Gabriel’s Planet Faux-Pas

Those of you who follow my blog will already know about my – probably Aspergers – four year old, Gabriel and his gigantic obsession with astronomy, planets, stars, anything vaguely space related. But specifically our Solar System and the order of the planets and the sizes of the stars, from ours right up to the biggest known stars in our Universe. In fact, the only way they are managing him at school currently is to allow him to draw and label the solar system over and over for half the day while we’re waiting for him to be “statemented” and they can get an extra person in the classroom for him. He then comes home and does exactly the same thing for around two hours after school. Oh, and did I mention every second of every day that he’s awake he’s is talking at us, constantly telling us facts like “Mummmeeee? Pluto’s orbit crosses Neptune’s… Dadddeeeee? VY Canis Majoris is a red hypergiant… Riegel is a blue supergiant, Titan is yellow, did you know our Sun has hydrogen and helium?” He barely stops to draw breath from one end of the day to another and it is exhausting to listen to but we kind of love it. He is so completely passionate and his little face lights up with glee reminding us of those crazy super-animated physicists talking on the History channel’s ‘The Universe‘ programmes who we find really sweet! “Obsessed” doesn’t quite cover it.

So, I was delighted and amused when Gabs came home from school with something he had written which wasn’t planets-related and which I’m pretty sure – judging by the spelling – he had done all by himself:

I had to get him to translate it for me. It says,

“To my Gabriel..”

(he wrote it to himself in the manner of little love letters I write to him sometimes!)

“… and I love my Lucian (his little brother) and I love my mummy and my daddy and my cousins. Actually the most I love my mummy but daddy does silly things. Why does Daddy do silly things because he does..”

Sounds spot on to me! 🙂

So, back to planets. Gabs spends a lot of time watching his favourite learning videos on youtube and he often gets me to type things like “Space videos for kids” and “Sizes of the Planets” into the search bar as those are his favourites. He particularly likes one where they start with a closeup of Earth and then each frame zoom out showing the relative sizes of bigger and bigger planets, the whole solar system and then the bigger stars like Pollux, Aldebaran and VY Canis Majoris. This pen comes down and circles Earth to draw attention to how tiny it is in comparison! I’ve never watched it all the way through but I know he finds it hilarious because eventually Earth becomes invisible in the scale and I hear him snorting away to himself…

Anyway, I should have paid more attention to this particular video because here’s what I found when I came downstairs from bathing Lucian last night… Gabs had drawn the “Earth is Invisible” video frame by frame, sounding out the names himself and missing out most of the vowels in the process, but I knew what he meant and he showed me Oh, so proudly which order they went in…

Earth, Venus, Mars, Mercury, Pluto

Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Earth, Venus, Mars, Mercury, Pluto

Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Earth, Venus, Mars, Mercury, Pluto

Sun, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus...etc.etc..

Sun, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus…etc.etc..

Arcturus, Pollux, Sirius, Sun, (Earth)

Arcturus, Pollux, Sirius, Sun, (Earth)

“Ahh, how sweet!” I thought.. “He’s remembered the video exactly  and tried to ‘sound them out'”! And then I saw the last one:

Antares, Aldebaran, Betelgeuse, Riegel, Arcturus, Pollux, Sirius, Sun, and WTF.

Antares, Aldebaran, Betelgeuse, Riegel, Arcturus, Pollux, Sirius, Sun, and WTF!

Antares, Aldebaran, Betelgeuse, Riegel, Arcturus, Pollux, Sirius, Sun, and WTF!

Errr, wait a minute…. “WTF”?!!! Wtf?! 

A quick look at the end of the video revealed all (skip to 1:05):


He was very excitedly telling me,

“Look Mummy, that’s Rigel, and that’s Sirius, and that’s the Sun, and that’s Whatoof! Hahaha, Whatuff! Where’s the Earth gone!

He was so delighted by his discovery of this new word – which from the context he understood perfectly to mean something along the lines of “OMG!” – that he kept holding his hands out to the side and pronouncing it dramatically,

“Whatuff, whatuff, whatuff Mummy!”

And then he went back to his drawing:


*Sigh!* I had to take his little collection of artworks into school and explain what had happened in case he decided to write it while he was there, but he hasn’t… yet! If your kids have done anything similar which has got, or nearly got you in trouble I’d love to hear about it!


