4/14/19:Happy 81!

Kelby came by the Front Porch Library early–I think boredom was involved. We decorated the weekly cake (chocolate cake, green and blue icing–many, many sprinkles). We really went to town.
 
He decorated with the understanding we would tell Olivia he knew nothing, nothing about who had decorated the cake–that is usually her territory.
 
When library officially started we continued with our brain/memory quest. I showed a tray of ten items for thirty seconds and the kids had to list what they saw. Among them they remembered the ten, but no one got all ten. So, score one for the collective brain.
 
We went on with our Easter bag decorating project, then cut a slice of that sprinkle-bumpy cake, put candles on it, blew up balloons and broke out the noise makers. Our neighbor, Miss Liz, turned 81 yesterday. We practiced tooting our noise makers all the way over. We stood on the grass trying to light the candles, then read the sign on her door: Oxygen in Use, no open flames. Oh. We quit trying to light the candles and settled for a noise maker salute. We sat with her for a while, put a plate of cake in front of her and found her oxygen tubes. She seemed pleased that we were making noise in celebration of her long life.
 
We blew the noise makers on the way back to the library for good measure, then played two rounds of Concentration and then we headed for home.
 
Another noisy, sprinkle-heavy day at the FPL.
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4/7/19: The Best Day of the Week.

We started library with another quick game of concentration. Klark blew us all away. That boy can concentrate!
The main activity was getting ready for the Easter party our neighbor Mrs. Harper always throws, an egg hunt for the neighborhood kids. Thanks to Miss Jennifer and her endless supply of craft materials, we decorated bags for all the booty everyone will find in the grass.
And while we cut out shiny paper eggs to glue on the bags, tied ribbons on for handles, we talked about things like the thinking behind paying taxes, what we would do with great wealth, and then we debated which was the best day of the week.
Sometimes we just keep our hands busy while we discuss the big issues. Having agreed to disagree on the best day of the week, we packed up all the sparkles, sprinkles, glue sticks, paper bags–we will take up production again next week. Before then each of us will enjoy their favorite day–and then it will be Sunday. The tables will be set up, glue sticks put out in easy reach and we’ll talk about…who knows what…but it will be interesting.
Another artistic, philosophical day at the Front Porch Library.

3/31/19: Almost Use Your Head Day.

We were a small gathering at the library. It was supposed to be use-your-head day, but heck, we can use our heads some other time. We did play a game of Concentration and I discovered that I have no concentration. Short term memory? What short term memory?
 
We made an elaborate “Ouch–get well” card for Mr. John who was in a car wreck last Sunday. We made small books (well the covers anyway) to put inside the card. John is the hero (make that Sisyphus) who tries to cook all the tomatoes that are about to go south in the pantry so one of the book covers was “How To Cook Tomatoes.”
 
We made banana bread and the girls discussed guys, high heels, being thirteen. We packed a box of food for one of our drop-off ladies. The clear blue day turned cold and gray and we all went home.
 
A nice quiet day at the FPL. We will use our heads next Sunday.

March 10, 2019 Sense Day

It was “sense” day at the FPL. No, not common sense day, but sense day as in those handy inputs that provide the interface between us and the world. We began with two pillow cases filled with objects. By feel, from the outside of the bag, each person had to name something that was in the bag.
 
Then we shut our eyes and listened. Unfortunately, the refrigerator that still, unfortunately, resides in the living room for lack of space in the cold room was so loud that it was hard to hear anything else. So we went outside and sat at the big folding table, closed our eyes and listened again.
 
We heard a lot more–and had opinions on what we heard. Why was the guy next door running his car engine while going nowhere? We heard prolonged, drone sounds like that car engine, and the intermittent sounds,, like conversations, “I think that’s Penny’s voice…,” the bark of a dog, a bird song. Sitting with closed eyes and listening is more fun than you would think.
 
Smell was kind of elusive. We smelled the roses–Alex said she didn’t really like the smell of roses.
 
