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 

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!