10/20/19: Red Wolves and Lead Balloons.

Library was small but good. We began with a list of expressions like, “Don’t put the cart before the horse,” and “You don’t miss your water till your well runs dry.” The kids hadn’t heard these expressions so we talked about their literal meaning and then when you might use them in real-life situations that didn’t involve wells or horses. They were really engaged and we went through a long litany: “You’re barking up the wrong tree,” “That’s your Achilles heel,” “It went over like a lead balloon.”
Naturally that was followed by a presentation on endangered red wolves. Our neighbor, Penny, who has a long, long history of fighting for endangered species did the program. (Thanks Penny!)
Then we adjourned to the driveway to draw and just talk about the state of the world–we are all fairly worried–but it was the first day in months we could sit outside without invoking an idiom: “If you can’t stand the heat stay out of the kitchen.” Okay, it is not an exact fit, but even idioms have limits.
And after library comes…Monday (did that just go over like a lead balloon)?

10/13/19: Pumpkin carving.

We began library in a semi-dignified manner, reading a book about Martin Luther King written by his older sister, Christine. It was a good story that contained lots to talk about, but we were diverted by Chris Soenpiet’s watercolor illustrations, they were so beautiful. We spent a long time looking at the painting of the black church. The kids claimed to see a few white faces in the mix, but I think that was wishful thinking.
Then we adjourned to the driveway table to carve pumpkins. Brianna did a cat…the others were…hard to identify. We pulled out the slimy guts (boy do I have pumpkin seeds to cook).
While we worked we did the kids’ crossword puzzles in the NY Times.
Olivia iced the weekly cake (she gave herself a super-good haircut). Caroline, our smallest, newest kid, didn’t like our driveway bugs and sat inside drawing. Vivienne continued to burnish the legend of Fred Brick (never has a broken brick received this much attention). Klark made some improv art with tape and paper.
Mr. John returned after some weeks away with family illnesses. We were glad to see him, and Isaac our high school, now college volunteer was there too.
Another good and crazy time at the library. Brianna and Christine walked home, each carrying a pumpkin. Vivienne’s pumpkin was loaded in the car. Olivia’s pumpkin is on the library porch, but I will deliver it to her door. The jack-o-lanterns are at their peak right now. With the food pantry I see enough failing produce, and this failing produce would have faces. Who could take that? It is almost as sad as the fate of Fred Brick.

10/6/19: Birds and Beads.

I was just fixing the cheese melts for the library snack when Brianna, Jayda, and Jayda’s five-year-old sister, Caroline wandered in, so we started a little early. Why not?
Then came Vivienne, Klark, and a very tired Olivia–she’d been helping with the coffee making at her family’s new coffee house all day.
In our read-aloud we moved from John James Audubon to Roger Tory Peterson, who was also a boy who watched birds, an oddball kid who preferred birds to sports, or just about anything else–he actually got a waiver from the mayor to be allowed to study the moths that mobbed the streetlights after the town’s 8:30 child curfew.
We then looked at his field guide. The library kids are interested in wild animals–especially Brianna. I got to show them the little arrows that pointed out the field markings on the birds, the things you would look for if you were bird watching.
Then we began a shambling, project with beads, hangers, feathers, wire and a variety of weird found objects. The results could kindly be called mobiles, or unkindly be called sinister threatening things you wouldn’t want to hang up.
We then played bocce on the lawn (short one ball, but we coped). It is finally almost cool enough to gather outside and not faint.
We finished with pound cake and sliced strawberries, and not too many beads on the rug.
Another fine gathering at the FPL.

9/29/19: Cleaning up our act.

