15 Fabulous CHRISTmas Story Books!

There’s something amazingly wonderful about the Advent season. The anticipation leading up to Christmas is so exciting and I love how my daughter is old enough to start getting into the “Christmas spirit!”

To help her realize what this season is all about, we don’t do Elf on the Shelf or visits to Santa. We talk about Jesus—his birth, the angels visiting the shepherds, the journey to Bethlehem, the promise of God fulfilled on that peaceful night in the town of David.


I’ve shared before about our Advent calendar with its passages and ornaments for her little Christmas tree. This time I’ve compiled a list of our favorite CHRISTmas picture books—ones that keep the focus on Jesus, the true reason for the season. Reading to your child every day is so important for their development and incorporating CHRISTmas themed picture and board books into the mix is so much fun. We’ve even wrapped a few new ones up for Laura to open on the Wednesdays leading up to Christmas!

So take a peek. Add some to your Christmas list. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

20131202_131230 The Story of Christmas by Patricia A. Pingry, illustrated by Rebecca Thornburgh

This board book is so simple that it’s perfect for introducing Advent and Jesus’ birth to toddlers and infants. The pictures keep the littles’ attention and it’s just a short 22 pages so it’s just long enough to tell the story—short and sweet.

20131202_131317 Bright Star, Bright Star by Cassandre Maxwell

This picture book is wonderfully repetitive which is awesome for literacy development in young children. I especially like how this story begins with the Wise Men being far away and stays more true to the belief that they arrived much later than the actual day of Jesus’ birth. It’s easy for littles to follow along and be able to eventually say it with you. This is by far one of the most adaptable for a little children’s Christmas program at your church or school, too!

20131202_131303  This is the Stable by Cynthia Cotton, illustrated by Delana Bettoli

Of all of the Christmas picture books we have, this is by far my favorite. The pictures are stunning, filling the pages with beautiful colors and details. The mesmerizing display of the angels singing to the shepherds in the fields is one that sticks with me each year. It really takes you away to that stable, far, far away.

20131202_131134  The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones, illustrated by Jago

This children’s bible is truly like no other that I’ve read. It seamlessly weaves the story of God’s plan of salvation in Jesus throughout each and every story. I’ve never recommended a book as often and with such great reactions upon purchasing as this book. If you buy the deluxe edition it comes with the entire book on cd read in such a captivating way. It’s truly one of a kind. I cannot adequately describe how much I LOVE this children’s bible!

Below I’ve posted titles and amazon links for as many of our CHRIStmas themed children’s books as I could find. I hope you’ll add some to your collection this Advent season as we all get ready to celebrate the birth of our Savior!

Christ the Savior is Born by Tim Wesemann 

What Star is This? by Joseph Slate

An Angel Came to Nazareth by Anthony Knott

No Room at the Inn: The Nativity Story by Jean M. Malone

The First Night by B.G.Hennessy

On This Special Night by Claire Freedman and Simon Mendez

Who Is Coming to Our House? by Joseph Slate & Ashley Wolfe

Christmas in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown

Away in a Manger-Thomas Kinkade Studios

A Charlie Brown Christmas by Charles M. Schulz

The Very First Christmas by Paul L. Maier

***If you have a favorite CHRISTmas children’s book, please let me know! I’d love to check out more books! Post it in the comments below!***


3 Years and Counting…

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes on not on what is seen but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

May 3rd. Here we go again. 3 years on the 3rd. The first anniversary of my dad’s entering heaven was almost a breath of fresh air, like I could finally start moving forward after a year of hellish sadness. The second anniversary was bearable, sad but far better than anything in year one. Now, the third anniversary is here and I’m just plain sad. 

This year is the first with my daughter-and he’s not here. I know with unwavering faith that my dad is walking with our Savior Jesus in heaven. There is not a shred of doubt in my mind that he is not suffering anymore. I am still amazed at God’s mercy and goodness is taking my father home to heaven when He did. Because of Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection I can confidently say that my dad is rejoicing at his Savior’s side. 

Yet I am still sad. I’m sad that Laura will never know her Papi. He’s not here to hold her hands. He’s not here to laugh with her. He’s not here to adore her. He’s not here to love her. He’s not here to watch her grow in God’s grace & goodness. He’s not here to see me be a mommy.

Deep breath, Katie. He’s not here. Sometimes it is still so hard incredibly hard to believe. He was always there for me. Gosh, I miss him.

