On Sabbatical

Small Things-0083

Happy Easter! I hope you are having a happy one. We were late to Easter Mass (as usual) despite my best efforts. I didn’t get any great photos of the kids before they were out of their nice clothes and dressed to play outside. We had our traditional Easter scavenger hunt on Sunday afternoon, something we have been doing for years. I’ve never made Easter baskets, but the girls decided early on in Lent that they wanted them this year. They took matters into their own hands and I wasn’t involved other than on the frequent occasions when either Lark or Beatrix wanted to show me what they had pulled together so far. Each girl was responsible for her sister and one little brother. They (mostly) spent their own money buying little gifts at the dollar store. I did provide the baskets, new mini bolgas, a gift I had planned for the scavenger hunt anyway. They loved doing this so much that I suspect it will be a new tradition.

My sister, Abby, visited last week with four of her boys, so we had a rowdy Holy Week. So you don’t have to do the math, we had 12 kids in the house, 9 of them boys! It was a really wonderful few days despite the endlessly hungry tummies and piles and piles of muddy clothes.

Abby loves history and is a planner who likes to visit lots of places. Being a homebody myself, and totally daunted by the thought of taking 12 kids anywhere, I convinced her to stick close to home with the field trips. One day we ran around the grounds of nearby Chatham Manor, on another she took a handful of kids to a local museum while I stayed home with the younger kids. Mostly the kids played outdoors and got really dirty. Abby and I took walks together every day and talked about our childhood. We focused on the good parts, weary of all the bad. After all these years, the happy memories are the strongest. We had nighttime talks about how strange it is that we are both so close to forty now. Time to get our acts together, right?

On a self-care note, I have put myself on a mental sabbatical of sorts. I’m working hard on stress management (thank goodness my taxes are done.) I am hopeful because I feel like I am making progress. I am trying to re-program my brain. I want to learn how to relax, and let myself off the hook a little. I can’t clear my plate and schedule, but I can work on the way my brain reacts to the endless to-dos. All of the reading I have done in recent months on auto-immune disease has led me to believe that my tendency towards perfectionism and over-achievement, and all the go, go go, may be part of what caused me to get sick.

Part of my “sabbatical” is to read light(ish) fiction this year. Easy reading, and recently published (I have a tendency to only read older books, and am challenging myself to read new ones.) I picked up Lilac Girls at the library, though being set during WWII I’m not sure it’s going to be all that light. (edited to add: returning it today. Not a bad book, just not what I am looking for right now!) Any suggestions?

p.s. I forgot that this post is full of bunny photos! As much as we love him (yes, Larkspur made him an Easter basket) we think that Benjamin Bunny is lonely, so we will be bringing home a friend or two for him in a couple of weeks. I had him neutered about a month ago, and have been getting bunny socialization tips in preparation. Baby bunnies!!! So exciting!

(The photos of me were taken by my sister. Thanks, Abby!)


  1. Whitney H says:

    Admiring the pictures of you and your beautiful children outside in the warm sunshine and then scrolling through all these lovely book suggestions has made for a delightful break in my morning 🙂

    I am with you in the looking for “light” reads. Sometimes the television news is too gruesome, the pictures are too real, and the stories in the newspaper are too heartbreaking… I’m been working on reading books, actual books (not e-readers, or snippets on my phone), this year as a way to unwind and take my mind to a more peaceful place.

    I read Anne of Green Gables and the Railway Children recently. Both, although children’s books, were soothing to my soul.

    I would also agree with the recommendations for “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith. I read it when I was pregnant with my third and found it to be a comforting piece of historical fiction. It follows the life of young Francie Nolan in Williamsburg, NYC at the turn-of-the-century. I loved the emphasis on education and and finding beauty and joy in the every day.

    I would also recommend Willa Cather’s “Shadows on the Rock.” Set in Quebec in 1697, it is the story of 12 year old Cecile and her father, a pharmacist, and their day-to-day life in “The New World.” No one dies, no violence, no one starves to death… it’s just a nice, comforting read about a peaceful, more gentle time. It made me want to light a fire in our fireplace and curl up with some tea and finish the book. It’s also a manageable length, which is an issue when you have little ones underfoot (well… little ones and bunnies too:)

    Take care!