It was an unusual day at the Front Porch Library–we were not the best show in town. Our great pal, Donna., her husband Ern, and her kids Klark and Olivia (and half of Tallahassee it looked like) were celebrating the fact that the family will be the new owners of Black Dog on the Square (as of October 1, the Square Mug). Everybody, check them out!
But we muddled on. Alex, Kayleigh and her mom, Stacy, great volunteers, came in and began helping to organize the joint (Penny there is plenty, plenty left to do). By golly, I can see the floor in the box room.
Brianna got in on the act, then Alex taught her how to play Mancala. They were doing that when Kelby blew in, announcing he hadn’t been to the library in a year, which might be accurate. In celebration we made pizzas.
I had a huge project spread out all over the drafting table, so, I don’t have to plan for next week–but I have to find a place to store all that stuff. Hmmm…the floor in the box room is clear.
At the FPL, there is no way to predict what will happen. Luckily, even the surprises are usually good. (What a surprise to find that the box room still had a floor).

9/22/19: Let’s draw like Audubon.

Today, our old volunteer, Isaac, returned. When he was last with us he was a High school student–now he’s in his second year at TCC. I swear, he is half a foot taller than when he last herded kids and shot hoops in the street. It was great to have him back.
We began with a rather long and detailed book about James J. Audubon. Who knew that the theory when he began studying birds was that small birds did not migrate? No, the thought was they gathered in a ball and hibernated under water. Fishermen claimed to have netted these balls of birds. Audubon banded some birds with silver wire and was able to prove that no, birds did not become aquatic in the cold.
We looked at some books that showed the kinds of illustrations that appear in field guides. We made some ourselves, drawing things picked in the yard. We tried to be accurate.
Before that we did a big scavenger hunt to burn off energy–we do not have an energy shortage at the library. I thought it was interesting that for the “something that starts with H” every one of the kids snipped off a sample of their own hair–Brianna cut off one of her braids, and then for good measure harvested a sample from Isaac.
A fine day at the library!

9/15/19: Create a character…

Another Sunday, another gathering at the FPL. This one was particularly mayhemenous (and fun). Don’t bother looking that word up. It is just my way of turning a noun into an adjective.
First, we made pizza.So far so good. Then we began creating characters using an exercise I created for my writing workshops. I had a whole bunch of pairs of shoes. Each kid chose a pair and then I asked questions about the characters. It started small with questions about things like the character’s stance–and what that shows about the person wearing the shoes. Gradually, we ranged into things like, what is in the character’s house?What do they want most?
Klark created a 76 year old female spy in very snazzy, sparkly shoes. Olivia’s character was tall and lanky, a girl with an ambiguous name. Vivienne chose the yellow patent leather spike heels. Her character spent her evenings at The Flirt Club. Brianna had an attitudinous young woman trying to clear her father’s good name. It was the loudest character creation session I have ever had–but the characters were unique–even if they required a serious suspension of disbelief.
Oh those kids! I love every last one of them.

9/8/19 Improv at the FPL.

Another fine gathering at the FPL. The kids trickled in late–which worried me as I had made a full tray of our traditional cheese melts and a chocolate cake.
Our volunteer, Alex came first, driving one car, her father in another. “I’ll meet you back here for the drive home,” he said. She assured him that she could do it solo.
I was ready for us to start sorting books–there is always chaos to tame at the FPL, but then Brianna and her cousin Jada strolled up the driveway. They decorated the cake with pale blue icing and a sample of nearly every sprinkle in the cupboard.
Then Vivienne and her father, Alex (I know double-Alex), arrived, one of them running. We began working on improv–our reader’s theater was so much fun last week I figured we’d do theater for a while. Klark fell in during the first exercise, then Olivia.
We tried telling a story one word at a time, each person tagging their word to the ones that had come before it. We ended up on Pluto.
I think my favorite exercise was the one in which two people spoke in fake foreign languages following each other’s emotional cues. They were angry, conciliatory, surprised. They argued and consoled. I swear, they all sounded like they were speaking genuine languages.
We sat on the floor, ready do do another improv exercise when Vivienne suggested a game of Telephone. Mine were not the only defective ears in the circle.
Olivia had a new collection of markers so we set up tables and broke out art supplies. We agreed that the art on the walls needed some updating. I now have a small stack of fresh art to replace the yellowed drawings of yesteryear.
We then dug up and reburied Fred Brick. (It was suggested that we now call him Dead Brick). Someone suggested we dig him up again in a year–not sure where that tradition would fit into the whole burial thing.
The kids went home, Olivia carrying a chunk of cake for her dad, Brianna with some colorful peppers to snack on.
A lot of fun.

