this week at the FPL


This is the first Sunday after solving the FPL insurance problem. I baked the weekly cake (chocolate) with a feeling of joy and relief. And so, we moved forward with a nature scavenger hunt finding things like leaves with veins that were alternate or opposite, different kinds of grasses, something natural with a rough surface, and something that started with the first letter of each child’s name. D is for dirt.

“Something plastic” was also on the list as the “what doesn’t belong in this picture” entry. Danny and Mr. John dragged a metal and plastic bed frame from down the street. The other teams turned in things like two inches of tape. Danny and Mr. J. won the award for most impressive find.

Then we did some wet-in-wet watercolor painting and reading aloud was exceptionally popular (I got some new treats – rewards for reading).

Hunter and the twins pumped up the library’s basketballs–all five–and library ended with B’ball mayhem. We didn’t get the library closed until we’d run half an hour over. All the volunteers: Talese, Hunter, Hanna, Heather, John, Penny and I will sleep the sleep of the just tonight–and I will vacuum in the morning.

It is just good to know we are still in business!

Front Porch Library needs a hand

Randi Atwood of the Democrat is running an article about our library. It is already available on line and will be in the paper tomorrow. Thanks Randi!

Here’s the link:

this week at the FPL

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Today at the Front Porch Library we made a joyful noise using the surprising array of sounds that can be made using your body as an instrument–we then went on to scavenge unlikely objects to drum on: chairs, pie pans, cooling racks, glass pitchers. We took turns conducting the orchestra. Since tomorrow is Zion’s birthday we gave him a noisy rendition of the traditional song.

The library sign has been looking tragic so Nadia, Makayla, Yemani, and Kalesia worked on it. Each got a word to paint. Yemani, who is into Manga made “Library” drip with blood. In fact, each word reflects the character of the girl who designed and painted it. As soon as we get all the words wired together we will hang it on the nail in the live oak.

In honor of Zion I baked a confetti cake which he decorated with grass green icing. We had a 4 candle and a 5 candle from the last two library celebrations. We put both on the cake. No, he is not turning 45 but he was turning 4+5.


It was kind of a math problem-celebration cake.
Another fine and crazy day at the FPL.

this week at the FPL

I am still soaking wet from today’s gathering at the FPL–which is good because it is mighty hot. Kary challenged me to the ALS ice bucket dunking, and it seemed that the library would be the best place to do it since there are so many people there who would like to throw ice water over my head.

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But before that we did our weekly “program.” I did my best to make the tenuous connection between disease and finding a cure and ice water. Okay, this will sound like a stretch, but I talked about small pox, one of just a couple of diseases that has been eradicated through human effort (without the help of ice water or YouTube). We talked about how diseases are transmitted and how their spread is interrupted.

I’ll admit that the group was mostly standing on their chairs and some had their shirts off for no apparent reason, but I soldiered on. Did you know that both Abe Lincoln and George Washington had small pox? I didn’t either.

Then we did a lot of things with paper and a stapler. Future teacher, Kalesia, gave all of us spelling tests. Those of us who thought to put a date on the page were awarded extra points.

I made a lemon cake today. It turns out that lemon cake ranks below spice in popularity. I’ll go with funfetti next week. Who doesn’t like spots of color in their cake?

After my dunking we poured water on Hanna, Hunter and Jorge for good measure. It was a wet and wild day at the library. I think I’ll devote the rest of the evening to drying out slowly.

this week at the FPL

Today’s read aloud was “The Great Fuzz Frenzy.” Maybe you had to be there to appreciate the mayhem that can be caused by a tennis ball falling into a prairie dog hole–but what we focused on was not the mayhem, but the descriptive word that was always attached to the star of the book, the ball. And that word was “fuzzy.”

We came up with other adjectives that described a ball, and then moved onto a pipe cleaner. Okay, it was fuzzy too, but it had other attributes, such as bendyness (yes, this is a word). We moved on to a string, a drinking glass, and then, wanting to bring in more senses we all ate some dried seaweed. What? you don’t think that was the logical next step? How else would we get to salty, fishy, oily and disgusting?


