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.



I had to take our dog to the vet and have him put to sleep last night. We’ve known for months that his health was failing and this day would come, but that didn’t make it any easier once the time arrived. Last night was rough. Today, it’s a little easier to think about. There’s a mix of sadness and relief in the strange reality that Einstein isn’t here. It was hard to see him struggle to live, and even harder to decide to end his life, but at the same time we know it’s good that he’s no long suffering with so much pain and a body that couldn’t really function anymore.

Jon and Ian got to say goodbye to Einstein. I don't know if Ian really understood the idea that Ein wasn't going to come home, but he was very sweet with the dog in seeing him for the last time.

Jon and Ian got to say goodbye to Einstein. I don’t know if Ian really understood the idea that Ein wasn’t going to come home, but he was very sweet with the dog in seeing him for the last time.

Jon stayed home with Ian and my brother, Richard, went with me, which I really appreciated. When Rich lived with us he was Einstein’s roommate in our extra bedroom and took the dog for long runs that Jon and I couldn’t do. He took care of the dog after Ian was born and we were consumed with a child and jobs, and continued to help this past year as Einstein’s health got worse. Einstein was as much his dog as ours of late, and he felt the events of last night just as much as I did.

I have to say, our vet is a wonderful man. Thank you to Dr. Maxwell and Union Hill Animal Hospital for making something awful and difficult as relatively easy as possible. Einstein was always comfortable with going to the vet. The staff was always very caring, and last night they were so reassuring and sympathetic. They enabled us to grieve, but to know that we were doing the right thing at the right time, and they let Einstein’s life end very peacefully.

Many people are very attached to pets, so I know lots of others have dealt with this situation. In thinking about Einstein, I think one reason our dog had a special place in my heart was due to the fact that he must have had some terrible moments early in life and was glad to be in a decent home. We knew that when he was adopted from a shelter he had signs of an animal who’d been abused or suffered trauma (like fear of certain noises and types of people for awhile). This past fall we found out what part of that was. An xray showed his body was being taken over by cancerous growths and that he was full of BBs. This dog, who was so sweet and smart and easy going, had once been the target of someone’s gun. It’s sickening and upsetting. So, to get on a soapbox for a brief moment, care for animals. If you want a pet, adopt from shelters and rescues and provide a home (and maybe some healing) to an animal who needs it. And if you can’t care for an animal, then don’t get one. Animals aren’t people, but they do have feelings and want to be loved and cared for. If you can do that, then do something wonderful for the pet that enters your life.


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.


Walk on.

Sam’s painting, Birds & Wires

Less than three months ago, my friend, Sam Wagner, was diagnosed with lung cancer. I attended his funeral service this morning. He didn’t smoke, he was married with three children and he was 38.

Obviously, I’m deeply saddened and am sympathetic for his family (especially his children). But for me, I just don’t know quite how to feel because Sam and I had only started getting to know one another. We had a couple robust conversations about faith and theology, especially when, at times, they seemed out of place in the communities of artists to which we were both drawn.

We had just started listening to records together. Both ardent fans of bands like Starflyer 59, Joy Electric, The Church, Slowdive, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and The Choir, we plotted out the bands we’d listen to the next time we hung out. He couldn’t wait to return to my place and listen to The Boo Radleys and The Darling Buds.

Sam was like a muse for me, encouraging my work in My Science Fiction Twin. In fact, when he was diagnosed with cancer, I hurried to finish mixing our new EP. He told me he would create the cover art for it. (I’m still not quite done with it.)

Growing up, I used to hear that some people were “so heavenly minded that they’re of no earthly good.” While I think I understand that cliche’s sentiment, I still think it’s balderdash. We live this life under God’s loving gaze, and I think it’s only natural that we long to be physically united with our Creator. Sam’s in heaven now, and I’m a little envious.


Ian plays and talks.

It has worked out well that Katy puts Ian to bed (usually later than I can stay up) and I get him up early. Around 5:00, I prepare him to leave with Katy to spend the day at Grandma’s house. Occasionally he will immediately fall asleep after he eats, but most mornings, he stays awake and plays.

Because some of our family has yet to hear him try to talk, I took a video of him playing on his mat yesterday morning. He is such a fun guy.

And that’s Wire’s album, Pink Flag, playing in the background.



Introducing…Ian Parker Smith!

Ian, at birth

A week ago tonight, Kate gave birth to our first child, Ian Parker Smith.  He was born at 6:41 pm on November 1, 2011 (our eighth anniversary).  He measured 19.5 inches long and weighed six pounds and one ounce.

We made a couple videos for out-of-town friends and relatives.  The first showcases his long fingers and big feet.

Since newborns spend so little of their time awake, this second one catches him with his eyes open.

Jonathon’s sister and brother-in-law visited on Sunday and took a picture.  Kate was less than flattered by the family pictures in the hospital, in her glamour gown, so we figured we should get a few, nicer shots.  This is one of them.

-Jonathon and Kate

An uneasy empathy.

I spent a little over a year making my newest album, An Uneasy Empathy.  At times, the process was maddening:  repeatedly throwing out entire sessions for songs, re-working arrangements based on feedback from my wife and endlessly tweaking mixes so they sounded good on something besides my studio monitors.

Art can be made in isolation, but I don’t know that isolation always makes good art.  I hope this album reflects where I have been the past two years.  I’ve embraced friends, struggled with identity, ignored my wife, battled misperceptions and tore into the New Order catalog.  I feel like this may be my strongest batch of lyrics, but they certainly don’t make me look good.  When I hear myself sing,  “How quickly I rely on emotions when I forget just who I am,” I am floored and question how I ever got to a place where I would make such an admission.

I probably should not pull back the proverbial curtain too much.  You will understand the album; it’s not so cerebral that it’s not enjoyable.  I hope you enjoy it.  (And hopefully, if you enjoy it, you will buy a copy.  All proceeds go to support our cloth diaper fund.)