We then went over to good old sight–or observation as we in the senses business call it. We found patches of flowers to watch for insect activity. We found a couple of honey bees working the flowers and lizards blending in with the leaves, and a spider or two–which prompted a debate between the spider lovers and the spider haters.
 
Having covered the senses (we did taste later when we made ice cream sandwiches and ate them), we went to work on collages. Olivia, Alex and Abby discussed boys and things that streamed on various devices. I listened like a visitor from another planet (although I vaguely remember boys). Klark was pretty quiet too.
 
In the kitchen, Mr. John was toiling with the glut of frozen tomatoes of which we have a whole stand-up freezer. He had a cauldron-full boiling. (sight: red, sound: bubbling-belch, smell: tomatoey, taste: too thin, touch: too hot).
 
In conclusion I must add that Olivia got a killer haircut. It is still so new that she kept swishing her fingers through it, and surprised herself when she looked in the bathroom mirror.
 
Another good-looking (smelling, tasting, feeling, sounding) day at the FPL.

March 3, 2019 Art and Science.

Library was small, but still interesting. Mr. John attacked the boundless supply of frozen tomatoes, cooking some down–“a drop in the bucket,” he said. This is what happens when your goal is to waste nothing.
 
Meanwhile, we had a new FPL kid, Liam (AKA Spiderman), a precocious four-year-old–he must be precocious to do all those Spidey things. And Klark and Olivia–a small group, but we did some interesting things.
 
The science experiments went on. We checked out water surface tension. It’s true, you can over-fill a glass and watch the water bulge. We also considered friction, sliding an ice cube and a wooden block to see which would go further. Of course the ice cube should have gone further, but science must hate me. The block won two out of three times.
 
Then we moved on to art, a more reliable endeavor. I had cut out segments of magazine photos and glued them to tag board. Each of us drew the rest of the image in any way we chose. Klark started with a woman sitting on a dock and ended up with a woman sitting on a dock being threatened by a giant otter. Olivia put her little kid in a bunny hat on stage. I improved the dog head by dressing the dog in a natty suit and straw hat. Liam glued many stickers to his photo.
 
Then the delivery from Lucky’s rolled up. Holy cow! Three cases of avacadoes–and that ain’t all. We all sorted and unpacked. And then the sky got threatening and dark and everyone walked home really fast.
 
We always have fun at the FPL. Yup, we sure do.

February 24, 2019 Conspiracy Day!

I have Kelby to thank for the main activity at the Front Porch Library today. He came to the food distribution last night and asked, “What are we doing at library tomorrow?” I told him I didn’t know yet. He said we should talk about conspiracy theories. He then went on to tell me one of his.
 
“Did you ever notice at pizza places that sometimes the edges of the pieces don’t really line up? That’s because they take the uneaten slices of pizza left on the table and assemble them into new pizzas….” Hmm, think about it.
 
That sent me into the dark corners of the internet. So, we began our discussion by talking about conspiracy theories that are widely held, but dubious, like the illuminati, the group that really rules the world, or the fact the FDA and the pharmaceutical companies are hiding the fact the cure for cancer exists, or the fact the moon landing was faked.
 
In order to be fair and balanced we looked at conspiracy theories that were true, like the fact that during Prohibition the government actually did poison alcohol, or that at least technically we have had a female president (after Wilson had a stroke his wife made all the presidential decisions for more than a year), and that, yes, the FBI did spy on John Lennon.
 
Then I had a list of topics about which we could make our own theories. Dogs? Another form of human (Olivia’s theory). They are smart, sympathetic, they prefer our company to that of other dogs. The number eight is the endless number–turn it on its side and it is the symbol for infinity. Mosquito bites are the way tracking devices are implanted–just look for the little red spot where the bite occurred–those tracking devices are tiny. Instant mashed potatoes? There are no potatoes involved. We sat in a circle like the bunch of conspirators we were.
 
We had a new boy, Adrian, we share that great name. He is four. He was more interested in the gravel in the driveway than conspiracy theories.
 
We also did two experiments about locating the center of gravity. My favorite involved balancing a yard stick on a glass, then putting something on one end and sliding the ruler until the new center of gravity was found.
 
