2020 …

How do you open a letter about 2020 and say something that hasn’t already been said a million times? It’s been a weird and wild year, at times wonderful and sometimes ridiculously hard. We’re guessing that’s been your experience too.

Visiting Powell Gardens with friends at the end of 2019. We’ll miss seeing them this Christmas.

When the year began, we had no idea what would come. Looking back now, seeing our friend David Wayne Reed’s show Goliath to start 2020 may have been a bit of preparation. His own stories are stranger/better than fiction and inspire faith that we can face what life throws at us and come out better on the other side.

But in early 2020, we were simply trying to keep up with what was life at the time. Work was busy for Jon and Kate. Ian was enjoying school and lego club, and Kate had begun helping with a winterguard program at his school in addition to volunteering as a reading mentor. Jon was wrapping up his time playing with Mr. Golden Sun and we tried to hang out with friends as much as possible.

We bought tickets at the last minute to see Pepperland by the Mark Morris Dance Group and the Kansas City Ballet’s Swan Lake in February – very different from each other, but both were spectacular. At the end of the month, we hosted a house show with Little Spoon River and friends Nate Allen of Good Saint Nathaniel and Marty Hillard of Ebony Tusks. March brought the only performance of the school winterguard, which was incredibly fun for Kate to be a part of, along with Ebony Tusks and Elevator Division shows and dinners with friends.

It seemed almost excessive at the moment, but we ended up being grateful we spent a lot of time with people, music, and art we love. It turned out that we got to enjoy them all leading up to the world shutting down.

The rest of the spring is a blur. All three of us suddenly doing everything at home was rough. Jon had the impossible task of trying to guide teachers through suddenly working with special education students online. Kate’s job was busier than ever as nonprofits had to adjust all fundraising and communications efforts. After a welcome and smooth transition to a new school in the fall, Ian struggled with no longer being in person with friends and a teacher he appreciated. Two parents working full-time in jobs that needed attention didn’t often work well with a child at home who needed interaction and some assistance with distance learning.

We knew it was exhausting at the time, but are just realizing how difficult it was for each of us. And it has remained so to some extent. We’re all still at home, trying to navigate getting everything done for jobs while giving Ian what time we can. It’s better, but still not easy. And at this point, it’s how things will be for a while as jobs and school plan to keep everyone at home for now.

Our niece (Ian’s cousin) turned two this summer, and Kate’s brother and sister-in-law took some family pictures at the birthday party.

There was some breathing room over the summer as Jon had time off and was able to do a virtual summer school with Ian, but those months brought other things to wrestle with. We left our church. It was a couple of years in coming and for a range of concerns, but still heavy after being there a decade. We’ve got more questions than answers as we process events in our lives over those same years, yet we have faith and are slowly figuring out what to make of that. We saw racial and political issues in the country reach levels we’ve not experienced in our lifetime. While those things continue to push many further apart as people in power and their supporters fight to hold on to what they think they deserve, it’s brought a lot of important conversations. We’ve always talked with Ian about what we believe, how we want to live, and why. This year has made talks more detailed and frequent, especially as protests occurred near our home. Much of what has happened touches people and parts of the city we care about. We hope we can do our small part, and teach him to do his, to make this a better place.

And yet, in everything, there are reasons to be grateful. The three of us have valued a walkable neighborhood and wonderful outdoor spaces around the Kansas City area, particularly along the Missouri River. We’ve tried to support our favorite local restaurants and shops as much as we can and are glad they’re surviving so far. Occasional get-togethers with a few friends and regular visits with Jon’s dad and step-mom have been bright spots. In a search for something to do in place of soccer, Ian ended up taking a virtual ballet class and was surprised by how much he liked it. Kate’s loved seeing him try out dance and discover a new interest. Being an only child home with parents is tough, but we’re thankful for his creativity, curiosity, and love of legos as well as the technology for him to chat with friends.

School at home, never a dull moment.

We’re also very grateful for the schools we’re connected to and the thoughtfulness and immense amount of work done by leaders and staff. We already had a lot of respect for Jon’s principal and many of his co-workers and the teachers and administrators at Ian’s school, but they have been incredible throughout this year. It’s been encouraging to see them do everything they can for the kids they serve. We know 2020 has looked very different in various schools here and around the country (and the world), and we’re so thankful for where we are. Learning from home is far from ideal, but our schools are making the best of it.

As huge numbers of people go into the holiday season dealing with loss, we’re grateful we’ve been healthy and not endured the pain, suffering, and hardships forced on others. We’ve tried to be safe during the pandemic, partly out of our desire to take it seriously and do what we can to slow the spread and partly to be able to spend time with family who needs people to be careful. We’re glad we have jobs and schools that have made that possible. As insane as much of 2020 has been, we know people are facing much crazier circumstances than us and too many who’ve lost family, friends, jobs, and more. We’re praying that maybe something will start to shift and the needs of people will be more of a concern that drives action and change.

