130 by this point. I mean I’m exclusively breastfeeding! That’s an additional 300-500 calories a day that my body is burning just by making milk!  After dwelling on it, reading on it, and talking to some of my fitness pals, I gradually began to accept that it was progress over perfection.

Although my diet this month hasn’t been exactly 100% clean, it has been healthier with my beloved sweets in moderation.  I used to eat ice cream almost 4-6 times a week, but this month, I’ve only had it twice. I don’t do any type of meal replacement because I am breastfeeding (and I’m afraid it’ll mess with the liquid gold I’ve got going on), but I did do a 3 day juice cleanse a few weeks back. I’ve also grown accustomed to eating smaller portions more frequently. I still have my one-cup of coffee every morning… because let’s be real, I have a newborn...  but I now drink only water and/or my green iced tea throughout the day. My esthetician, even complimented me on healthier skin the other day. This month I’ve shed 2 ½ inches off my waist, 1¼ inches off my hips and 3% of body fat.  I’m not exactly sure why my hips have been so stubborn, but I’m hoping the increase in my running mileage in the upcoming weeks will help with that.  I can plank longer, I can lift weights that are heavier than my weights at home, and I can jog/run through an entire 55-minute episode of Orange is the New Black without stopping. Overall, I feel stronger, so I can’t say the entire month was wasted.

Being that muscle is heavier than fat, I’m not really sure if I’ll get back down to that 121 pound mark that I was at last year. Plus I’m going back to work next week which means the daily workouts will now come to an end.  That’s just the reality of it for me.  My diet will also be changing again due to the fact that I’m training for a half marathon. And to be quite honest, I think I’ll be okay with that.  As long as I continue to feel good about my progress and my endurance, then the scale number will just be like age…  nothing but a number.


To be continued…

progress over perfection

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Behind the Names: Our Gems and Our Light

When it came to choosing names for each one our kids, Ron and I wanted unique, traditionally spelled names that had meaning. Literally, each name was pretty much chosen on the day of (or day after) birth. I get asked quite often why we chose the names we did, so here’s a little insight on how each our babies were named.:-)


EVA JADE – precious life

When we initially started family planning in early 2010, it took about 4 months for me to become pregnant with Eva. Being the planner that I am, you can only imagine my surprise, frustration, and anxiety with how long it was taking. I always thought that getting pregnant would be easy and I was hoping to have this baby during the summer months following my graduation from UCLA. I began to think that something was wrong with me. That March, I went on a People to People Nursing delegation to China. I was expecting and prepared for ‘Aunt Flo’ to accompany me at some point, but to my surprise she never came. I shrugged it off and made the excuse that the stress of travel, the time change, etc, had discombobulated my system. The day I came back from China, I figured, What the heck, let’s do a pregnancy test. And of course, the rest was history.

I told Ron that I wanted to include the name Jade, because I remembered one of the tour guides saying that it was China’s most precious gem. It just seemed fitting since I was in China carrying a precious gem without even knowing it.  Eva (pronounced ee-va, not eh-va) became her first name because we liked how it flowed well as Eva Jade.  That plus, Eva’s Hebrew meaning of “life”….  The day we were to announce our pregnancy to our families was the same day my grandma passed away. My grandma never got to hear the news, but I knew she knew. Shortly, I later found out that one of my cousins (who had also been trying hard to conceive) was pregnant as well! We both ended up delivering in November (the birth month of our late grandma), just two days apart from each other. Call it coincidence, but my oh my…  what a coincidence of events…:-)Eva Jade


KALIA PEARL  - precious beauty

Since it took about 4 months to get pregnant with Eva, we thought we’d give ourselves a few months head start with baby #2. We wanted our kids to be no more than 2 years apart in age. Well, we became pregnant right away (the girls are 18 months apart). At my initial appointment, the OB who saw me (not my regular OB provider) could not find an implantation on ultrasound. I ended up having to do serial blood tests to detect pregnancy hormones and rule out an ectopic pregnancy. Funny thing was, I actually called and left a message saying that I was feeling left sided pain (which could indicate an ectopic pregnancy), but I didn’t receive a call back until 4 days later while we were vacationing in Maui (and by then, the pain had subsided). Upon returning from Maui, I had a stat ultrasound the very next day which did reveal and confirm, a viable pregnancy.

