You know how some calendars have symbols on the days when a Full Moon or a New Moon will occur? Today Riley (age 6-1/2) was staring intently at our kitchen calendar, when he suddenly wondered aloud, "Is there a picture for the 'gibbous moon'?" Wait, I'm sorry, the WHAT? As I was still sputtering over my Mini Galileo's inquiry, he mused, "and which of these means 'waxing moon' or 'waning moon'?" (More importantly: since when do you have Astronomy class in 1st grade? Memo to Mom: read that Science Curriculum again, more carefully...)
But, I am proud to report that--thanks to the band Cowboy Junkies, believe it or not--I was able to address at least part of his concerns. That is: when the moon appears to be missing a piece from its left side, it is moving toward the Full Phase (not as poetic and tuneful as the song, but that's the gist). "Oh, so that's waxing," he nodded in grave agreement. Then, from deep within the Vocabulary Vault of my memory, I dredged up the meaning of 'gibbous' (a moon that looks nearly full, but not quite*). And since we seemed to be bonding over the Cosmos, I just couldn't resist one more comment; "You know when it's New Moon, the moon is still there, right?" "Oh, yes," he airily replied, "it has to do with the sun shining on the part that we can see." To my enormous relief, my nerdling abruptly stopped channeling Carl Sagan, and went off to play a nice, childish game with his stuffed animals.
People use the expression "it doesn't take a rocket scientist..." as a metaphor, but if Riley moves on to more complicated investigations of the Universe, I may actually need one! Anyone have the number for NASA's question and answer line, just in case?
(*And of course, later I Googled it, to make sure; I was right. YES! Never going to use it in conversation, but good to know, I guess...)