9/1/19: Theseus and the Minotaur Day

We had a great time at the Front Porch Library today. We started by sorting some of the clothing donations (we give out more than food at the pantry). Luckily, there were sheets that came in handy for the next activity.
The next activity: We did a reader’s theater presentation of the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur–Mr. John explained the configuration of the Minotaur (the division happens at the waist). Everyone had a script and a part or two and we read through the short play. Then we did it again, switching parts, adding a dramatic interpretation and props (a sheet toga, a dull knife-sword, a ball of string).
We had such a good time we created a Theseus and the Minotaur game of hide and seek. The Minotaur was the searcher and among the hidden was Theseus. The deal, if you were the Minotaur, find everyone but Theseus. Find Theseus and you are through as a Big Scary Beast.
Olivia began drawing (she knew where everyone was hidden but didn’t tell). As the game lost steam Klark and Vivienne somehow broke their beloved child, Fred Brick, in half. We had a small funeral.
We played Taboo. Olivia, Brianna, and I were one team. Emonie, Klark and Vivienne were the other team. I am proud to say our team prevailed.
I am also proud to say that by the end of our gathering all the kids knew how to pronounce Athens.
A good time was had by all!

8/18/19:What to do when it rains.

We had a good, rainy day Front Porch Library gathering. We began by considering school since it is that time of year, mostly changes we would make from the lunch menu, to the class trip, to classes we thought would be better than the usual offerings.
Suggested topics included animal taming (perhaps not lions), calligraphy, astrophysics (that one was Klark’s), how to be a daredevil (Brianna was the source of this and the animal taming class), guitar, bird identification, classic TV shows. We all relaxed the dress code considerably.
We played concentration (I did better than last time–I was not left wondering about encroaching senility). Olivia won. She and Klark take turns winning.
We looked at the components of stories and began creating stories by looking at those components first and building from there–then Klark began flinging his socks.It happens.
Library is a fun thing to do on a drippy day like today.

8/11/19: Build a town day.

I just locked up the library–there are a few cake crumbs on the counter, a scattering of colored pencils and markers. Today we created towns–towns that were underwater, on the moon, beside a river, in a place called Jupiter, but I do not think it was actually on Jupiter (but wherever it is, hairdos there are just gorgeous).
We were rather laid back. The cake was vanilla with blue icing and a plethora of sprinkles–Vivienne bit down on one of those silver balls and loosened a baby tooth. “Is it bleeding?” No, it wasn’t bleeding.
Vivienne and Klark revived Fredbrick (their brick child) and Jeff (a log with magic marker features). There was a request for an ax for altering Jeff. I did not produce one.
Vivienne’s dad, Alex, showed us a video of the kids two years ago. It was nice to see Olivia do one of her gymnastic leaps, and to see the others small–and then there were the kids who have moved or outgrown the library. I sure have watched a lot of kids grow up–and I miss them all.
Another fun day at the FPL.

7/28/19:Word game day.

The Front Porch Library gathered around one of our well-used folding card tables; just me, Mr. John, Vivienne, and Brianna, but what we lacked in numbers we made up for in enthusiasm. We began with word games. First, the one that is like a giant word search that uses transparent place holders that look a lot like contact lenses. Okay, it is not a popular as Scrabble, but we liked it…
For the second game, I brought my three jars: nouns, verbs, and adjectives. We drew one from each jar and constructed stories, acted words out, then told stories in which we had to guess which of the words used were drawn out of the jars.
Then we hung out with Fredbrick, the brick child Vivienne and Klark created. He was as taciturn as ever so we gave up on him fast, then drew pictures and ate cake. Laughed a lot too. Always a good way to spend a late Sunday afternoon.

7/21/19:Olivia gives lessons.

