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pat in my hair

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pat in my hair

“no, pat no!  don’t get stuck in my hair.”

when you feed a toddler, you find all sort of food stuck in your hair. elijah insists to give me a big hug with his sticky hands while he’s eating. i can’t say no…

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elijah’s first word was ‘manma’, which is the japanese baby word for ‘food’. i since learned that some english-speaking babies say ‘num-num’ meaning the same thing. he uses ‘manma’ for any kind of food but especially snack foods that come in boxes or little bags, like crackers. this started after we drove home from ontario and he had all kinds of dry snack food to eat in the car seat.

the next thing elijah started to say was ‘mama’ and ‘papa’ randomly to both of us. one morning, he woke up at 5am and started chanting ‘mama! papa!’ over and over in a loud voice, banging on the bed frame. he was so proud of himself! at 13 months old, he had ‘papa/mama’ confusion. he could say ‘papa’ very clearly, but not ‘mama’. i was so jealous! he called me ‘papa’ for awhile. it melted my heart anyway.

nowadays he can clearly say ‘papa’ to paul and ‘mama’ to me. when he wakes up in the middle of night (still…) and shouts ‘mama~ mama~! oppa~i (breasts)!’ i feel like i can do anything for him.

i’ve been saying ‘daisuki (i love you very much)’ to him for a long time. around 14 months, he started to imitate me hugging him. we’d say ‘daisuki’ and he’d open his arms wide and give us a hug. he’s recently started trying to say ‘daisuki’, but he can’t say the entire word. so he says ‘dai~, dai~’ and open his arms and for a hug. he does it to my friends and their babies as well. it’s pretty adorable.

‘dai’ in ‘daisuki’ means ‘big’. ‘dai’ plus ‘suki (like)’ becomes ‘i love you very much’. but in english, ‘dai’ sounds like ‘die’, so it sounds like he’s chanting ‘die! die! die!’ and wanting a hug. it probably sounds horrible to some people, but to me it’s the sweetest thing.

elijah’s vocabulary is increasing every day. i keep track of the words he learns in my ‘elijah word diary’ (it’s just a small agenda book). he picks up new sounds very quickly and seems to be able to associate the sound with its object. he learns so quickly that i can’t keep up with what he knows. most of the words he says are not really words, just the first syllable or sound from a longer word — but we can understand him, it’s our secret code. we are ‘oya-baka‘, so we’re convinced these are all certainly words.

here’s my elijah dictionary at 15 months:

A:

  • ai~ (from ‘ari’, meaning ‘ant’ in japanese) — he uses it for ants on the ground or flies buzzing around the window
  • appu~l (apple) — he says this clearly enough for most people to understand. he can recognize a real apple and a drawing of an apple. at the supermarket he chants ‘apple!’ and points firmly at the apples. if you show him an orange he’ll also say ‘apple’
  • awaa~ (‘flower’) — he says this pointing at a real flower or a picture of a flower or a field full of flowers. one of his favorite things is dandelions — he brings them to us to blow the seeds
  • ashi (meaning ‘leg’ in japanese) — he says ‘ashi’ if we point at his leg or one of ours, and if we say ‘ashi’ he points at his leg

B:

  • beee (‘B’) — he has some magnetic alphabet letters. he calls them all ‘B’, except sometimes he says ‘aysh’ (‘H’) at random
  • bana~ (‘banana’) — i think he just like to say this word. he doesn’t eat much banana. he’s more of a melon guy.
  • be~bi! (‘baby’) — he says ‘baby’ for babies in real life and in photos and also uses the word for kids much older. i’m not sure if he knows that he’s also a baby.
  • bai-bai (‘bye bye’) — he waves goodbye to papa leaving for work, sometimes too soon when paul is still putting his pants on. he also waves bye bye when we put him in the car seat and close the door, even though we’re getting in the front seat right away.
  • ba~cku~l (‘buckle’) — he loves to spend time playing with the buckles on his high chair, trying to open and close them
  • baffi~ (‘buffy’, the name of our neighbour’s dog) — even though we’ve lived here for more than a year, buffy is always surprised to see us and barks at us when we’re out in our back yard. so i taught elijah to say ‘hello buffy’ every time we go out in the yard. she still barks at us.
  • a!ba!ba!ba! (‘bus’) — buses are very exciting.
  • bu~bu~! (the japanese baby word for ‘car’) — he likes watching the cars drive by from our window. he also uses this word for his toy car.
  • bey~ah (‘bear’) — he has three polar bear cuddly toys. he’ll hold them tight and lay down on the carpet.
  • bah~~ (‘ball’) — he likes to run around after the soft soccer ball inside and his green plastic ball outside
  • buk! (‘book’) — he is always asking us to read books to him. we go through his entire book collection almost everyday. his favorite book is dr suess’ “hop on pop”. he asks for it by name: ‘op op’
  • burrrrr~ (‘bird’)– this was one of the first words that he learned. he notices birds all the time, even when they’re far away in the sky

C:

  • chapu-chap (sound effect for water splashing in japanese) — i taught him that ‘chapu-chap’ means bath. he loves the bath and he’ll point at the bathroom door and chant ‘chapu-chap!’
  • chea~ (‘chair’) — he learned this word from a picture book. he was so happy to learn this word that he walked around to touch all the chairs that day.

D:

  • dami~! (‘dame’, meaning “don’t do that” in japanese) — he likes things that are ‘dame!’
  • dau~ (‘down’) — he says this when he’s climbing down from something, or going down the stairs (backwards, on his stomach). he doesn’t use it when he’s being held and wants to be put down, he says ‘up’ instead.
  • dahhh (‘dog’) — i guess i was supposed to teach him to say ‘puppy’. he likes dogs.
  • do~h (‘door’) — we never taught him this word, but he was listening every time we yell at each other;”is the door shut?”
  • do~jyo (‘dozo’, meaning ‘here you go’ in japanese, when offering something to someone) — he mostly says this to mean ‘gimme’. you’ve got it backwards, elijah!

E:

  • eapu~ (‘airplane’) — he looks up to the sky every time he hears an airplane overhead. he does a gesture we taught him with his hand “flying” around like an airplane
  • e~lijah!  – he says his name very loudly and repeatedly.  he looks happy when he says this.

G:

  • gya~f! (‘giraffe’) — we have some giraffe stickers on the wall of his bedroom.

H:

  • hama~ (‘hammer’) — he likes to hammer things, especially when he gets to use a real hammer. we just bought him a toy hammer that makes funny sounds. so far he’d rather use his other toys (like his wooden cars) or some other things from the house (like papa’s shaving cream) to hammer on the floor very very loud.

M:

  • mama (‘mama’, me) — when he hugs me as he whispers this word he melts my heart.
  • manma (the japanese baby word for ‘food’) — when he gets really hungry he screams ‘MANMA~!!!’ again and again. not very subtle, elijah.
  • meyo~ (‘melon’) — he loves eating melon and asks for it all the time — either cantaloupe or watermelon. sometimes he stuffs his mouth so full that he chokes and vomits everything back up
  • mimi (japanese for ‘ear’) — another body part.  he’ll point at his ear when he hears music.
  • myu~ (‘music’) — he can turn on the big stereo and start pushing buttons. sometimes he inserts a CD or MD (mini-disc) by himself. he likes to turn on a CD/MD player, insert a CD or MD and hit play. he loves dancing to music.
  • me (not [mi], but [me], ‘eye’ in japanese) — occasionally he pokes my eye with his precious tiny finger saying ‘me’!

N:

  • nyo~z (‘nose’) — another body part he likes to name. he really likes grabbing papa’s big nose.
  • no, no, no, no, no~! – he waves his hands around and tells me that’s a no no! he started saying it to himself when he knows he’s not supposed to do something.