    • I LOVED Shadows on the Rock for the exact reasons you described. Willa Cather is my very favorite author. I’ve read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, but not Joy in the Morning, also by Betty Smith. I just ordered a copy after someone else suggested it. Have you read that one? It sounds good!

      • Whitney H says:

        I haven’t read Joy in the Morning, but now that I see all these comments suggesting it, I’m putting it on hold at the library right now 🙂

  2. Greetings! I would suggest that you go to the Coffee, Tea, Books and Me website for a list of lovely books to read. The list consists largely of older books…that if you’ve not read, you will find each a treasure.
    Included on the list are the books of Elizabeth Goudge, D.E. Stevenson, Delderfield, and so very many more.

    I do love your blog…lovely family…lovely knitting and sewing..all thing that I, as a Grandma love.
    Wishing you well…Deborah (teacher, catechist, wife of Catholic Priest)

  3. I will echo the delightfulness of Awakening of Miss Prim. Also I truely enjoyed Peace like a River (coming of age tale similiar to Tree grows in Brooklyn). My bookclub just finished Lilac Girls. Although I learned alot, women in concentration camps and the horrors they endure may not be a book best read when you are looking for a light-hearted read. I’m currently pregnant with #6 and found the story took its toll on me emotionally. It is an excellent book, I just wished I would have waited to read it. After one to many bookclub pyschological thrillers, I am rereading some Austen. I picked up Persuasion as my first comfort read. I love her style, her wit, and most of all, I know how I will react to her writing. Like a bowl of chicken soup and warm hug from a friend, revisit some of your favorites. And let us know what you pick as your comfort reads… Self care is important, and you are worthy of it.

  4. Antonia Cammarota says:

    I wish I knew new fiction to recommend – so often I find too much modern morality inserted, but I really want to read some new titles! I will check out some recommended here today.

    But if you don’t mind going back in time, I will echo the L.M. Montgomery suggestion – very soothing – Anne’s House of Dreams is one of my all time favorite books and other non-Anne books by Montgomery are delightful. Some other ideas not mentioned above: Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freeman and books by D.E. Stevenson – all light escapes.

    • The modern morality is my issue too. Already planning to return the new book I started this week… I never read beyond Anne of Green Gables. Maybe it’s time!

    • If you like Anne of Green Gables, also try Montgomery’s lesser known series Emily of New Moon.

  5. Nicole Rhoden says:

    I don’t have any book recommendations unless it’s a knitting book or the Bible. Ha! But I do have experience introducing a “new” rabbit with an “old” one. It was recommended to me by the people at the shelter where we adopted our rabbits. You see, you place a cardboard box (large enough for the two of them) in your car and place the rabbits inside and close the lid. You then proceed to take them on a slightly scary car ride! I am not even making this up!! I made tight turns, hit my brakes a little too hard and swerved all over the place. I bet my neighbors thought I was crazy! The rabbits get frightened and use each other for comfort. It worked like a charm. I hope it works for you. Not sure about doing it with babies. We always adopted adults. Use at your own risk ;). Anyway, your pictures always give me so much peace and calm. Thank you!

  6. I am a Michael D. O’Brien fan. I love his books. ” The Father’s Tale” and “The Fool of New York City” are great novels. I could not put them down.

  7. Oh goodness, yes, I struggle with self care as well big time. I feel like I’m just getting by & could crash & burn at any moment since my fourth baby arrived (over a year ago!). I’ve been trying to breath deeply more as that is literally all I can manage at the moment. I think the span in ages of my kids (age 1 up to 15) is what really throws me around–so very many different needs & only one me. Thank you for this reminder that it’s important & imperative we care for mama, too. Happy Belated Easter, Ginny! The photos your sister took of you are beautiful!

