this week at the FPL

We did Easter today at the library. Well, Easter according to FPL notions.

We dyed eggs. Okay, that part was pretty normal, but multiply normal times kids of all sizes gathered around the big plastic table (covered with the big plastic table cloth, the one with watermelon slices printed on it), and they are all dipping and dunking and of course spilling–the orange bit the dust in the first thirty seconds.

The discovery was made that if you stack two eggs the top one only gets half dyed, so we have lots of eggs that look as if they are wearing pants and a top. Then we tried the box of swirly dye. It produced eggs that were interesting even if they tended toward the mud end of the spectrum.

We had an egg hunt for plastic eggs with candy in them. It was a cooperative egg hunt. We had to find 48 eggs and then we split them evenly among the kids. Yup, we found them all.

Our neighbor Jen gave us a chocolate Easter bunny that has been waiting for the right moment in the freezer.

And this was the moment. We read A LOT, thanks to a unique incentive program called Smash the Bunny. We are working on the great book chain–each link has a title read printed on it and the name of the reader, and we plan for it to stretch the length of the yard when we celebrate our 8th birthday. Today, whoever read the most books got to smash the frozen bunny with an impressively large hammer.

Klark read 8 books and he got the honor. Let me just say that a frozen bunny, smashed with a hammer scatters very widely. We shared quite a bit of that chocolate with driveway ants.

It was a great day at the library. We ended with our tradition of bringing the leftover cake to our neighbors Philip and Kathleen. We do it like this. One kid (today it was Violet) carries the cake. Then there is the knocker. Today it was Fox, but Jasper added her knock. The rest of the delivery gaggle is there to yell “Cake delivery!” when the door opens.

We are very traditional at the library. We are like a family that has quirky ways of doing things that every member knows and cherishes. “Cake delivery!” is the final act before the kids speed off on their bikes and the adults wash the dishes. We are off for Easter, then we will be back at it.

this week at the FPL

It was pickle factory day at the library. We had an overwhelming donation of cucumbers and neighbors who horde washed-out glass jars, a match made in heaven.

Yes, we had kids working gleefully with knives. In addition to cucumbers we had peppers, onions, dill from the community garden, celery seeds. We cooked brine in the kitchen in a pot that danced on the burner as if possessed. The kids were deeply impressed by the smell of vinegar– they reeled impressively.

They made their own labels and each developed their own style of cucumber dissection. Brianna just chopped, Klark shredded, chunking was also popular. We had 13 kids, 13 different styles of pickelization.

Our reading continued. The chain of loops with titles on it is now nearly four feet long. We had two new volunteers from FSU, student teachers. They were a big help. They listened to readers and stepped in when the dancing brine pot was empty.

Everyone went home with pickles. Loads ‘o pickles.

Kary, my fellow mother of the library and I once tried to decide what our goal was with the library. Would we be a back-up for school? Work on reading skills? Maybe even math? We do those things, but our mission statement turned out to be making memories. I think we are living up to it.

Another fine day at the FPL.

this week at the FPL

Library was a whirlwind. We had a 12 kids, but some of them should count double. Maybe triple. I read a wonderful picture book about a little girl who drew things that became the stories she told while drawing. Vivienne asked if there were many pages left because she was getting kind of bored. I persisted. She listened politely until the end.

We worked on the book chain, each loop printed with a title read and the reader. We hope to stretch it across the yard at the library birthday party. It is about two and a half feet long as of this second. The yard is very long.

We made paper mosaics. Most were stars or hearts, all were beautifully decorated with geometric scraps of paper. We punched holes in them and hung them from the hedge.

We drew with chalk on the street. We juiced a ton of grapefruits–so many Mr. John had to declare a time out, the juicer was overheating.

Kids climbed the ligustrum hedge. A couple needed assistance returning to the ground.

It was a very busy day at the library, one that included watermelon, grapes, whole wheat cheesy melts,strawberry cake, and two Band-aids.

this week at the FPL

You can’t get started too soon when it comes the the annual Front Porch Library birthday party, we do everything from scratch. Today we began making the highly artistic place mats. Every diner gets one of our individually designed place mats–nice to put a plate or take home for a souvenir.

Olivia followed up on our comic strip day by making a nice comic strip place mat. It featured an incredulous person having a hard time accepting that food could be served at a library. No way! Another had photos of cake glued to it. Message? The FPL is a piece of cake!

