Saturday, January 31, 2009

Birthday girl Zoe

We took an overnight train to modernity over three weeks ago – a few days in Astana and then another 20hour train to Almaty. When Zoe’s birthday rolled around on

JAN 17th
we were able to show her a really good time.



It was a full day out and about the city – we stopped at the toy store first and she picked out a CAMEL. With bells. She’s into it.

Then I found her a magic wand for about $2 and she was transported – she spent the rest of the day waving it around and mumbling to herself and asking me over and over again what it was called.

and then she’d repeat it over&over&over again until she forgot.

Have I mentioned how much I love little girls?


MyZoe is now three!


I love looking into her chocolate brown eyes. They are so bright, so warm, so clear and open. They are friendly. They are familiar – my mother and sisters all have brown eyes. It’s perfect.

I love listening to her talk. Her lips expand and retract, her dimples sink and rise, her eyes roll from side to side – I always lean in, nearly in her face. I want to absorb what she’s telling me. I want to breath it. I utter hushed exclamations to keep her going. I always want more.

I love embracing her. She is the perfect little form to curl up with, to snuggle and hide with. She has this happy little giggle when you take her into your arms. Ohhhh . . . she is delicious to me!

I’m such a big girl now I’ll share my magicwand with my brother!

A magicwand and a carousel – what a happy birthday combination!
I think she was hoping for a little Mary Poppins magic.

Strolling with Dad on the streets of Almaty.
Nathan is carrying all her birthday loot and the cake!!

Standing in front of the toystore where she scored BIG!
She doesn’t really expect a lot (yet).

The brown eyes I LOVE!

Taking a little birthday girl beauty snooze.
If you rest this way, all the special treatment won’t go to your head.

Pulling out the cake after a yummy dinner at the Vincent’s apartment. Des told her it was a Spiderman web cake – she thought that was cool.
(Actually, the cake wasn’t nearly as yummy as Sister Vincent’s apple crisp!)

Thursday, January 22, 2009


"Man is a mystery. It needs to be unravelled, and if you spend your whole life unravelling it, don't say that you've wasted time. I am studying that mystery because I want to be a human being."

A literary romantic like me lives for these moments.
Come along with me for a walk down
Dostoevsky Street in Semey, Kazakhstan.

Fyodor Dostoevsky was a young, vibrant writer living in St. Petersburg, Russia when he was sentenced to death with several others of the Petrashevsky Circle, a group of utopian socialist intelligentsia. Don’t they sound cool? While lined before the firing squad they were granted a last minute reprieve and were instead exiled to Siberia (I kinda know how that feels – Siberian exile). He spent 5 years in a convict prison in Omsk followed by 5 more years (1857-1859) of enforced military service in Semey, which is now in Kazakhstan.

It was in Semey, in this log house, where he began his most extraordinary novel
The Brothers Karamasov.
(which I am still comprehending – one page at a time. It’s glorious)

Let's go inside
:::my heart is speeding up:::



But isn't it a lovely era-relevant stand in?
Take a closer look -- there is PAPER on that desk.
:::breath in, breath out:::
These are actual, real life – I TOTALLY BELIEVE IT – manuscripts from F.D. himself!!

Such fervent, emotional renderings.
I love what paper and ink can conjure.
Suddenly the Russian script takes on a romantic, lovely form to me.

My children were along to IMBUE, INSTILL, INSPIRE.
Doesn't he look speechless; doesn't he look overwhelmed with awe?
Across the room we can take a figurative sit-down to gaze and reflect at the desk, at the writings, and the GENIUS that was DOSTOEVSKY!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Salvation Flour Tortillas

I miss familiar foods and even just the general abundance of foods. There are not many vegetables to be found in our village – except potatoes, carrots, onions and occasionally tomatoes, cucumbers and beets. When Nathan goes to Pavlodar, I have him bring home herbs and green/red peppers and zucchini, a pale green variety, if he can find it. I do still have a couple of large unknown summer squash that I put aside for the winter. Every time I look at them, it makes me so happy.