O:

  • ahf (‘off’) — he always wants to flip the light switch by himself. our house becomes a disco.
  • oh,oh! — he’s supposed to say this when he drops something accidentally. but he says this BEFORE dropping things — meaning he’s dropping them on purpose. the worst part is when he’s sitting in his high chair with his plate of food and he says ‘oh-oh!’ — BIG MESS.
  • auchi~ (‘ouch!’) — he gets so much attention when he bumps his head that he’s started bumping it (very gently) on purpose, or even pretending he bumped it (we can see he didn’t). he holds his head with his hands and comes running to me saying ‘auchi! so i kiss him and look sad. he doesn’t do it to paul, because papa just laughs when he sees the obvious fake injury.
  • opa~i (‘oppai’, meaning “breast” in japanese) — at night sometimes he screams and screams and screams and then suddenly says ‘oppai?’ in a quiet polite voice.

P:

  • papa — papa is elijah’s favorite. anytime he hears a noise from around the entrance, he points and asks “papa?”
  • pada~ (‘panda’) — his playmate is ‘panda-san’, a stuffed animal panda from IKEA. i put a diaper, baby clothing and a bib on panda-san so he can be elijah’s role model. elijah feeds him food and holds on to him in the crib as he falls asleep.
  • pee pee! (‘penis’) — he grabs his pee-pee with no mercy. i didn’t realize that thing could stretch so far.

T:

  • tachi! , do tachi! (‘don’t touch!’) — many things are ‘don’t touch’ in the house… sorry, elijah. he says ‘tachi’ or ‘do tachi’ when he’s near them, but then he touches them anyway and looks very happy.
  • te (japanese for ‘hand’) –another body part. he’s learning how to do “high-five”.

U:

  • up! – he can say ‘up’ very clearly now, whenever he wants to get picked up but also he wants to get put down. so he says ‘up’ even when he’s already up! how high do you wanna go, elijah? he’s a climber. he climbed all the way up a ladder to the roof of the garage one time. where is your fear, my friend?

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this drawing is called ‘my favorite neckless’.  i’m showing this drawing at hosfelt gallery in san francisco.  i’m taking part in a group show titled “vocabularies of metaphor — more stories“, all works on paper by fifteen international artists.  the show will run from september 6th to october 18th .   if you’re around in san francisco, please do take time to visit the gallery and enjoy the show.

about the show (by the owner/curator todd hosfelt)

it’s an exhibition of works on paper by fifteen international artists exploring narrative through symbols.  i’m interested in visual languages that are highly personal and lyrical.  the “stories” are also original to the artists and open to interpretation.

the artists’ choice of exploring the intimacy of drawing/painting on paper (and my choice, as the curator) is about giving the viewer a voyeuristic glimpse into private moments.  i’m exhibiting between two and six pieces by each artist to give the viewer the opportunity to observe mutating idioms and to decipher the lexicons of each.    while the show didn’t start to be about work by women, almost all of it is.    i’m including amy cutler, fay ku, shahzia sikander, ruth marten, liliana porter, yuka yamaguchi, yelena yemchuk, baseerah khan, rob matthews, henry darger, sara stites, charlotte schultz, rachell sumpter, crystal liu and seonna hong.

todd hosfelt will be writing about the artists and their works in the show on his blog.  here’s what he wrote about my drawing, ‘my favorite neckless’:

i love yuka yamaguchi’s work.    it’s what frieda khalo would be making if she were alive and japanese.    gorgeously rendered colored pencil (often self) portraits that are seemingly innocent and disarmingly brutal.

i’m reproducing “my favorite neckless” 2008 colored pencils on paper, 11×14 inches.     beyond the play on words, jay brought the phrase “turtles all the way down” to my attention.     the story, in this case, as told by stephen hawkings in “a brief history of time” goes like this:

a well-known scientist (some say it was bertrand russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy.  he described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. at the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: “what you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise” the scientist gave a superior smile before replying, “what is the tortoise standing on?” “you’re very clever, young man, very clever,” said the old lady. “but it’s turtles all the way down!”

the story is used to illustrate religious/mythic myopia, but can also be read as meaning that you can never get to the bottom of a difficult question.

and of course there seussian reference to yertle the turtle…

i didn’t know about the turtle book by dr. seuss, but now i’ve got to go buy that for elijah and me ;)

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