July 22, 2018: More stories!

Library and the food delivery from Lucky’s came too darned close together! All I can say is that being up to my elbows in strawberry juice as I sorted boxes of very ripe fruit and mayhem of the kid-exuberant kind are a near-explosive mix.
 
Yet we persisted. A potential volunteer and her mom dropped by. They saw us in all our shouting glory. I hope she will be back…
 
My good friend Bill Westervelt bought us bicycle pumps since I complained about the flatness of all our many balls. We pumped. It rained, but inflated balls will come in handy after the monsoons.
 
We read a book about Matthew Henson’s journey to the North Pole with Admiral Peary and a group of Inuits. It’s funny how all the credit seems to go to Peary. He could not have made it without the others–not to mention the dogs that did all the dragging.
 
We then went back to storytelling. We had a bucket of slips of paper with story elements in it, things like: a message in a bottle, a mermaid, something sticky (those were mine) the kids added some. “Infinite farts” was a Kelby addition. Needless to say the infinite farts and a legion of slugs were much more evocative than my prompts.
 
Toward the end, Kary, my pal and the co-founder of the FPL stopped by. She has since moved to Seattle and was back for a visit. She was reminded of the effects of centrifugal force as the kids whirred.
 
After, as we cleaned up we discovered we have a water leak–I wondered why that part of the rug was always getting a dusty white look. Mold will do that if given the chance. If I ever went barefoot in the library house I would have noticed. The kids knew all about it and seemed to take it as a feature of the house, that spot that was always wet on the other side of the bathroom.
 
It’s always something at the FPL!
 
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July 15, 2018: Tell me a story!

It was a storytelling gathering at the Front Porch Library. I cheated by reading a book about a meteorite named Ahnighito. It was, in essence, the biography of a rock. But the kids were spectacularly creative.
 
Kelby’s delivery mirrored Rod Serling’s (a cool guy Kelby probably never heard of). His arms remained crossed throughout, his voice low and monotone. “Unknown by Timmy’s mother, Timmy’s father was hanging dead in the closet.” (Many of the stories were told with the lights out, although in the middle of the afternoon that was not too effective.)
 
Harper had a woman tall enough to see in a second story window and a girl who, for some reason, could not get off her bed. The warning was, “Whatever you do, don’t put your feet on the floor.” This led to an unfortunate bathroom-related accident–the story was still scary.
 
Olivia had everyone give her the components of the story, the character’s names and ages, the setting (Klark suggested an abandoned church). She is a very active storyteller, assuming the body language of her characters (no Rod Serling at all).
 
Mr. John told a “true” story involving his father, Wakulla Springs, and a diving death.
 
Klark told a story that ended with the “Boo!” that never grows old.
 
Danny and Brianna were audience (although Brianna wandered off to draw–she is always drawing).
 
I found one basketball that still had enough air in it to bounce so we had a get-out-your-crazies strategy. At the end of the gathering I made sure the ball was back in the house. A reasonably-inflated ball is hard to come by. Flat? The library owns a whole collection.
 
A really fine day at the Front Porch Library.

July 8: Improv Day.

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This is the crew as photographed by Alex, Vivienne’s dad. Vivienne is the redhead with the devilish smile.
Today I actually found a story that all my jumping-bean kids sat and listened to–which is fitting since the title was “The Listeners” and it was about the lives of slaves. The listeners were the kids in the slave community who would crouch under the window of the owner’s mansion and listen to what was being said and report back to the adults. The book did a great job of showing what the day-to-day lives of slave children was like–I guess I never knew that cotton bolls were prickly and cut fingers. The book ends with the kids hearing that Abraham Lincoln has been elected.
After, we went on with our storytelling unit. Today we did improv. The exercise that went on longest was the two chairs that represented the front seat of a car. One kid was the driver, the other was a hitchhiker. Vivienne, one of our regulars who moved away was back to be the hitchhiking grim reaper. The best part was the way she threw her hair over her face and spoke in a threatening monotone from behind that screen.
Also picked up was a Russian potato farmer, an African prince, a dog, and when it was Mr. John’s turn, a guy who subsisted by eating flies, which he caught while riding along. Mosquitoes too, but, as he said, they are not as nutritious as the average fly.
Things were, periodically, dangerously loud–at which time we took one of our under-inflated balls (where the heck is that pump?) and tried to roll it into a chalk circle on the road. Turned out it couldn’t be done. The road crowns so the ball would go toward the circle, then veer off. But it was quiet.
Another dramatic day at the Front Porch Library.

