This week at the FPL

I feel as if I spent the day coated in icing. It was cookie day at the Front Porch Library, and boy did we bake! We actually started yesterday when John R. Woodward and Vikki came over to make the dough–I did not help, I was trying to straighten up and clear some room. We are one stuffed library.

Today we baked. And baked. And on a picnic table in the driveway we iced everything that came out of the oven, at least for a while. We have quite a few bare naked cookies now cooling their heels in the freezer.

In addition to icing and sprinkling and piling our cookies with ornamentation of every kind (thank you Donna for supplying those healthy but still chocolaty extras) we also walked trays of cookies to many surprised neighbors, Klark impersonating a trumpet blast on a bull-horn-voice-distorting-thingy that mysteriously appeared on the library porch as things do.

They were all pleasantly surprised–or they may have simply been amazed at the amount of stuff we could pile on a gingerbread or sugar cookie. After this we should go into brick laying.

In addition to baking, Vivienne climbed a tree, Leyla preferred toys to spreading icing, Olivia caught a zebra longwing and then had an elaborate release ceremony which required the respectful presence of all to wish the butterfly a good life.

It was a great day at the library, and I’m only slightly sticky as I contemplate falling into bed.

This week at the FPL

It was ornament day at the library. You think elves do that stuff? I got the library set up, baked the cake, gathered some of the standard ornament materials (glittery pipe cleaners, loads-o-glue, stickers, felt). Meanwhile, Miss Jennifer Woodard was coming up with a project of her own involving apple sauce and cinnamon (she will have to fill you in).

The kids started arriving–and no volunteers–holy cow. Miss Jennifer was cool with it but I called the co-mother of the library Miss Kary because I had to go play for the Democratic Party’s holiday gathering. The kids were cool with my departure when I told them that the kindly Dems give the library 100 smackaroos when Craig and I play for them. “Go!” they said. “Go!”

I hope Jennifer will fill you in on what happened–the library was left really tidy! (Thanks)! And frankly, the Democrats needed a little cheering music–so did I.

This week at the FPL

We had three new kids at the Front Porch Library today: Fox, Violet and Jasper–great kids! Also on board were Klark, Olivia and Vivienne. And all were part of Rhymin’ Simon day. Yup, we tackled that old rhyming thing, poetry.

First we read some Jack Prelutsky and Shel Silverstein (all the kids were properly scared by Shel’s author photo–he looks like a serial killer). Before reading a poem we looked at the illustration and tried to figure out what the poem would be about. We were not bad at guessing, probably because the illustrations were darned good.

We then did a round-robin of rhyming which involved passing a stuffed monkey with each rhyming word: hat, splat, brat, cat…. It could probably have been accomplished without the stuffed monkey.

Then we passed objects around and each of us had to name some trait of the object that caught our attention–we talked about how writing involved noticing specific details.

Then we did an array of logical next steps including: shooting hoops in the street, making from-scratch jam muffins in the kitchen, and poetry writing on the big white folding table in the driveway.

I had a bunch of topics on slips of paper and each kid drew a slip and wrote a poem. Or a poem-ish. Topics ranged from getting a haircut, to a big bowl of soup, to a boy named Charlie.

In the end we ate the jam muffins, but the best was still to come. Olivia discovered an overhead branch covered with zebra longwing butterflies. We stood. We stared. Kary took pictures. Then we cleaned up or ran around depending on whether we were adults or kids. You know the traits of adults and kids so I leave it to you to guess who did what. Once you have feel free to write a poem about it.

Another great day at the FPL.

This week at the FPL

It was just me, Olivia, Klark, and Vivienne today. Klark and Vivienne built New York in the living room while Olivia and I made Super-Fast Pizza in the kitchen. We were almost unanimous in our opinion that Super-Fast Pizza was an exceptional snack. Vivienne dissented. She also turned down the peanut butter apple slices. The rest of us took the more-for-us attitude.

The read aloud was an Amelia Bedelia book. We discussed Amelia’s unfortunate habit of taking everything literally. “Run along” sends Amelia running. I got some help in the reading from Klark and Olivia.

Our project was “Me.” We each made a poster about ourselves. I had paper slips we pulled out of a glass each with a “me” subject on it like, What will I look like when I grow up? (Olivia will have blue hair). What if you had one wish? Vivienne and all her family became cats sitting on a cloud. Klark chose a new nickname: Awesome Man. Best Christmas present you could ever get? I drew a boss guitar, adding flames at the kid’s suggestion.

Kary came over and shot some pictures, then went off to build a new bed in the community garden. We are one happenin’ neighborhood (sure hope I get that guitar).

This week at the FPL

TWe had a most select gathering at the Front Porch Library today, but it went on for a long time. Olivia and Klark and I got everything set up–their dad had to get some stitches in his hand so we did a dynamite job of setting up the library.