We had a very nice gathering at the Front Porch Library after an unexpected week off (my husband Ray was in the hospital with Lyme).
In honor of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, we read a brief history of astronomy and the space race (we felt bad about the dogs who went into space and didn’t come back).
Emonie joined us for the first time and Brianna returned after a long absence. With Klark and Olivia we had a small but friendly group. Thanks to our neighbor Miss Karen, we had a huge spread of crossword puzzles for kids from the New York Times. We opened the page on one of our card tables and went to work. Although the puzzle guys at the Times don’t think exactly like we do, we did pretty well.
Then we took turns hiding plastic fruit in the yard and razzing each other for being so blind. “You’re warm! You’re hot! You’re burning!”
After that we broke out the art supplies. Olivia gave lessons on drawing eyes. Emonie and Brianna were super-impressed. “On the a-mazing scale you are a 1,000 plus!” 
We never got around to the big project I had planned, which was designing a town, but there is always next week. Always.
Another fine day at the Front Porch Library.

7/7/19: The return of Vivienne.

Small library gathering–but great! Vivienne, one of our kids of yesteryear who moved to North Carolina, came back! She’s moved back to Tallahassee and will be rejoining us as part of team library.
She and Klark, who were great friends when they were next door neighbors, took up right where they left off–which meant digging up a brick that was flush with the ground in the yard, giving it a face (even ears) and naming it Fredbrick. Fred had a bed, and a dinner made of very nice weeds, a plastic egg, and melty beads (rice). Vivienne’s dad, Alex, suddenly found himself a grandfather. Since I was a grandmother we took Fredbrick to meet his other grandfather, Ray.
Aside from turning a brick into a close relative, we wrote notes to ourselves to be read when we celebrate the 11th birthday of the library. Randi, who brought over her sheltie, Nike, wrote herself a note too. We asked ourselves questions to be answered a year from now, recorded our hopes–then we put them in the chicken cookie jar and I stood on the stool and put the chicken back on a high shelf. Vivienne made a sign I propped against the chicken so I could remember where we put the notes–it was suggested that I might need a sign by the sink that said, look up, but I promised to do that from time to time without prompting.
I so miss the kids who leave the library due to relocation or aging into coolness, and Vivienne is one of the kids I have missed the most. And now she’s back! Yes!

The Library Turns 10!

The library celebrated its 10th birthday last Sunday–we were all so pooped that I didn’t even file a report.
As it turned out, it was as much a celebration of neighborhood as the library. We did, of course have the traditional watermelon seed spitting contest, and new records were set by the mother-son team of Connor and Cheryl–they were within inches of each other, both at about 25 feet.
It was a great time–and it didn’t even rain!

6/23/19: Getting ready to party!

The library’s 10th birthday party is just one week away. So what did we do? We fired up the oven and baked more chocolate chip cookies. Olivia did the work–I was the one who failed to tell her I had put enough butter in the bowl for a double recipe. Just let me say that double butter creates some mighty puddley cookies.
Klark buttered garlic bread, I wrapped the bread in foil. We baked a lot of cookies and slathered potentially crunchy bread. So far so good. Cyrus and Ilex joined the group–we had to sample the very buttery, flat cookies. Darn, they were good.
We made ice cream sandwiches using last week’s cookie production (FPL birthdays are famous for their giant homemade ice cream sandwiches). The kitchen a disaster, the kids took our fliers: “Come one, come all” and hung them on mailbox flags around the neighborhood while I cleaned up ground zero (the kitchen). They came back truly sweaty.
That called for donuts and ice water, and for some reason, improvisation with some play money that found itself convincing enough that it felt obligated to say NOT LEGAL TENDER on each bill. Somehow, Klark ended up with a fake five dollar bill stuck to his forehead. Klark is an improviser. Last week he stapled his cream-cheese bagel. These kids are the best! (And never dull).
The donuts are gone, the freezers are getting full–now to round up tables, chairs, etc., etc.–and pray for not-rain.
The FPL is about to turn 10, woo-hoo!