Thursday, December 3, 2015

Varla's Gift

Varla's Gift, written by Jeff R. Smith, and illustrated by me, Nessa Dee, is now available online!  If you'd like to snag a copy for yourself, you can find the book online at the following sites:

Here's a little sneak peek of the interior spreads:

The illustrations for the book were created with acrylic paint, collaged paper, and digital elements. Thanks, Jeff, for letting me help bring Varla to life!

nessa dee

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Halloween 2015

I was asked quite recently when I was going to post on my blog, to which I responded, "What blog?"

The other replied, "The blog you've been writing for six years..."

Me: "I have a blog??"

I looked it up, and apparently, this is my long since forgotten blog. Who knew I had a blog?

Okay, seriously, I have not forgotten that I have a blog. In fact, I think about this little blog quite often, and with those thoughts comes an enormous pang of guilt... when I think about all of our adventures we've taken, all of the projects I've been working on, and all of the growing that my kids keep doing despite my best efforts to keep them little, and I've missed journaling them. Yes, I have evidence of these moments in the form of pictures and videos and artwork, but my blog held the stories that accompany those events. But all of those adventures combined with day to day life plus illustration jobs times homeschooling divided by three kids multiplied by the square root of...well you get the idea. I've been a little busy lately.

So what's a girl to do when an extremely long update post is necessary, and the thought of writing said post is so overwhelming it's migraine inducing? She says, forget it, and instead posts a bunch of Halloween pics.

I present to you, scenes from Halloween 2015 featuring a spider web, a ninja, and characters from Fantastic Mr. Fox:

How's that for a comeback?

nessa dee

Friday, July 31, 2015


On Wednesday, my youngest, my beautiful baby boy turned three. My strong-willed, funny, boisterous little boy is no longer considered a baby, has moved from the toddler stage, and has stepped through the door of preschool-dom [though, I still and will forever refer to him as the baby.]

People often ask if he was supposed to be born in August, inquiring as to why he was christened as such, but that was never the intention. His actual due date was today, July 31, so to say that I hoped he would be born in August would mean that I hoped that my pregnancy would last longer than the time frame assigned to my gestating child, and anyone knows that a woman, pregnant with her third child, struggling to walk, sit, eat, sleep, breathe with a ridiculously large beach ball protruding from her midsection does not wish to extend this relationship beyond that assigned date, especially not in the middle of summer, in Texas where temperatures were climbing to 110 degrees. No, I did not hope he would be born in August. In fact, I hoped he would show his face in mid July, and as the days passed with no sign of labor, I started to panic. My husband says I went crazy. I blame it on end-of-pregnancy hormones, but I thought if he were to be born in August, people might confuse his name for his birth month, not know his name, blah, blah, blah, [I don't remember all of my wailing rants], but I actually thought if my August were to be born in August, it would ruin his life. So, yes, I went crazy. It was August's fault.

And as the story goes, on July 28th, I set out to have a baby. I walked 3 miles in scorching weather, ran [waddled] up and down my stairs what felt like 100 times [probably 10], I ate shrimp, Mexican food, spicy food, spicy Mexican shrimp food, did jumping jacks, maybe cried a bit, and absolutely begged this baby to show his face. He arrived the next day, and my baby August was born in July.

On Wednesday, my beautiful baby boy turned three. I watched him smirk as he ate a birthday breakfast donut, I smiled as he admired his birthday chalkboard drawing of a turkey, bear, and giraffe as per his request, I laughed out loud when I discovered our kitchen floor covered in sprinkles and heard August yell, "Surprise! Trixie can eat them all!" and I tried to relish every part of that day.

August Huxley, you might have listened to me once, showing up when I insanely beckoned you to arrive in July, but you have been forming your own path ever since. You are extremely independent, and I love that about you, but things might be a little easier if you would take your mom's advice once in a while. You love to say "I can do it myself!" and most times you can. You've loved music since you were a wee babe, and that love of music has evolved into a love of singing and dancing. You are quite the dancer. You love, love, love to be read to and I have no doubt you will be reading on your own fairly soon because you are a determined little boy who can "do it [yourself]." You make us laugh out loud every day.

I love you sweet boy!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Life According to Gus

:: "Momma, my nose is falling off."  [he had a runny nose]

:: Pointing to his butt, "Say hi to my friend."
   Me: "Uh...hi?"
   Gus, with his butt facing me: "Do you want to go to the beach tomorrow day?"

:: Checking on Gus who was supposed to be napping.
   Me: "August, where's your shirt?"
   Gus: "It flew away. It's really dirty."
   Me: "Why is your shirt dirty?"
   Gus: "Uuuuuuuhhhhhhhhh..."
   Me: "Do you want to get up?"
   Gus: "Uh, yeah."  [gets new shirt out of his drawer] "Here's my shirt. It's really pretty."

:: I'm doing the hiccups, Momma!

:: I want to wear this hat for Finn. [translation: I want Finn to wear this hat.]

