(Smartphones and) self-worth.

It’s almost become some unwritten rule in Kansas City that stopping at intersections is when you check your phone. Remember when honking horns was some sort of provocative thing? Well, now many people seem thankful for the one person who looks up for a second to notice the light’s changed and taps the horn as a signal for people to stop looking down at their phones and hit the accelerator.

But this really isn’t about everyone else. You see, from 2012-2014, I commuted through Swope Park from Raytown to Waldo. My drive took me past The Lake of the Woods and down Blue River Road, two of my favorite places in Kansas City in the autumn. But when I would get to work, I noticed that I couldn’t recall much about my drive. (I imagine this sorta thing happens to most of us from time to time when we can’t remember if we stopped at a stop sign or if we paid for our food before leaving a restaurant.) Turns out, psychologists had a term for this phenomenon of blind spots in memory or self-perception.

While I was aware of that perceptual scotomas could occur, it still scared me to think that most of a 20-minute commute had practically vanished from my memory. I immediately started looking for a cause, and I noticed that I’d been texting friends on my drive. And, intoxicated with the newness of listening to music on my phone, I spent a lot of time shuffling between albums. Most of all, though, I realized that I was feeling compelled to respond immediately to every notification I received from any of my apps. My perceptual blind spot scared me. Sure, I was scared for the safety of others and myself as I drove to work. But I was also afraid that I was becoming a robot of sorts. I feel like detail and nuance are the enemy of laziness. And since I wasn’t noticing my surroundings, I started feeling a little less than human.

So I started occasionally interrupting my trip with a stop at the lake. Watching the sun rise over The Lake of the Woods quickly became one of my favorite ways to help me focus before particularly stressful days. Another way I sought to fight my problem was by putting down my phone while I drove. I would choose an album to listen to before I left the house and just let it play all the way to work. You know, like I used to before smartphones and seemingly infinite streaming possibilities.

Did these strategies work for me? Yes, immediately. Once again, I noticed the cars next to me at a stoplight, to the deer walking down a hill in Swope Park, and to that towering sycamore tree at the entrance of the driveway up to the Swope Park Memorial Golf Course.

But all change is a loss, right? While I regained awareness of my surroundings, my phone accumulated text messages and notifications during my short commute. (Sure, I remember the anxiety in college of racing home to see all the messages I’d missed on AOL Instant Messenger. But I think phones have obliterated our sense of context, and I feel a need to check it anytime and anywhere.) When I arrived at work or back at home, I immediately sifted through notifications and replied to text messages.

You see, this was never about using my phone; my problem was a little more disturbing. I had an insatiable desire for others to see me as responsive. And just like our belief that we can somehow keep up with all of our friends who moved away years ago, yet remain super close on Facebook, my responses to notifications on social media is frequently a charade. It’s not like I’m having a conversation with these people in a real location. Many times, my friends are just like me, commuting and not really in a safe place to engage in conversations. My immediate responses served to feed this vicious cycle of believing we’re in touch and that we’re having any semblance of a conversation.

So, back to my strategy of just putting down the phone. I guess you could say it worked out well. In fact, it wasn’t until I put my phone down that I learned about anything I’ve written. Much like many other seemingly-necessary things that we go without for Lent or for dietary reasons, I became aware of my reliance on my phone to give me some self worth. Worth and dignity that was already given to me when I was born.

And you know what, I also found that I listened to more albums in their entirety. A win-win for me.


That time I rode in a van for seven hours with As I Lay Dying.

Fifteen years ago, I attended the Cornerstone Music Festival. My girlfriend (now wife) lived ten hours away, so we saw the festival as an opportunity to meet halfway and see our favorite bands.


The Choir’s guitarist, Derri Daugherty, and me at Cornerstone 2002

Looking back, this was a great idea. It would also be the only time Katy and I saw one another that summer. I saw longtime favorites Daniel Amos, The 77’s, The Choir, Rosie Thomas, Ester Drang, Embodyment, The Violet Burning, Luxury (twice), Fine China (also twice), Mars Ill, Rosie Thomas, Roadside Monument, Terry Taylor, and Mike Knott. I also talked to David Bazan about his new record, Control, while we watched Sixpence None the Richer.