We iced the cake in memory of Spring. The icing was yellow and green. We found some sprinkles that looked a lot like little trees if viewed with a lenient eye. We had some kind of chip–caramel? that resembled rocks. Sort of. And blue sprinkles that created a very nice alpine lake on one side of our spring scene. It was a thing of beauty. The theme and the decoration was strictly thanks to Olivia and KIark.

Then we tested out the projects. It was build-it day at the FPL. Klark worked with the Legos, Olivia built the domino knock-over-arrangements with the Jenga blocks, but the really popular concept was drawing floor plans for our own dream houses. I copied floor plans so we could look at the symbols for things like doors and toilets.

We ate some snacks. We waited for others to come. Mr. John did. Finally 3 o’clock rolled around, but no other kids came, so we did the read-aloud and then did the projects for real.

Our floor plans were superior! Klark’s had an upstairs with an arcade, and a downstairs with a dragon.

Olivia and I concentrated on things like porches with porch swings and tile floors (I had a dandy studio out back).

Their dad came home with his hand in a bandage. We ate the spring cake, then Klark found a book of really–i mean really–terrible Christmas jokes which he read to us until our eyes rolled up. Then Mr. John began making up Christmas jokes of his own. They were much better than the ones in the book.

By the end it was getting dusky, Our neighbor, Phillip, helped us out by taking half of the leftover cake. We folded the chairs and tables and carried everything inside.

Another great day at the library!

this week at the FPL


We are at low ebb at the Front Porch library, just five kids, but with these five kids we were still going full bore!

Today’s read-aloud was read with an eye to how a story works. Who are the main characters? What do the main characters have in common? (The answers were things like, they’re both mammals). What is the setting? What is the problem at the heart of the story? What might happen next?

We are a shouty bunch. The twins, Harper and Danny spring from their chairs (they are spring-loaded). Klark is right there with the twins–boys stick together. Vivienne has strong and really interesting opinions. Only Olivia raises a hand.

After, we went outside to “get the squirrels out.” We played games like “dragon’s tail.” The last guy in the line has a bandanna in a back pocket, everyone holds each other by the waist, then the lead guy tries to snatch the dragon’s tail.

And we played “stiff as a board.” A kid lies flat and stiff and everyone else lifts the board and carries it around. Then we upped the ante, putting a cup of water on the board. We did fine, but Klark couldn’t stand not upsetting the cup on his belly. In a deliberate wiggle, the board got drenched.

We played telephone. Needless to say, nothing made it to the end of the line without morphing into something as unlikely as a burping purple monkey.

The squirrels out, we worked on story murals. The kids invented characters. Vivienne created a star (the pointy kind). Olivia a gymnast who was shy but met a great coach. Klark created a dark collection of superheroes, Harper, a guy who lived in a cave, and Danny a sadly box-like guy who drank a magic potion. “Five casual minutes later” he became a muscular dude. Both of the twins set theirs up as a comic strip–great action! Great drawing!

We had a great and hilarious time. Miss Jennifer did the cake decorating, “Snow Bear cake” in honor of the book we’d read. Our recent volunteer, Razan is so good with the kids. Her smile alone is enough to encourage kids to put forth their best effort.

Twilight was falling as we broke up for the day. Next week, new hours, 3-5, and maybe some new kids, but if not, this group is sufficient!

Another fine day at the FPL.

this week at the FPL


It was seed day at the Front Porch Library–a quick walk around the neighborhood this morning showed me there were seeds everywhere (’tis the season).

The read aloud was about seeds (not as funny as our usual fare). Then we talked about foods we ate that contain seeds, then foods that are seeds. We tried various seeds we use to flavor things: caraway, poppy, celery seed. They all evoked an active spit response.

We looked at seeds I’d collected and considered the various strategies seeds use to get themselves distributed. My favorites were the ones I got to stick to shirts with a light tap–good old Spanish Needle. And then there was the Hearts-A-Bustin’–a small tree with bright red seed pods that burst and scatter their bright red seeds. After looking at examples we broke up into foraging groups, each team equipped with a collecting tray and a pair of scissors. Our goal? To collect seeds from as many different species as we could.

My group was Danny, Vivienne and our new volunteer, Razah. We found everything from palm seeds, to dogwood, to milkweed. On our walk back Vivienne circled us and announced, “I am orbiting you!”

Collectively we gathered seeds from 48 species of plants. We did ourselves proud! We’ll plant a few and see what happens–just not the ones that stick to your shirt.

Then we carved pumpkins, unleashing the mother load of seeds.
They’ll be baked and ready for snack next Sunday.As opposed to growing them, it saves time.