Then there was Violet’s “Horse” place mat. It was understated, just the word “Horse” written over and over in many different sizes. There was the WOW! place mat, just that one word writ large, and so many others–you may have to come to the party to get the full effect.

We also began the reading chain. Each title read by a kid gets written on a strip of paper which is then added to a paper chain. We are hoping to stretch the finished chain across the entire yard–see you can’t start that kind of project the week before.

Fox and Jasper tore up and down the street on bike and scooter. The street in front of their house is too busy for tearing.

Klark and I took on a 200 piece Harry Potter puzzle. Kennedy and Violet both weighed in. So did Mr. John, but It beat us, although we made pretty good headway. We found the spooky hand and Harry’s glasses. We just ran out of time.

Today we had a blue moon cake, loads of fruit and cheese–we prove that Olivia’s place mat about eating food at the library is true any time we get together. Books…blue moon cake…magic markers…Harry Potter in 200 pieces? It doesn’t get much better than that.

Another fine gathering at the FPL.

this week at the FPL

It was garden day at the library. Our neighborhood has a community garden and I start about a bazillion plants for it. Today we were giving away plants to kids and their semi-delighted parents–I always start way too many plants for the community garden. (Hence garden day).

In addition to giving away plants, we read a really good picture book about a bleak city that had an abandoned elevated railroad that was being taken over by volunteer plants and a kid-gardener who helped the plants to spread until the city was green and no longer bleak.

Then we walked down to our garden with a stop at Kary and Sally’s prolific loquat tree which now is rather bare up to the height of our tallest kid, CJ. We then paraded down the street, too big a force to be overlooked by traffic.

At the garden we identified the winter and summer vegetables (we are at the turnaround time of the year when collards shade starter tomatoes). The best part was pulling carrots and beets. Fox, our littlest kid (Fox is three but prefers to be thought of as two) invariably pulled the biggest carrots. We picked kale, collards, Swiss chard, lettuce. Everyone rambled back to the library with a big bag full. Then we distributed plants, shot hoops, ate fudge cake.

We also began the first planning for the library’s 8th birthday. We always throw a dinner for the whole neighborhood. We serve that ever-expandable main dish, spaghetti, always using the frozen leftover tomatoes and peppers from the prior year’s garden–this year the storm and power outage robbed us of our frozen stores, but we had a donation of a HUGE number of onions, all on the verge of going over the edge, but Mr. John, at great personal expense to his eyes, cut them up, put the bad parts in the compost, and froze the good parts, and so, we begin to gather the materials for another loaves and fishes dinner that will feed about fifty.

As we were closing up, Joe found a very high-level origami book. Evidently Joe loves doing origami. The library donated the book to him–sometimes the best thing we can do is give our books away. He promised to bring me some origami in return.

It was a nine kid day, which is a good number. Nine kids can all be crazy and still, a good time is had by all. A good green day at the FPL.

this week at the FPL

We used quite a few Band aids at the Front Porch Library today–a sure sign that a good time was had by all–and our main activity wasn’t even strenuous. We were drawing our own cartoons (I printed up the blanks complete with bubbles) and we got down to work.

Olivia worked on the story of a poor Indian girl who grew up to be a great dancer. Vivienne had a laser-chicken (Klark had a laser-bear). Brianna’s was a tale of puppies, Dee Dee continued to work on a multi-page knock-em-down-drag-em out (the best part was listening to him read the lines of dialogue the tough guys were growling at each other). Violet had a story unfolding in a scenic village.

Meanwhile, the smaller kids built with Duplo-Blocks on the blanket and sorted our fine collection of plastic food items. Of course there was the weekly climb in the lagustrum hedge. Violet also found a lot of missing toys in the leaf litter. Library can be very similar to an explosion. She and Jasper also collected dried up air potatoes in the back yard. They look a bit sinister, but Violet treated them as great treasures.

Joe ambled in–Joe is considered very cool by the rest of us.

We adjourned to Klark and Olivia’s back yard to watch Olivia do tricks on the trampoline. While there we discovered why their family has been getting so few eggs from their chickens. We found 17 eggs in the hollow bass of one of their live oaks.

Oh yeah, about those Band-aids: tree climbing, scooters in the street… These things happen.

Another fine Sunday at the Front Porch Library.

this week at the FPL

Today the Front Porch Library flowed seamlessly out of Klarkfest. Klark, who lives next door to the library was celebrating his eighth birthday, big-time. His home school group gathered along with parents, siblings, dogs. Many stuck around for library.