For some reason, I decided to forgo the usual camping experience and sleep in my friend’s van. But then, as fate would have it, I saw some friends from Topeka on the dirt road near the entrance of the festival. (With 30,000 people funneling into the grounds of the festival, what were the odds???) My friends had a tent, and somehow I convinced them to let me sleep in it.

But, you see, my wife has always been smarter than me. She and a friend rented a dorm room a half-hour away at the Western Illinois University for the week of Cornerstone. Sure, they didn’t get the full Cornerstone experience. You know, the sulfur showers and really terrible hardcore bands playing makeshift stages in the middle of the night. But what they got was plumbing and beds and not being awaken by ants in their ears and in their underwear. Like I said, my wife is smart.

Now, I forget what all was going on, but my friend had to leave the festival a couple days early. Since he’s the one who drove, that meant I had to choose to cut short my only visit of the summer with Katy or find a ride home. I figured I could find somebody to ride with, so I told him that I would stay. I asked everyone from I knew from Kansas City or Lawrence, no one had room for me. So I was stuck.

On the final day of the festival, I was visiting Katy and her roommate in the dorm. The adjacent room housed like six or seven guys from a band for the week. Most of them were gathered a circle in the hallway, showing one another some yo-yo tricks. Because I needed to kill some time and wanted to do anything but walk out into the 100+ degree heat, I showed them a few of my own tricks. They seemed impressed, so we started talking about how their next show was in Kansas City. In exchange for a ride back to Raytown, I offered to buy their gas.

Once in the van, I learned these guys were in a band called As I Lay Dying. Their vocalist, Tim Lambesis, was excited to play me their music, but quickly moved on to all his favorite Jimmy Eat World songs. Then he played “Love Song” by The Cure for his girlfriend and announced it was their song. This started an exchange where the two of them went back-and-forth, dedicating songs from Disintegration to one another. It was cute and fun and killed lots of time. Seven hours flew by, and we were at my house. They couldn’t linger, as they needed to get to a house show that night.

In the years that followed, I occasionally got curious and googled the band. The vocalist married his girlfriend, and there were a few lineup changes. It was interesting to watch them grow into a popular metal band. The guys quickly got so popular that they could all command their own giant hotel rooms when touring Japan, instead of sharing one, dinky dorm room in Macomb, Illinois.

Then, in 2013, Tim was arrested after trying to hire an undercover officer to murder his wife. You know, the girl to whom he had dedicated “Love Song” while we were driving through northeast Missouri. After his arrest, he quickly became a laughing stock for his crime and as stories of his bodybuilding and steroid use surfaced. Yes, Tim he had made himself an easy target with his outrageous story that seemed straight out of a movie. He made tons of money in a metal band and was living up to some cartoonish, #merica tough guy caricature, so it was difficult to muster up any empathy for the dude.

But it seemed that Tim really liked his girlfriend and enjoyed his bandmates’ company. I’m guessing that, in 2002, he could have never envisioned treating them so poorly. I assume he didn’t decide overnight to kill his wife. His behavior was most likely the result of at least a decade of devastating choices. I doubt that he just woke up one morning with an extra $20,000 in his pocket to hire a hitman to end his marriage. And maybe I’m wrong; maybe he was a jerk all along. But one thing I do know is that I’ve watched well-intended friends ruin their lives, and I have done some pretty boneheaded things myself.

So I guess I could laugh at him, but that doesn’t feel right. When I see injustice and families being ripped apart, I have to choose to cherish my own family. One thing I know for sure is that I’ll never listen to the album, Disintegration, the same way again.

Why am I just now writing about this? The Roadside Monument reunion probably had something to do with it. I couldn’t attend their reunion show, but I started thinking about their “final” show at Cornerstone in 2002. Then I googled Tim Lambesis and discovered that he’s now out of prison and married the girl with whom he was having an affair. I guess the story doesn’t end well, and his family lives in fear. I can’t laugh at the guy, but I do pray for him.


2016: Moving


We’ve moved! Get in touch if you need our new address. We hope you’ll spend time here.

Merry Christmas from the Smiths!

We hope this finds you enjoying the season.

As you probably know by now, our big news for 2016 is that we finally moved. After 12 years in Raytown, and several years of occasionally thinking we might try to find a new home, we knew it was time for us to be in a different place. There are bittersweet things in any move. Our first house is connected to a lot of important moments, and Jon has wrestled with leaving the community he grew up in and wanted to support. But over time, it became obvious that we weren’t to be there forever.