Now more than ever I need to refocus. I have to turn to the cross otherwise sadness wins in the next few days especially. Here is my new mantra:

So we fix our eyes on not on what is see but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

What is eternal is that Jesus lives. What is eternal is that He has washed away our sins. What is eternal is that my dad is no longer suffering. What is eternal is that Laura will know Jesus & her Papi in heaven someday. What is eternal is that Jesus never leaves nor forsakes us. What is eternal is that no matter how sad I rightfully feel, my joy will be infinitely greater when I meet Jesus. What is eternal is God’s grace & goodness. 

How Did They Let That Happen???

“How did they let that happen?” I am so embarrassed to admit this now but I have thought or said these words about parents too many times to count. I might possibly have been one of the most judgmental parents before I had one of my own…especially before today.

Today, the unthinkable happened. My sweet Laura-love flipped herself off the changing table landing smack on the back on her body, heading smacking back on the floor. Even writing what happened now makes me want to vomit. I was standing right next to her…less than a foot away from her…how did I let that happen? I was turned sideways but what still right there…how did I let that happen?

Her reaction makes me feel even sicker. She held her breath for a moment or lost her breath, I’m not sure. Then she let out a blood curdling scream as I picked her up and tried to comfort her. She cried so hard…harder than she has ever cried…how did I let that happen? Her eyes wobbling and glazed over…how did I let that happen?

We took her to the ER. We were those parents…the frazzled, sobbing (on my part), complete train wrecks terrified that our precious gift from God was somehow irreversibly damaged…how did I let that happen? Being our spunky lil’ LL, she was laughing and playing by now as well as eating, charming the pants off anyone who walked by. We were fast tracked to the see the doctor, though…how did I let that happen?

She’s all checked out and seemingly no physical damage or otherwise done to my sweet girl. Thank God for His incredible protection. Still…how did I let that happen? She needs to be watched for the next 24 hours to be sure everything is just fine but as of right now, she’s our same little girl as always. 

The damage to my nerves & dare I speak for the hubs, his, too, are less than fine, far less than the same. How did I let that happen? I keep going over it, second by second, and can’t figure out why, this one freaking time, I didn’t strap her down. EVERY SINGLE TIME since she’s started squirming & rolling & crawling, I have strapped her down…except this one time. How did I let that happen? What was I thinking? What was I so preoccupied with that I missed that one small step that I harp on everyone else about? How did I become the seemingly careless parent whose baby got hurt? Was I rushing? For what? What the hell happened?

I don’t think that anytime in the near future that I won’t become physically ill when I think about what happened or even worse, what could have happened to my sweet baby love. But I have to trust that God forgives me, Laura forgives me, my husband forgives, and hopefully I forgive myself. God sent His amazing angels to cushion her little head and body. How indescribably merciful He is. His mercies are new every morning. He will command His angels concerning us to guard us in all our ways…I have to trust and stop wondering why…and stop ever judging another parent for what was an accident. 

Dear Father in heaven, thank you beyond words for never ceasing to take care of our sweet Laura in spite of us. Forgive me of my daily failures as a parent. Forgive me for today. Ease my mind and give me peace & trust that You are in control and there are no better hands for us to be in. Heal Laura & restore her fully to the precious blessing, healthy & happy, that she has always been. Give me strength to resist the temptation to blame & beat myself up for what happened. Help me to stop questioning this accident but rather leave it at the foot of the cross. Help me to never, ever, judge another parent for the simple mistakes that can happen so easily. Give us rest and comfort knowing you never slumber nor sleep and always have a watchful eye and loving hand over us. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Ugh Days

It’s been one of those days. I’m sure you know the type. A blah day. An ugh day. A day for which you wish you could call “do over.” Well, that is if you’re at all like me. I am a die hard “I can do it myself” person. My attitude gets so skewed that I even kind of resent people who offer help as if they’re saying I can’t do something on my own. Well today was one of those days. Trying to control everything around me…all day long. And what do I have to show for it? Nothing but disappointment & exhaustion. 

I try telling myself that if I didn’t care so much or love so much, I wouldn’t try to make everything right and good. But sometimes, when it boils down to it, there’s no reason other than a loss of focus. Satan’s pretty sneaky & quick to find the diversion away from Christ that I fall for every time. You’d think by now I’d be on guard enough to see it coming…maybe not stop it but at least see that wicked train coming. Nope. Fail. Every. Time.