  8. Jennifer says:

    Not new, but James Herriot’s books are so great, and they’re easy to pick up, read a chapter, and put down again. Plus, all the animal stories seem like they’d be up your alley.

    I’ll second “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society”. Loved this one.

    When I want light, I still head to junior and teen fiction (with the excuse that I’m pre-reading for my kids). Try “The Hired Girl” or “A Snicker of Magic”- this one was incredible.

  9. Ginny, I can relate to your post. I have 4 children 11 to 3 with baby #5 due in September. They are all home for Spring Break this week, and we stick close to home. I am naturally a “home body,” and I find going out with children a lot of work. The best book I have read this year is “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.” It takes place in the early 1900s and it is based on the life of Betty Smith. It follows a young girl Frances through her life. Their family is poor, and her mother teaches her from a young age the importance of reading and getting an education. It is a book filled with hope, and a girl’s love for her family.

  10. I second the recommendation of I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. It is wonderful! You might also enjoy A Countess Below Stairs or A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson. I think they are technically young-adult fiction, but they’re beautifully written and quite engaging.

  11. I have a suggestion for a book for you and your older kids. I Will Always Write Back by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda. It is eye opening.

  12. Hi Ginny,
    It’s admirable for you to recognize the need to relax – I can imagine how daunting it is. My family has recently befriended a homeless young man. One of things that amazes me about him, is how he can pitch his tent, and lay down and sleep peacefully – his ability to let it all go and rest is a survival tactic for him, even though his worries are when will I eat next? And will I be woken up by the cops? As my husband says, he’s like a deer who can run from danger and then lay down and chew its cud. Anyway – I want to learn to be like that in some ways.
    I have struggled off and on teaching myself, and making myself relax. I enjoyed the book “A Pace of Grace” by Linda Kavelin Popov – it might help you also.
    Blessings to you!

  13. Can I recommend children’s literature for healing? The simplicity always helps me focus on what I know to be true. Still my favorite? The Wheel on the School. Meindert DeJong. The Wind in the Willows- Kenneth Graham Lewis’ Space Trilogy…. so much more. And 40 is lovely. Look at all of the years you have earned!!! This was my 40 th year, and God is still changing me, and honing my desires.

  14. Beautiful photos. I’m glad you had such a good time with your sister and all the kids! 🙂

    As for (recent) book recommendations, I recommend The Dust that Falls from Dreams (Louis de Bernieres), All the Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr), and Year of Wonders (Geraldine Brooks). Although they are all set during serious events (WWI, WWII, the Plague) they are still pretty light reading. Light, but GOOD, not flimsy.

    PS. I’m excited to hear Benjamin Bunny is getting a friend!

    • Oh, I agree on All the Light We Cannot See. It’s hard to find a WWII novel that isn’t graphic/heavy/etc. ATLWCS is just beautifully written, and such a good story.

  15. Louise Pfanner says:

    The novels, and historical non-fiction of Nancy Mitford, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, by Dominic Smith. Also Cold Comfort Farm, by Stella Gibbons, and Eucalyptus by Murray Bail. And I reread Tintin books when I’m stressed – works a treat!

  16. Melinda C says:

    I second the Louise Penney mysteries. Also A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles was an excellent, gentle read. Most of the characters are so likable, I wish I lived in a Moscow hotel under house arrest! Several of my friends have now read it also and we will get together soon for dinner and discussion.

    Good on you for taking care of yourself! Happy spring!

  17. I really enjoyed ‘The Bookshop on the Corner’ by Jenny Colgan. Completely delightful if a bit predictable. I love books about books, bookstores, bookshops…you get the idea. I just started another book “The Storied Life of A J Fikry’ by Gabrielle Zevin that has kept me immersed. (It’s also about a bookstore.)

    • I also love any books about bookstores!! and I had forgotten about The Storied Life….. Great Book!!!

      • I obviously did not read all the comments first! I posted mine then ended up reading yours and had a good chuckle.

