Imoo Family Christmas Letter for 2009

Christmas 2009

Hello and Merry Christmas! This year, instead of having one of the kids write (or pretend to write) the letter, we’re writing this letter together and each family member will write their own section (we’ll help Kayla out though). We hope you enjoy reading this year’s Christmas letter (our family’s 8th annual note). Here goes!

2009 was a great year for our family, full of change. Sean received his First Communion, Jacob started full-time school, Gail returned to full-time teaching, Clay took on more speaking engagements, and Kayla continued to mature remarkably quickly. We didn’t get away on a family vacation this year, as we’re saving up for a trip next July to celebrate Clay and Gail’s 10-year wedding anniversary (they celebrated 20 years of dating earlier this month). However, we were able to spend a nice weekend in Victoria in November and we’ve taken a few day trips to the States.

Kayla: I’m very active now, keeping the rest of the family on its toes. I’m quite the climber, and I’m always getting into cupboards, drawers and closets. I’m not afraid to stand up for myself with my brothers, but we generally get along very well and love to play with each other. Each week, I spend a day with each of my grandmas and the rest of the week at daycare. I have adopted traits from both of my brothers, both good and bad: I’m talkative like Sean and stubborn and messy like Jacob! I try to help Mommy and Daddy as much as I can. They know that I’m up to something when I become extremely quiet and they can’t find me. I love watching videos on Youtube: especially Hi-5, the Wiggles, and videos of me and my brothers.

Jacob: This year I got to be a ring-bearer for Mom and Dad’s friend Melissa’s wedding: it was my 2nd-time ever as a ring-bearer. It was a lot of fun taking pictures and holding the pillow with the rings. I smiled the entire walk down the aisle to the altar! I started grade one in September and it’s super fun because there are toys, a big playground, and all my friends. My favourite subjects are PE and computers. I can’t wait for Mommy to teach me in September in grade 2 because she’s my Mom! For fun I like to play piano, play video games and make people laugh. By the way, I have 10 girlfriends right now.

Sean: Merry Christmas everybody and God bless you during this special season. During this year I made my First Reconciliation and I received my First Communion. For First Reconciliation I was a bit scared, and for First Communion I was very proud to receive Jesus for the first time. For school, my class and I went to Victoria for a school field trip, and my Dad came as a parent helper. I loved learning about pioneers at the museum and I liked the “wind tunnel” on the ferry. You can find me playing Xbox at home; my favourite game is NHL 10. I can beat teams at the All-Star level, now I need to work on Superstar. I also like watching TV and playing hockey outside.

Gail: This year I returned to full-time teaching grade 2 at St. Paul School; my class has 20 boys and 10 girls. In the summer, Kayla and I went with my mom and sister to New Jersey for 2 weeks; it was nice to surprise my Tita Tina for her 50th birthday. We got to stay at the Waldorf-Astoria and we stayed in the same suite that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie had stayed in. When I’m not taking care of my 4 kids, I enjoy watching tv and dressing Kayla up!

Clay: It was a busy year for me because of work and travel. I’m starting my 8th year as the Director of the Youth Ministry Office for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver. This year, I spoke at conferences and/or youth events in Victoria, Edmonton, Prince Albert (Saskatchewan), and Winnipeg. Also, I attended conferences at Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana and Kansas City. I’m trying to do more speaking and writing, and I like to tinker with my website ( by adding blogs, pictures, and videos. I also played on a roller hockey team this year…it was a humbling yet rewarding experience for me. I didn’t think I’d make it through the first few games.

Thanks for taking the time to read this Christmas letter. We’re looking forward to another great year in 2010. We want to wish you a Merry Christmas and Blessed New Year! We hope that the New Year brings you joy, happiness and good health! Our family will be praying for you!

God Bless and Be God’s,

Clay, Gail, Sean, Jacob and Kayla

O Christmas Tree, You Fell on Me!

Last Friday, we held our annual Christmas gathering for the YMO (Youth Ministry Office) at our place and as always, it was a great night of fun, fellowship and food. There were many highlights, including the fabulous Shabu Shabu dinner, watching all of the YMO kids play with each other, and of course, our Nacho Gift Exchange, featuring stealing, wheeling, and dealing. Read that title a couple of times over…you’ll get it eventually. :p

As we were nearing the end of the Nacho Gift Exchange, I was positioned in my regular spot at the coffee table right in front of the Christmas tree. Suddenly, I heard a few screams and one voice in particular: that of Faye screaming in her loudest (yet slowest) voice: “LLLLLLLOOOOOOOOOOKKKKKKKK OOOOOOUUUUUUUTTTTTTTTT!” It was reminiscent of a slow-motion action sequence from a John Woo movie: I can vividly recall the look of horror on Faye’s face as she struggled to get the two words out. By the time I figured out that Faye was telling me to “look out”, it was too late: the Christmas tree had fallen on top of me, completely enveloping me and immediately making me its biggest ornament. I was sprawled out face-first on my coffee table and was still wondering what had happened as all of the adults quickly removed the tree from my back. Thankfully I wasn’t hurt and thankfully the tree didn’t hit anyone else. As everyone else returned the tree to its upright position, I recall two people asking me if I was okay, while three people asked if any ornaments broke. Great…more people were concerned about the decorations than they were about me!