A last-minute birthday/anniversary selfie at home seems like the appropriate way to capture 2020.

We’re looking forward to Christmas. It’s a little bittersweet because we’ve not seen Kate’s parents in a year and don’t know when we will, but we’re ready for a few quiet days to fully stop and enjoy what we can and attempt to prepare for what may come next. This year we’ve gained a bit of clarity on ourselves, both good and bad, and learned we can hold some things loosely while more deeply understanding what is important and needed in our lives. We’re going into 2021 hoping to continue learning and finding the people to do it with.

In last year’s letter, we mentioned something Jon had written: “Maybe I should also, in humility, consider others more important than myself. Maybe I should try to love my neighbor as myself. It’s becoming pretty clear that love is the protest.” That thought shapes our hopes and prayers now even more than we could’ve imagined a year ago. We fail at showing love to each other and the people around us all the time, but we’re trying. And we’re praying that love takes root in hearts and our world in needed ways in the months ahead.

Wherever this finds you, whatever your 2020 looked like, we hope your Christmas is marked by peace and joy.

And we hope to see you in 2021,

The Smiths

Ian loved seeing bald eagles, swans, cranes and swirls of migrating geese at the Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge. We enjoyed a day with Jon’s dad and stepmom as they introduced us to this amazing spot.

2019: A Whirlwind

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,

We hope those of you reading this are doing well. We’re ready for the holiday break from work and school that’s just begun. It’s nice to rest as much of this year has flown by and felt difficult and weighty. At the same time, that’s made the good moments stand out so much more.

The first half of the year was spent trying to find clarity and keep our heads up in many ways. Ian was having a lot of issues at school we couldn’t quite figure out, though it was becoming clear the school was a big part of the problem, and he had mono in the spring. Kate was trying to figure out a new job and what that means for her long term after being forced into a big career shift due to layoffs and a period of being unemployed in 2018. The district where Jon works consolidated schools, and his was one of the buildings closed. This left his job up in the air for awhile. To name a few things…


Many thanks to Robert Deeble for a wonderful evening of music

There were big bright spots in the midst of this. In January, we hosted a house show with Robert Deeble. We’ve loved his music for years, and having him play for some friends in our living room was beautiful. We enjoyed a visit from Kate’s aunt and cousin in February. Two college friends of Jon’s started getting us all together for dinner every month or two, which has been really fun. Although we’ve been fans of his for a long time, we saw Jeremy Enigk in concert for the first time this spring and fell in love with the music of his opener, Tomo Nakayama. We also got to see Unwed Sailor and namelessnumberheadman for the first time in years and both were special shows for us.


Enjoying a night at the Music Hall to see the musical, Hamilton

The summer brought needed transitions and time to breathe a little easier. Jon was asked to move to another school within the district as part of a leadership team his principal wanted to keep together in a different building. As Jon’s school was closing, it was a relief to learn that some of the great people he’d started working with would get to move somewhere together. We experienced the incredible musical Hamilton and Kate’s parents visited. Ian got enrolled in a new school and he took a class with the Coterie Theatre and loved it.


A family photo taken by a stranger at Weston Bend State Park (one of the best spots to take in autumn)

This fall has been a blur of wonderful and sad things. Jon’s job as a special education process coordinator at his new school, while rewarding at times, been extremely demanding. There have been challenges with the process of consolidating schools and with supporting students in a struggling district. Kate has still been figuring out aspects of her job and what it means career-wise. Multiple people in our lives have had to deal with unexpected deaths in the last several months (if you can, please consider donating to the wife and kids who lost a husband and father to suicide).

As busy and involved as Jon’s position has been, he knows people in his building and the district value what he does. Working in urban education is difficult, and talking about it can often sound like complaining when that’s not necessarily the case. He’s grateful for the appreciation and support he gets. Even though Kate isn’t sure exactly where her path may or may not lead right now, she is very thankful to have ended up with such an awesome group of co-workers who are glad she’s part of their team and make work fun and as stress-free as possible. A few months ago she received the Allied Member Award from KCSAE, a wonderful surprise.


A piece Ian made this year with oil pastels

One of the best things this fall has been Ian changing schools. Everything with him got better as soon as he started second grade at a new school. He loves his teachers, he’s making new friends and he truly enjoys school again. He’s so much happier and isn’t upset, stressed out, and acting out in class. He still loves art, especially drawing, as well as anything math and science related. His reading continues to be way ahead, and he’s participated in a martial arts club and lego club after school. We’ve been impressed by the staff and the school community and are so glad to be somewhere that’s good for Ian, seems good for us as a family and is a positive presence in our city.