  18. I just thought of a few more titles… Not too many are lighthearted, but I think you’d enjoy them, based on reading your blog. How about Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain? Or, A Little Way of Homeschooling by Suzie Andres? I recently re-read My Antonia by Willa Cather- there was something so soothing about it. I also just finished – and really enjoyed – The Professor’s House (a lesser-known Willa Cather novel). Kristin Lavransdatter, as others suggested – or anything by Sigrid Undset, perhaps Ida Elisabeth? How about A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken? Or A Noble Treason: The Story of Sophie Scholl and the White Rose Revolt by Richard Hanser… A modern Catholic author you can’t go wrong with: Michael D. O’Brien. His most recent novel is The Fool of New York City. Island of the World is fabulous, too. The Father’s Tale, Father Elijah, are a couple favorite titles of his. I often notice that when I read one of Michael O’Brien’s novels, it seems as though the main character is going through some interior trials that mirror my own. Okay, I’ve got a long list here, and lots of genres. A couple children’s read-alouds that have some lovely spiritual insights: The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald, and The Princess and Curdie by the same author. Okay, I guess I’d better stop now. Well, just one more – The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur by the same name. She had the most profound interior life. Her story is incredible. God bless!

  19. Louise Penny mystery series with Inspector Gamache are amazing….other favorites…Mr. Penumbra’s 24 hour Bookstore, The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan is a great story….Little Beach Street Bakery by Colgan also.

  20. My book recommendation for light non-fiction, in case you get a craving:

    Banvard’s Folly: Thirteen Tales of People Who Didn’t Change the World, by Paul Collins

  21. Fr. James Martin wrote a lighthearted yet meaningful novel: “The Abbey”.

  22. Was not a big fan of Awakening of Miss Prim (extremely didactic, to the detriment of the story, I thought, though I agreed with all her philosophies), though it is certainly a light read.
    If you haven’t read Peace Like a River by Leif Enger, it is a gem. But you probably already have. 🙂

    • I just finished Peace like a River! It was delightful. It is now on my all time favorite list. Great suggestion!

  23. Ginny,
    I’d like to add another recommendation for The Awakening of Miss Prim! (The author is Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera.) A delightful read! (It seemed to me, too, to be affirming of home education, and of living a slower pace of life, which was enjoyable to see.) I, too am a mother of 8, and have been learning to let go of perfectionism, trying to trust God more, and trying to give myself grace. I found that I had low milk supply with my last 2 babies, and suspect it may have been adrenal fatigue, or something similar, from trying to expect too much of myself. I’m so thankful now to be able to delegate some things to my teens. I don’t know how I’d manage without them!
    I enjoy the ‘window’ into your life that your blog provides. I see so much beauty in the life that you and your family lead.
    God bless!

  24. Dobry by Monica Shannon and Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer, both a bit older but absolutely delightful reads! I’d never heard of either, but came across them at a library sale. I thought they looked intriguing and recently pulled them off my shelf for some light reading. Both new favorites!

  25. Definitely, The Awakening of Miss Prim, Goodnight June, Edenbrooke, Blackmore, and The Penderwicks are my top suggestions. Enjoy your ” break” 😊

  26. I think you would very much enjoy “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society”. It is written as a series of letters between the characters​. It is charming and heartwarming!

  27. Just in case you have not read them yet, the entire Anne of Green Gables books, all 8 of them, are delightful reading. I still pull one of them out to reread several times a year.

  28. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

  29. Maybe not exactly light but really fascinating and wonderful writing — To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey. So so good!

  30. The books by Jan Caron are great readings. I read mostly Nordic crime books and they’re not the kind you’re looking for.
    Bill Bryson is great. I saw someone recommended him to you. He’s great, funny. Don’t we all need some humor in life?

  31. Tina, NYC says:

    Ginny, I am so relieved the sabbatical wasn’t from us and your blog.

    First, you are so beautiful! That photo of you and the baby took my breathe away. And you don’t look a day over 30!

    Can I Echo, reading your blog, seeing your photos and keeping up with your clan is truly a bright spot in my week.

