Love the place you live: A Very Little Bookstore

Hope you’re having a lovely weekend! I guest-posted on Shara’s blog, Palmettos and Pigtails, a couple weeks ago. Just popping in on Sunday to share this post, in case you missed it. 


Lately, I’ve written a few posts about loving the place we live, which, to be fair, is not hard to do when you live in Charleston. So today, I thought we’d venture a little farther out of town, to quaint, downtown Summerville. On picturesque Main Street sits one of my own favorite places to go with my boys, and I’d love to share it with you.

But first, indulge me in a little reminiscing. I’m the sappy, sentimental type.

My mom read to my brother and me when we were younger, and she really encouraged us to read too. She would let me check out piles of books at the library, and she took me to the bookstore, no matter how tight our budget must have been, especially back then. I can even remember visiting a bookstore as early as 3, maybe 4. We lived in Turkey at the time, and were only there for a couple of years, so I can be confident that I was that young. I remember that this bookstore carried the Mr. Men & Little Miss books, a personal favorite. And, I loved Dr. Seuss at this age.

Naturally, reading is one of my most favorite things to do with my own boys. I want them to remember reading with me, just as I remember doing with my own mother.

So, just as my mother did with my brother and me, I take my boys to the library and let them check out the 25 book maximum. I try to select a few books while we’re here, but for the most part, I let Harrison pick the books that he wants. Sometimes, that means that I have to settle for a series of character books I’d rather pass on, but lately, it’s meant that I’m learning new things about dinosaurs. Did you know that the Brontosaurus is now called Apatosaurus? Or, that there is no such thing as a Pterodactyl? There is a Pterodactylus, but technically, it’s a Pterosaur and not a Dinosaur.

And, again as my mom did with us, we go to the bookstore. Here, I do make an effort to guide their selections, but I always let Harrison make the final decision. I’ve enjoyed slowly curating the boys’ library. Right now, we’re in a wonderful stage of picture story books, of books I loved from Reading Rainbow and books I remember my own librarian reading to us from her rocking chair each week in the school library. In the past, and out of convenience, I’ve picked up books at Barnes & Noble or on Amazon. More recently, though, I’ve discovered a little gem in an independent children’s bookshop.

A few weeks ago, Harrison and I made a trip to A Very Little Bookstore. We’ve been several times before, but always with baby Whitt, who has more fun pulling books off the shelf and making a general ruckus than he enjoys reading. I think it’s important to take my little one, but I wanted some one on one time with my oldest.


The owner, Natalie, is  passionate about children’s literature and about children, and her enthusiasm is apparent in every aspect of her shop. She’s incredibly knowledgeable about the various authors and illustrators. So, her recommendations are always exactly what we need. She doesn’t recommend books in a “one size fits all” manner either, meaning she doesn’t simply recommend her own favorites and assume your child will love them too. She gets to know you and your child, and then she suggests books you’ll like. For example, her suggestions for my little boy are always very different than her recommendations for his bestie, Farris, even though they are both four. The more often you venture in, the better her recommendations. And, she hosts a children’s book club for older children. So cool, right?

A Very Little Bookstore | the Maypop

Not only is Natalie wonderful, but the shop itself is a special, magical place too. The walls are lined with individual and unique book shelves that look collected, rather than matching book cases you typically see in chain stores or libraries. And, her own children are often at the shop, which I love. It feels cozy and homey and very family-friendly. It’s the kind of place one can comfortably grab a book of the shelf and read on the carpet or at one of the low kids tables. It’s truly a place a mom can feel comfortable letting her kids be kids and dive into books (sometimes literally). And, that’s what makes this store so unique. It is truly a children’s bookstore – designed for children.

A Very Little Bookstore | the Maypop

This store may be little, but it is the gateway to a big, wide world. If you’re local to Summerville and haven’t been, it’s a must. And, if you’re in Charleston or Mt. Pleasant, it’s worth the drive. I promise. While you’re downtown, I suggest you finish your bookish afternoon off with a root beer float from Guerin’s Pharmacy or a hot cocoa from Single Smile Cafe.

Root beer float at Guerin's Pharmacy, Summerville, SC | the Maypop


Hot Cocoa from Single Smile Cafe, Summerville, SC | the Maypop


Photos by Gray Benko taken at the quaint A Very Little Bookstore (with the exception of the last two).

PS – Be sure to pop over to Palmettos and Pigtails if you haven’t already. You’ll find lots of craft ideas, great posts on meal planning (freezer meals for Baby G3!), and ideas for things to do with children from Disney World to the Lowcountry Children’s Museum.

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Babiators Rocket Packs

My last post on learning to love where we live and getting outside with our boys made me think of the new Babiators back packs. Have you seen them?

When I think of a children’s brand that embraces the idea of getting outside and exploring, it is Babiators. Their “living the Babiators life” philosophy is spot on, and their products are legit too. (You may remember this post about their Submariners Goggles).

If you’re looking for a bag for your own little explorer, look no further than the Rocket Pack.

Babiators Rocket Pack | the Maypop

I’ve mentioned it before, but Harrison is really into dinosaurs. I’ve also explained that he takes his passions very seriously. And, his latest passion is finding a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton. Last week, he decided that we were going to find one in the neighborhood. He was convinced we would find a skeleton, and he knew we had to do it asap, before the construction trucks in the neighborhood moved the dirt he had his eye on.

We didn’t find a skeleton that day in the neighborhood, but we did have a great time making memories together. We were outside. We were dirty. We were happy. And, our lack of success was certainly not due to a lack of preparation on the part of my junior paleontologist.