Kate moved her volunteer work with Lead to Read to Ian’s new school and enjoys seeing his class each week. Jon has continued to create music on his own and with friends in Euphoric and Mr. Golden Sun. Ian is still playing soccer and just got his first pair of glasses. We’re grateful for a little time at the end of the year to see family, reflect on all we’ve wrestled with and found joyful moments in, relax some and attempt to ready ourselves for whatever 2020 may bring.


Ian, being visited by the angel Gabriel, after a performance of The Nativity by Mesner Puppet Theater

One thing we feel more deeply this year is the effect of brokenness in our lives, our community and the world. We’ve been more challenged than ever to really embrace what the season of Advent brings to our lives. We face darkness and then celebrate what the birth of Christ means for us, “not as a saccharine act of delusion but as a defiant act of hope” (as one writer says so beautifully). We believe that hope should lead us to love. Something Jon said elsewhere earlier this year in response to current events in our country is becoming more of a theme for us: “Maybe I should also, in humility, consider others more important than myself. Maybe I should try to love my neighbor as myself. It’s becoming pretty clear that love is the protest.”

We pray this finds you hopeful and that we can love each other well in the coming year.

Peace, joy and love to you,

The Smiths 

2018: Expect the Unexpected

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,

We hope those of you reading this are doing well. We’re glad to have a little time at home to rest from a crazy year and whirlwind autumn and attempt to ready ourselves for whatever 2019 may bring.

At the start of 2018 we knew there would likely be changes in our lives, but we had no idea what that would mean. Kate was in a weird work situation where things didn’t seem to be improving and she reached a point of knowing it was time to start looking for something else, Jon was made aware of upcoming openings in his school district and began hoping to move up, Ian being in kindergarten and starting soccer was slightly changing some of our time and we started hosting a small group with our church.

In the spring, Kate was one of several people let go from her office (and sadly more have lost jobs since she was laid off). We were hoping she’d find something before anything like that happened, but obviously it was not to be. It was hard to see things fall apart with a job she’d left a few years before and been asked to return to with promises of needed change, but it was also nice to be free from some stress and anxiety and have time for school parties and field trips as Ian finished his first year.

Ian and Lu

We love that Baby Lu is here!

Ian enjoyed kindergarten and his favorite subjects were art and science. He also had fun playing soccer in the spring with kids from his class. As Kate kept job hunting and doing freelance work, we unexpectedly had a summer together at home as a family, which has never happened. We know that time is something we’ll probably always remember, especially since it brought a new cousin! Kate’s brother and sister-in-law had their daughter in June. Baby Lu surprised everyone arriving a month early, but is doing great and is a joy to be around. We loved visits with her and her parents, and had extended family in town as more people came to meet Lucy. We’re glad we had the time to be with everyone.

Going into the fall, Jon had several interviews and was offered a process coordinator position where he would oversee special ed services in a building in his district. He decided to accept, but was not expecting to be assigned to an elementary school – a level he’s never taught. He was able to have some good conversations about his career goals and was told this would be a positive step for him. We’re grateful that it seems to be a good fit. His principal is one of the best he’s ever worked with and he’s learning a lot. He’s happy to be able to help teachers do well and support an excellent administrator, and it’s been encouraging to see how he’s been welcomed and respected in a new role.

Jon and Kate

We enjoyed a night out with friends at the KC Rep’s Fearless Fete this summer. Thanks to the Kimmerlys for a fun evening supporting theater.

Around the time Jon changed jobs, Kate accepted a position with a small marketing agency that primarily works with nonprofits, including a few associations. She’s also been grateful to find a place where she feels wanted on the team and has some fantastic coworkers. It has been and continues to be a big adjustment as it’s not the direction she thought she’d go on a few different levels, but it’s a fun office just down the street from our house and they’ve been a wonderful change in people and atmosphere to work with and in. They’re letting her continue her committee work with KCSAE and her volunteering with Lead To Read at Ian’s school in addition to providing other opportunities to grow in a new direction career-wise (including company blogging – her first post just went up). We’re thankful for what seems to be a good spot to land for now.

Ian is in first grade, which has given us more challenges and joys in parenting. He’s doing extremely well academically and liked playing fall soccer, but he’s had a lot of behavior issues at school and has a hard time dealing with emotions in ways beyond what’s normal for his age. We and the school have been a little surprised by this, but we’re all looking at how to help and are starting to see some progress slowly. In the midst of that, it’s been more special to celebrate his achievements and invest in his interests. He loves art and draws all the time, he’s becoming a great reader and we often see him curled up with a book and he absorbs all information he can find on science-related topics. He still likes to build with anything he can create structures out of, explore our neighborhood and the city (he even has drinks he can order at several local coffee shops) and he was excited to have a speaking part in his school’s holiday musical.