    I too am trying to keep more current with my reading. 8 came across this on line book club from a Catholic mom blog, name escapes me. I thought this may be a useful site for you to find some new books.

    Take care of yourself Ginny, I will keep you and yours in my prayers. You are really a special person.

  32. My sister-in-law loved Lilac Girls and highly recommended it! Mental rest–so huge. I’m sure you are encouraging many of your readers, myself included, to rest as well, to let go of perfectionism and constant work, and to slow and savor life as part of our self-care. I miss your yarn alongs so much, but am grateful you still share your family with us here. And the bunnies + Mable are painfully cute. 🙂 Praying now for you, that this spring and summer will be restorative!

  33. The Awakening of Miss Prim.

  34. Sarah Drabant says:

    I like Debbie Macomber for light reading. Or I go for Sherlock Holmes…short stories. Or juvy lit. I recently read Book Scavenger and Sign of the Beaver.

  35. I’m still working my way through your happy/light fiction list request from a few years’ ago. There are several good authors and titles on that list. I”m on goodreads as well, so if I highly rate a book and categorize, they often have similar suggestions that I’ve never heard of which are good options.

  36. Oh Ginny, I hear you about anxiety and perfectionism. I am the same way, and it really gets in my way, both at work and at home. When I get sick, my anxiety skyrockets and I don’t always get better as quickly as I can. I also just started reading fiction again, and it’s a lovely way to distract my ever-busy brain.

    Such sweet bunny pictures! I am a huge bunny fan and have read that they do a lot better with a friend or two. While Benjamin Bunny is probably smothered with love every day, I’m sure a furry buddy will be a welcome surprise for him. 🙂

  37. Cindy in NC says:

    Having just spent time with nine boys you might find Bill Bryson’s “Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid” especially relatable and funny (because it’s always hysterical when other people’s kids are getting filthy while making mischief).

  38. I’m so glad you didn’t announce a sabbatical from your blog. It is such a bright spot in my day when I sit down in the early morning to write the day’s home-school lists for my two children. I enjoy your pictures, your book recommendations (and the other readers’ recommendations), and your knitting. I follow just about three blogs and find it strangely creepy to watch a stranger’s children grow, but your insight into life issues and humor give me something to look forward to. Thanks for your unselfish sharing.

  39. Yep:

    “All of the reading I have done in recent months on auto-immune disease has led me to believe that my tendency towards perfectionism and over-achievement, and all the go, go go, may be part of what caused me to get sick.”

    I am sure that part of the reason I got mono in my first year of marriage was because I would not rest when I needed to.

    Healing fiction – go to Elizabeth Goudge. I would do her Rosemary Tree – and also – linnets and Valarians – light and beautiful.

    Rest dear Ginny! As much as possible in the midst of your life as you have it! I agree that part of rest is merely our outlook on our life, as you allude to. God bless!!!

  40. Two of my favorite warm funny books are We Took to the Woods (can’t remember the author) and Gerald Durrell’s books, particularly “My Family and Other Animals”. I think you’ll sympathize with his ever-growing menagerie!

  41. Happy Easter Ginny! I highly recommend Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier, a fascinating book! Kate Morton’s most recent Lake House is a good escape. I ‘m sure you must have read the Persian Pickles by Sandra Dallas, but in case you haven’t it’s light and oh so good! I do hope you are feeling better and that this “sabbatical ” works for you.

  42. Hi Ginny! I love your sabbatical! Light reading – have you guys read all of The Borrowers? The Great Brain books? All of a Kind Family? The shoe books? For you as well as the kids.
    I’m sure you’ve read The Shell Seekers and Winter Solstice – I could read them a million times.

    • I second the Rosamunde Pilcher books (Shell Seekers, Winter Solstice, Coming Home…). I think of them as comfort books. I also love Louise Penny mysteries and the Anne of Green Gables series. You might like the Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs. I love Jean Little, a Canadian children’s author, my favourites – Mine for Keeps, Look through my Window, Dancing in the Snow and Stand in the Wind.
      Your pictures look so springlike! The grass is just starting to turn green and just starting to see the buds on the trees here in Ottawa, Canada.

