Friday, May 10, 2013

Keep Your Eye on Little Jupiter: Roman is 4!

Birthday boy riding his new bike
Before I can remember remembering,  and definitely before I was four, I knew I had a special necklace I daily wore and that my parents gave me.  It had a charm with what looked like a number four on it, paired with a gold medallion of the Virgin Mary, Jesus and the Holy Spirit which I'd been given for my baptism.  This all seemed very normal.  It likewise seemed very normal to me when my mom told me the "4" was an Egyptian symbol for "eternal love."  It also made perfect sense that this bit of wisdom was one she had gotten from none other than the cover of an album in the 70's by Earth, Wind & Fire.  :)

My four.
It's funny what's passed down from one generation to another.  I thought of that four a lot last week, when Roman turned four, and we held a bouncy house party for him in our front yard.  I thought about how that metaphorical "eternal love" had also been passed down to him, but that, unlike my mother - blessed with two obedient daughters - there was no way I'd trust my little warrior to wear a gold necklace, and probably wouldn't for years to come.  But that despite that, I metaphorically gave him my "eternal love" daily, and in greater amounts, perhaps, on the day of his birth, that day being filled with so many memories and so much meaning for me and him.

In the end, symbols have the meaning we wish them to.  It took me little more than a few minutes to do some research and find that my beloved four is actually the symbol for the planet Jupiter, in some ways far more fitting for Roman than me because Jupiter was the head of the Roman pantheon, the Italic equivalent to Zeus.  Jupiter symbolizes optimisim, the higher mind, generosity, goodness and opportunity.  His was the thunderbolt and he was held to be the greatest, the strongest, the leader.  I can't help but feel that's apt in some likely-highly-exaggerated, perhaps maternally-convoluted way. :)  Roman and his Buzz Lightyear party, in which he was the head space ranger, wings, lightning bolts, laser gun and all, is indeed a little Jupiter - commanding our attention, our admiration, and our love in new ways every year.  Roman bravely suffering his first cast being put on a broken arm.  Roman asking questions at the art museum about Mummies and why we die.  Roman asking me if I'm a dark heart or a true heart when I don't want to share my dessert.  Roman knocking things over and leaving trails of crumbs, no matter how mindful he tries to be.  Roman being his wonderful self: thoughtful, silly, boisterous and perfect.

And so, to close, in the funk-filled words of Earth, Wind & Fire

"Keep your eye on Jupiter, such beauty in the sky,
 We will wait for your return, in the by & by
Keep your eye on Jupiter, memories we shall fulfill
just to view a brighter day, and do a righteous will."

*  *  *
Here are a couple of lists to remind me of what Roman is and has been like over the past year, his first spent in Colorado, and some pictures from his wonderful, friend-filled birthday party - a chance not only to celebrate Roman being in our lives, but also to celebrate the small but budding support network of friends we have started here in Denver.

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Top 5 Songs Roman Loves to Sing / Listen to
a little more angsty, and a little more selective

Sing us a song - you're the piano man.
 1. Lookin' Out My Back Door - Credence Clearwater Revival
There was a six-week period when we went skiing every weekend, mostly at A-basin this year.  I became obsessed with listening to my Credence Clearwater Revial Greatest Hits CD during the multiple-hour drives.  Let's just say that thanks to that and maybe thanks to us watching The Big Lebowski and absurd amount in his youth, Roman has become a fan. Especially of the line "Do-do-do-lookin' out my back dooooooaaa'!" which he belts out while slapping the back of his seat, kinda like I do :)

2. Little Talks - Of Monsters and Men
This became a favorite on our cross-country drive last June from Maine to Colorado.  It's kind of a dark, broody song with a slightly haunting quality to it (for the love, don't watch the freaky video), but for whatever reason Roman calls it "his song" and gets mad if I don't put it on when requested.  He also loves to yell out "hey!"

3. Pack Up - Eliza Doolittle
When my niece Sara Eli came to stay with us during our first month living in Denver, Roman and her developed a hilarious duet singing to this song.  Sara was Eliza and Roman was, clearly, the old black man that sings the chorus to this remade, British World War I song. :)  Hilarious.

4. Home - Philip Philipps
Again, not the first song I would have thought a three year old would like, but there's something about the melody that holds Roman's attention.  He loves to sing and hum to it.