Interestingly enough, the name Danica, which was up against Eva, didn’t even make the running when we found out we were pregnant with another baby girl. Due to the nature of events and being in Maui, we decided to go with a Hawaiian name for baby girl #2. We had friends whose daughter was named Kalia and we were thrilled when Alysce and Martin gave us their blessing to use the name (I know some may think it’s a little strange to ask for permission, but you know, some people do get a bit territorial with names!). Anyway, we loved the name Kalia because it meant beauty and it was simple to pronounce in comparison to other Hawaiian names. We also decided to stick with the “gem theme”, so with pearl being the state’s precious gem, it only seemed natural that we go with Pearl.

Kalia Pearl


MILES APOLLO – soldier of light, music, and healing

When we found out we were having a boy for our 3rd baby, we knew we had to scratch the gem theme. It was too feminine in our opinion. But we did get a good laugh when people tried to come with “masculine” gem names :-D. Initially we had a few names up for debate. The first name would either be Miles or Maximus… and the second name would either be Kingston or Apollo. We let the names just sit until pretty much my 40th week of pregnancy. Although we loved the named Maximus because of my late grandma (who was named Maxima), Miles just seemed to come more naturally for us. I had been running 1ks, 5 ks, 10ks, and 1/2 marathons throughout this pregnancy (which probably explains why walking didn’t help in the end) so we always joked that this baby would come out running due to the mileage he’s accumulated. We also liked the Latin and Hebrew meaning behind Miles – soldier and gift from God.

For his second name, we considered Kingston for a short while because it sounded regal to us. But that’s about as far as it went.  Apollo struck with us because of the Greek meaning behind it. Apollo was the Greek God of the sun/light, music/poetry, healing/medicine and knowledge/wisdom. All traits that Ron and I appreciate and could identify with. And because I haven’t posted newborn pics of Miles yet, here’s a couple from his first few days of life.:-)(Although I photographed the girls’ newborn sessions, we decided to hire the super talented Carrie, from Baby As Art, to capture him and our family. I’ve long admired (and have been inspired by) Carrie and Brittany’s work, so I’m excited to see what Carrie captured of him and our family!)

Miles Apolloima2ima3

So there you have it! The reason behind the names of each of our kids! Thanks for reading!

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The Transition to 3

I have always wanted 3 kids.  There was no reason behind it.. THREE just felt like the perfect number. And I wanted my kids to all be close in age, with no more than a two year age gap. But I knew that having 3 — whose ages would be 3 and under — would not be an easy feat.  Ron and I would be outnumbered. It would be crazy, chaotic times.. but, believe it or not, I kind of wanted the cRaZy.

So far, the hardest transition for me personally, has been the recovery. Even though this is my third time around this rodeo, I knew that come Postpartum Day 4, my body would begin hating me. And sure enough it did… Now let’s be real here, I’m sore all over… At Day 4, my milk came in, which meant breast engorgement and I had a baby that was chomping away with an improper latch. My bottom was sore.. for obvious reasons (and we’ll leave it at that), and I had two other toddlers who still needed to be taken care of. That, plus hormones. I don’t have the blues (which is very real by the way), but every time I stare at my kids, I can’t help but wonder as to how I got so lucky… that God chose me to be their mother… then I just start crying, which causes my breasts start leaking, which leads to more engorgement. It’s a funny, yet vicious cycle really. Fortunately however, being that it IS my third time around this rodeo, my body is recovering a lot faster than previous labor recoveries. I just gotta give it time and I know that. Ron was able to have about a week and half off from work, so that’s been a huge help too with our multiple appointments and keeping the girls to their routine. Next week however, I’ll be fully on my own. And quite honestly, although I’m a bit nervous.. I know I’m going to have to face the music sooner or later!

Which leads me to the girls. I think another major transition for us was figuring out how this transition would be for them. Eva was actually very excited to have a new brother on the way, so it was Kalia that we were worried about. She’s a total mama’s girl and can be quite territorial with me.