  43. Gwendolyn says:

    Enjoyed your photo’s. You always look great! I purchased 3 different colors of play silks for the grandkids that live with me. I was planning on getting them Easter Baskets to use with the play silks, but ran out of time. Suddenly it was Easter morning, and I hadn’t bought any candy or baskets…so I printed off some Easter coloring pages, rolled them up and tied them with pretty yarn. Then I took your play silks and tied them in basket shapes with the coloring pages. It was a hit. So I’ve been showing them different ways to tie the play silks. We’ve done Indian Princess, apron, belt, head scarf, cape, neck kerchief, halter top… the kids were even coming up with their own ideas. I hope you dye them again. I think Grandma needs some scarves!

  44. I really love the books by Amor Towles. He’s fairly new to the writing scene but his works are superb. Start with Rules of Civility and, if you enjoy his writing, try A Gentleman in Moscow. A certain element of seriousness to both novels, but not too heavy. If you’ve read All the Light We Cannot See (which definitely is a must-read), you might enjoy the author’s memoir of his time spent in Rome working on the book, called Four Seasons in Rome. He lived there with his wife and infant twin boys for a year, so much is a reflection on the adventures of raising babes in a foreign land. All with a great touch of humor.

    Praying you find some relief from your anxiety!

  45. As a mother of six kiddo’s, five who were boys, who had/has an autoimmune disease I can certainly understand how you feel. It is hard to reprogram your brain but it can be done. The hardest for me was acceptance of how the disease changed my life. It has been a work in progress for years. My children are all grown up and I still struggle on days. I had a huge set back both physically and mentally due to the death of a son I was particularly close to at 28. Beware that life does happen and we are not immune to its tragedies.
    As for books one I would highly recommend is “Prayimg Our Goodbyes”, it is written by a Catholic nun who’s name escapes me. Excellent as you are transitioning. For light fiction would recommend any of Kristin Hannah’s books, particularly her newer ones, Daisy Goodwin, Susan Ella MacNeal, or Rhys Bowen.

  46. I really enjoy reading all of your adventures. Be kind with yourself and do what you need to take care of you. As for books Home Fires is good, Barnheart ot the stephanie plum series by Janet Evanovich.

  47. It’s so lovely to visit with sisters. Sounds like a lovely time. Happy Easter!!
    I love reading, but I don’t read much fiction now because I get immersed in the book to the exclusion of everything else. Which makes for hungry and whiny kids.
    The new translation of Kristin Lavransdatter is just excellent. It’s not new or particularly light, but it’s just such a beautiful and wise book that I recommend it to everyone. I don’t know much for new books (I don’t have access to a library (sob) so stick to the tried and true), but some of my favourite light books are James Herriot, Three Men in a Boat, The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be, Ann of GG. Confession: if I want something light I’ve been known to read YA.

  48. Books! Light fiction! Yay! Any of the Anne of Green Gables series by L. M. Montgomery, although Rilla of Ingleside is set during WWI and is a bit sad, but it is beautiful. Sewing Seeds in Danny by Nellie McClung. Penny Plain by O. Douglas.

  49. I love seeing these pictures of your kids and family. Just wonderful to see while sitting in front of a computer. Looks like you all had a lovely Easter. The pictures of you are lovely. I know you have crazy life and days but in these pics you look relaxed and refreshed. I can definitely tell your new eating plan is working. You have color in your face. I am also working to unschedule our lives – at least for the summer. Luckily we have the opportunity to potentially not do some things this summer.

    Have you read “A Dog’s Purpose”? This is a great book. Not to deep and a fun read.

  50. Did you read any books written by Tracy Chevalier? I love them all. But I always advise people that like creative arts and crafts to start with ‘the last runaway’, ‘Remarkable creatures’ or ‘The lady and the unicorn’. Or the Outlander-series by Daina Gabaldon 🙂

I love to hear from you!