We put on bug spray and painted at the outdoor tables. Indoors the weekly construction project involved motorized cars and how much weight they could bear in the form of plastic Disney characters.

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Today’s read aloud was “The Great Fuzz Frenzy.” Maybe you had to be there to appreciate the mayhem that can be caused by a tennis ball falling into a prairie dog hole–but what we focused on was not the mayhem, but the descriptive word that was always attached to the star of the book, the ball. And that word was “fuzzy.”

We came up with other adjectives that described a ball, and then moved onto a pipe cleaner. Okay, it was fuzzy too, but it had other attributes, such as bendyness (yes, this is a word). We moved on to a string, a drinking glass, and then, wanting to bring in more senses we all ate some dried seaweed. What? you don’t think that was the logical next step? How else would we get to salty, fishy, oily and disgusting?

We celebrated Hunter’s birthday with a cake Joe iced a shade he called flurple. After cake Hunter and Johnny had a basketball shoot out in the street. The smaller kids provided distraction by running interference with water balloons.

The sad thing about water balloons is that there are 100 in a package. Actually, there are two sad things about water balloons. The other is that the nozzle they give you for filling them fits no known American faucet. You can use the nozzle but 30% of the water that goes through it shoots straight up in the air but still manages to find the floor.

Our volunteer Talese, was a life saver–she can tame the mess at the end of library in record time and the kids love her.

Kalesia, now in second grade proudly showed us her reading score. She is somewhere in the grade 2.5 to 3.5 range. We are not surprised. She is, by far, our biggest checker-outer (that’s what we call a compound word).

Another great day at the library!

this week at the FPL


Tomorrow school begins again–so today the FPL filled a bunch of water balloons. It had nothing to do with literacy, but we know the kids will get a dose of that tomorrow–and we circulated quite a few books. But what we mostly did was say goodbye to our wonderful volunteer Jennifer, with is since 2010, and met her new baby and her mom.

We made Kenji a beautiful quilt. The kids drew the patches with fabric markers–everything from dinosaurs to a skull (he’s a boy, he’ll probably like a spooky skull) to a “born to read” patch with a smiling baby on it. I embroidered the center patch: There once was a boy named Kenji, because his story is just beginning.

I put a tie at the corner of each patch and every one there tied a knot and made a wish for Kenji. We must be book people because we felt like the fairy godmothers giving gifts to Sleeping Beauty. We gave Kenji everything from world travel to math proficiency. That boy will do just fine–but we will be the poorer without Jennifer who is leaving Tallahassee and taking her wonderful, calm, kind influence with her.

I hate saying goodbye!

this week at the FPL

We never know what will confront the intrepid forces of the Front Porch Library. Today, while trying to find the sewing machine manual we found a small lizard stuck to a piece of duct tape. One foot and his head were free, but the rest of him was glued–and he was so darned small!

Hunter ran home and got some lotion (we’re pretty sure it helped because any part we freed would not re-stick–even duct tape has limits).Then John took off his glasses so he could see better and gently pried the lizard loose. We then had an emaciated, somewhat sticky lizard in the bottom of a measuring cup with a lot of people staring at it. We gathered leaves, dead bugs, and found a bottle cap to fill with water. Penny and Hunter took him home. They claim to have worms in their yard.


Otherwise, it was a day of building. We tried to use every lego, duplo, tinkertoy and wooden block we had (I just got a big bag of plastic soldiers, cowboys and indians at Goodwill and they needed some buildings from which to stage their battle). I don’t think the boys used them all, but judging by the massive war zone on the rug they came close.

Next Sunday is the last before school starts. We discussed water balloons and other celebratory forms of mayhem. And, oh yeah, we read some books.

this week at the FPL


After a two week break the Front Porch Library reopened its doors. It was a small but good gathering. Harper and Danny came in with a glass bottle and announced that they had to find a caterpillar. They further announced that they were going to be scientists. They didn’t have a lid for the jar but they had covered it with tape. It lent credence to their scientific ambitions that they had backed the underside of the tape with leaves. The leaves were for camouflage purposes, not to mention the anti-stick properties of leaves when dealing with caterpillars.

