this week at the FPL

This week at the Front Porch Library Miss Heather took over for me so I am going to paste her report here. As you will see, we are booming again–17 kids–woohoo!

we had lots of kids reading (Shameesia, twins Tamia and Tamiya, Delmus, De Vaun, and more); there were kids playing basketball and riding bikes and scooters (Arianna, chloe, and more) (narrowly missing each other); TJ asked for paints, so we got them out and there was painting galore; Olivia and Clark brought their cousins (twins) who were in town visiting. at the beginning, i asked kids to share something they were thankful for and we had siblings and a mother and a dog mentioned and Corinne said “everybody in the whole world.”

the cake was a big hit (decorated by Corinne and Chloe and maybe TJ) and i had to cut narrow slices in order to make it stretch – at this rate, we’ll need to make 2 cakes in the future

also the healthy snacks were much appreciated and disappeared into smiling faces

17 kids, but luckily we had good weather so most were outside, and there were lots of volunteers on hand: Hunter and his mom, Arianna’s dad Kip, Chris (grandma/mom), new high school volunteer Arianna – who jumped in without reservation on her first day, Meg, John, Jen, and me – and Kary showed up to help with photos and clean up

here’s the only photo i managed to grab – i was so busy reading with kids, that i didn’t get to take more

it’s like a where’s waldo – mom and grandma are playing checkers, 4 kids in foreground, 3 further back to the left and 2 or more in the distance playing in the street.

this week at the FPL

Today was the first day of Project Live Oak at the Front Porch Library–and also a boom day for kids, thank goodness–I think I counted 11 but they were moving pretty darned fast–I know we have a sign in sheet, but I haven’t slowed down long enough to look at it–moving fast is a universal state at the library.

But back to our tree project. The neighborhood has been losing its grandfather oaks at an alarming rate over the last few months. Many are dropping limbs and proving to be hollow and rotten at the heart and no one is planting replacement oaks. Crepe myrtles, as pretty as they are, are no stand-in for an oak–and that’s where the FPL comes in.

First, we visited the huge oak in the library’s back yard. It goes by the name Bob Star, named by library kids of years past. First we circled it touching finger tip to finger tip–then we measured it with a string because our arms were not of uniform length. After doing some very shaky math on the chalk board we determined that Bob Star is 17.5 feet in diameter.

We will never see our Live Oak project produce a tree of that magnitude, but the planter of Bob Star never saw its full magnificence either. And so we set out with a bowl and a colander to collect acorns. We sighted down the road, picking out the live oaks–Olivia was especially good at picking them out. Moving from tree to tree, the kids scrabbled along the edge of the road gathering seeds.

When we got back we put them in a big bowl which we flooded. The floaters were scooped off the top–and that is just step one in a very long process, but I feel really pleased that we are taking on this project. As Vivienne said, “Without trees you can’t breathe!”

this week at the FPL


It was a quiet day at the Front Porch Library, the rain bucketing down. Vivienne came first. She and I started the giant under-the-sea floor puzzle. For some reason she fixated on measuring the length of the edges as we assembled them, carefully placing the ruler, then counting the numbers that marked off each inch out loud.

Klark and Olivia barreled in for a grand total of three kids, but that was okay. We had a huge neighborhood block party last night so everyone was tired from eating chili, introducing themselves to neighbors and taking part in the bike parade that featured a very long dragon designed by our neighbor on the corner, Meg Fulford. We lugged that dragon (a three carrier job at least) on a long loop through Seminole Manor Neighborhood, the bikes circling around us.

Miss Heather arrived at the library. We broke out the games. Miss Kary checked up on us, played with us for a while then decided we had things covered–the block party was on her lawn so she had definitely done her duty in the neighborliness department.

Then we played Twister. Miss Heather and I are more limber than you might expect, although we both have a little difficulty distinguishing left and right.

Vivienne and Olivia became teachers. I got sent to detention for kicking someone (although Vivienne assured me that I didn’t do it on purpose).

As time was running out, Klark assembled a puzzle in record time.