5. Ta-ra-ta-ta - Mina
This is not the song Roman sings most often, but I have to say, it's the one he's absolutely the most passionate about.  I became a fan of this song after Matt and I watched a funny Italian movie called "Dillo Con Parole Mie" in which the protagonists do an impromptu lip sync of this quirky 60's era Italian song at the end of the movie while riding a bus in the Greek Islands.  Mina's music, if you're not familiar with it, is a bit dramatic and lots of fun, in the best of ways.  Roman knows all the words - in a slurry, phonetically pronounced Italian - and also works a MEAN shimmy while he sings them.

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Top 5 Random, Funny & Touching Things Roman Said
over the past year

Funny guy.

1. Every day after school Roman has to wash his hands.  Sometimes he tries to trick me by just quickly rinsing them without scrubbing with soap, so I always ask him to let me smell his hands when he's done to prove that he actually used soap to wash them.  The other day he cam up and said: "Mommy, smell my hands.  I used water and sunlight."  They still smelled like bananas but I couldn't help but smile. (May 2013)

2. Roman was looking particularly thoughtful one day in the car after one of our many conversations about mummies, death and Egypt (where you go when you die, according to him).  He suddenly announced, "Check one: don't get old and be dead.  Check two: don't crash into things so you'll be dead." (Jan 2013)

3. In reference to the human anatomical feature we call intestines: "Mommy at the bottom of your stomach it looks like you have macaroni but you don't." (Jan 2013)

4. "Hello, this is Roman Ciardiello.  Please leave a message and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.  Thanks." :) (July 2012)
5. Bright and early on the morning of his 4th birthday, he woke me up and said:
"Mommy, look how big I am! Look how big my eyes are!
(Stretches eyes)
Look how big my nose is!
(Flares nostrils)
Look how big my muscles are!
(Does the Popeye)
I can even hop on one foot!"

And then he hopped all around, halfway and very proudly, for quite a while. :)

Honorary Mention: When Roman broke his arm in October at his cousin Ava's house after falling off his daddy's back (while riding him like a horse), we all spent a nervous and worrying couple of hours in the Children's hospital emergency room.  I couldn't tell if he was scared or just in pain; he was just very quiet and stoic while he watched cartoons.  When we got out, and only after being given quite a lot of pain medication, he looked at me as we walked to the car and said, "Mommy, I thought I was going to die."  Little people, big world.

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Top 5 Things Roman Loves These Days
strange and varied, like his mom

Foo Dogs with Daddy; Chinese New Year
1. Ancient Things and Egyptian Mummies
When we started frequenting our new local library last year, Roman and I gathered a motley assortment of books.  I wasn't sure what he'd be most interested - not having taken him to the library for years (please don't judge me: there are no libraries in Abu Dhabi (yep.), and the two times I went in Portland he almost got us kicked out he was so loud and boisterous at story time).  One of the books was this Eye Witness book on Mummies.  What ensued was an endless series of renewals and a full-fledged obsession.  At the beginning of the school year, I was informed by one of his teachers that Roman had given an impromptu lecture on Mummies, the Sphynx and hieroglyphics for his pre-school class (choice quote: "Can everyone say 'the Great Sphynx?'").  Our membership to the Museum of Nature & Science has paid for itself about five times over.  And a very nerdy party of me absolutely loves that he knows who Anubis is.

2. Steak.
What a little man Roman has turned out to be.  He loves steak and requests it regularly.  That and pork chops.  When I asked him this year what he wanted his special birthday dinner to be he said, unequivocally, "Steak, corn (on the cob) and cherry limeades (from Sonic)."  That's what we had - along with the prerequisite chocolate cake with strawberries (his favorite), and Bluebell Ice Cream. 

3. Guns & Shooters
"Shooters," as they are euphemized at Roman's school, are the dreaded but inevitable obsession of most toddler-aged boys I know.  Even if I never gave him a toy gun, he would use his finger, or a branch, or a piece of broccoli.  He loves playing good-guy-bad-guy (again, something he was never taught) and loves putting on his holster, cantine and cowboy gun his Grand gave him.  He also admires his daddy's love of skeet and bird shooting.

4. Bedtime Stories & Night-lights
We have an array of different night lights in Roman's room, from the snoopy one to the regular one, to the Christmas lights in his "secret hiding place" (the crawl space in his room).  My mom even got him a cool turtle that displays stars and moons on the cieling and plays nature music.  There's nothing Roman loves more (and nothing that works as a better threat or bribery) than his beloved bedtime stories.  Matt is more fun than me because he likes to hide under the blankets and read stories with a flashlight.  But I get the prize for good voices and accents.  He especially loves the Olivia stories (I agree) and we recently found a great version of Jack & the Beanstalk which he really likes.