Also during the summer I stock piled a lot of beans. I LOVE beans!! This summer there was this little woman at our rynick selling her beans (the bean babushka!) from a large burlap bag and whenever I saw her I would always get 4 scoops. I was sure we’d enjoy eating a lot of beans this winter.

It took the discovery of a very tremendous flour tortilla recipe, and the inheritance of baking powder, to ensure that we would enjoy our beansbeansbeans!! I obviously can’t go to the store and buy flour tortillas – there are substitutes in the larger cities, one nice flat bread is called lavash. However, I found a flour tortilla recipe online and I wanted the real thing but it called for baking powder. This was tricky because neither I nor the other Americans that I’ve talked to have been able to find baking powder in this country. Baking soda – yes; baking powder – no. When the Wikle’s left their work at the US Embassy in Astana they sold the bulk of their western food treasure trove to the Wellings, who are the LDS Humanitarian missionary couple and also live in Astana. When we started visiting regularly and staying with them they opened up their food supply to us, which included baking powder – along with a lot of other things like dried black beans and lentils!! My mom then mailed me baking powder in a Ziploc baggie along with some taco seasoning.

Homey, nostalgic SALVATION!

Seriously, when I give one of my habitual sighs, and open my meager cupboards I am comforted by the thought, “Make flour tortillas and it will be alright.” Because the flavors of the beans and the sour cream and the fresh peppers and, on occasion, the taco seasoned meat, mingles so consolingly with those soft, chewy, flour-y warm tortillas. It tastes so good and familiar and all this helps me through the moment. Moment by moment right?

And in the morning, I fry an egg and warm the homemade refried beans and tortilla’s and we have huevo ranchero’s!!

So enjoy a flour tortilla with some fresh cooked beans and feel glad.

Texas Flour Tortillas
I usually double this recipe.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of vegetable oil
3/4 cups of warm milk

Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and oil. Slowly add the warm milk. Stir until a loose, sticky ball is formed. Knead for two minutes on a floured surface. Dough should be firm and soft. Place dough in a bowl and cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap for 20 minutes.

After the dough has rested, break off eight sections, roll them into balls in your hands, place on a plate (make sure they aren’t touching) and then cover balls with damp cloth or plastic wrap for 10 minutes. (It’s very important to let the dough rest; otherwise it will be like elastic and won’t roll out to a proper thickness and shape.)

After dough has rested, one at a time place a dough ball on a floured surface, pat it out into a four-inch circle, and then roll with a rolling pin from the center until it’s thin and about eight inches in diameter. (If you roll out pie crusts you’ll have no problem with this.) Don’t over work the dough, or it’ll be stiff. Keep rolled-out tortillas covered until ready to cook.

In a dry skillet, cook the tortillas about thirty seconds on each side. It should start to puff a bit when it’s done. Keep cooked tortillas covered wrapped in a napkin until ready to eat. Can be reheated in a dry skillet, over your gas-burner flame or in the oven wrapped in foil.
While you probably won’t have any leftovers, you can store in the fridge tightly wrapped in a paper towel then plastic for a day or so.

Yield 8 tortillas.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A little wordy … grab a beverage.

It’s been a nice holiday season for us here in KZ. We’ve had lots of together time re-establishing our traditions. Zoe will likely have more memories of Christmas for next year to build up the anticipation; Des too. They both slept-in and were eventually roused up by their over-excited daddy who couldn’t wait another minute to begin the morning.

We started things in the kitchen with a blindfolded Des, who was guided to sit down on our kitchen stoop, then Nathan placed a big bucket of coal in front of him and said “Merry Christmas!” He opened his eyes and laughed along with us – he had to be coaxed into a pout for this picture.