Our main activity was baking sugar cookies–that required dough rolling, and cookie cutter management (geometry is involved–how do you fit those stars together to get the most mileage out of each roll-out).

Then the wild decorating began. It is safe to say our sprinkle supply has been knocked down to about zero.

There were also Twister competitions in the living room, and climbing of the ligustrum hedge–our very local jungle.

Somehow all shoes and socks ended up in the living room, all the kids in the yard. My final announcement was, “Feet and shoes, find each other. The library is locking up for the night!”

I think there is one lonely sock left in the living room. Maybe next week someone will claim it. Or not.

We have a fine collection of stray socks at the FPL. Another fine, crazy day at the FPL.

this week at the FPL

We had a real full house at the Front Porch Library today. New kids, old kids, loads of bikes and scooters in the driveway.

We did our read-aloud (about a mouse with an interest in architecture who builds himself a Parthenon out of toilet paper tubes). Then we did a game in which I stuck a label with an animal name on it on a kid’s back. Everyone else took a look then the label-wearer had to ask questions until they named the animal–unless, in a fit of exuberance one of the other kids shouted the name loudly.

I’d set up stations around the yard with things to do. There was the map table, puzzle table, draw-your-favorite-thing-in-the-world table, word building table, and a table with plastic eggs in a bowl. Each contained instructions, something to do like: take twelve steps into the yard, look down and name everything you see, or choose one of the family photos in the kitchen and say what you notice about the person in the picture, or go to the living room and find six things that start with the letter R.

We did a lot of work, but as is often the case, the hit of the day was spontaneous. Someone began making Cootie Catchers (at least that was what they were called when I was in school). They are those folded paper thingies with flaps that lift after a lot of…choose a color…choose a number…and eventually you get to your fortune.

Here are my three fortunes: You will pick a rose, you will star in a famous movie, and you will be abducted by aliens. I put the most faith in the last one because I got it twice.

And now, to answer a question you may have wondered about. Can you double the amount of water you add to a cake mix (in a senior moment) and still have a cake? Yes, you can! It comes out a little more moist, but after a gaggle of girls puts every kind of sprinkle there is on it, it’s hard to even see that the cake has a strange slump to it.

It was a fine, high-energy day at the FPL.

this week at the FPL

The moon is full, right? It must be. The Front Porch Library was one crazy place–everything happened at a full shout. But a lot happened. Olivia (the lone non-shouter) decorated the devil’s food cake with squiggles of orange and pink icing. It was very pretty.

We finished up our dragon study with a story about a girl who raises them and moved on to world travel. This is how we did it (I will leave out the shouting and falling chairs). Each kid was blindfolded and walked over to a world map. They stabbed a finger at it and when they finally hit something that was not water that was their country.

We were given an incredible book that had EVERY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD in it, complete with photos and must-see places. The kids got countries as diverse as Australia and Brasil and we checked them out in the book.

Then we moved to the big white table in the yard and each kid made a postcard that they would send home from their trip to the country (if they actually had a ticket, not just a finger that landed on a country). I had some world wildlife stickers we used as stamps–the kids found animals that lived in their countries–well, we got as close as we could.

The best part was looking through that giant book of countries, being amazed by the pictures.

Then we did a drum circle. It was probably the calmest part of the gathering. Banging on things was strangely soothing.

I will name no names, but our Shanghai coffee mug somehow met its fate on the street in front of the library, the last quarter of the cake was samuraied beyond recognition.

Clearly, I need more classroom management skills! Still, it was a library Sunday, and I love the crazy kids of the FPL.

And the moon will be much smaller by next Sunday.

This week at the FPL

Library day was more elaborate than usual–bread was involved. Bread and a book donation. The bread (many, many, many loaves) came from a neighbor, Cheryl McVicker Wirfs. I set up a table at the library with a prominent FREE sign. Even free doesn’t sell itself so there was a lot of brisk salesmanship involved and lots of neighbors went home carrying sacks of bread.

The book donation came from Georgia Speer Parker and her daughter Hannah, who were delivering books collected at Trinity School–how great–“Front Porch” implies a certain amount of weather related mustiness. These books smell great, and they will read even better.