1st December

(Disclaimer: This post starts in the style of Scrooge and positively melts into Christmas wonder by the end… i.e. Bound to please no one.)

So is it my imagination or is everyone getting Christmas-crazy incredibly early this year? Now wait a minute, lest I lose you at this point already… I’m not talking about Christmas Adverts appearing on the telly in late September to wide derision, such as my husband loves to moan about, or the usual decs in shops going up mid-November. I’m talking You and Me, the average Mr and Mrs in the street, students, professionals, families, all starting up the festivites pre-December and being fully tree-ed up, decorated and ready-to-go before I’ve eaten my first advent calendar chocolate. I went out today, OK maybe 24 hours too late, to buy my boys their advent calendars, and from my lunchtime coffee until the bus home for tea, I passed person after person carrying Christmas trees and bags of presents down the Finchley Road. Sainsburys, Waterstones and WH Smiths had all completely run out of advent calendars… Does NObody out there forget every year like me?? Thank goodness for the eminently sensible and civilised people at Waitrose who keep their shelves properly stacked and had lovely Snowman ones and plenty of Lindt reindeer. Sometimes it’s worth letting slip the mask of pretence that I’m not prematurely middle-aged, upwardly-mobile upper middle-class and owning up that I just make myself shop in the O2 Centre but secretly yearn for John Lewis. Sainsburys just had a scrum of people stocking up on already depleting supplies of cheap-looking baubly things and a few mangled Mars Bar calendars with some doors ripped opened but otherwise empty shelves. I’m not that desperate and I like to shop somewhere that doesn’t force me into panic-buying. So for the rest of December I’m going to be raising my loyalty-card-holding hand up and shouting, “I LOVE WAITROSE!” to the skies. So sue me.

Anyway, we found two Snowman calendars in the nick of time before an about-to-be-distraught Gabs started to cry and I got a lovely traditional-style picture one with Father Christmas and only a tasteful amount of glitter on – something I regretted later when the boys opened theirs and I didn’t have any chocolate. I thought I was adult enough to deal with that but apparently not. By this time we were exhausted from walking from shop to shop searching for the holy grail of calendars and  all the trees and lights and possible present ideas leaping off the shelves at me started to suck me into the whole early-Christmas thing. Heck, it’s been a long and challenging year and now I’m older and tired-erer-er, time passes faster – I’m ready for sparkly lights and mulled wine… Bring it on!

So we had a little light dinner in Yo Sushi as a kind of “Yay! It’s December!” treat…

…bought Gabs some new felt-tip pens as his two hours a day of obsessive solar-system drawing wears them out, and squeezed onto the bus home.

It’s not exactly decorated, but our kitchen feels a trifle Christmassier than before and while I made dinner with a glass of prosecco we listened to some of my favourite carols:

I have to confess that there have been years where I’ve listened to ‘Carols from Kings’ on my iPod in secret from about late October onwards in bursts of forward-looking, won’t Christmas be great when it gets here induglence… But I had the decency to hide it and even in years when I reigned myself in until the beginning of advent I still got told, “Turn it off, it’s too early!!” So I reeeeally don’t think I’m imagining this pronounced shift in cultural norm when I scroll down my facebook feed and see ten or more pictures of my friends’ kids gazing wistfully at their magically-lit trees and work Christmas party photos… Yes, that’s right… Christmas parties that have ALREADY HAPPENED, meaning they must have happened in November. (Really? You’re going off work now?!) You know it’s a bit bonkers when I – childlike, excitable little elf at Christmas time that I am, who usually has to pretend not to be in the Christmas spirit already, tutting and rolling my eyes at the jingly music with the rest of them – find myself completely behind. Behind with the presents and the decorations and the merriment and the tasty mince-meat related foods. But for the most part, I quite like this new trend. I’m bored of the recession and being drab and complaining about the weather and now December can be a long, steady steam-roller of a relaxed journey into Christmas, with more time to chill and enjoy it all in between bursts of organising, and rather less of the “no, not yet.. no, no it’s too early, no, turn off those carols…OK, it’s NOW! Go, go, go!” panicking that gets foisted on me every other year.

Happy December 2013 Everyone, It’s Christmas-Time!