5. His Soccer Class.
We signed Roman up for pee-wee soccer a month ago or so.  His first class was a struggle for his two type-A parents, watching him be the only kid who completely disregarded the coach's orders and basically ran around picking up random soccer balls at will.  Matt had to step in several times.  Eventually, Matt set up a mini, nightly, post-dinner training camp in our basement.  He memorized all the games and drills Roman was supposed to know and basically drilled him in them daily (all the while having a great time, might I add) so that now Roman is the best, most well-behaved kid in his whole class (well, besides the goody-goody girls, which, everyone knows, will always be better behaved than the boys!).  Every day after dinner Roman says, "daddy can we go play soccer now?"  I love that.

Honorary Mention: Breaking my back - by stepping on every crack, that is. :)

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Top 5 Random Cool Things About Roman

Roman soldier, or Jupiter in disguise?
1. He's a Classicist at heart, too.
At some point in the fall of 2012, I discovered I still had my National Geographic CD on Pompeii that I used as a teacher in NY for my Pompeii unit.  I immediately wanted to put it on for Roman - the recreation of Vesuvius' eruption alone is worth watching it for, but the British actors are a second, surprise bonus - but Matt said he thought there was no way he'd be interested.  Against all odds, he sat there the entire hour, enthralled by the story of Pompeii, its people, and the eruption.  It soon became his favorite movie to watch and for about a month he watched it daily.  We were thrilled when our local Nature & Science museum then opened a beautiful exhibit on Pompeii, complete with the plaster casts of bodies and animals that are Roman's favorites. 

2. He Dallies in Aesthetics.
I wouldn't say Roman is a particularly "broody" kid, but he definitely has a lot of pensive, quieter moments (yes, even in between all the screaming, yelling and throwing that goes on non-stop).  He's more observant and less willing to share his inner thoughts than a lot of kids I've met.  Sometimes that drives me insane.  Sometimes, though, it is a great reminder of what a beautiful, deep little soul I have in my house.  Roman loves to stop and admire beauty everywhere, from the sun ("Mommy, isn't is a beautiful day?"), to art ("Isn't that painting beautiful, mommy?", to my dress ("Mommy, you look like a princess!".  He thinks it's interesting that people can fall in love with the wrong person, but still find the right one eventually.  He often asks me what songs "mean" and then sits to consider what I've said.  I hope I can continue to model and encourage that about him.

3. He has an incredibly memory.  And flare for the dramatic.
My mom says he gets it from me.  I have to agree.  I don't know many other people who can memorize most choice parts of a movie after just watching it once.  Roman loves to perform little sections of movies he likes.  Most memorable is his rendition of the "Bernie" clip from The Incredibles, complete with hand and head gestures, and several character changes.  And also his delivery on the dead-pan line by Lightning McQueen while in the Rust-eze tent: "Race cars don't need headlights because the track is always....littt." He has also mastered basic American, English, Scottish and Texan accents.  I'll have to video-tape him one of these days.

4. His favorite holiday of All is Halloween.
He has told me multiple times that he prefers it to Christmas, which, to me is borderline heretical.  He loves skeletons (2012 costume) and, as anyone who knows Roman can tell you, is absolutely obsessed with candy and sweet things.  He loves it when the seasonal Halloween stores pop-up, and trips to Wal-mart in October become almost impossible as he insists we go try on every single mask they have.  He started planning next year's costume before he was even done trick-or-treating this year.  I can't wait to see what he'll be next.

5. He loves maps.  And thrift-shopping.
Roman and I have become companions in trawling for unusual and interesting things at our local Goodwill and other thrift shops.  He loves to go down every aisle looking at things and asking questions about them.  Once we found a gigantic child's Atlas - the thing is probably 2.5 feet by 1.5 feet.  It shows maps of the whole world and the US, and is illustrated.  He loves to look at it and it became quite the rage at school when he brought it for show and tell.  He owns many other atlases (the first of which we purchased at a yard sale in Portland last summer) and has a map of the Roman empire in his room.  I love his curiosity at what they are, how they work, and what they represent.  And I'm thankful that he loves to indulge my closet-hoarder tendencies. :)

*  *  *

Roman's 4th Birthday & Party

Blowing out his candles with Evil Doctor Pork Chop and a Cherry Limeade
His first real bike - no training wheels!
The stage.
Sweet moment with Daddy before the madness.

Scoping out the goods.

Leading Space Ranger Training Camp!
On the war path for the Evil Emperor Zurg!
Zurg has arrived.  ATTACK!!!
Funny faces.
Finally breaking the pinata!
Jumping together at the very end.

 Happy 4th Birthday Roman!

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