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.

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


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



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.