We ate cupcakes left over from the block party. Yup, we had a good old time.

this week at the FPL


Today was a work day at the Front Porch Library–although it closely resembled a typical non-work day. We were feverishly getting ready for our neighborhood block party next Saturday. That meant chili–and that meant kids with knives (they are better at chopping than you might think). Olivia even took on the stubborn vegetables like carrots. I know, carrots are not usually found in chili. Did I mention that chili is not a real specialty of mine?

Posters were made at the big white table–as soon as the rain threat passes we’ll be stapling our somewhat cryptic invitations to the block party to poles. Klark did one with a beautiful smiling flower. Vivienne put our dog stamps to good use. Miss Kary, in an act of adult forethought, cut a stencil for a sign that actually contained the details and can be reproduced with spray paint.

Mr. John browned all the meat. Three pots of what we like to think of as chili are cooling on the stove, waiting to go into the fridge.

There was also a sumptuous meal of plastic foods served on the red rug,and the Tinker Toys were assembled into their usual windmill shapes.

Our volunteer Cole treated us to a view of his chin–it is something like shave-your-beard-off month. He looked good. Hunter, as always, filled in all over the place, eating plastic food with Vivienne, peeling tomatoes and reminding everyone that it was about time to eat cake.

Lexi, who is about to turn two joined us with her dad, Yohannes. A new library kid!

We (hopefully) are on target for a great block party. Miss Meg is making a dragon float for the bike parade. Miss Tracy ordered helmets to give away to helmet-less riders. Onward! Another fine day at the Front Porch Library.

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this week at the FPL


It was Halloween party day at the Front Porch Library. I set up multiple, highly considered stations all over the yard. Many, many activities happened although not quite the ones I’d planned.

The dress-up station set off the girls, Olivia, Arriana and Vivienne, in a torrent of dramatic improv theater, aided by Hanna, one of the kindest volunteers ever.

The boys fixated on major Lego construction, rendering access to the kitchen nearly impossible for anyone not skilled at the long jump. Kweli, Klark and volunteers Michael and Isaac were building up a storm when the twins–always the perfect storm–blew in. We were so glad to see them–we had about given up on their be-back promises.

Kweli went home and got his Batman costume. Man, do they build muscles into these modern costumes. We kept coming across him crouched to spring in superhero readiness all over the house and yard.

We bought two pumpkins, which was about our financial limit, but they were big and we got three faces on each which Kip and Sally carved. Gut removal was done mostly by kids–the yuck factor was irresistible. Our candles were measly but we got a faint glow out of them.

We had a guess-how-many jar of candy corn. Guesses ranged from 40-2,000. The actual number was 263. The nearest guess was Harper’s at 200.

Today’s specialty of the house was worm cake (chocolate with protruding gummy worms).

Miss Kary and Miss Heather took care of photography and general chaos management.

Long before library time CJ1 came over to say he was moving to Jacksonville by the end of the week–but if that didn’t work out he’d see us next Sunday. I’m going to buy some super glue and stick our kids’ shoes to the library floor. It’s the only way to prevent their random departures.

A fine day at the FPL.


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this week at the FPL


Today at the Front Porch Library we had the Return of Jennifer–one of our longest serving and most incredible volunteers. Back from Chicago for a wedding, we were her number one must-visit.

She brought her husband Ed and their baby Kenji–while he was busy getting himself ready for his first appearance in the world the kids of the FPL made him a beautiful quilt. Embroidered in the center it said “There once was a boy named Kenji…” Now he is walking like a man who just climbed off a horse; the boy has a wide stance. He enjoyed the heaped up corner of building toys almost as much as he enjoyed the gravel in the driveway.

Vivienne was the baker’s assistant today. “Aren’t you glad you have me to lick the spoon?” Vivienne and Mr. John came in for a second round, making hot pink strawberry icing–enough to drown more than one cake, so we drowned our one-and-only cake extra well.

It was my father’s birthday today, and since he is the patron saint of the library and its former resident I told his story as the program. I sure do miss him, but I feel close to him every time I come into the house. If I’m alone I still say, hi Dad.

We did some Halloween projects and dug under the hedge. As long as Kweli is coming to the library the shovel will, at some point, come out. He and Isaac disturbed a few grubs, but nothing of the gold or silver persuasion. Kweli remains ever hopeful. A fine day at the FPL.