When library finally started, heck, no one came. I got out my guitar and played at one of the driveway tables, surrounded by projects. Then Vivienne came. We scotched the projects in favor of building the tallest tower we possibly could using two boxes of Jenga pieces. When the tallest possible tower fell over, spraying pieces across the driveway we settled for smaller structures. Then we went inside and got the plastic cowboys, Indians, soldiers, Disney princesses, half a dozen of the 101 Dalmatians, and some plastic guys neither of us could identify. We populated our Jenga town.

Olivia and Klark came. We broke out the melted cheese snacks and we iced the weekly cake–Olivia mixed a nice spring green since my latest splurge was for flower shaped sprinkles.

Johannes and Lexi came–library was technically over, but a mad outburst of drawing at the big white table followed. Marie Antoinette came out especially well. The fish skeleton was also fetching. The muscle man too.

Another bready, booky, buildy, drawey day at the FPL.

This week at the FPL

It was dragon legend day at the Front Porch Library. I have Rhett DeVane to thank for getting the thing started. While we were doing our writer’s retreat on St. George Island she discovered some shell shards that looked remarkably like dragon claws–they were everywhere. I brought back a bunch, along with some shell fragments that looked like dragon scales.

To prepare for creating our legend we looked at some of the mythical creatures of Greek legend like the Minotaur and Medusa. Then we began constructing our dragon legend by considering things like, we know dragons migrate over St. George Island, but where do they go? (They hide on an island very close to the South Pole). How long have there been dragons? (They predate the dinosaurs, in fact some evolved into dinosaurs). What do dragons smell like? (There was a lot of debate on this, but none of the smells were good).

After considering a dozen or so questions each kid took a scroll (it being this close to Christmas I had a lot of fancy ribbons for tying up the blank scrolls) and each did a drawing of some part of the dragon legend. They were beautiful!

We were a good very lively crowd. Joe and Kilean arrived very early. We set things up, and the guys ate any random edible that happened to be sitting still enough.

Harper and Danny came screeching in, Harper dressed as the grim reaper. He told each of us how much time we have left–I got 40 years so I am not complaining. The boys told a very sad story of their friend Anubis (Egyptian God of death) who only had three followers on Twitter. I guess death prevented others from joining.

Razan came to help–she is such a great volunteer. Jen, Fox, Violet and Jasper walked and scootered over.

We decorated a cake in what we thought was dragon style–lots of glittery sprinkles. Fox, Violet and Jasper don’t normally get anything artificially colored–and they did the decorating. Believe me, those sprinkles were thick!

Another rip-roaring day at the FPL.

This week at the FPL

Today we gathered at the Front Porch Library while under a severe weather watch. Olivia and I took down the umbrellas on the driveway tables–we have already had one glass table smashed by an umbrella gone rogue so we didn’t want to do that twice.

As the limbs came down and the wind whipped the neighborhood, Razan, Klark, Olivia, Vivienne and I worked on some thank you art–we are so behind! (The other kids assumed a severe weather watch meant no library–they do not know the library creed, neither rain, nor snow, nor table-busting winds…)

And then the lights went out so we told ghost stories. Vivienne made it hard. From line to line I was either scaring her too much or not enough. It was a classic Three Bears situation–there was no getting it just right.

The power came back on and we ate cake left over from the St. George Island Writer’s retreat that ended this morning. Not baking the cake-of-the-week was pretty nice.

Another fine afternoon at the Front Porch Library!

This week at the FPL

The Front Porch Library took a two Sunday break to allow Christmas and New Years some breathing room. Today we were back–in a slight panic (that would be me–everyone else was pretty chill). I got back from a writer’s retreat too sick to be around kids but the troops stepped up, albeit with difficulty. John R. Woodward my go-to reliable guy was in the car with his granddaughter and she stood up and took a fall. Instead of coming to the FPL he went to the ER–the baby is fine.

I conscripted Vivienne’s mom, Robin Johanna Smith. She is such a good sport. Then Isaac our reliable Leon High volunteer pulled up, then Kary, who checked on Jen who was bringing the project and her three kids, then the twins blazed in… Being a hoverer I crossed the street to check on things. One twin had the other down on the ground cheerfully strangling him–I couldn’t get close enough to judge who was strangler and who was stranglee without breathing on them, but they were having their usual grand time with Isaac overseeing their brotherly love (not a euphemism, these guys wrestle with great joy).

Inside Jen had tried to read to the kids and succeeded a little–but some weeks it is like putting lightning in a bottle. The other kids were building The Castle on the rug and brownies were in the oven. Me and my germs walked each other back across the street.

The FPL really does take a village. Luckily, we have one.