Talese returned from a building project in Costa Rica and showed a homemade video of her trip to the kids. The pigs were the most popular part.

I read the kids a book about Teddy Roosevelt in preparation for a virtual visit with author Doreen Rappaport.  Teddy must have thought he was going to be a scientist too, keeping hedgehogs in his dresser drawers and snakes in his mother’s water pitchers.

Justice practiced writing her name and Kalesia read aloud. We also worked on our baby gift for Miss Jennifer’s new baby, Kenji (he came to many library programs although he won’t remember them).

Thanks as always to Jorge, Miss Heather and Miss Genia for all their help–and of course Kary who will post the pictures from today on the Front Porch Library site.

fpl summerbreak2

this week at the FPL



Today at the FPL we went on with our mad scientist experiments. This week we concentrated on the human body. I’d say the favorite experiment was the one that involved three pots of water, one ice cold, one hot and one room temperature. Each kid had a turn standing with one hand in cold one hand in hot, then plunged both hands in the room temperature water. Each hand had its own opinion of the temperature of the water. Dee Dee and Zion both needed to experience the sensation many times–water dripped off their elbows.

We did experiments in hand, eye and foot dominance. We were a most skewed group. We had two ambidextrous kids, two lefties, and when we did eye dominance, Miss Kary seemed to have no dominant eye.

The taste without smell experiment was not as successful. No one had any trouble distinguishing the potato from the apple. What surprised me was Corrin asking for seconds on the raw potato.

And then we held our breaths with Ray’s photo timer running–and I won!

Our beloved volunteer, Miss Jennifer, joined us via SKYPE being about thirteen months pregnant.

Miss Genia made the world’s largest chocolate chip cookie on a pizza pan and we ate it. Another fine day at the Front Porch Library.

The library will rest for the next two weeks while Ray and I go north to hang out with our grandson–and then we will be back!

this week at the FPL




The library is an awful lot of fun in the summer. Everyone seems more relaxed and we create explosions (safe explosions). How, you may ask. Well, it was dry ice day thanks to Miss Heather, who always brings the science. We created enough vapor for any self respecting horror movie and shot film canisters into the outer stratosphere, made soap bubbles inflate, as if by magic (again, Miss Heather explained the magic using SCIENCE).

I read “Martin’s Big Words” by Doreen Rappaport in preparation for a virtual visit with the author. Many of thevolunteers shared memories of the civil rights era and growing up in the Jim Crow south.

Miss Genia (because of all our experiments with density,which causes floating) brought the makings for root beer and Coke floats–she even froze the glasses. It was a really nice change from my box cakes.

There was some powerful climbing of the ligustrum hedge. Jackie Cooper (no, not the old actor) got stuck pretty near the top of the hedge and had to be helped down by Hunter.

Surprisingly, even with acrobatic tree climbing and mostly-controlled explosions it was a no-Bandaid library day. Whew!

this week at the FPL


Genia’s famous July 4th cake


Now that it is summer, library time seems more relaxed. Kids meander in, and this summer we have the world’s best cadre of volunteers. A’Miracle was the first kid to arrive. I have known her since she was two and now when we stand back-to-back she is only half an inch shorter than I am. I was so glad to see her wander through the door.

Genia came in carrying her famous fourth of July cake–a scratch cake that puts my weekly box cakes to shame. The icing is whipped cream and being a respectable rectangle, it is prime–at least around the fourth of July–for turning into a flag, which is accomplished with blueberries and strawberries. The kids did the decorating.

Heather played with fire and water and a balloon to demonstrate air pressure. We all enjoyed watching air pressure do its stuff.

Ariana gave her report about her time at camp. It sounds as if all the kids who have gone so far have had a rip snorting good time. She also turned in her thank you note for the benefactors who made everyone’s time at camp possible.

Lots of kids read aloud to Mr. John, Miss Heather, Miss Genia, Hunter and me. Allison oversaw a melty bead effort at a table in the kitchen.