Well at least there is a big fat goodness moment waiting for me. My crap day that I’ve created for myself can be turned around and only by the grace of God. His Son, Jesus, took my self-centered, know-it-all attitude and nailed it to the cross so I wouldn’t need to be in control. Jesus gives me the gift of being able to say that I can stop, breathe, relax, and give it up to Him. What better place to lay all my worries, disappointments, & frustrations? Not one that I can think of. 

So since I took a big dump on my day, I am going to smack my forehead and have a duh moment. I am going to stop & realize that today is done & be thankful for that. I am going to praise God that He knows what’s best and I don’t have to have all the answers. I’m going to trust fully in the promise that He gives us in Jeremiah 29:

11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

A List (Oh Hubsy Wubsy, I’m sure you’re delighted!)

I don’t like lists…at all. Well I should specify. I loathe to-do lists with an unholy passion. But today I was playing with my little LL and being my ever-so-reflective-self I was thinking about how much she has changed in a short nine months. So here’s a non-to-do list!

Ten Things That Rock About My Nine Month Old:

  1. LL genuinely thinks I’m funny. She giggles & cracks up at the absolute silliest & dumbest things I do. If I could get paid for her giggles, I’d be a millionaire…I’m that good. 😉
  2. LL thinks bouncing and jumping is one of God’s greatest gifts. She loves her Johnny Jump & would bounce it in for hours if I let her. 
  3. LL actually reaches for me now. She wholeheartedly loves her scraggly, sleep-deprived, stinky & sweaty (hello, I live in Florida) mommy so much that even when I’m totally gross, she reaches for me. Sigh…one of God’s gifts to me.
  4. LL mimics what she hears now. She is the definition of a chatterbox. I have no idea where she gets that from 😉 She even repeated “Go, go, go!” in the car the other day! I better watch my road rage. 
  5. LL is a singer & music lover. She joined in the Hallelujah Chorus on Easter Sunday & frequently sits up while I’m rocking her at bedtime and “sings” along. It’s HILARIOUS. I do wonder though when she reaches up & shuts my mouth while I’m singing…..hmmmmm…..
  6. LL gives kisses now. Granted we usually get slobbered on with her mouth gaping open but still…a baby kiss is a baby kiss!
  7. LL is definitely starting to develop some real personality. Scratch that…she’s found more ways to show the personality that has always been there. Since day one, this kiddo has been doing things on her own. She held her head up in the hospital the day she was born for goodness’ sake! Now she only wants to eat from her bottle if I let her try and hold it first.
  8. LL loves to eat veggies, lots of veggies. The fact that I have a baby old enough to be eating real food is mind boggling but I love that she is already I better eater than I ever was.
  9. LL lights up when her daddy comes in. She truly adores that goofball. Since he started working from home she looks out her bedroom door for him as soon as I get her up from her naps. *Melting my heart*
  10. LL hugs & snuggles more than ever. She has never been the lay on mommy’s chest type of girl (see point #7..yeah that strong-willed, determined personality one…;) Now at night time I get legitimate snuggles. She lays her head on my shoulder & presses her cheek to mine & even goes forehead to forehead with me like she’s got some big secret to share.

Goodness I am totally in love with a nine month old & not a bit ashamed of it! 😉 

Grief then Happiness and Eventually Clarity

“Grief. The pain now is part of the happiness then. That’s the deal.”–C.S. Lewis

I know a bit about grief. I know a lot about happiness. In my mere 30 years I’ve experienced quite a bit…much more than most people will ever know. I’ve been so sad that I literally couldn’t pick myself up off of the floor. I’ve been immobilized with fear. I’ve been in the depths. I’m an emotional person. I always have been just didn’t always think it was okay to show it. I’ve watched as my dad’s heart monitor count down from 22 to 8 to 0. I’ve shook and been unable to speak when postpartum depression grasped so tightly on my mind and heart that my ever so strong husband was afraid to leave me alone. I’ve been through some things…some big things…some major grief causing things. 

There were so many times when my sinful mind would doubt that God knew what I was going through. When I would ask how He could let these things happen. I have actually cried aloud much as I picture King David did when writing some of the Psalms. I’ve been there. In total agony and unsure that God cared enough about me to bring me out of the depths.

But just as surely as I was in the depths, He lifted me up. He renewed me. He took me from being unable to see & think clearly and gave me clarity & strength. He healed my heart and mind. I still can’t describe how He did it. I am amazed every day that I can actually be wholeheartedly happy. I am sure He used certain people in my life, certain medical interventions, certain therapists, and especially certain family members. But there is still that part of me that knows there was more on my side than I will ever be able to comprehend. I kind of love that. I love that He is so much greater and in so much more control than I can imagine.