Another fine day of wandering in the weeds at the Front Porch Library.

this week at the FPL


I never guess right! I thought, yup, this’ll be a slow day at the FPL. Wrong! The first three kids arrived an hour early. They haven’t been to the library for a while and they’d walked a long way, so I opened up. We decorated the cake. Boy did we ever! The last time Shameecia and Ta’Quan were with is we were doing Book Bank, the kids getting paid for reading (a quarter a book) but encouraged to bank the money and earn interest at the Great Front Porch Library Bank. We dug out the old chart and settled up.

Vivienne brought her “friend since she was two” Lauren. Then Klark rushed around the fence saying he would have been there earlier but he had to clean his room–and still we hadn’t hit the official start of library.

We made puzzles and bead bracelets and ate the healthy snack. The twins rolled in, and Ariana, and Leyla, and Joe. It finally hit the start time and I did my program on how sound works–we considered sound waves in vacuums, sound waves in air, sound waves in water. We did another unsuccessful experiment from the internet, this one involving a straw and blowing really hard. I think the internet likes to make me look bad.

Then we took a glass and bet whether the pitch would go up or down when we added water. We tried to make a glass harp. My thinking was faulty. I figured as long as the empty glass was pitched higher than the note on the scale we were shooting for we were fine. Let’s just say that many of the glasses were not big enough to hold the necessary water to drop the pitch to the desired note.

So we improvised. I got out my guitar. Vivienne made up a song about the sky and I sang harmony. She has a very sweet voice and a real ear for melody–and she is six. Then she instructed me to “play minor” while she told a scary story.

At the table with the big umbrella Ta’Quan and Klark did melty beads. The problem came in the melting. Both of our trusty irons seem to have gone kaput–when we got one working Mr. John handled the melt. By the time all the beads were melted enough to stick together they were impossible to get off the backing boards–believe me we tried.

It sounds, perhaps, like most of our activities failed, but Danny and I had an “ugly face drawing contest.” I think I won–he disagreed. Klark rode around on Joe’s shoulders, Vivienne distributed her leftover cake to all the ant hills in the area, Leyla velcroed herself a puppet.

Thanks to the volunteers who kept things from catching fire: Mr. John, Miss Vikki, Isaac and Sam. We are quite an enterprise!

Another fine day at the Front Porch Library.

this week at the FPL


It was music day, two, at the Front Porch Library. My music partner, Craig had the kids build simple one-string instruments (well, not that simple–nails and screws were involved).

Let me see if I get this right. The sound was amplified by a jar. The string was stretched the length of a board. Playing? It was a little like playing slide guitar. The slide was a length of PVC pipe. The string was plucked. A ruler came in handy when looking for the octave.

The kids decorated their instruments and created songs.

The twins, Harper and Danny (the boys are back!) created a memorable song: “dog, dog, cat…dog, dog…cat…” Yes, it was simple, but catchy.

We had an incredible abundance of volunteers from Leon High’s Key Club, and they all came in handy. We got all the shelves reorganized, books added to the collection and those instruments got built with plenty of help.

It was a busy, busy and somewhat tuneful day at the FPL.

this week at the FPL


Today we of the Front Porch Library quit it with the Body Shop projects (no human digestion simulations, no more reflex tests by amateurs with rubber hammers) and moved on to music.

I had never thought about it, but musical notation is a form of reading too. So, we learned to read in 4/4 time. After looking at the way the notes: quarter, half, whole and sixteenth look, each kid wrote a measure or two, rhythm only, then we lined them up end to end, and counted each out: one, two, three, four, and clapped the rhythm by reading the arrangement of notes in each measure. And the kids got it!

Then we passed out rhythm instruments and played the rhythms with assorted shakers, tambourines and bells. After that Olivia sang a song she wrote and Miss Jennifer sang “Mares Eat Oats” Vivienne sang the same song twice, making the words sad in one version and then declaring that meant it was “minor.”

After that we messed around with beads and did some MadLibs. The main gain there was that we got to hammer home the meaning of noun, verb, exclamation!, adverb, proper name.

It was a small turnout again: Olivia, Klark, Vivienne, two Jennifers, me and Kary, who shot a few photos of our doings. Our population is tidal. Sometimes high, sometimes low. I hope the tide comes in again soon!

Still, a fine day at the library.

this week at the FPL



It was nervous system day at the Front Porch Library, featuring that perennial favorite, the wrinkly 3 pound mass that floats between our ears, the brain.

As always we did some vivid demonstrations. Firing synapses? We sat in a circle, eyes closed and held hands and passed the squeeze–make that nerve impulse.

We did a test to see which eye was dominant–we were a pretty mixed group. I don’t think anyone was right handed, right eyed and right footed. Peering through the triangle isolated by hands, watching the image shift when looked at by the non-dominant eye caused quite a stir.