Miss Jennifer, now almost as pregnant as one can legally be, cataloged new books. Since her last time at the library she broke her toe and was wearing a fetching blue cloth shoe, but Maya did her one better by breaking her ankle roller skating and showing up in an inflatable boot that goes up to her knee.

We had a fine old time at the FPL. I just love summer.

this week at the FPL


Library started with Kalesia and Justice and me “getting things ready” at about three, which meant they were tired of asking when the library would be open and I was tired of saying not yet. Justice built an impressive duplo-block tower. Kalesia, who is a born teacher, began cutting shapes out of paper to demonstrate squares, triangles, circles…we quickly ran out of shapes to demonstrate.

Carolyn Cohen, who I went to high school with before the invention of the computer came to the library after about a 45 year absence from my life and sat down for a boisterous game of Spot-It with me and the girls–forget old home week, everybody plays Spot-It on library day.

Genia Mayfield, second grade teacher during the school year, FPL volunteer while on vacation returned to us (oh happy day!) And the volunteers just kept coming: Jorge, Hunter, Penny, John, Vikki. We were crazy rich in volunteers (which would prove handy before too long).

Before the kids came in in waves, I did a program of egg-speriments. Floating eggs, dissolving eggs, spinning eggs and yolks parted from their whites with the help of an empty water bottle–you know, scientific magic. Then the kids began to arrive.

There was painting and signing up some new kids, hoops in the street. John organized the art supplies (bless you John). Harper wrote his thank you to the benefactors who are sending our kids to summer camp.

And in the midst of all this, I got reacquainted with Carolyn, who I like now just as much as I did then. Neither of us seems any the worse due to the invention of the computer.

Another fine day at the FPL!

this week at the FPL

tomato2We hope that all our library kids were spending the afternoon with their dads. Our only kids were Kalesia and Justice–wonderful sisters. Kalesia conducted a class with the volunteers as the students while Justice, at age four did a remarkable job of assembling puzzles on the floor. Kalesia posed questions then called on each of us to answer. “Tell me one thing about yourself.” “What is the scariest thing that ever happened to you?” “Who was your first best friend?”

Her questions spurred some wonderful storytelling, including stepping on a rattlesnake. Kalesia awarded points for winning stories.

In addition to storytelling we color coded books and talked about upcoming programs and made a very small dent in the leftover birthday cake from our fifth birthday paty. BTW, frozen birthday cake is excellent!

It was a quiet day at the FPL, but I think we needed one.

This week at the FPL


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We just celebrated the fifth birthday of the Front Porch Library, joined by God who threw one heck of a thunderstorm into the mix just to let us know he was watching. Perhaps he didn’t notice how beautifully set up the yard was with tables and bouquets and a reading tent before chiming in. We even had water in the form of a mist sprinkler for the kids and anyone else who got hot to run under.

So we celebrated inside with all the food we have been working on the last two library sessions as well as sides brought by library families. Some of the kids ate in a bedroom with a plastic table cloth spread on the floor.

We recognized library volunteers and talked about all they had done for our very local library–what a great group we have showing up each Sunday. Jennifer, who has been with us for nearly four years blew out the number 5 candle on the cake. She’ll be leaving us soon for Wisconsin and motherhood–one of those two life changes she might have been able to overcome to continue to come on Sundays, but not both.

After the storm passed we adjourned to the street for the annual watermelon seed spitting contest, which was won by our volunteer Jorge (who says he will now have to quit school to train for his new career in spitting). He was just about six inches off our all time record with a spit of 24′. Yes, we will be able to say we knew him when.

We all had a wonderful wonderful time–even Hope the therapy dog was there, providing comfort as needed. Time to embark on year six.

Photo credits for this post all go to Kalesia.

FPL bday graphic for website

WHEN: Sunday, June 8th

TIME: 4:00—6:00 pm

DETAILS: The kids have made a homemade spaghetti sauce with tomatoes and peppers from the Community Garden. We’ll serve spaghetti, garlic bread and dessert. There will be party games and recognition of our volunteers.