To be truthful, it was actually only one person asking if I was okay: the other was my daughter Kayla who started to cry after initially putting on her best brave face. As I thanked her for her concern, someone pointed out that Kayla was likely crying because Daddy had destroyed Christmas, as opposed to being concerned for my health! Thanks a lot guys.

In replacing the ornaments on the tree, we had yet another good laugh: my rather imposing frame had left a distinct imprint in the tree. It took us a few moments to re-shape the artificial branches and fill up the hole left by my body.

In re-tracing the events of the evening, the tree likely fell because I was tinkering with it earlier in the evening when Gail noticed that it was leaning slightly forward. I guess in my efforts to fix it, I actually made it worse (a common theme for me with respect to things around the house). I’m pleased to tell you that since then we have re-enforced the base.

Thus, the tree shouldn’t fall again. After all, I wouldn’t want it to destroy the ONE gift I have under the tree (as opposed to the kids with their dozens)!

The Centre of Attention (and loving every minute)

Firstly, this blog is not about me…despite the title. Just needed to clear that up right away…haha.

Rather, this blog is about Kayla Marie. As many of you know, when Kayla was born on December 21, 2007, she was the first Imoo girl in 75 years, breaking a streak of 12 straight boys starting with my late Father’s 2 older brothers. We try not to spoil her (well at least I try not to…my lovely wife Gail may be a different story), but she is often the centre of attention nonetheless. Given her recent advancements in speech and comprehension, she is at a really neat stage in her development right now, and we’re having so much fun with her.

Today we spent the entire day together, as I took the day off work to take Jake to see an allergy specialist before seeing the school Christmas play in the afternoon. I had to wake Kayla from an apparent deep sleep at 9:30am (she usually gets up at 7:30am or so) to get her ready to leave. As per usual on Daddy days, her hair was an absolute disaster, as I haven’t mastered pigtails, ponytails, or basic tying techniques (there’s a reason why I shave my head).

We went to the allergy specialist and spent close to 2 hours there, most of it in the waiting room. It was a much-needed visit for Jake, as his legs resemble the surface of Mars. After a quick lunch at the golden arches, we made our way to St. Paul School for the Christmas concert.

After Jake bolted out of the car to join his classmates, I took Kayla to Gail’s class for a quick visit before going to the gym. As soon as I walked in the classroom, I was swarmed by Gail’s grade 2 students. As I smiled smugly reflecting on my popularity, I realized that the 30 kids were actually swarming Kayla (who just happened to be carried by me). At least Gail said hi to me…I think…haha.

As Gail salvaged Kayla’s hair-do, the kids peppered Kayla with hi-fives, handshakes, and hugs. I happily played the role of observer and marveled at the scene: Kayla was soaking up the attention while laughing, babbling, and clapping with the kids.

Kayla being the centre of attention in Gail’s grade 2 class.
After a few moments I excused myself to wait outside the classroom for what I thought would be a couple of minutes. Two minutes turned into 5 and then to 10. I went back into the classroom to see what was taking so long and I cracked up at the sight: there Kayla was sitting on Gail’s lap with all of the kids on the carpet below her watching her every move. I guess it was show and tell, with Gail showing Kayla and telling about her.

I snuck a quick picture and then snuck myself back out of the classroom and to the gym. When Gail finally brought Kayla to me a few minutes later, she told me that Kayla was playing with an ink stamp at Gail’s desk and all of the kids wanted to watch her in action. So Gail brought her up to the front of the class so the kids could get a better view.

Seems like Kayla sure knows how to leave an imprint wherever she goes!

5 Things I Learned While in the States

We had a great family day on Sunday, as we spent the day at the Seattle Premium Outlets. We bought Christmas gifts, some things for Kayla’s upcoming birthday party, the boys got Heelys (roller shoes), and even I bought some clothes (a rarity). My lovely wife Gail actually didn’t buy anything for herself, as she was too busy spending on our daughter.

