The Armstrong Archives (93): Childcraft Bliss

Friday, January 9, 1981 The boys are just finishing some very fierce wolf and bat paper plate masks from the Make and Do Childcraft book. We have been having an absolutely marvelous time with your Christmas presents! We’ve read 200 pages out of the Animal Kingdom book. And 100 pages out of the Children Everywhere book. Each of the sixteen books is about 300 pages long, so I suspect it will take us a year to get through all of them! The only one that’s too hard right now is the Mathemagic book. The games—or at least many of them—are still too hard for Aaron. Alan and I are going great guns on the encyclopedias and Atlas, thinking about all the places we may consider when we get ready to settle. Aaron also uses them to find out what color bats are or how the state of Michigan looks, etc. So, we just wanted to tell you again—THANKS! What a fantastic treasure of presents! [In many ways the internet has superseded the treasure found in encyclopedias, although the Childcraft books are probably still excellent resources for small children.]

J’s sleeping. He has a new tooth and is a real leg-climber these days. He begs for somebody to take him walking. We all went to the dentist Tuesday. Neither of the boys have any cavities, but they got a good lecture on candy and gum. Wednesday after lunch Aaron got some gum out of his Christmas candy. “Aaron, we’re not supposed to chew gum!” Michael reprimanded. Aaron looked sick, spit out the gum, threw the rest of the unused gum in the trash, and BRUSHED HIS TEETH! Boy, I hope that keeps us! So, skip the gum!

Monday, January 12, 1981  It’s a sunshiny, snowy afternoon. Alan worked all last night (got a nap from 5:10-6:00 am), so he got off early. He took Aaron ice-skating! They’ll be home soon for supper, and then Alan’s going to crash for the night. Michael was disappointed, but he and Jonathan are playing now, so he seems pretty content.

We’ve almost decided not to start Aaron [turning five in the fall] in school. We have one more week to decide. He has been working in some preschool workbooks I got and does very well. We observed in the kindergarten class last week. There are just lots of pros and cons.

Monday, January 19, 1981 It’s a gorgeous day out! Alan and the boys have really been enjoying the winter. They’ve been sledding several times and skating twice. Aaron can actually skate now, but Michael is still trying to just stand up and step forward. He’s only ‘Free” you know! (However, thanks to Grandpa, he can say “Th…ree.”)

Did I tell you we’ve had a couple of gourmet candlelight diners with the boys? We even got them to try wilted spinach salad, mushroom caps, cauliflower soup, etc. We use our real china and cloth napkins, etc, and practice good manners. We wait until J’s asleep, and the bigger boys really respond well!

We finished the Animal Kingdom book and are now working on the Planet World (with stories, etc. from the others). We also use the encyclopedias daily. For example, this week we discovered that the Challenger Deep is deeper than Mt. Everest is high, camels can go over a month without water (sometimes) and are slower than horses, chameleons have sticky bulbs on the end of their tongues, etc. Aaron used an encyclopedia to paint you this picture of a chameleon catching a grasshopper. [on the backside of one page of this letter] He asks all sorts of questions, and we run right over to the encyclopedias to see if can find out the answers! The Childcraft and World Book sets fit perfectly on one shelf of our bookcase, and we keep them at fingertip reach by the reading chair in the living room. We just love them!!!

Last Friday we took the boys to Weber’s Inn for a very special treat. The boys and I spent all afternoon in the pool. Aaron is a good swimmer now (with his water wings on) and is very independent as long as I watch him carefully. Michael is still quite hesitant when the water’s cold. He went down the slide once but Alan (who was supposed to catch him) missed, and after that he preferred climbing up and down the stairs to our room.AA93:07.12.14 Michael 1981[At this age, I’d have Aaron and Michael paint picutures  for Grandma and Grandpa and then after they dried, I’d use the unpainted side as stationery.]

 Tuesday, January 27, 1981  We’re spending a quiet Tuesday doing the mending, sewing, building a giant castle in the sandbox, watching the snow, and listening to “Bog’s” organ music. Remember the big box we had in the basement? Well, we took apart the box that the exercise bike came in and made the table into a “lower floor” of a clubhouse with a foam rubber pad. The box on top is now the second floor of their clubhouse, and the “jumpoline” sits right under the door so they can jump from the table onto the trampoline.

We just got out February World magazine and read it through from cover to cover while Jonny napped. The boys are great animal lovers, and this issue had articles on angora rabbits and arctic foxes, so there was no stopping until I’d read everything! Actually, we usually read at least an hour every day, and I think I learn as much and enjoy it as much as they do. Aaron is starting to surprise Alan with all sorts of new things that he knows.

Jonathan is going from “rug rat” to upright monkey. He is almost big enough to bump his head on the bottom of the kitchen table and bathroom sink…imagine such a tiny little bit of real humanity. He spends most of his time scavenging for onions, potatoes, or other delectable treats from the cupboards, banging pans, or sitting in the middle of the legos suitcase kicking his heels and smiling coyly at Aaron. I’m amazed at how patient the “big guys” are, and I’m so glad, because if Jonny weren’t well-loved, he could really be frustrating to them at this stage of explore and destroy!

Aaron has been wanting me to teach him to read, so we usually have “school” a little every day. I hope I don’t teach him “the wrong way” if such exists. Next week, when he has a small basic vocabulary of words he recognizes, I’ll go to the library and look for some books on how to teach reading and some beginning readers.

One of my girl friend’s (Betsy D., who’s expecting twins in five weeks) husband is in the hospital (nothing serious), so I’ve been keeping her little girl. She’s almost Michael’s age and they really play together well. Michael reminds me a lot of your Robert. He is really smooth socially and knows just how to get along with everybody.

[The Childcraft books are no longer being printed, although I noticed there is one complete set that you can buy through Etsy for $110, which includes 18 volumes (1975-1978 annuals included). My kids and I read them pretty much from cover to cover, and some got quite worn from repeated use.]




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