We moved right before Thanksgiving and are looking forward to what the new house will bring. We’re in the heart of Kansas City in a lovely house that’s almost 100 years old. We’re a block from two different universities, not far from our church and near some of our favorite museums, restaurants and parks. We’re excited to open our home to people, and we have an amazing patio that should host lots of good music and great conversations. Our new location also gives us a chance to be more involved in things we care about in the city.

Ian turned 5 just before we moved. He’s still incredibly energetic, creative and funny. He loves to build with anything he possibly can, regularly makes up little songs and often has us laughing. His knowledge of everything is exploding. He is fascinated by animals and nature, how things work and the exploration of outer space. We’re enjoying each time we get to help him grasp more information. He’s also experiencing more at this age. He attended Royals baseball games for the first time this year, went to several Coterie Theater productions and saw the Kansas City Ballet’s Nutcracker for Christmas. It’s an exciting time for him and for us.


Our realtor, Carla Tays, gave us our new home in watercolor! We’re thankful for all her work and for the help her husband, Mickey, was in getting home repairs done.

Jon’s job is still going well. After years of special education work, he was asked to teach math as a regular teacher for the first time and is also leading a team of teachers in his building. It’s hard work and presents daily challenges, but he doesn’t shy away from that and he knows he has a lot of respect and support. Kate’s job is also going well. Her office and association went through more transitions this past year, but all for the good. She’s also in a position where she is valued and given chances to grow, and that’s been amazing.

Other highlights this year include Kate’s brother getting married and time with family, Jon getting to record and perform music with long-time friends and seeing incredible concerts with Bill Frisell, The Bad Plus Joshua Redman and Emmylou Harris with Buddy Miller, Steve Earle and Milk Carton Kids.

As we wrap up the year, we have to also acknowledge there’s a sense of heaviness. While we have much to be thankful for from 2016, it’s also held some difficult moments. It’s brought everything from friends moving to concern over national and international events. We are all in need of hope, peace, love, wisdom and grace. May celebrating the birth of Jesus be a time to remember that we are offered those things and can live lives sharing them with others.

Much love to you from us for a new year!


IMG_20141115_205948Merry Christmas!

We hope this finds you doing well and enjoying the holidays. We were late getting our cards in the mail, so for those who are reading this after Christmas, we wish you a Happy New Year.

We’ll cut to the chase and fill you in on the craziness of our lives lately. At the end of the summer, we both got new jobs! While we both sporadically searched for new jobs, we never expected to have two positions open up for us within a few weeks of each other. Jon is now working as a teacher in a nearby school district, his first job as a public school teacher after 11 years in alternative education settings. Kate got a job with a co-ed fraternity that focuses on college students doing community service and she is in charge of all of their print and digital communications. In the short term, this means lots of change and long hours. In the long term, it should mean more time at home and for others.

Jon’s job is close to home and a little less stressful than his past experiences. He’s in special education and spends part of the day co-teaching in regular classes and part of the day teaching classes for kids who are behind and need extra help. Kate’s job is also closer to where we live, and after January it should mean an easy schedule and more time at home. As we both transition, though, there’s a lot to learn and get done. Jon has had a number of IEPs to write and has been appointed to a district safety committee. Kate has to be a part of a national convention the last week of the year and learning a new job and a major event at the same time has meant extra hours with work going into holidays. We’re ready for 2015 and a time when schedules start to settle down and get to a new, better normal than what we’ve had for the last few years.

Spiderman enjoys a donut!

Spiderman enjoys a donut!

Most of our time aside from work is spent with Ian. He’s now 3 and is full of energy and curiosity. His vocabulary grows every day, he is a keen observer of everything, he loves music and he enjoys running around outdoors and exploring Kansas City. We have a lot of fun visiting coffee shops, art museums, parks and we spend plenty of time at Union Station seeing trains. We also enjoy time at home putting together train track, playing with cars, dancing to records and watching classic cartoons.

Other than trying to keep up with Ian and adjust to new jobs, we’ve been trying to get a bit more involved with our church, invest in some professional opportunities and we occasionally get out to enjoy the amazing arts experiences available in Kansas City. We’re excited to see what 2015 holds as we have more time available to visit with friends and be involved in our community.

Peace and love to you all,

Jon, Kate and Ian Smith

Interviewing to the Glory of God.