The trip was not only entertaining (and somewhat expensive), but it was also educational. Here are 5 things I learned (or re-affirmed) during our trip to, in, and from the United States in America:

1. I drive fast. My family and friends likely wouldn’t call me an overly-aggressive driver, but they also wouldn’t call me a passive one either. I know that I’m not the most patient driver (that’s why having all of the religious bumper stickers on my Jesus-mobile was good for my driving!), but I do think that I’m a good Asian driver. Anyway, for better or for worse, NOT A SINGLE vehicle passed me on the 75-minute drive home to the border from the outlet mall, while I likely passed between 150 and 200 vehicles. I think it was a combination of the bad weather and people (other than me) driving very cautiously. It brought back memories of my drive home from Portland when we first got our new van a couple of years ago…the ratio of cars that I passed compared to the number of cars that passed me was likely around 10:1.

2. I learned a new short-cut. On our way down, the snow was starting to wreck havoc on motorists, and we passed 2 or 3 accidents as we headed south. With our eyes set on exit 202, traffic came to a standstill at exit 212, forcing us to exit off the highway. As we got lunch and gas for the van, I asked 4 different people how I could make my way further south without getting back on I-5. I got 4 different answers, so I went with the most convincing answer (coincidentally, it was also the last person I talked to…he gave me the most detailed directions as I waited for my Whopper). We took a side street that ran relatively parallel to the highway, and entered back onto I-5 at exit 206 after about 10 minutes of driving. Five minutes later, we were at the Wal-Mart by the outlet, having saved likely anywhere between 30 to 60 minutes of waiting in traffic.

3. I sound like a DJ. While purchasing a car-charger for my phone at Wal-Mart, I made small talk with the cashier, who happened to be Filipino. It went the way that my conversations usually go with someone I meet who I deduce to be a Filipino:

Me: “Are you Filipino?”

Him/Her: “Yes, are you?”

Me: “No, but my wife was born in the Philippines. She’s actually Chinese though.”

Him/Her: “Oh that’s nice. What are you?”

Me: “Handsome, don’t you think? And very charming…”

Him/Her: “I mean, what nationality are you?”

Me: “I’m half Japanese and half-Chinese.”

Him/Her: “I thought you were a DJ…you sound like one.”

Me: “Uh…thanks…I think.”

This is truly how the conversation went (except for the line about being handsome and charming). She caught me off-guard with her DJ comment, not only because I thought we were still on the topic of ethnicity, but more importantly because no one has ever said that I sound like a DJ. I was caught off-guard and was actually speechless (for once). Meanwhile, Sean had a really good chuckle.

4. Americans don’t say “You’re welcome.” This is something I’ve noticed ever since befriending more Americans and doing more travel in the States. Now, I’m certainly not saying that Americans are rude (far from it), but you’ll more often hear “Uh huh” rather than “you’re welcome” in reply to “thank you.” Uh huh just seems like a more natural response for many Americans.

5. I can actually live without Twitter and Facebook. As soon as we crossed the border into the States, I turned the data function off on my phone to save money (translation: I’m really cheap). It felt quite good being somewhat disconnected as I was able to concentrate on being fully present to my family. Gail was thankful because I was better able to carry all of the shopping bags without my phone in my hand. Some people have been bugging me saying that I’m addicted to tweeting and updating my facebook status. I counter by saying that I try not to tweet or Facebook trivial things, rather my posts usually have some sort of wit or wisdom attached to them. As with most things, the truth is likely somewhere in the middle.

Now excuse me as I go post this on my website and on Facebook and then tweet about it.

Are You Nervous? (20 Years Together with Gail)

Those 3 words were the first-ever words I spoke to Gail. The date: October 1989. The place: backstage at Richmond’s Gateway Theatre. The occasion: JN Burnett Junior Secondary School’s fall concert. As our respective choirs were getting ready to perform, I passed by this cute, unassuming girl on my way to the restroom. While hurriedly rushing to take care of business, I guess “Are you nervous” was the best and most relevant thing I could come up with!

This encounter started an 8-week courting period, culminating in me asking Gail to be girlfriend exactly 20 YEARS AGO TODAY. On Thursday, December 14, 1989, 2 lives changed forever in the hallowed halls of Burnett. That was the day a scrawny, immature, goofy-haired boy asked this beautiful, humble, quiet girl to go to that night’s school dance with him. Thankfully for both of them, she said yes. And the rest, as they say, is history.

It’s amazing to think it’s been 20 years already. Gail is still beautiful, while I am still immature. Gail is still humble, while I am certainly not scrawny. And I guess the jury is still out on my haircut.

I was 15 and in grade 10, and serving as the Student Council President. Gail was 14, in grade 9, and one of the “Classroom Reps” and thus, she attended biweekly meetings of the general Student Council that I led. In the few weeks leading up to Christmas, we held our annual Canned Food Drive and in my role as President, I would be in the school office every morning receiving cans from the Class Reps, who collected cans from their entire class. Gail would bring a can of food every single day, even if no one else in her class did, just so she could come down to the office to drop it off (and of course, see me in the process). Meanwhile, I (in my think-I’m-cool phase) didn’t really notice her.