Ian loves that Grandma B’s Christmas village is now at our house and on our mantle for the holidays.

While change seems to be the only constant, we’ve been glad for the support of friends and family, the space we’re finally settling into with two years now in our house and time to do things we enjoy. Kate is helping our neighborhood organization with communications and Jon’s playing in a friend’s band, Mr. Golden Sun. They just released an EP and have played a few shows this year and he’s played a little with his own band. We’ve been able to see artists like The Roots, Dave King and Pedro The Lion, share coffee and meals with friends and enjoy art around Kansas City.

We didn’t travel to Ohio for the first time this year, but the time here has been appreciated. We’re looking at new traditions to start as a family and ways to engage with our community. As we do, we hope to see you and wish you all the best for what 2019 may hold. The world is full of so much fear, anger and hate and we pray that, if nothing else, we’re a part of extending love, grace and peace in the coming year. We pray the same for you.

Much love from The Smiths!

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!

The Smiths in 2015

Season’s Greetings!


Ian loved going downtown to get a picture inside a giant inflatable snow globe!

2015 has been a good year, although not quite what we expected in some regards. Things have been busier than anticipated (hence the late arrival of Christmas cards and this letter), but we’ve enjoyed it.

Obviously, one of the most important things to talk about is Ian. He just turned four and never ceases to amaze with his energy and creativity. He is hilariously funny and has a great imagination. Ian loves singing and dancing for us (usually with songs he’s made up) and will build with anything he can get his hands on. He is still obsessed with books, cars, trucks and trains, and he absorbs everything around him from new words to what he sees outside. He loves going out to parks to run and explore and enjoys walking around the city, especially if it involves going to a coffee shop for donuts or to Union Station to see trains. He is also starting to develop friendships, and it’s really fun to see him get excited about time with certain peers. Ian is in a neat daycare situation, and we appreciate the care he receives and the many chances to learn and grow there over the past couple of years. Additionally, it is nice for him to attend daycare in a home-like setting in which to thrive while his parents work.


Ian got his first visit with Santa this year.

The big news, for those who don’t already know, is Kate’s job change. She left a job in June and returned to the professional membership association she had been at for six years. The nonprofit she was at for nine months was a good learning experience, but was not the great fit she anticipated from her interviews. The chance to go back to her old office, which has made a number of improvements, was a very unexpected yet exciting opportunity. She is now co-leading the membership department under a new executive director and anticipates amazing things to come for the organization. The last six months have been hectic, but long term, this job should be more family-friendly for us, which we appreciate.

A few months after changing jobs, Kate received a volunteer award from the Kansas City Society for Association Executives for helping update its branding with a new logo and website. Additionally, she was recently given the chance to move on from that and join ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership with her new position. She looks forward to attending its national events and diving in to resources for professional growth.


We enjoy time at Crown Center, especially during the holiday season.

Speaking of jobs, Jon is in his second year teaching special education at a nearby freshman center. Overall, it has gone really well. He does a lot of co-teaching as a special ed teacher in a regular classroom environment, likes many of his co-workers and administrators and enjoys being in a district making some positive changes. Since being hired last year, he has experienced a level of respect not seen in most of his other jobs. The kids know and can articulate that he cares about them. It is often difficult and time-consuming work, but he has the support of the other staff and likes making a difference for the students.


Ian made sure we’re ready for snow, though it hasn’t come yet.

A highlight of the year was Ian and Jon taking a trip to Indiana with Jon’s dad during spring break in March. It was the first time the three of them have traveled together, and the first time in many years that Jon and his dad have returned to where they were born. The trip meant a lot to them as they have few ties to there anymore, and it’s not a trip that will happen often. We also visited Ohio in July and drove down to see Kate’s great aunt, Jo, in Kentucky. It was a special trip, as she passed away a few months ago. Jo was like another grandmother to Kat, since her Mamaw Pearl (Jo’s sister) died when Kate was 10. We’re glad that she and Ian got to spend time together.


A family selfie with a few hundred thousand friends at the Royals Victory Parade.

We’ve managed to keep up with a few interests. Jon continues to play music with friends and with the church worship team. Kate has enjoyed a few good book studies with women from our church and time with friends. Thanks to a fantastic babysitter who is usually available, Jon and Kate have been able to attend amazing concerts (Wilco, Kraftwerk and Stevie Wonder were the big ones) and performing arts events (mostly the Harriman-Jewell Series and one KC Rep production). We also joined with much of Kansas City in celebrating the Royals World Series win this year!

We hope you all had a wonderful year and a Merry Christmas! We look forward to a new year and new opportunities for our family to interact with yours.

Much love from the Smiths!