July 1: Shucking and Storytelling.

The missions of my dad’s old house are beginning to shake hands. When the kids arrived for library we had just received piles of corn on the cob. We put a plastic table cloth down on the floor (protecting our thirty-year-old rug), and we shucked.
And shucked. The kids were new at the sport, the adults old hands. Some of the corn was a little tired so we started a chicken box. Olivia bagged expertly. Klark recommended a snap-off-the-end move.
Miss Shelley, a new neighbor, joined us. That girl could shuck.
We finally got around to the planned project, more story telling. I had a bin full of pieces of paper. Each had something that had to show up in the story, then we divided into teams.
Klark got the slip that said, “something stuck to the sole of a shoe.” It turned out to be a rock that cut Klark’s foot (which was bare, the shoe sole got edited out).
Briana chose “a broken water line.” Their story was a remake of Jurassic Park. The story ended with T-Rex breaking a water lie with his head and getting washed away.
Olivia chose “The King of Seminole Manor.” She and I created a story of a bunch of kids who decide to name one member of the group King of Seminole Manor, what they hadn’t counted on was kid brother Dave slipping his name into the bowl. Luckily, he had magic socks that allowed him to prove he was the true King of Seminole Manor.
From shucking to storytelling, another fine day at the Front Porch Library.

June 24th Storytelling!

It was storytelling day at the Front Porch Library. I started by telling a story from my life, and then read a scene from “Crossing Jordan” that was based on that event. I wanted to show how stories begin and grow–and sometimes become useful to a writer.
 
The kids told stories from their lives. Mr. John too. He told the story from the day at the FPL when we found a lizard stuck to a piece of tape and how he spent ages carefully, carefully freeing the lizard. “Everyone lost interest it was so slow.” When the lizard was freed it was only missing one toe.
 
Olivia was especially good at adding hand gestures, pauses, changes of voice–a natural storyteller.
 
I broke out my photo collection. These are pictures I use to teach creative writing. Each of us chose one as a spur to creating a story. Kelby had a photo of soldiers in a Humvee speeding away from an exploding horizon. He turned the men in the vehicle into himself and his friends from Brooklyn (some years down the road).
 
Brianna, of course, chose a photo with dogs. Klark, kept setting the timer–who knows why? There is no hope at the FPL of doing anything in a specified time frame.
 
Another day of stories at the FPL.

June 17th–The 10th year begins.

I swear, I just looked at the phase of the moon hoping for an explanation of the craziness at the FPL today. Dang! That wasn’t it. Let’s just say that the girls, including me, rolled their eyes a lot. Boy-chaos ruled.
 
The high point of our gathering was opening the box you sent, Jennifer Brown DeCuir . The books from this year’s Authors in April were just beautiful! Brianna grabbed and hugged all the animal books. Klark settled in with dinosaurs–briefly.
 
Next week I think we’ll do pole vaulting or maybe sword fighting–something to channel the shout-loud-as-you-can energy constructively.
 
Whew! I have a week to think this over (and order poles and swords).

Happy 9th Birthday FPL!

Today was the library’s 9th birthday party, and the rain came in in waves much of the day, and we tracked in more dead leaves than we could vacuum up. Miss Jennifer and I hustled around, hoping we could do all the fancy table things Miss J. is so good at. We set the tables up on the lawn and in the driveway. We knocked them down again.

IMG_0635Kelby came over to help a couple of hours early. He gave the sky a good talking too. Then it rained again. We downsized our plans and set things up inside.

Mr. John and Miss Vicky took over the kitchen, the noodle cooking, the garlic bread making.

The twins arrived and followed by Olivia and Klark. They worked on a quick blitz finish of the second alphabet accordion. We were a few letters short, but boy was our first one gorgeous!

Briana pedaled up. Violet, Jasper and Fox finally returned (yeah!). We started serving dinner. Klark and Harper and Danny began with plates filled with garlic bread. An unwise move considering how much other great food we had.

Andrew and Heather walked over, Barbara, Penny, Jen and Tracy, Alex….heck, I forget. The rain stopped and we moved the folding chairs back out, the tables back out…no fancy centerpieces and quite a few mosquitoes, but the sauces were excellent, the pasta hot. The birthday cake had a hard time getting out of the pan (parts of it hung on) but we reglued everything with icing. That is kind of typical….