To our surprise, Kalia has been adjusting quite well. She’s still quite clingy with me, but she doesn’t mind that I have Miles in my arms for long periods (when I’m nursing), just as long as she can sit nearby. She’s quite smitten with him and loves the opportunity to hold and kiss him.

Eva on the other hand– she’s my little mama. She’s a sensitive soul and we realized the extent of it when my parents first brought the girls back to our place the same day we were discharged from the hospital. She had been asking my parents all day to see her baby brother and unfortunately she had a misconception right off the back when she first came through the door and saw one of her uncles. So instead it was tantrums and chaos followed by comforting and then finally some one-on-one time with her newest brother.

The first day home and the girls one-on-one time with baby brother


Eva – “If he cries, call me okay?”

We decided to keep the girls going with their same daily routine, and so far, it has worked out very well for us in this whole adjustment. It’s been a week and both girls are still head of heels in love with Miles and I have to keep reminding myself that love smothering is better than jealousy !! They’re both such little mamas and are always wanting to help.  It’s been a trip to observe their way of thinking too! With me nursing Miles, the girls are also pulling down their shirts saying, “Can I feed him? I have milk cause I drink milk. ” lol!

I know we still have many days to go before we all get some kind of routine established, but for now.. this has been a good start.:-)If there are any mamas of 3 of out there who can offer any advice, please feel free to message me! I’d love to hear it!



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Miles Apollo’s Birth Story

Just a warning.. this is a long blog post!



In good old Filipino fashion, Miles Apollo made his debut 4 days late.  At my 40th week OB appointment, I was a bit discouraged to find out that my cervix hadn’t changed at all in the last 3 weeks (We were at 1cm the entire time)! My uterine environment was apparently highly desirable by its inhabitant and no amount of walking or spicy food was going to get him out. After talking it over with my midwife, we decided to schedule an induction for that following Sunday, 4.13.14 (that plus, there was a baby lottery pool going on, so we didn’t want to sway any results!). In the meantime, we would enjoy our last weekend as a family of 4 and try some other natural methods to evict my occupant;-)

Friday 4/11/14 and Saturday 4/12/14

Apparently, he heard the eviction notice because the following night (which was Friday night), my contractions began. They were mild and bearable, but they were coming every 3-5 minutes. By Saturday morning however, they had let up and were inconsistent. As a precaution, we dropped off the girls at my parents’ house. Ron and I spent that Saturday evening at home enjoying the Pacquiao/Bradley fight and indulging in some “whole sha-bang shrimp” from The Boiling Crab (sooooo goood!!). Around 1am, the contractions began again. First at around 7-8 minutes, then at 2am, they began coming in closer at 3-5 minutes. I already had an induction scheduled at 0830 in the morning, so I thought that we might actually be going in a bit earlier than scheduled.  The contractions gradually progressed to “moderate”, but I was able to breathe right through them… if you remember my last two birth stories, it was nothing that good ol’ Bob Marley couldn’t get me through. That’s the one thing about music for me.. when it hits you, you feel no pain.;-)At 430 am (yes, I had been up all night because I couldn’t sleep through them), I decided to take a hot shower. After the shower however, my contractions began to slow down– both in frequency and intensity. But the same thing happened when I was in labor with Kalia. It was the calm before the storm… the period of rest before the big ones would hit!

Sunday 4/13/14

We ended up proceeding to the hospital for our induction as planned. To be honest, I was scared and nervous. My mom shared her induction story with me, so I was expecting to be in pain the entire time! In hindsight, despite a delay in getting my epidural, it was actually the best labor experience– hands down! When Hilary, my midwife, checked my dilation for an initial baseline, I was at 4cm! 4 CM!! I tooted my horn and gave myself a pat on my back for making it that far! And even though the Pitocin had already started, I was able to wait about 2 hours before requesting an epidural.

Which leads me to… the worst part of this birth story. Initially, I was told that it would take about 10-15 minutes to get an epidural because there was someone ahead of me. Unfortunately, the anesthesiologist got caught up in that room for an HOUR. AN HOUR. By the time the expected 15 minutes was up, the STORM came. 3-5 minutes of strong, intense contractions and I was in tears! I was able to get 3 spot doses of fentanyl just to take the edge off while waiting. Seriously, those spot doses every 10 minutes and the soothing voice of Bob Marley playing in my head is what kept me from losing my religion! I know Ron was feeling helpless sitting in front of me, knowing that he had the capability to give me an epidural. But I wouldn’t even let him touch me, it was that bad.