After eleven years in education, I am about to begin my first as a teacher in a public school. Until now, I have taught in alternative placements and worked as a paraprofessional. I never landed a teaching job in this field, despite assurances that it would have a shortage of workers. I’m not complaining. I may have dealt with some feelings of entitlement along the way, but I’m not complaining.

I have applied and interviewed for countless jobs in these eleven years since graduating from college. No matter how much practice I gain with interviewing, I always feel uncomfortable with the process. I hate bragging about myself, but it seems like that’s all a person is expected to do in interviews. Because the Bible instructs us to do nothing out of selfish ambition, I don’t think I need another how-to article on making good impressions to calm my nerves. 

Growing up in church, I heard much teaching about working hard at a job, as if one was working for God that was based on Colossians 3. I’ve also sat through many sermons on 1 Corinthians 10:31, in which believers are instructed to do everything for the glory of God. If I am to take these scriptures seriously, then what would it look like for me to interview for the glory of God? How does that change my approach to the entire job hunt? I’m no theologian, but I’ve found a few things to be helpful.

  • Much like dating is to marriage, so is an interview to a job.  Sure, it’s easy to get caught up in emotions on dates, but hopefully we don’t set out to deceive a significant other. Much like these first baby steps in relationships, interviews shouldn’t be seen as an opportunity to misrepresent oneself or to mislead.
  • If God is orchestrating everything in my life, if Jesus is upholding the universe by the word of His power and if Jesus is praying for us, I can rest easy the night before and on the drive to the interview.  Obviously, I need to take the process seriously, but I can’t trust that landing a job is simply a result of my well-constructed answers, confident body language or my necktie’s double-Windsor knot.
  • When considering how to interview to the glory of God, I think it’s also important to see the process from the other side of the table. It’s maddening to realize just how much time, money and energy school districts spend with staff turnover. I feel it’s the best use of the interviewer’s time and the community’s resources to hire the best candidate for the job the first time. If I am to take Paul’s exhortations the Philippians seriously and think of others as more important than myself, I must value my interviewers’ time and not be fake.

I know that I haven’t offered a prescriptive step-by-step process, nor have I presented some systematic theology of job-hunting. I am, however, sharing lessons I have learned from my feeble attempts to be obedient to God’s word. I need to be humble, even in a situation like an interview that seems to be all about me and my own career path. Regardless of an interview’s outcome and no matter how well I have prepared myself, I must remember that I am still God’s son.


Our look at 2013

Greetings from the Smiths!

We hope those of you reading this are doing well and enjoying the holidays.

Ian's first hotel stay was in Ashland, KY for his great grandpa's funeral. It was a sad time, but he brought a lot of joy to the weekend.

Ian’s first hotel stay was in Ashland, KY for his great grandpa’s funeral. It was a sad time, but he brought a lot of joy to the weekend.

2013 has been a crazy year for us, but a fun one, too. It has mostly been filled with work and time with family. Here’s an overview of what we’ve been up to in 2013 …

Ian is really the highlight of our year. He’s moved fully into being a little boy and no longer seems babyish to us. He talks all the time and acquires new words every day. He identifies letters, numbers and sometimes colors. He’s obsessed with cars, trucks, trains, music, books and monkeys (especially his sock monkeys and Curious George). Ian began to thoroughly explore outdoors this year, and he notices everything. We love seeing him grow and do new things. He’s very energetic, playful and outgoing, and is usually a lot to keep up with, but we are having a blast as his parents. As you’ll read below, we’ve really focused on time with Ian and close family when not at work.

Kate’s Papaw Bob passed away at the beginning of the year. He was very special to us. He’d lived with Alzheimer’s for a few years, and it had been a couple of years since we’d been able to visit him (he was living in San Fransisco, CA), so his unexpected death was difficult to process. We made a quick trip to Ashland, KY, for the funeral. It was hectic, since we’d just been in Ohio for Christmas, but we had family time with some people we rarely see, many of whom got to meet Ian for the first time. Gathering for funerals is never ideal, but it was a wonderful to be with everyone. We enjoyed repeating Pop’s infamous stories and tales of his generosity and love of family. Kate hopes to someday get things about him in writing. In March, we had to put our dog, Einstein, to sleep, so the first part of the year was emotionally rough.

Jon and Ian checked out the cool games in the Sub Shop in Columbia, MO while on our way to see a cousin's baseball game.