We finished (except for the cleanup) with the watermelon seed spitting contest in the road. It is getting darned hard to find a melon with seeds, but Ray picked one up at the flea market.

All the kids lined up at the chalk line for the big spit. Violet won with a spit of 17’4″. Go Violet!

Olivia still holds the kid record at 18′ 9.5.”

There was a festival of cleaning-up afterwards. Miss Jennifer said that she’d come back to vacuum up those leaves in the morning. I said…okay. At least I paused before I said it.

Onward to our double-digit birthday!

June 3rd–getting ready for our 9th B’day!

This was the last Sunday before the 9th Front Porch Library birthday–wow, it sure has been a good long run! But we didn’t think much about the historical side of things. We were too busy stirring the sauce, drawing, baking the cookies for our traditional chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches.
 
Our Alphabet accordion still lacks a few letters, but we began assembling it–and it is GORGEOUS!
 
The library house is also hoping to become an official food bank ( I know, houses can’t hope–but this one seems to) and as I worked to clear space out for more refrigeration I found a 1983 Life Magazine which was the 50th anniversary edition so we perused photos of things like families in saddle oxfords, Lucille Ball (who?), the first photo of earth from the moon, Mick Jagger and Tina Turner looking oh so fine, a phone with a cord (whoa!).
 
And I think we are as ready as we should be one week ahead of the big bash. All we need are a few more pesky letters for that alphabet accordion…
 
Another fine afternoon at the FPL.

May 27th More birthday party doings.

Work continued on the big library birthday bash. Who knew the alphabet had so many letters? And to make matters worse we are doing two panels for each letter. We drew giraffes, vases, worlds, mangoes–we are still working on the alphabet acordion–the party is just two Sundays away.
 
Mr. John continued to be the spaghetti sauce master in the kitchen. Today’s food stand delivery included celery and basil. We go with the flow and worry very little about a recipe found in any cookbook. The only thing we require is that it be plentiful and that it not burn. Since Mr. John has taken over from me some years back the sauce has never burned; when I was in charge I was always googling, “How To Get Rid of That Burnt Taste.” (Throw in a raw potato, cook it a while, then discard the potato–it sort of works).
 
Toward the end of the gathering, Klark asked if he could light things on fire in the driveway. It was rainy…I was tired… Mr. John went outside for something. Wnen he came back in he asked, “Did tell Klark he could burn leaves in the driveway?” I admitted that I had. “You weakened!” he said.
 
How could I explain that Klark is basically responsible and I trust him to burn leaves in a responsible manner? My answer? “Yup. I weakened.
 
You will be happy to learn that I was proven right, that Klark can burn damp leaves in the driveway responsibly. Another fine gathering at the Front Porch Library.

May 20, 2018: Alphabet Day!

I’ve been in NJ visiting my grandboys, but Miss Jennifer was queen of the Front Porch Library on Mother’s Day. It sounds as if they had a great time (she did pass the crown back to me).

Zoey

Zoey, proud creator of the letter X.

Today we were in full get-ready-for-the-library’s-9th-birthday-party mode. Mr. John was in the kitchen, cooking up a storm while the rest of us worked on the alphabet accordion. “Just how long is this table going to be?” a volunteer asked. The truth? I hadn’t thought about how long a table would have to be to accommodate an alphabet accordion when each letter’s panel is 11″ wide. I still haven’t. I figure that all things at the library eventually work out.

We had a good group of kids, all illustrating letters. Brianna and her cousin worked furiously–Brianna always does animals. If you have a letter she has an animal to go with it. F is for Fox.

Zoey, there for the first time, was hesitant when she walked through the door, but she got right into the alphabet thing. (Thanks for the great C and X panels, Zoey.

Olivia’s F was a thing of beauty. The letter F was dappled with fish. Klark’s pineapple P was good too. Kelby was not moved to do any art, but he read aloud to the group from our book of the day, “The Kid Who Ran For President” by Dan Gutman.

Our neighbor Michelle, brought in a crew of volunteers so we were, not only drawing, but sorting some of the many piles of books, toys, building materials that have stacked up…everywhere.

It was rainy during library, so everything took place in two small rooms. A chummy, good day at the library.

April 29, 2018

Once again the Front Porch Library was quiet. Just me, Olivia and Klark. We need to walk the neighborhood and leaflet, and we will (as soon as that lazy librarian Adrian gets some leaflets printed).

The read-aloud was about the sun setting around the globe so we got down the globe and followed the track of the sun, finding each of the places listed.