WHO IS INVITED: Front Porch Library kids and their families, FPL volunteers and their families and our Seminole Manor neighbors.

WHAT TO BRING: Salad or fruit to round out our birthday dinner.

FOR MORE INFO: Email frontporchlibrar {at} gmail dot com

this week at the FPL

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This is a morning-after Front Porch Library report. It was such a whirlwind I needed a little time to recover! School is over, which might explain the riotous exuberance. We continued to get ready for the 5th birthday party. The chop shop was on the porch (yes, kids with knives again, this time cutting up squash and peppers). The spaghetti sauces started last week simmered on the stove, overseen by John.

In the kitchen, Maya and Kary started the cookies that will be used to make our famous FPL ice cream sandwiches. The bowls circulated in the main room as kids took turns stirring.

The read-aloud led to a game of charades–a new concept to most of the kids. Osten, when he got frustrated, just blurted words–sometimes even the word we were trying to guess. I don’t think he could believe how dense we were.

The flies were terrible, so we stayed inside most of the time–I’d describe this week’s gathering as a contained explosion.

We sang happy birthday to Jorge, (the volunteer whose job it is to keep the kids from catching fire).

Today, Harper, the first kid on a Front Porch Library scholarship will start camp at the Tallahassee Museum. Thanks to a super-generous donation we will be able to send 8 kids to camp in the course of the summer.

this week at the FPL

DSC04016   DSC04020DSC04009DSC04011Today at the Front Porch Library we began getting ready for the library’s 5th birthday. Of course knives were involved. In what has become a time honored library birthday tradition we began to prepare the spaghetti sauce which is the key ingredient in our loaves-and-fishes plan to feed a large number of kids, their families and sundry neighbors on the cheap.

We began, as always, with all the frozen tomatoes in the freezer still left from last summer’s crop, John Woodward, who went the extra mile, taking a cab to be his usual reliable volunteer self oversaw the boiling water, the squishy removal of the skins, the chopping… The kids helped (with the patient guidance of Hanna) and they handled the chopping of mushrooms, carrots, squash, and onions–each of which presented its own particular problems. Carrots were declared to be harder than they looked. Squash and mushrooms were derided for tasting bad, and onions…you know…the obvious.

Yamani and Essynce sauteed vegetables, Osten and Jorge kept the sausage from sticking. In the library’s three-butt-kitchen, we crammed perhaps eight cooks.

In the living room we’d imported a table from the driveway (an outpost chopping station). I was surprised by how few chunks of carrot I had to vacuum up after library.

Thanks to Jen and Tracy, we inherited a very comfortable inflatable chair which, it was declared, can not be sat in unless the sitter is reading. Miss Heather used the reading chair to great advantage today, getting lots of kids to not only read, but read books that would be a challenge.

The cake? Chocolate. The icing? A rather gloomy purple crusted with sugar sprinkles.

This week at the FPL




Library started an hour early–Jordan, Zion and Shawndrae were so ready to start–then the three girls from around the corner joined us–and we were off! Boy, was I glad when the volunteers began to show up.

In the end, we had 19 kids. And what did we do, you may ask? Miss Heather continued reading with the kids (Mr. John too). As I walked past I heard Heather explaining words like elegant and sneer. We all shared our interpretations of lions dancing elegantly. We also sneered.

We read the book we wrote last week: The Adventures of Mort the Blue Jay. It had a very sad ending thanks to Essynce: “I’m home!” Mort yelled to his family. Then he remembered he didn’t have a family. Essynce went on to draw the covers for Mort’s sad tale.

Our big push was to talk to the kids about our sudden amazing scholarship fund that will send them to camp at the natural history museum just a couple of miles from the neighborhood–an incredibly generous donation was given by two of the authors I met while in New Orleans at the International Reading Association.

The kids wrote essays about why they wanted to go to camp. Penmanship and spelling were marginal, but the sentiments, such as “to work hard to help the animals” were heart warming.

A crazy-hectic and fine day at the Front Porch Library.

PS: My FB reports are always reposted on our library blog–with photos. So if you want to see the cakes, the kids, the crazy projects, take a look.


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