We had a fine old time at the FPL. Devil’s food cake too.

February 17, 2019: Experiments, produce, and Spring flowers

Luckily, we got a new volunteer at the Front Porch Library today–and her mom. Library and a really large food delivery (our great neighbor, Kearns Hiett made his usual Sunday pickup) arrived at the same time. We had boxes and boxes of produce everywhere. Kayley and her mom pitched right in sorting and putting away. The kids arrived, but the put away went on.
 
We did two air pressure experiments. For the first we threaded a string through a straw, then tied the string to two chairs, taped a balloon to the straw and let go of the end of the inflated balloon. Man, did that balloon rocket! That was followed by an interlude of balloon-messing-around while the water boiled for the second experiment.
 
Experiment 2: We stretched an uninflated balloon over the mouth of a plastic bottle, then plunged the lower half of the bottle in boiling water, and, voila! the balloon inflated. We then did the same with a bowl of ice water and the balloon drooped–not as impressive as the balloon rocket.
 
We then walked the neighborhood collecting spring flowers. Kayley walked with us while her mother soldiered on in the food pantry. Olivia was the most dedicated to finding flowers. Briana talked about cheer leading. Klark and Kelby kicked a balloon down the street until it popped.
 
We found 21 species–nowhere near what we collected in the fall when looking for seeding plants. But we did stop at Klark and Olivia’s so we could all hold Klark’s new puppy, Binko, and say awwwwwww.
 
When we got back I brought out a pair of sneakers and each kid began imagining the life of the girl who wore them. There was much dispute about what she was wearing besides those sneakers. Some saw her as fashionable, others as shabby. Briana chose a second pair of shoes–this time cowboy boots and each kid had to create a second character, one who was important to the girl in the sneakers. Then they had to create a plot problem. As is true of all story tellers, there were many unfortunate deaths (parents, best friends). It was all quite satisfying.
 
Another surprising and varied day at the FPL.

Feb. 10: Volunteers and experiments.

We had the fraction upside-down today. Loads of volunteers, just two kids–the wonderful Klark and Olivia–but we made good use of everyone’s time. Library began with lots of food that needed putting away for the Granny Elliott Food Pantry.
 
Our three young volunteers, Alex, Abby, and Jean seemed to enjoy trying to figure out what some of the more obscure produce was. Chayotte? Jicama? One or two are still a mystery to me.
 
Jean was a special treat. She is an exchange student from France who landed in Tallahassee just this morning. How she stayed on her feet, I don’t know.
 
Mr. John and Miss Vicky helped us finish. We finally got the last unnamed, hairy piece of produce put away and moved on to library-as-usual. My friend Sharon Ketts sent us a couple of science experiment books so we performed three experiments.
 
For the first we predicted the trajectory of a rolled ball and a rolled egg (yes, I boiled it). The ball rolled straight. The egg was less predictable.Rolled on its equator it rolled straightish, but cock it even slightly, and it rolls in a circle (then there is the wobble). We talked about the value of rolling in a circle, then I shared a photo of the eggs of cliff-dwelling birds, which are far pointier than chicken eggs, then we looked at a drawing of murres nesting on ledges barely wider than one murre butt.
 
Then we tried the amazing-memory-paperclip-trick. Its memory needs strong coaxing. The clip has to be colder than room temperature before you distort it, the water you drop it in near boiling, but man, meet those conditions and the return to clip-shape is so fast you can’t even see it happen.
 
The third was a color experiment: Two glass containers with water in them, one sitting inside the other. Put yellow dye in one, blue in the other, look through the side and, voila! Green!
 
With Jean there we did the obvious, we asked her how to say this and that in French, then we all talked about our domestic political woes. Then Donna brought over Klark’s new puppy and all rational talk ceased. Everyone took a turn holding the sleepy pup.
 
Une autre belle journee a la Bibliotheque du Porche. (I don’t know how to do the accent marks–please imagine them).