Jon and Ian checked out the cool games in the Sub Shop in Columbia, MO while on our way to see a cousin’s baseball game.

We took Ian to his first baseball game in March. Kate’s cousin played for the University of San Fransisco and had a series of games at the University of Missouri. We drove a couple hours to see him play and meet up with lots of family for a day. It was really fun and meant a lot, since we’d all just been together a couple of months before for Papaw’s funeral. Kate’s parents then came back to Kansas City to visit for a week and we enjoyed some additional time with them.

Jon’s teaching job kept him quite busy through the winter and spring, and continues to do so now. We are very grateful he finally got back into teaching last year and that he is able to do well with students who have a variety of special needs. We don’t want to make it seem easy, because it’s not. He puts in long hours and deals with some very stressful and delicate situations. That said, he’s able to show care and respect to kids that most people don’t want to deal with, and his coworkers see his efforts and are very supportive. He works with some great people and they all try to keep each other from going too crazy or getting burnt out.

We spent a lot of time at KC parks this year. It's been awesome to explore them as a family.

We spent a lot of time at KC parks this year. It’s been awesome to explore them as a family.

Kate’s job at a professional membership association is going well and she had her five-year anniversary with them in June. Her responsibilities continue to grow and evolve. She enjoys the challenge, but it makes for some hectic days. She now handles the association’s social media and does more with the membership department communications and marketing items. She has started getting involved in a local society for association professionals and is excited about opportunities that may come there. One nice aspect of the job is that Kate gets a lot of time off, so we’ve been able to spend time with her family when we’ve wanted to and she’s had days home with Ian.

We made a trip to Ohio in July to see Kate’s family. We didn’t fill our time with too many things to do and people to see, keeping it pretty low key and relaxing, which was needed. We let Ian really explore outside and have a great time with grandparents. He even went to Young’s Dairy for the first time. We also took a short trip over Labor Day weekend to north central Arkansas. Some friends from KC have moved south, and we spent a couple of days wandering through small towns and enjoying the Ozark scenery while hanging out with them. Jon had two breaks around teaching summer school, so he spent a lot of time with Ian before school started (read about it here).

It's amazing to see Ian becoming a little boy. We love this new phase of parenthood where we help him explore the world.

It’s amazing to see Ian becoming a little boy. We love this new phase of parenthood where we help him explore the world.

In November, we had Ian’s second birthday and our 10th wedding anniversary. Jon’s dad and step-mom helped Ian celebrate by treating him to his first overnight stay with grandparents. We appreciated their gift of watching Ian for two days so that we could celebrate our anniversary for a weekend. Having two days to ourselves was a much needed chance to slow down for a minute and enjoy being a couple. We stayed at an awesome KC B&B, ate at great new restaurants, enjoyed the art museum and getting coffee without a toddler in tow, listened to live jazz and got reacquainted with what grown ups do in our city. It was wonderful.

The end of the year has been a blur. Jon’s had a huge amount of work on nights and weekends, Kate’s job has been on overdrive, we’ve been trying to do holidays and see family and it has been a bit insane. We both have quite a bit of time off for Christmas and New Year’s and are enjoying the break and time with family and friends. We’re hoping to figure out more time with people in 2014. Days are flying by and we feel like we’ve not grown friendships as we’d like. If you are like us and feel the pace of life taking over, we hope you’ll also take a moment to reflect on what is most important and adjust your time accordingly.

Ian loves music and playing the organ (and any other thing that makes noise).

Ian loves music and playing the organ (and any other thing that makes noise).

Much love to you from Jon, Kate and Ian!

P.S. – Jon’s music this year has been mostly at church, not with a rock band. If you’re interested, there are some recordings online of songs written this year by musicians at the church. This particular project was related to communion. Many of the songs use old texts set to new music and some are all original material . The recordings are from church services and are wonderful to listen to. Jon’s contribution is here.

Summer Break 2013

blue springs lake

Ian, running around Blue Springs Lake.

After three long years of underemployment, I am extremely thankful for my current job. Because of this, it occasionally feels wrong to complain or just be honest with stress levels. (I’m no workaholic, but I don’t want to be whiny, either.)  I have paperwork of two regular education teachers. I have students from multiple grade levels in the same classroom. I have to be a quasi-social worker and parent to my students. I get punched in the face…you get the picture.  It took me a while to realize that, while a learning curve that comes with any new job is natural, it’s okay to be tired. Fortunately for me, the joys of summer couldn’t have been more of a contrast to the stress of the school year.

