My FB Post about Gabi & Aspergers

Wednesday 2nd April was World Autism Awareness Day and in fact the whole of April is Autism Awareness month. I happened to post something on Facebook that morning about my Gabs and his aspergers and was completely staggered when it went completely nuts, getting over 400 likes on my own page, some 300 on a mum group I shared it on and was shared by nearly 100 people so I have lost count now of how many likes it has on all those pages combined but it must be over a thousand! I was also inundated by private messages all day thanking me for writing it and also contact from other mums of aspies or suspected aspies basically reaching out for some company in this crazy journey that is parenting an aspergers child! or just some advice or pointers to other support resources. 
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Messy Play for Matilda Mae: Paper-maché Planets

We did this activity back in January but I never got round to blogging it and this week being such an important one where I attended the Matilda Mae Remembers Service, and we marked the one year anniversary of her funeral it seems like a nice time to do it.

This whole thing was Gabs’ idea. Producing tens of thousands of 2D pictures of planets was no longer satisfying him and he really, really wanted to make a 3D version somehow. Now I am incredibly lazy and tend not to plan ahead so we didn’t really do this quite as perfectly as we might have, with little balloons inside to make them perfectly rounded, but it was still a major undertaking (it took us two days!) and Gabs was really able to do everything himself so it was a good option for us. I’m sure we will improve on it and make another Solar System as we hone our technique!

Day 1: Inner Solar System

So basically, we picked up a mountain of Metro newspapers from the tube station and ripped them into roughly two-inch wide strips (Gabs wasn’t interested in this bit, or coordinated enough, so I did it and piled them in a bowl for him to take) and then mixed flour and water in a bowl to make a sticky paste. I followed some online recipe, I can’t remember the quantities and anyway I found it too runny and added a lot more flour so it’s irrelevant… 🙂

We started with the Sun, and scrunched up a load of newspaper in a ball (which is why our spheres didn’t come out too round! But it was easier for Gabs and he loved it) and then started laying the paste-soaked strips across it in layers.

Once we’d added some smaller inner planets, we put them in the oven on a low heat to speed up the drying process (we don’t have an airing cupboard and were impatient to start painting!) I should point out at this point that even though we used non-toxic paints it still makes the oven stink so you need to allow time to clean and burn off the smell before cooking in it after.

Then once the Sun was fully dried Gabs mixed the right paint colour (a mix of gold, yellow, orange and red paints) – something he took fastidious pride in! It took several coats of thick paint and we had to partially dry each one and then paint the bottom and put it back in the oven upside down to cover the whole of the sphere. It worked better with some of them to roll the whole planet around inside the bowl of paint to get it really well covered.

Gabs painted green land-masses onto the already dry blue oceans of Earth and once they were all dried we called it a night as we were exhausted! This worked out pretty well because Gabs was delighted by the results of his Sun and Inner Planets and it gave him something to look forward to the next day.

Day 2: Outer Solar System

The next day was more challenging because we had the planets with rings to deal with and more complex colours. We started the same way as before with the newspaper balls and paste. Our scale wasn’t very accurate, that’s something we’d like to improve on next time but it would have meant having an absolutely enormous Sun or teeny tiny inner planets to leave ourselves room for the right comparitive sizes of the bigger planets so we just approximated as best we could this time.

We had a lot more paint mixing to do for the more unusual shades of the gas giants and lots of layering to do for the cloud formations on Jupiter. First we painted it brown, then dried it and painted the rings of circling orange clouds, dried that.. then a splodge of red for the Great Red Spot and silver (we didn’t have white) on the top and bottom for the polar clouds.

We made the rings by cutting them out of purple cardboard and colouring with felt-tip pens. Saturn’s are much wider than Uranus’ and go round the middle rather than top to bottom which was much easier to fix on but somehow we made them just the right size to stick around the middle.

Did you know there is a storm on the North Pole of Saturn which is naturally shaped like a perfect hexagon?! Gabi told me this and I didn’t believe him at first until I checked it out myself but it’s true. One of the great wonders of the Universe!

Gabs tried very hard to paint it on but it went a bit splodgy. Another thing to aim for in our next one. So here they are, our finished planets, the whole Solar System including a little moon to go around Earth. The big gap Gabs left between Mars and Jupiter is for the asteroid belt… I have no idea how we’re going to make that!

As you can see our round paper-maché dried a lot less round and then the paint coagulated in clumps making some of them reeeally bumpy. Let’s be honest they are the funniest looking planets you’ve ever seen, right?! But Gabs LOVED them… he felt so proud because he considers that he made them almost all by himself, and they have been played and played with for weeks… They are great for playing at making the planets orbit around the Sun and the moon orbiting the Earth and they’re so hard and durable they are hard to break, although we keep losing the little ones around the house.

This was a great project for us, we had great fun and Gabs was in absolute heaven. He really felt special that Mummy had gone to all the trouble of this two day project to make him happy, making me feel like the best Mummy in the World. 🙂 It’s messy and time consuming but also pretty easy… I highly recommend it! If you have any tips on making an even more accurate one, maybe with balloons and any ideas for the asteroid belt, please write below! And look out for our next 3D Universe project…

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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):

OOPS!

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:

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*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!

Gabriel’s Space Party

On the Saturday after Gabriel’s birthday, 6th July, we threw a Space Themed Birthday as promised, for our astronomy-obsessed little boy. It was a lot of work but totally worth it!

I’d planned everything weeks in advance on Pinterest (what a perfect party-planning tool that is) but somehow I was still up into the wee hours the night before, mostly blowing up and hanging giant planets around the living room in the correct formation for our very particular Solar-system expert:

 

The paper chains were made the day before, from huge strips of coloured card, cut and stapled. We had personalised pages for the colouring station which I found at Twistynoodle.com:

 

The solar-system cake was spotted on Pinterest by Gabs himself and re-created by the wonderful people at Dunn’s Bakery in Crouch End:

 

 

I’d bought space-themed party plates and table covers etc. on ebay and stocked up on prosecco and beer for the parents and the usual party foods for the kids. But the best feature of the day for me was the amazing Natalie from West End Bubbles. For what I consider a very reasonable price for such a thing, she rocked up early with all her equipment, speakers, sparkles, props, bubbles and facepaints, tucked herself neatly into a corner of my flat and for the next two hours proceeded to create a great party atmosphere and keep 10 preschoolers and a toddler totally absorbed and happy! Not at all deterred by the fact that it was one of the muggiest, hottest days of the year and my flat was like an oven, she smiled, leaped, danced, sang and generally did all the work for me while I sat back with a glass of prosecco and enjoyed watching my birthday boy enjoy his party.

I don’t know how she did it because I felt tired just watching her, but the woman is a hero! I found Natalie by accident on a facebook mums group. Someone recommended her when I needed a last minute facepainter for Lucian’s birthday. She was already booked but managed to move things around to fit us in which I so appreciated and after seeing her in full party-entertainer mode I cannot recommend her highly enough. (Disclaimer: She didn’t tell me to say that and I’m not getting any money or deals for saying so! I’m not that good a blogger yet 😉 She really is just that good!) I do, however blame her for my prosecco-head the next day as I didn’t have enough to at the party…

To round off, we had the cake with those flame-shooting sparkler candles which looked like rocket-boosters (or a comet!)

 

By which time, we were all pretty much pooped:

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