Zoe is always mindful of the things we get for her – for instance, while putting on clothes she’ll say, “Mommy, you got me this flower shirt?” And I’ll say something like, “Yes” and then she’ll sum it up with an, “Oh.” She does this over many of her things – taking note, tracing origins. Christmas morning she was just as audible about all her treasures, “This is mine?” or “You got this for me?” Sweet gratitude.

A few days after Christmas we hosted a little party at our dom, it was DPJ’s idea and I jumped on it (shock!) We painted little Christmas tree and manger invitations and then went to the Catholic Church to hand them out. We were so excited!! We baked and we cleaned and we recruited our little tween-ager girl following to help us (a group of 3 girls who come over regularly to just hang out with us.) So the day came and our little tween-ager friends were helping us set up, we laid out several liters of juice, platters of cookies and cinnamon rolls, bowls full of oranges and grapes . . . one of the girls, Sasha, indicated to me that I had set out too many cups and I said no because Father Bonaventura was coming along with Sister Martina and Sister Florida and Brother Gary and on&on listing many of the other kids . . . their eyes grew wide and they shrieked and chattered in Russian like out of breath sprinters and then THEY FLED! I have no idea what was going on and why they didn’t understand about the party when everyone else did – Sasha even wrote out all the invitations per Nathan’s directions!! Anyway, many people came and it was SO FUN! Lots of English and German and Russian was spoken and we all got along famously. I love it when Des gets a great idea.

On New Years Eve, Vayla came by around 10pm and took us to the centre marketplace in his car. There were lights everywhere and a stage with people singing, a huge icy slide that kids were sledding down, a few ice sculptures and fireworks! It was FUN and FREEZING – I’m beginning to wonder if the purpose of going outside is just to confirm that it is better to be inside; to STAY inside. Des and Zoe certainly feel this way.

We recently purchased our tickets home for JUNE – that is thebabes&I. Nathan hopes to eek out one more month of research in Russia, lovely Podsosnovo, before returning home. We’ll linger for a week in NYC with auntie Heidi and friends and then it’s FAMILY TIME in UTAH!! Can I even express to you how much I’m looking forward to this? I bring it up daily. My mom found a bike for Zoe at the local thrift store for $2 and she’s setting them up for a week of swimming lessons (!!) I’m going to take a little escape to SLC for some solo time with friends and then they will all join me for more FAMILY TIME. Then a little more time in blessed Cedar City and then babes&I will retire to St. George to the Jones Oasis for more swimming and shopping and eating and hiking and laughing and loving to our hearts content. I LOVE MY PEOPLE!


Continuing on with pictures, pictures, pictures . . . must keep up on the decluttering of my digital camera -- esp. since Des has managed to get a hold of it more often -- too many crazy angles and superhero close-ups.

We were invited the New Years party at the library.
It was great -- Father Frost is a Kazakh buddy of Nathans -- and since it was a dress up party Des was a Power Ranger and Zoe was Dr. Iboli (a Russian cartoon character).

Zoe Dancing with Sister Florida at our Christmas party.

A little sliegh ride on Christmas day.
Nathan got frost bite on his ears -- they turned bright red and burned for a couple of days and then began to peel!

A Christmas bucket of coal for Desmond P. Jones.

Opening Christmas presents.

Gift from Nathan -- earrings and a wall hanging of the oldest Mosque in Turkistan, KZ.

Under the tree Christmas morning.

The looks on their faces as they first caught sight of the tree Christmas morning.

Christmas Eve at the Catholic Church -- after the 3hour service we were all given a candle and went outside to the lifesize stable with manger.
We sang songs and took turns kissing the baby Jesus. Someone is kissing him in this pic so he can't be seen.

Our Christmas tree in homemade ornament glory and a few Christmas cards from the States.

This is the hardworking Nathan P. Jones.
Who even on Christmas morning had to rise before sunrise, clean out ash from the oven and build a fire to get our home warmwarmwarm.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Pardon Me Poetry


National popsong – citizen’s crowd, link
arms, some hips are in motion.