We continued working on this year’s library birthday party’s major decoration, the alphabet accordion that will run down the center of the main table. Olivia did a wonderful B panel. It featured BFFs. Klark took A and drew some lovely arachnids.

We made a tentative decision that this year’s library birthday party and neighborhood pot luck will be on June 3rd.

Olivia decorated the chocolate cake with M&Ms. It was a day and night cake. One side done in yellows and oranges, the other in blues and violets. We made a modest dent in the cake and then distributed the rest. With all the food distribution that goes on out of the library house we have no problem knocking on doors and saying, “And how about a little chocolate cake? Your chunk comes from the daylight side of the cake.”

It was a restful and artistic day at the Front Porch Library.

April 29th at the library.

Once again the Front Porch Library was quiet. Just me, Olivia and Klark. We need to walk the neighborhood and leaflet, and we will (as soon as that lazy librarian Adrian gets some leaflets printed).

The read-aloud was about the sun setting around the globe so we got down the globe and followed the track of the sun, finding each of the places listed.

We continued working on this year’s library birthday party’s major decoration, the alphabet accordion that will run down the center of the main table. Olivia did a wonderful B panel. It featured BFFs. Klark took A and drew some lovely arachnids.

We made a tentative decision that this year’s library birthday party and neighborhood pot luck will be on June 3rd.

Olivia decorated the chocolate cake with M&Ms. It was a day and night cake. One side done in yellows and oranges, the other in blues and violets. We made a modest dent in the cake and then distributed the rest. With all the food distribution that goes on out of the library house we have no problem knocking on doors and saying, “And how about a little chocolate cake? Your chunk comes from the daylight side of the cake.”

It was a restful and artistic day at the Front Porch Library.

Earth Day 2018

It was a very small library gathering on this Earth Day. Just me, Olivia, Klark and Mr. John. We soldiered on.
 
I prepared a program about four people who have had an effect on protecting the earth. One was a Florida guy (literally), Guy Bradley. It is interesting that he was a guide for plume hunters as a teen and then died as a game warden protecting the rookeries which resulted in laws that protected the birds–then feathers on hats went out of style.
 
I featured two women, Jane Goodall (who the kids knew) and Rachel Carson, who they didn’t. I brought a print out of a contemporaneous newspaper showing how the pesticide industry slandering Carson. We talked about the difficulty of defending the earth and the importance of science when it comes to knowing what has to be defended.
 
Teddy Roosevelt was the last. We read a short biography and looked at the vast number of parks he created. We also became acquainted with his use of the word “bully.”
 
We then went back to work on the alphabet illustrations for our grand table decoration for our ninth FPL birthday dinner. Next comes the cooking of the traditional spaghetti sauce, the baking of the giant chocolate chip cookies that will be made into ice cream sandwiches. The process will take several weeks, but we put on a pretty good spread.
 
A quiet but good day at the library.

April 9, 2018 Botany Day!

Late breaking report from the Front Porch Library. We had a big crowd for Botany day (the local plants were trembling as they contemplated the onslaught).
 
We began with a rush for the ligustrum hedge where botany was not top of the list, climbing was. Everyone took their melted cheese thingies into the upper branches and ate among the leaves.
 
Then we went inside for a read-around. The Twister spinner chose Violet and Brianna. Each read a book to the group. Both are good at reading upside down (a cherished read-aloud skill for anyone reading a picture book to a group).
 
Our neighbor, Karen, brings me the kid page from the New York Times. This time the center page was a collection of dumb jokes. We took turns tossing a small shell at the page than reading whatever joke it hit. We groaned a lot.
 
And then, botany! I showed off diagrams of flower anatomy.
 
Ray lent me his giant magnifier so we could look at the diagrammed parts of all flowers–let me just say that things like anthers and sepals are not always dead obvious, nowhere near as easy to see as in the diagrams.
 
We then went on a scavenger hunt for flowers–and found 29 species.
 
I had hoped to have the kids dissect and diagram their own flowers but the group was large and exuberant. Hoops were shot, bikes raced.
 
The Earlys, a big family that used to live in the neighborhood came back and Linda Guy and her husband (Linda’s book club is a patron of our library) came by and helped us out with the cheerful chaos.
 
Last but not least, chocolate cake, hoop shooting in the street, bike and scooter races, and the crowd dispersed into the dusk–and plants within a several block radius breathed a sigh of relief.