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.

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

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


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


This is Father’s Day, yes, but it is also the eve of camp for many of our FPL kids. That meant making sure that all was ready. Snacks? Check. Closed shoes? Check. Drop off at 9? Check. I think we are good to go. Vivienne was our first camper, boldly going solo, but our other eight are all joining the Zoo Crew. Those animals are in for a real treat.

During library we sat out at the round table in the driveway and made puzzles. I printed puzzle patterns off the good old internet and glued them to cardboard. Draw on the blank side, cut them out and voila! A home made puzzle!

We told father stories–some very sad. Not all kids get great dads. Mr. John told about his father working as a code-breaker. I talked about my Dad, the original owner of our library house. A couple of the kids had a bad-dad smack-down. It was hard to say which dad was the baddest.

We made some beautiful puzzles and talked and talked–there weren’t as many of us as usual. Most were off celebrating Dad. There were bounteous snacks for all and leftover library birthday cake–quite delicious eaten frozen.

Kweli arrived with the beginning of dreads. Killean wore a shirt that said: In Memory of When I Cared. Dee Dee came to the library for the first time in years–that sure was hug-worthy. Joe sang enthusiastically, although not exactly on key. Klark and Olivia rolled in after their family’s dadfest. Miss Jennifer got stung by a wasp. Isaac passed the sign in sheet then settled into the puzzle-making.

It was a little like a quilting bee, but one that required a lower skill level.

Another fine day at the Front Porch Library.