:: Gus: "Momma, smell this [Fortune Cookie] What's it smell like?"
   Me: "Smells like a cookie."
   Gus: "No, it smells like a spaceship."

:: [While covered with soap in the shower] "Something feels spicy."
   Me: "Something feels spicy?"
   Gus: " Yeah, on my butt."
   Me: "Uh, okay."

:: Gus: "Momma, come look at my cars."
   Me, looking at a collection of cars he placed on the floor: "Wow!"
   Gus: "That was very nice for you to see."

:: [Upon seeing me unload his bike from the car, he questioned]  When we get home, can I ride my bike right in here and I be a happy boy?"

:: Me: "Hey kids, what do y'all want to do tonight?"
   Gus: "We need to drink chocolate milk, eat Pop Tarts and eat donuts and ring the bell."

:: Gus: 'Momma, you need to get Finn a spanking."
   Me: "Why does Finn need a spanking?"
   Gus: "Because he not let me play his bideo games."

:: Me: "August, do you want to go make a sand castle?"
   Gus: "No, I want to build a hole, and put my head in it."

:: [Lifting his shirt to reveal his stomach] "Look at my abs!"

:: Me: "August, when I say no, that means you don't do it."
   Gus: "When I say yes, that means I do it."

This little boy will be 3 years old next week. He certainly keeps me on my toes, but he's quite hilarious...and we love it!

nessa dee

Saturday, June 20, 2015

I Need Another Beach Vacation [Part 2]

Jonathan started checking everybody in while I managed the kids and carry-ons. We were yelled at once again to move all of  our stuff to the side. It was then, while I was shifting kids, luggage, a carseat and stroller that Jonathan turned to me and said...

"I can't go."

"What do you mean you can't go?" I asked.

With a look of shock on his face he said, "I can't go. My passport's expired."

"No it's not. You checked it. It doesn't expire until October," my voice getting more and more shrill with every word.

"It expired in January. I read it wrong," he said with a blank expression.

I looked at his passport. The expiration date read 10 JAN 15. He had checked that date at least five times before we left, each time reading the first and last numbers as October 2015, and each time fighting a feeling that something wasn't quite right. I still don't know how he missed those crucial three letters in between 10 and 15. I mean, I know how he missed it, but I still can't believe he did. And there was nothing we could do. No charming our way out of this, pleading with security, or sneaking him onto the plane. We all waited in silence through the security line. I shed a few quiet tears. Jonathan walked us to the gate, hugged us goodbye, and as I walked down the tarmac, I turned too late to catch a glimpse of him before we boarded the plane. It was probably for the best, or I might not have gotten on the flight.


His empty seat was filled immediately, and poor August didn't realize that it wasn't his dad sitting next to him. He kept asking "What's Daddy watching?" on the TV embedded into the head rest of the seat in front of him. As soon as the wheels left the ground, I shed a few more silent tears. I didn't want to go on this vacation that we had looked forward to for so long. I just wanted to be together. When our wheels touched down in Houston, the man in Jonathan's seat leaned forward, and August finally realized that Daddy wasn't with us. He pointed rudely, and said really loudly, "Who's that?" Then he kept asking where Daddy went. We met up with the rest of the family, and boarded our next flight to the islands. None of us were particularly talkative.

Once we arrived in the Cayman Islands, we got settled in our condo, and Jonathan's dad started to work on figuring out a way to get Jonathan there. Since we left on a Saturday, there were no passport offices open until Monday. Jonathan had already booked a flight out of Houston to the Caymans so he could drive there on Monday, apply to get a passport in a day, and catch the flight on Tuesday only to fly back to the states on Wednesday with the rest of us. Not much of a vacation. It didn't really seem worth the hassle to get a half a day in paradise.

I tried to take Jonathan's advice and enjoy the vacation for the kids' sake. We made our way to the beach and just soaked up as much sun as we could, bathed in some of the saltiest water we've ever tasted, and searched for intricate seashells. I tried to take tons of pictures for Jonathan. I didn't want him to miss out on anything, especially since this was August's first visit to the beach. 
By that evening, Jonathan and his dad had concocted an insane plan. It seemed so far fetched, but if you knew the family I married into, it wouldn't surprise you in the least. Jonathan was going to fly to Miami on Sunday morning because not only did Miami have a passport office that can renew your passport in a day, it also had a flight to the Cayman islands Monday evening. Jonathan planned to spend the night in a hotel right across the street from the office, get up at 4:30 AM, go stand in the "non-appointment" line in a basement parking lot in hopes that he could get in and manage to convince someone to renew his passport that day. Almost impossible.

I woke up Sunday morning at 6 AM. So much for catching up on some rest. I talked to Jonathan before he flew out, and we spent the day on the beach, getting regular updates from Jonathan from time to time. We watched thunderstorms roll in and leave almost as fast. We built some pretty poor excuses for sand castles and added to our shell collection. I talked to Jonathan that night, before bed, nerves running high knowing he had to get up at a ridiculous hour, and that he's never been good at getting up early.