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this week at the FPL


Today at the FPL we had two kids–and we had a grand time. Vivienne had a volunteer all to herself. Cole played every part that was not Queen Asia (that role was Vivienne’s). At the end of library he had the high honor of carrying her home in what she described as a “princess carry.” while she played dead.

Kweli had his own volunteer too. Isaac ended up helping Kweli dig–Kweli has a genuine fascination with what can be found under the dirt.

You may be thinking, what, no program? It was color day at the library and Kweli and I painted a pretty decent color wheel. We also had a table-sized mural going on which we each drew our favorite things and then figured out how to spell them and stenciled the letters on . Vivienne, at 5 sounded out Princess very well.

Meanwhile, Miss Heather and CJ 1 tested out Da Vinci’s Vitruvian man drawing by having CJ 1 lie down in the street while Miss Heather drew the circle. By golly Da Vinci was onto something.

Mr. John took on one of the back rooms (always a losing proposition) and Hunter oversaw hooping in the street. It was a lot of fun–and there was more than enough cake to pass a big slab over the fence to the next door neighbors.

I added an image of the good old Vitruvian man, then thought better of it–my goodness, the guy is nekkid–so I edited it out. Just google it. You’ll recognize the drawing. CJ 1 was much better dressed.

this week at the FPL


It was poetry day at the Front Porch Library. We wrote some as a group. I was the note taker. Everyone else had their hands full of Legos. Here are a couple of samples of our collective wisdom in the poetry department:

I really hate this school
It makes me want to drool
I wish there was a vampire ghoul
to bite the teacher and make her cool


The thing that lives under my bed
looked up at me and said
a snake bit me on the head
and I very soon will be dead

We played bocce on the lawn and discovered that we were short a green ball. We already are pretty liberal in our interpretation of the rules, but even for us this was a real step down. Olivia and Klark won.

The end of library was a flurry of bike antics in the street. Our very local volunteer Cole is a big bike rider and he took the lead. Everyone compared things like the pressure in their tires and the action of their hand brakes. Vivienne kept yelling, “My bike’s a killer!” and she could have been right. Her hand brakes were way too stiff for her to operate. I ran alongside her as her hand brake substitute.

In the driveway, Talese and Kary assembled a wheel barrow for the community garden–one discarded in pieces by a neighbor. It still needs a wheel–so for now I think it is a wheelless barrow.

The cake was baked by the kids. Strawberry, served warm with turquoise icing, whipped cream (not whipped to the butter stage this week) and fresh strawberries. Another good day at the FPL!


this week at the FPL


What a super-fine day at the library. Vivienne’s mom, Robin ran the kitchen–today I thought it would be nice to bake the cake together and eat it hot (it was chocolate) with whipped cream. We whipped the cream a little too enthusiastically–Robin passed it off as “clotted cream” and made it sound very exclusive, even British.

Meanwhile in the living room Lego construction was in full swing along with reading and story telling. I read an African legend, Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears, then I had a hat full of similar ideas, which we created stories to explain. Why is the eagle’s head white? (he stuck his head in a bucket of bleach thinking it was water). Why does the panda eat bamboo instead of meat? (He realized he was putting on a little weight and decided to go on a diet).

Umbrellas were issued to volunteers who walked fliers advertising the library around the neighborhood, and .,. Voila! we had seven new kids today.

While it rained Keith, Kwili, Dallani and Vivienne played Twister on the porch–Dallani claimed she sprained her leg–which I think is the real goal of playing Twister. Illustrated books were started on a table in the kitchen and went home with their authors to be finished at other kitchen tables.

We all tried the pomegranate and I told the myth of Persephone (another one of those stories that explains why things are the way they are). Pomegranate seeds went home in baggies to be tried by mothers. Before crossing the street to his house, Kwili planted a few in the bed beside the driveway. This was an extra good day at the library.

this week at the FPL – during which we eat bugs !


Every Sunday morning I write the day’s library activities on the sandwich board at the end of the driveway. Today the sign said, “The Bug Man is Coming.” And come he did. Andrew brought hissing cockroaches and cases of mounted bugs that smelled like a northern winter closet tangy with mothballs. He brought lightly sauteed grubs for our gustatory enjoyment–the Yuck Factor was off the charts. (Actually, they were crunchy with a mild flavor somewhere between peanuts and boiled potatoes).