Dinner at Morgan Street Brewery in St. Louis, en route to visit family in Dayton.

Dinner at Morgan Street Brewery in St. Louis, en route to visit family in Dayton.

We finished summer school on July 11, and my dad encouraged me to treat each day with my son “like a Saturday.” I took this to heart and found a daily adventure for Ian.  I did something I can never do during the school year and  occasionally met my wife for lunch.  I attended about a zillion concerts with friends. I helped a friend move. We traveled to Dayton with my brother-in-law. I reconnected with an old friend. I took some wonderful naps. I packed as much into each day as possible because I know that life will get crazy in the fall.

Tomorrow starts my second year at Gillis, and I’m happy to work with such a supportive staff. We’re all in the same boat; we all have crazy jobs. Hopefully they will return as refreshed as me.


Why I rarely share political views on social networks.

politicsEvery month, some hot-button political issue on Facebook and Twitter goads me.  I rarely respond, comment or share, but it’s not for lack of opinions on the matters.

See, I travel in far too many, wildly different social circles.  (I think this is a good thing.  I enjoy being challenged by others’ viewpoints.)  Being connected to everyone is an efficient means to share news and pictures of my family, but posts or tweets are a poor way to foster political conversation.  Nuance in a two-party system isn’t prized, and comments are typically viewed simply as either good or bad.  I’ve seen too many people throw zingers at others they don’t even know while commenting on a Facebook post.  I’d like to think my own friends wouldn’t stoop to that level, but I don’t want to needlessly set them up, either.

Most political conversations reveal a source of hope for our country that can’t easily be summed up in brief comments or jabs.  Some believe the most important thing is to get everyone started on the same, level footing.  Some think less government will enable people to be more charitable.  Most seem convinced that our country’s in a mess and that we’re spiraling into chaos.  While things certainly are crazy, I believe that God is in control and that Jesus upholds everything by the word of His power.  It grieves me to see the paranoia and fear slung around by both political parties.  In the end, it’s not up to us to fix humanity, but rather to be obedient to God’s call on our lives.

While my worst arguments and poor judgement in posts/tweets will not stop the work of the Holy Ghost, I must be mindful of ways that I “muddy up the water” of Jesus’ gospel message.  If His transforming work in my life is the most important thing I want you to hear, then I am happy to avoid distracting conversations in social networks.  Jesus never specifically addressed laissez faire economics or public education, so I don’t want my imperfect thoughts about issues to trip up anyone in their understanding of God’s love (about which He often spoke).

I’m not just taking a moral high ground here.  I have worked for years in a field reliant on public funding and governed by many state and federal laws, so I have plenty of opinions on almost everything.  Just ask me, and I’d love to talk.  Offline.


And the time goes so quickly …

Ian in January 2012

Ian in January 2012

Yesterday was Christmas! We can’t believe the year is practically over. We’ve had a really good year, it has just gone by so quickly!

To state the obvious, we’ve been terrible at blogging. At one time, there were grand ideas of our blog getting regular updates about us, and especially about Ian, but time for that is elusive. Ian’s first year has been wonderful, but we tend to be short on free time. We’re doing good to post pictures on Facebook or somewhere from our phones. If you are reading this, then we hope you are in touch with us elsewhere to see the things we do manage to share.

Ian and guitar May 2012

Ian and guitar May 2012

Aside from the busyness of life not allowing for time to do everything we want to do (and sometimes need to do), we have much to be grateful for. As Jon posted several months ago, he finally got a long-awaited teaching job. While the income is much-needed, it has been a very demanding job with a steep learning curve. He’s encountered more than expected, with a pretty challenging group of students with some difficult things to overcome, but he’s been thankful for good coworkers and a lot of overall support from the Gillis organization for his work in the school, and that helps make things a little easier.

The Smiths at Truman Lake, August 2012

The Smiths at Truman Lake, August 2012

Ian is now over a year old! We enjoyed celebrating his first birthday and our ninth anniversary on November 1. Ian never ceases to amaze us and he’s a fun little guy to have around. He has a sweet, energetic personality and he keenly observes everything. He’s a quick learner, rarely sits still (though he loves books) and always wants to be in on whatever is going on. He’s now walking and trying to talk more and more. We are truly enjoying watching him grow and develop new skills. The kidney and bladder reflux issues that were a concern when he was born have been gradually clearing up on their own, so we hope that it eventually goes away completely without any surgery. The doctor didn’t think that would happen, so we are grateful for the progress! If you haven’t seen them, we’re occasionally posting videos on YouTube, so check out Jon’s channel to see clips of Ian doing all sorts of things.