By the time I was able to get my epidural, life was good again.  Hilary came and did my cervical check and I was at 7-8 cm. Speaking of the epidural, it was totally different from my last two. With Eva and Kalia, I was completely numbed up and dead weight. I’m talking not being able to lift my legs. When I mentioned it to Ron, he told me that my anesthetic bolus was different this time around. In actuality, it was a better mix according to him. I was able to feel the pressure and certain sensations, but I wasn’t in pain. I would later find out (and admit) that he was right.

Right after being told I was 7-8 cm, my nurse (wonderful nurse she was!) decided to turn me to the other side. After 10 minutes of laying on that side, I told Ron I felt the urge the push.. an urge I never felt with my last 2 babies! I waited about another 10 minutes and finally called my nurse to come back in. She was busy at that time, so her relief checked me and told me I was at 9cm! HOLY COW! She predicted it would be another 30 minutes. The entire time I had the overwhelming urge to push. And people weren’t kidding when they said it would feel like a bowel movement! My nurse finally checked me about 20 minutes later and sure enough, I was 10cm and ready. I was shocked at how quick that all happened due to a change in position!!

When I got set up on the stirrups however, that urge went away. So the pushing wasn’t as effective as I thought it would be ( I really thought he’d just slip out). After placing me back on my side and allowing me to labor down just a bit, it was time to try again. This time, pushing was much more effective. I delivered my baby boy sideways… meaning, yup, I was laying on my side. It was weird and awkward, but at the same time, very natural… if that makes sense!! And to my relief, another pain free delivery.

Miles Apollo Cruz Atienza was born 4.13.14 at 5:06 pm. He came in at 6 pounds 8 ounces and was 19 inches long.



And again, despite the delay with the epidural, it was the most ideal labor situation that I could ever ask for.  I didn’t labor that long in the hospital so I didn’t require too much fluids  (which meant less swelling afterwards). The epidural itself was amazing because I wasn’t completely numb and was actually able to move my legs and feel the pressure of my contractions and the effectiveness of my pushing.  And the icing on the cake was having my wonderful midwife (who oversaw all my pregnancies) deliver my baby! It was definitely a great way to end my child-bearing days.

Just like his sisters, his name was carefully chosen. But that will be another blog post on it’s own ;-). Thanks for reading!





Erma - Welcome to the world Miles Apollo! Congrats Atienza family!!!!

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Tordai Family {Orange County Children’s Photographer}

I photographed the Tordai family at 39+ weeks pregnant! Yep, even I can’t believe it myself! But at the same time.. I knew I was in good hands because well, Hilary has been my midwife for my past three pregnancies! So if there was one person to be around if things suddenly became interesting during this session, it would’ve definitely been her!

I still remember my first encounter/appointment with Hilary.. my grandma, who was also a midwife in the Philippines, had just passed away that same exact morning and I was obviously under the weather from the news. It would’ve been the same day that I would’ve announced the news of our first baby, so I was beating myself up at the fact that I never got to share my news with my grandma.  Hilary knew just the right words to say as she shared the viability of that pregnancy and Eva’s strong heartbeat. And although I never got to actually share my news with my grandma… in that moment, I knew that she was telling me that she knew.:-)

Whew! OKAY! Back to this session before my pregnancy hormones take over!;-)

It’s been such a looong time since I played with the outdoor sunlight and photographed a family/children’s session! I love being al fresco, so I enjoy these type of sessions, but of course with being a grown up, scheduling and time have prevented me from doing more of these!

I had such a hard time narrowing down my favorite images for a blog post (hence, the pic collages!). But I know you’ll enjoy these images as much as I did capturing them!

Orange County Family Photographer

Orange County Family Photographer

 County Family Photographer

Orange County Family Photographer


Orange County Family Photographer

Orange County Family Photographer

 County Family Photographer

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