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

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

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


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.