Ian, dressed as Mickey Mouse for Halloween

Ian, dressed as Mickey Mouse for Halloween

Kate is still working full-time, and will be for awhile. We had originally hoped she could stay home whenever kids came along, but that wasn’t possible. Luckily, she enjoys her job and has some terrific coworkers. In a funny twist of events, she even got offered a bit of a promotion upon returning to work after Ian was born, which was nice and unexpected. She’s now more involved in various marketing and communications functions for the association and has been a big part of increasing their social media usage.

The Smiths 11/1/2012

The Smiths 11/1/2012

We’ve been very fortunate to have great childcare for Ian. Jon’s stepmom was wonderful with him through June, and after a summer home with Jon, he’s now at a great small, in-home daycare near our house. He’s with three other toddlers/preschoolers and doing really well there. Between job responsibilities and trying to keep up with Ian, we’ve not done much else. Kate didn’t do much with winterguard this past season, and she’s stopped volunteering at the art museum for now. Jon’s not done as much musically. He’s been taking a break from playing with a band and has just done a little recording and some playing with the worship team at church.

The Smiths December 2012 (our only non-blurry photo with Ian)

The Smiths December 2012 (our only non-blurry photo with Ian)

We’ve spent a good deal of time over the past year reflecting on how God has taken care of us and provided for us when we had no idea how things would come together. It’s been humbling and awe-inspiring to receive the support we did from family and friends around Ian’s arrival. We may never know why things happened the way they did over the past several years, but we know that God has guided us every step of the way.

We hope that this finds you doing well and enjoying the holidays.

Love from Jon, Kate and Ian (and Einstein)

Waiting is the hardest part.

Since I lost my teaching job at a small, private school three years ago, I’ve worked as a paraprofessional/personal aide for a wheelchair-bound middle school student. It has kept me from unemployment, but far from any gainfully-employed classification. I’ve been called in to interview for jobs for which I haven’t been qualified (at times due to no one reading my resume beforehand). I’ve been offered abysmally-low salaries for some rather large jobs. Two administrators, in particular, have interviewed me several times apiece, in what became obvious attempts to fulfill human resources-mandated quotas instead of helping me find a decent job.

So, I’ve just told folks I am underemployed, which is a great smokescreen. See, I’ve been jerked around so much in my job search that sometimes I’ve even tired of telling my wife about it.

I don’t want to appear needier than I really am.

Everywhere I turn, it seems like people have figured out all the lessons I should learn. As with other disappointments and tragedies, there are people who believe relying more on sentimentality than the truth will cheer me up. The problem is that no one can peek around the next corner to give any real advice. Worse yet, are the scores of people (including myself) who want me to feel entitled to some position because I’ve worked so hard and earned two degrees. The most valuable are the folks who keep focusing on our relationship and the day at hand because they know they don’t have all the answers for the end of my employment problems.

While the past three years have been wrought with much frustration, most wouldn’t necessarily know it. You see, I have whole-heartedly enjoyed my work. I’ve worked with the coolest kid ever in a class filled with awesome students in their incredibly-awkward middle school years. I’ve also been blessed to have a few great co-workers who focused on student achievement. In addition to all this, a beautiful son was born almost nine months ago and the bills got paid.

I reflect on all this because I just accepted a teaching position at the Gillis Center school for next year. While I’ve taught students with Individualized Education Plans for years, this will be my first special education position. (I just obtained that certification this spring.) The population of students will be similar to many of the kids with which I’ve been working for nine years. The staff I met at the interview seems great, and the pay will be good.

I know things will not necessarily get any easier. This will be a tough job. And even though the pay will be decent, Kate won’t be staying home with Ian for at least another year. Our bills have been paid over the past three years, but we’ve not been able to do home maintenance, etc. We need to paint, trim trees and fix a foundation. There are so many things we’ve had to put off.

Getting a new job just marks the end of a long search, but we are thankful the searching is over, and we have two weeks to celebrate before school starts.