February 3, 2019: Klark’s Birthday Party

Boys at Klark's b'day

A late breaking report from the Front Porch library. I slid back into Tallahassee after leading a second week-long writer’s retreat on St. George Island. I was somewhat relieved to find out that Klark’s birthday party had been moved to the FPL. That meant that Donna was in charge of all the doings, the eatings, the mayhem.

We set up food tables in the driveway–Donna had cooked herself silly. Our library volunteer, Alex, and I set out drawing supplies, and Donna provided what she said was two hours worth of boy entertainment. Nerf guns. She was right. When not eating, the boys shot at each other and tore around. I think they burned off all the calories they took in.

Girls at the party

The girls were more circumspect. They drew, took walks around the neighborhood, talked–and ate.

Alex drew with Diesel. Diesel was the one boy who wanted to draw more than nerf. What a beautiful unicorn, rainbow picture! He explained that the foot of the rainbow was outside the frame of the picture, if only we could see it.

Deisel and Alex

Next week it will be business as usual at the FPL, but what a great party it was. Thanks to Donna for letting me rest my weary self.

January 20, 2019: Puzzle & Game Day

The plan for the weekly gathering at the Front Porch Library was to do some science experiments–I found some killer experiments online, things like distorting a paperclip and putting it in warm water where it would promptly turn back into a paperclip! Whoa! It looked so cool! Problem was the paperclip had to be cast from a metal with memory and my paperclips were as forgetful as I am. They just lay there in the warm water all bent out of shape–and so it went. Not one of the several experiments I tried in preparation for the arrival of kids worked.
 
So, it was game and puzzle day at the library! But first we had to make the traditional cheese melts and ice the traditional cake. Ilex, Olivia, and Klark worked on the snacks. We were doing the read aloud “Lost and Found” when Violet, Jasper, Fox and Jen came through the door. Also there were Mr. John and our new volunteer, Abby. We were on a roll–and Briana and Cyrus had yet to arrive.
 
The kitchen floor became the spot for making floor puzzles (hence the name). We discovered that the birds of the world were missing quite a few birds so we will remove that one from our epic puzzle collection. The underwater puzzle was missing just one piece. We all have days when we are a piece shy of the full puzzle; we voted to keep that one in the collection.
 
Meanwhile, in the living room, Abby was leading a brisk game of “In a Pickle,” followed by “Twister.”
 
Brianna arrived in time for bocce on the lawn–my gosh it was cold–then came cake. After, the kids climbed the ligustrum.
 
Ilix was up at the very top. He assured me that he was 95% sure he would not fall, and 99.5% sure he could climb down safely. I suggested he go with the 99.5% and get down.
 
It was a great day at the library, even if the paperclips behaved like the inanimate objects they are.

While I was away…

Every year I lead a couple of writing retreats on St. George Island, but library goes on. This time Miss Donna was in charge–and she owns a phone much smarter than mine so here are the pictures!

working on the plane

Klark and Olivia are working on a plane that ended up needing an adapted plastic Easter egg for a nose cone–crashing being the plane’s preferred activity.

the plne

This is the plane before the need for a protective nose cone was discovered.

race

And why not end Library with a race in the street? See, this is what makes the Front Porch Library so much better than those other libraries. The ones that rely on books and computers and never serve snacks, let alone a weekly cake.

Thanks for covering for me, Donna!

January 13, 2019: New Books!

The Front Porch Library took a break over the holidays, and then I led a writing retreat on St. George Island (Thanks Donna, for covering last Sunday).
 
While I was away we had a box of new books delivered from my publisher, Peachtree, so of course, the first thing we did was open the box and look at all the books–some beautiful illustrations! We sat on the red rug and flipped through the pages.
 
I did one of the books, “The Three Armadillies Tuff” for the read-aloud. It was a Texas take on The Three Billy Goats Gruff. The armadillies get a makeover for the wolf then take that poor, lonely gal to a honky tonk to kick up her heels.
 
Then we got out the kid’s pages from the New York Times and did the crossword puzzles–we did pretty darned well.
 