So let me say it one more time just to be clear: she liked me first…haha.

It was the school musical “Lumberjacks and Weddingbelles” that ultimately brought us together. I was originally paired with my ex-girlfriend Elaine while my best bud Javier was paired up with Gail. Then, for whatever reason, the drama teacher decided to switch the pairings and have Gail and I go together. We hit it off quite well, although I thought she was a refugee from the Philippines. As the rehearsal days went on, I started to find myself becoming attracted to her, regardless of her citizenship status. Then, after one of our hoedown dances, the music stopped but Gail and I still held onto each other’s hand. A few people nearby started whispering and giggling. Gail asked why. I told her they were laughing at my haircut. Which may have been true actually.

On our first night as a couple I didn’t kiss Gail, rather I ended up getting kissed by another girl. Carrie, a fellow member of the Student Council, was running around with her own mistletoe. So while Gail and I were talking during my shift in the concession stand, Carrie ran up to me, held the mistletoe above my head, and planted a kiss firmly on my face…right in front of Gail! I don’t think Carrie knew that I had a new girlfriend…at least I hope she didn’t. I’m thankful Gail didn’t go Bruce Lee on Carrie’s behind!

This new couple seemed to be an odd-match at first. I was foul-mouthed, irreverent, and popular (at least I thought I was). Gail was the good Catholic girl, and associated with only a few close friends. I was the athlete, musician, and social butterfly (at least I thought I was) while Gail was the homebody who valued family time.

My parents welcomed Gail with open arms immediately…a fact my late Father referenced at our wedding in 2000 when he said that he and Mom were forever indebted to Gail for removing me from their house! Gail’s family was another story: her parents were slow to accept me while the brothers would make fun of me and try and steal money from my wallet when I visited. Even John shot a rock at my neck with a hockey stick. At least I was accepted by Gail’s cute 2-year-old baby sister with a mushroom haircut: Julie Ann.

Gail and I count our blessings when we consider the fact that she almost didn’t go to Burnett. She originally applied to go to LFA for grade 8, but there were no available spots. So the counselor (my Auntie Tomi) at Cook Elementary School suggested that she go to Burnett instead, where her husband George was the vice-principal. I’m thankful for Auntie Tomi’s convincing, otherwise Gail would likely have gone to Palmer…not that there’s anything wrong with that fine school…haha.

Gail and I also reflect on my conversion to Catholicism and her huge role in introducing me to Jesus Christ and His Church. Most people know the story already: how I would go to Mass with Gail and her family mostly for the free Chinese meal afterwards. How Gail patiently taught me a few prayers while I tried my best to behave during Mass while looking forward to the Sign of Peace (where I would become a handshaking machine, grabbing any loose limb I could find). How she sponsored me through RCIA the same year we both joined the brand new 9am choir (the pre-cursor to the 6:30pm Mass Choir). How I received the Sacraments of Initiation at Easter 1993 and went to World Youth Day in Denver as a 4-month-old Catholic. How Gail and I served on the original Core Team for LIFE TEEN at St. Paul’s and how I took over from Richard Vetter as the Youth Ministry Coordinator in 1997. How I failed my CA exams and bounced around the worlds of accounting, human resources, and financial planning, all while serving in youth ministry. How I went to Toronto for World Youth Day in 2002 asking God for guidance with respect to my career. And how I obtained the position of Director of the Youth Ministry Office for the Archdiocese of Vancouver just 3 months after returning from Toronto, a position I’ve held for the past 7 years.

Gail and I speak often as to whether or not I’d be a Catholic if I hadn’t met her. Back in the day, very few of my friends from high school and/or university were and are practicing Catholics. It’s hard to say for sure: I’d like to think that God would have eventually led me to faith. But who knows what church or denomination that would have been.

As Gail and I reflect on 20 years of good time and challenging times (way more good than bad), I realize more than ever how lucky I am. Gail was born to be a mother and wife: she is amazing with our kids and with me. She is patient, caring, wise, and she loves us unconditionally. I have no problem admitting she wears the pants in the family. She likely wears the shirt, socks, shoes, and underwear too (not that I don’t wear underwear…haha).

Yet she humbly stands behind me and supports me as I hog the spotlight, do talks at conferences and rallies, make videos to post on youtube, tweet all about our lives, update my facebook status, and play around with my website. She is the consummate encourager, advocate and cheerleader.

They say that behind every strong man is a stronger woman. Gail and I prove this to be true time and time again. After all, it takes a pretty strong person to live with and put up with me!

Thank you Gail. I’m grateful for you and thank God for placing you in my life. I love you very much!

Happy 20-year (dating) anniversary!