I love insects, so for me this was a banner day at the library–the only thing cooler than an insect is a spider.

After discussing the criteria that rules a species in or out of the insect club and patting the hissing cockroach (the roach cooperatively hissed) and talking about the services insects provide (thank you honey bees!), we exploded outside for basketball and a really energetic water balloon fight.

It was a fine day at the library–and while the water balloons exploded some of the adults discussed a neighborhood potluck. We’ve had a rash of break-ins lately, and eating together will give us a chance to compare notes. I love this neighborhood, from the kids who bike or walk to the library to the adults who nod and say “Morning” when I’m walking. Community is my favorite thing–even favorite-er than spiders.




this week at the FPL


Today at the FPL a giant Polyphemous moth (unfortunately found dead) provided a small teachable moment about distinguishing moths from butterflies–plus it was so cool and big.

It was such a beautiful day today that, after a brief book talk, and close examination of the moth, we did most of the library activities on the lawn. We did a series of improv exercises–we haven’t done anything dramatic for a while. Nothing planned anyway. We passed invisible balls, introduced ourselves in character, froze poses. Vivienne banged an arm doing an over-enthusiastic pose–after deciding the ice pack was too cold she forgot all about it.

We did a seemingly simple exercise in which two actors improvise a dialogue composed of nothing but questions. It became fiercely competitive–a Super Bowl of the mouth.

Kids dribbled in throughout the gathering. In the end we played team-bocce, then the bicycles abandoned in the driveway were righted and pedaled away.

It was our first week without our four-year volunteer, Jorge, who arrived in Chicago today. We threw him a going away party on Thursday night. My favorite part was the exchange of stories about kids and library events past–who knows, I may be telling the story of today’s gathering–when they are in progress it is like being on a tilt-a-whirl. It is only when the dust settles that they become stories.

A good, cool afternoon at the Front Porch Library.

this week at the FPL


Unexpectedly, we made it home from a three week trip to visit family–and watch our daughter marry the right guy–and arrived in time for Library. I am so glad I didn’t miss it. We had a ton of our high school volunteers from Leon, all really nice and with highly-developed senses of humor. Kids were scant at first, just Vivienne and Kwili, so I took a contingent of volunteers down to the community garden to pull weeds. Kwili came along–he was the guy who squirted everyone with the hose.

There was basically no gardening experience in the group, which meant humor came in handy. There was a lot of jumping on shovels done with dramatic enthusiasm, flung dirt, and weed tossing, but when the dust settled four beds had been cleared.

Then the call came in–kid numbers were going up–so we hurried back with our volunteer Jorge bawling 80s rock and roll at the top of his lungs. After volunteering with us for four years during which time he was tied to a tree, fought on the losing side of the first battle of The Front Porch Library, and was the adopted side-kick of several kids, most notably The Max, it was truly his last day with us. Why, oh why did I write those letters of recommendation?

The project at the library was making clay name tags for plants that will be put in the garden as soon as we evict all the weeds. And it was true, the number of kids working back at the library was burgeoning.

Corrin caught a lizard. Chloe played fake food with volunteers. Olivia demonstrated her gymnastic skills on the lawn–soon everyone was attempting cartwheels with limited success.

Jorge threw a ball and pegged Olivia in the face–which was not the exit moment he had hoped for. Even so, I wish I hadn’t written those letters. Kids and volunteers come and go. The twins, Harper and Danny have moved out of the corner house. We hope to see them on Sundays, but when members of the FPL family leave they often fail to return.

There must be some value in practicing saying goodbye, but I’ll be darned if I know what it is. Still, another excellent day at the FPL.

NOTE: Most of the photo credits go to CJ this week.

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this week at the FPL


Adrian was away this week, so our story is told mostly with pictures.  But by way of explanation, Heather and Hanna helped everybody make pinecone birdfeeders.  Tiffani and Jorge lead a hybrid game of limbo where they walked in a circle and kids had to stretch down low when the pole came around.  Nic created an unfair advantage for his team and made a slam dunk possible for Harper.  Even then, he had to get on his tiptoes.

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