We squatted to feel the balance provided by the good old brain stem and whacked knees to check our reflexes.

We talked about how the brain builds memory using all the senses. then passed around objects, touching, smelling, and generally squeezing. Then each of us hid an object while everyone watched. The trick was to remember, at the end of the session where each object was hidden. The kids did great.

After the nervous system, art. We made banners using stencils. Kennedy did a beautiful fruit banner, each neatly labeled. Olivia did an image called “Fiery Heart.”

Kids and adults kept coming throughout library hours. It ended up being a great neighborhood gathering. Johannes brought Lexi and his Mom, who will make the 30 hour trip back to Indonesia tomorrow.

Miss Jennifer, as always, provided great snacks–man did we snack! And we all left with a banner and a greater respect for the under-appreciated nervous system. Perhaps you take it for granted too…

This was week 4 of our Body Shop project. Next week? We’re thinking about moving on to music. Thanks to Goodwill we have a fine array of small instruments. Plastic recorders anyone?

Another very fine day at the Front Porch Library.

this week at the fpl


It is time to leaflet the neighborhood again and gather the new kids into the library–our kids come and go so fast–but the days when we are a small group are a different kind of fun.

The read-aloud was “Matthew’s Dragon,” which included “every dragon ever imagined.” They ran the gamut from Chinese dragons to traditional green dragons. We had a lot of fun creating their various vocalizations, wondering why some of them had no legs, and sharing what we knew about this rarelyobserved species.

Then we went on with our study of human anatomy. It was heart day. We did an experiment with a tennis ball, a sharp knife, a funnel and a glass of water. Cut an X in the ball, insert the funnel and fill the ball with water. Squeeze the ball and you can simulate the action of a heart valve. It gushes in a satisfying way and then closes.

The other trick–also from the internet–was a TOTAL FAILURE. Do not fall for the old Play Doh pulse meter. You know, the one where you put a glob of Play Doh on a pulse point,put a toothpick in it and then watch the toothpick jiggle and count the jiggles to get your heart rate. The tooth pick doesn’t even budge!

We also used a stethoscope that belonged to my sister-in-law Norma. I have terrible news. They don’t work either. That looking serious and concerned doctor’s do while “listening to your heart”? It’s all an act!

We then lapsed back to last week’s lesson, the human skeleton, and assembled the EASY TO ASSEMBLE plastic human skeleton. All I can say is, hah! Even with Klark, our master puzzle kid, at work knees seemed intent on bending the wrong way.

Jorge, who insists on going back to college before our next meeting, made a mobius strip for all to admire–a rather abstract farewell.

Miss Jennifer made sensational snacks, Olivia and Vivienne drew thank you cards.

The best line of the day was Vivienne’s. “I counted to infinity once.”

A quiet but fine day at the library.

this week at the FPL


An hour ahead of FPL opening time Joe, Killian and Anola were at my door. What the heck, what’s an hour? The program today was Body Shop 2: Them Bones, but I couldn’t start that until real library time.

Anola began building with Duplo Blox, Joe drew and Killian did the cool Killian-at-rest-thing, slouching in our aged and sagging Morris chair.

Olivia and Klark came early too–as soon as they’d finished cleaning their rooms. Olivia and I decorated the cake–a dirt cake (her idea). The crushed thin mints on top were perfect when it came to mimicking dirt.

Then Jorge, our longest-running volunteer who will be heading back to college in Chicago after next Sunday’s gathering, arrived. Vivienne breezed in and drew the hind quarters of a bobcat, then declared herself bored.

Isaac came next–and it was time to launch the bone lesson. I had a huge whale vertebra that was a great intro to the concept of the spinal cord. We found where bone ended and cartilage began in our noses. I showed them the hollow center of a fossilized bone. We discussed red blood cell production. We found hinge joints in our bodies and ball and socket joints.

And then we exploded in a frenzy of parallel play.

Joe had a fond memory of tower building so a massive tower building project got underway on the living room rug. Anola, Jorge and I made floor puzzles in the kitchen. Vivienne concentrated on serving plastic food.

There are still two huge puzzles on the kitchen floor: pirates and a coral reef scene, and the dirt cake was downright excellent! I drove Joe, Killian and Anola home. The rest of the dirt cake went with them.

Another fine, chaotic day at the Front Porch Library.


Hurricane Hermine leaves FPL without power for a Sunday


Fortunately, there was no damage to the library, ┬áHere’s Adrian’s note of thanks when we were connected again:

“I want to thank Mayor Gillum and all the tireless, exhausted workers who have put in incredible hours to bring our city back to life after Hermine. It is easy to complain about the discomfort of heat and darkness, but the task of returning Tallahassee to normal was monumental and I am so grateful to those who made–and are still making–it happen. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”