After that, we moved out to the big table in the driveway with a pad of tracing paper to steal bits of illustration from the books and create new pictures. I have to admit that worked only for Olivia. Basketball and basketball variations carried the day for the guys.
 
Next Sunday I will be more organized, less tired and a little more imaginative. Still, good to get back to the FPL!

December 9. 2018: Bag it!

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This is a late-breaking report from the Front Porch Library. This week my pal, Donna took over–Craig and I were playing for the Democratic Party’s holiday gathering.
 
As you can see from the photos the project was painting canvas bags (off camera was the eating of cheese melts and chocolate cake).
 
Thanks, Donna Elliott! Another great gathering at the FPL.
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Dec. 2, 2018: Happy B’day Isaac Newton!

Isaac Newton
It was a rather smart day at the Front porch library, heavily weighted toward science–and riddles, a form of creative thinking (inside the box thinkers rarely get riddles).
 
First, for the read-aloud I read from a book of questions about the mysterious workings of the human body–stuff I didn’t know, like the fact the shape of your hair follicles determines whether your hair is curly, wavy or straight (boy, must I ever have round follicles).
 
Then came the riddles. Here are a couple:
(Speaking of hair) A man went walking in the rain. He didn’t bring an umbrella or a hat. His clothes got soaked, but not a single hair got wet. How is this possible? *answer at the end of the post.
 
How do you spell “hard water” in only three letters? *answer at the end of the post.
 
We’ve been working on gravity for a while–which Olivia effectively defied. We talked about the center of gravity of the earth–it is round, the center of gravity is the center of that big ball, but everything that has mass has a center of gravity. The proof that humans have one was to stand with your legs pressed against the wall, then bend over and pick up a pencil about a foot away on the floor. Since the person who does that is no longer over their center of gravity the task was impossible. Unless you are Olivia, who could do it–three times. Her secret? “Strong calves.”
 
Then we moved on to Isaac Newton and his laws of motion (by the way, he was born on Christmas day). Working on the laws of motion involved rolling balls, talking about those equal and opposite reactions, potential energy (yes, we rubber band shot a poker chip across the room).
 
The most dramatic test required a trip to the street. Hold a small ball on top of a large ball and let them drop on the road–man that little ball on top flew!
 
We had a good old time. Who knew Sir Isaac could provide so much hilarity and fun?
 
Another fine day at the FPL.
 
* The man was bald.
* Ice.
 

November 11, 2018: So much produce!

It was one of those unexpected days at the library–oh heck, they mostly are. It is just the way they are unexpected that changes. Today Violet, Jasper, and Fox returned to the library! I am terrible at having kids vanish from the library, so when they come back I am that delighted grandmother whose grandkids have come home–and these are three wonderful kids.
 
Since they missed the Halley’s Comet discussion last week we revisited it and figured out how old they will be when the comet returns. Fifty-two, fifty, and forty-six. And from what we read this next pass is going to be spectacular because the comet will be on the same side of the sun as planet earth. Something to look forward to!
 
Then the two functions of the library house crossed streams and Kearns rolled in with half a ton (that is a literal amount) of produce for the food bank and we all began sorting. Mr. John did heroic lifting–the backs that work on this project have been blowing out left and right. Jen, mother of the three kids sorted like crazy.
 
Briana fell through the door–oh joy! She and Violet, Jasper, and Fox used to be neighbors. They exuberantly decorated the weekly cake in blue, yellow, and green icing. “We might have used too many sprinkles.” Is there such a thing?
 
Joe arrived and lay on his stomach on the rug, drawing on our page of Halley’s Comet calculations. (He also helped unpack produce–his back is still good).
 
The kids ended library climbing the lagustrum hedge. We are very traditional at the library and climbing the hedge (which is 25 feet tall) is traditional, as is cake delivery! We walk some of the cake over to the neighbors across the street and when they open the door we yell, “Cake delivery!”
 
Mr. John locked his keys in his car and had to get a locksmith to let him in, but things were otherwise, chaotic but great at the FPL.