These costumes; gold fringe, beacon head dresses,
remind me of your buildings – flamboyant
super construction Babel-tower.

Land cleared, history-razed, steel induced
representation of black-gold flush soil.

It was later I marveled
over captured digital images.
CGI city: So blue! So angular!
Such pixilated motion upward!

Your people are lovely, Asia Central, and
as we isolate ourselves among you, we shall
look for more of your colors.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Zoe en Voice

I was handing out spoons at breakfast time and Zoe objected, "No! I don't want this one – it's not wonderful to me."

After discussing with Zoe her middle names and the grandmothers she was named after, ZDKJ asked, "And where is my Heidi name?"

"Remember when we'd watch Star Trek and eat rootbeer?" We had a semi-regular tradition on Saturday nights in NYC to watch a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode and have pizza and rootbeer.

Nathan: Des I think we should call you Luscious.
DPJ: . . .
ZDKJ: Desi NOT Luscious!
Nathan: (deep laugh) Then who’s Luscious?
ZDKJ: (with attitude) Mommy is!

"Not me! My mouth did it!" After getting a few words because she spit her spaghetti out all over her lap.

I get that swaddling clothes baby in a manger!

While watching a television program with a woman in it she asks, "That woman nurse her baby, yeah?" I think she was trying to confirm her notion that all women are nursing mothers.

ok, ok, I be better, i be better. I be good!

I want to draw on some paper. Get me some paper please.

After cuddling a minute one night in my bed Zoe sat up and said, "Bye!" I asked her where she was going and she answered, "I'm going to my brother."

We were watching a program about monkeys and there was a cute little baby clinging to his mom. Zoe sighed and contentedly observed, "That baby happy with his mom and his dad. Happy!"

I'm scared from this food – there's snakes in there!" While looking at her bowl of spaghetti.

Desi Candor

Let’s go to FUNLAND; where the only thing we can do is have fun and we don’t have to buy we can just take.

You’re my favorite to cuddle with mom.

Dad, your foot is like the whale in ‘Jonah and the Whale’

Is Obama one of Jesus’ guys?

“I don’t want to be called Desmond anymore. I want a different name.” Later he told me he wanted to be called, “Scooter.”

Dad you’re my favorite actress.

How ‘bout we go out naked in the snow? How about that?

I think I’m gonna turn into a big barnhouse.

Hi Mom! Are you Howdy Town?

Des: Does sometimes Dad wear dresses?
Me: I’ve never seen it.
Des: Flower dresses?
Me. Nope.

While tumbling around on the bed Des observed, “A Desi/mommy sandwich; it’s like I’m the salami.”

Mom, don’t clean the kitchen just let dad do it, ok? I told him to do it – c’mon lets play!”

While pretending: “I’m drinking beer – wouldn’t it be yummy with barley in it?”

“Lets play! I’m the chicken and you’re the person cooking me.” [time passes] “ok! it’s done now, the chicken is ready! Aren’t you going to eat me?” I pounced and began to gobble him up. Zoe comes to our side and says, “I bok, I bok, I chicken, bokbokbok – eat me too!”

“Bless you that Christmas will be Jesus-y” During a morning prayer.

I asked DPJ one afternoon when the last time he washed his hands was and he replied, “I didn’t wash my hands, I spitted on them.”

Nathan: I think you and Zoe will be best friends.
Desmond: Yeah!! I’LL LOVE THAT!!

I heard Zoe crying and as I entered the room I asked, “What’s the trouble?” Des replied, “There is no trouble, I’m just asking Zoe to cry.”

While D&Z were wrestling I overheard Zoe say, “ok, ok, I stop.” and Des quickly reply, “No, you don’t stop, you’re the girl who NEVER stops!”

I’m a hotdog – you bought me for lunch – fold me up and eat me!