I awoke at 4:30 AM the next morning and couldn't go back to sleep. At this point, I'd pretty much given up on relaxing. I tried calling Jonathan to make sure he was awake, but he didn't pick up. I called again...and again...and texted. Nothing. I looked up the hotel number and called his room. When he didn't pick up, I calmed down a bit, knowing he hadn't slept in. Finally, at around 6 AM, I got a crackled phone call from Jonathan, who was in a basement with horrible phone reception. He had slept in, but not too late, and he was 2nd in line at the office. 

August woke at 6:30, having a croup attack, and he and I sat on the porch with a nebulizer, watching the cruise ships sail into port. The whole day, though we were surrounded by the calming effects of warm sunshine, and soothing sounds of water lapping at the shore, things felt tense. At 1:00, we heard from Jonathan. He had secured a passport. At 3:00, he had his passport in hand. At 7:30 PM he had boarded his flight, and at 10:00 PM he finally joined the family in the condo with an incredible story to tell. If you want an idea of his experience, read the yelp reviews for the Miami Passport Agency. It was no picnic, but he did it, and he was in the Cayman Islands with us for the rest of our trip. 

We tried to fit as much as we could in that last day and a half. Of course we enjoyed the beach, we went long boarding and kayaking, we went snorkeling and saw some of the most beautiful sea creatures right off the shore. We built sand castles, found seashells, played Frisbee, and soaked up the sun. It finally felt like a family vacation, if only for a short time. 

Now I'm ready for a vacation do-over, perhaps somewhere in the states, just in case.

nessa dee

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Self Portrait

This is what I look like at the moment. I have been flattened by a measly summer cold. Though I've been wearing my painting pants everyday this week in the hopes of getting some painting done, all I've been able to bring myself to do is sketch and stuff my face full of carbs. 
But, I'm on the mend, so maybe tomorrow when I put my painting pants on, I'll actually add new colors to them...maybe.

nessa dee

Monday, June 8, 2015

I Need Another Beach Vacation [Part 1 ]

I've heard many people say that they need a vacation after their vacation. In this case, I think, "I need a vacation do-over" would be more appropriate. Our last couple of vacations (skiing, Yellowstone) have been the adventure seeking, fun but exhausting type trips, and while I loved those trips, the idea of going on a vacation where we could just relax (as much as you can relax with three kids) seemed, well, like a vacation.


We had been prepping for this Cayman Islands vacation since Christmas, securing passports for the kids, buying beach-worthy attire, counting down the days with eager family members, and dreaming of lying on the beach, soaking up the sun. Then, the Tuesday before we were to fly out on Saturday, we received a phone call from my distraught mother. Her passport had expired.

"What??  How did this happen? You said you needed to check your passport months ago! How could you forget to check your passport?" I might have thought, or even said to my mom. The scrambled search for options began. Option 1: Drive to Houston the day before our flight, meet with the agency, explain her plight, and pray that they would approve the passport renewal that very day, then drive back to Austin that night to prep for a ridiculously early departure time. Option 2: Drive to downtown Austin that Tuesday, meet with a company who claims they can get you a new passport in a couple of days (though it's not guaranteed), pay a huge fee, and pray that the passport arrives in time. She chose option 2.

It was at this point that I thought to ask Jonathan if he had checked his own passport.  "Of course I did...I think. Wait. Did I? Did you check yours?"

I had just used my passport in January and knew it wouldn't expire for several more years. But just to make sure, I checked my passport, and he checked his. "We're good," he said. "Mine doesn't expire until October."  We breathed a huge sigh of relief, and then another one when my mom's newly renewed passport arrived Thursday. We were back on track...cue the sun-soaking dreams.

The night before our early bird flight, Jonathan and I made an appearance at a good friend's surprise karaoke birthday party. The appearance turned into several hours of epic singing because, really, who can leave after just one song? Besides, beachside naps would more than make up for hours of sleep lost in the service of serenading a friend. A mere three hours after we had shut our eyes, we awoke to the unforgiving sounds of our alarms. Groggy and bleary-eyed, we loaded the kids, the mom, our luggage, and ourselves slightly later than we had hoped, but we were on our way.


Upon arriving at the airport, we realized that our plan to leave early so as to beat the Saturday crowds was a plan favored by a million other people. The lines were ridiculous. While we still had an hour and a half before our departure, we were informed, many times by the yells issuing from the mouth of one airline employ that our luggage had to be checked 45 minutes before the flight or it would not make it to our destination. Panic started to set in the longer we waited in line. Finally, they divided the lines by flight times, and we were able to bypass a whole lot of people whose eyebrows seemed to knit together as we made our way to the front.

Jonathan started checking everybody in while I managed the kids and carry-ons. We were yelled at once again to move all of  our stuff to the side. It was then, while I was shifting kids, luggage, a carseat and stroller that Jonathan turned to me and said...

"I can't go."

[The rest of the beach story will come in another post, but I added pics from the vacation so that you won't go crossed eyed from the bombardment of words.


nessa dee