Harrison packed up his bag with the necessary tools – specifically something to hammer the bones from the hard dirt and a paint brush to sweep away the loose sand. These tools were both from a science kit I’d bought him, and I’ll tell you more about that later, but the point is he packed his essentials in his backpack. I love how he obsesses over the right gear, over making sure the tools are real and not toys, and I adore how seriously he takes himself. He has the sweetest little seersucker monogrammed book bag now. It is perfect for taking his toys to Mimi’s house, but it is not exactly right for hunting for dinosaur bones. And that’s why I am so excited about the new Babiators bags – they are exactly the right bags for exploring outside. Perfect for toting dinosaur bones, pirate treasure maps, ropes, rocks, and other adventurer essentials!

Babiators Rocket Packs

After an evening of modeling, Harrison cried when he had to give his pre-production Rocket Pack back. That is how much he loved this bag. In his mind, it looked just like an explorer’s pack should look. He told me how he’d fill each pocket and strap with his tools and important things.

I can’t wait to surprise him with a new Babiators Rocket Pack now that they are available.

Of course, they’re perfect for back-to-school too.

Babiators Rocket Pack | the Maypop | Gray Benko photography
Babiators Rocket Pack | the Maypop | Gray Benko photography

Babiators Rocket Pack | the Maypop | Gray Benko photography

Finally, and speaking of loving the place we live, the last photos were shot at the historic Timrod Library, which opened in 1915. I had driven by this charming building several times and had been curious about it, but I hadn’t made a point to stop in yet. When Gray and Molly with Babiators were looking for a “bookish” location for these photos, I knew the quaint, historic library would be the ideal setting. I’m so thankful we had time to check it out (no pun intended) and capture these sweet photos of the kids.

What gear have you found to be essential for exploring with your children? Tell me in the comments.

Photos courtesy of Babiators; shot by Gray Benko.

On wide open spaces and loving the place we live

Around this time last year, we decided to buy a new house. We looked and looked in our current area, but nothing seemed right.

We debated (and still occasionally toss around) the idea of moving back to one of our hometowns, either to Bradenton, Florida or Hawkinsville, Georgia. Eric’s family is still in the Bradenton area and mine is still in Hawkinsville. We love the idea of our boys growing up near cousins and grandparents. The appeal of Bradenton is, of course, the beaches, the white, sugar sand beaches. Here we picture boys with brown skin and hair bleached in the sun. Eric dreams of teaching the boys to surf, and I dream of a stucco home with a Spanish tile roof, of a garden with lush tropical plants, and of visiting the Ca’ d’Zan whenever I want.

For Hawkinsville, it’s the wide open spaces that we are attracted to most. When we think of moving back there, I’m sure Eric dreams of buying lots of acreage and riding his four wheeler. I dream of restoring an old historic home on said acreage and having my morning coffee on the back porch. I picture watching hummingbirds zooming to sip nectar from a feeder and deer eating corn in the distance, just as I watch them do at my own parents’ house.

When I imagine this life, I can see my boys doing the things I did as a girl – fishing in creeks and ponds, jumping from hay bales, learning to drive down dirt roads and in fields, and of course, going to the hometown football games on Friday nights. I imagine them spending hours in the woods, just like they do at Mimi and Papa’s house. Harrison fills his little John Deere Gator up with tools for the day and off he rides to do “his work”. I never know what he has in mind, but he rifles through Papa’s shop and finds what he needs – work gloves, bungee cords, ropes, large clips, and a few toys. He picks up sticks and loads them in the back, feeling very important and accomplished. He confidently hooks up a rope to tow things, like his little brother’s stroller (I saved that one in the nick of time). And, now that Whitt is a little older, he’s right beside him for the day’s adventure.


They rarely venture into the house; Papa has everything they need to survive in his shop. In addition to the tools and lawnmower and four wheeler, there is a small refrigerator with drinks, a television to stay current on the Georgia game, and, ahem, a “bathroom” too. I’m sure part of Eric’s dream includes a large shop with similar essentials.

The allure of living close to family was, and still is, very strong. But for now, and for practical reasons, like work, it doesn’t make sense for us to leave the Charleston area. I’m okay with that too. We have beaches, and the part of me that loves old homes and buildings can’t think of a more rich setting. Most importantly, we are blessed by such a tight group of friends that we have created a little family here.

Long story short, since we couldn’t find a house in our current suburb and since moving back home didn’t make sense, we broadened our search. In the process, we found the perfect neighborhood with the exception that it is 45 minutes from most of our friends, from our sweet family away from family, and from our favorite restaurants and shops. While I still see my friends often, it’s the last-minute moments I miss out on. I’m not able to grab a quick coffee, or meet up for a glass of wine in the evening, or go for a walk after the kids are in bed.

Sometimes, being “way” up here feels like such a sacrifice. Like most things in life, though, I guess it’s more of a compromise than a sacrifice.

You see, while moving back home didn’t make sense, we were still craving the wide open spaces for our little boys to explore. And, included with our neighborhood are hundreds of wooded acres them to roam, miles of trails for them to get lost on, and ponds to canoe and fish in.

When the boys and I are having a picnic lunch in the treehouse in the ancient oak trees, I am happy.


When I bring them home, covered in mud from an afternoon of exploring, I feel like I’m doing the right thing for their little bodies and minds.


When I witness their firsts – Whitt learning to skip stones and Harrison catching a fish, for example, my mother’s heart knows this is what is good for them.


And, when we’re all piled in the Ranger for an evening trail ride, I know we are where we are supposed to be.


(It’s hard to spot him, but Whitt is in the carseat.)

Slowly, but surely, we are learning to love the new place we call home.


PS – Have you read Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder? It’s on my list. If so, please tell me what you thought of it in the comments.