I believe that God brought me through those things so strongly so that I can give Him glory and help others struggling with what I have been through. I’ve talked with many friends who have had parents die young. I’ve been able to cry with them & comfort them because I’ve been there and now I’m past there

I have somewhat taken up “a cause” though I despise that cliche. When I was struggling to breastfeed my sweet LL, I felt alone and like a failure. Everything you hear from pediatricians & read online about infant feeding alludes to formula feeding as second rate. I won’t waste time rehashing the truly mortifying & horrendous things people said and shared while I was struggling. There’s no use here….I’m healed. I’m out of the depths. But my cause is this: I believe that by sharing stories and information about the benefits & amazing blessing that formula can be, I am helping others who are secretly tormented & suffering because of the often self-imposed guilt that can come from the need or choice to formula feed. I know firsthand what the “breast is best” mantra can do to a wavering faith and struggling soul. I’ve made it my self-appointed mission to try to reach & comfort any woman who might be in the same place I was 8 months ago. I can do this confidently because I’ve been brought out of the depths. I’ve been made whole again by God’s sheer grace & mercy. I can’t imagine a more UNChristian thing to do than sit idly by while someone I know is struggling with these same feelings. 

Some may say that I need to get over it…I am–others are not. Some may say I am still hurting…I am not–others still are. Some may be annoyed… eh, I’m sure there are many things I do on a daily basis that are annoying. Some may say I need to get my priorities straight & leave this behind me (yup, I’ve heard that one straight away). I can’t. Not in good conscience. Not while others are still grieving. Yes, grieving. Brings it back to the beginning. For me, not being able to breastfeed my daughter turned in PPD which caused grief. I grieved the loss of being able to do something that is supposed to be natural & biological. I grieved the loss of a supposed unspeakably close relationship with my child (yeah, that one’s a myth, too.). I grieved the loss of control over the most basic of mothering skills…feeding a child.

Grief gives way to happiness. I can say that for certain because I have lived it. In my life I have seen how the greater the grief, the greater the happiness when the grief is lifted. So after a long & hard half of a year, I can say I’ve had my vision. I know what I can do to help. I see a purpose for what I’ve been through…to praise God for His strength & mercy, forgiveness & grace…and to help others. I get the amazing privilege of being an advocate, a shoulder to cry on, and a source of strength for the struggling. My hope & prayer is that people close to me can understand why I’m doing what I’m doing. My hope & prayer is that they see past me and see how God has rejuvenated and restored me. My hope & prayer is that I can always see the goodness & blessings that come from struggles & trials.

“‘Yes,’ she thought, laying down her brush in extreme fatigue, ‘I have had my vision.'”–Virginia Woolf–To the Lighthouse

“Stay the course, daughter. And show yourself some kindness along the way.”–Loving Frank

Things change…a lot!

If you would have asked me two years ago what my life would look like as a mommy, I’d tell you that I would be a working mom and completely confident in that fact. I’d tell you that I’d be a breastfeeding mom. I’d tell you that I would be managing all of it beautifully. 

Well, things change.

After Laura was born I couldn’t breastfeed. I tried…to the point of losing my mind, literally. A month after Laura was born I was diagnosed with severe Postpartum Depression. We even had to fly my mom, Grandma Debbers, back down because I could not get out of bed, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t stop the irrational anxiety-ridden thoughts. Never in my life had I felt so helpless and crazy. I’ve had issues I’ve dealt with in counseling but never to the point where I needed medication. This was an entirely different ballgame…things change. Going back to work was a necessity for me, not for financial reasons, but for my mental health. Some may never understand that but I firmly believe it had to happen. I needed to have something familiar and tangible that engaged the part of my brain that was solid, my academic side. I’m so eternally grateful for my part time job as a preschool teacher. It was one of the things that brought me out of the depths and I believe God put that job there for that reason.

Fast forward eight months. I am weaning off my meds and feel phenomenal. Back to my grounded, confident, non-anxiety-ridden self! Things change. I have told my wonderful preschool that I won’t be returning next school year. The very thought that used to make me sweat, unable to move or speak, has now become the only thing I want to do…stay at home with my sweet Laura-love. I, Katie Visaggio, will be a stay at home mom starting in June. Things change. I cannot wait for days at home playing, going on walks and to the park, battling my stubborn Mini-Me LL on the daily things I am sure we will “disagree” on, and cooking dinners, yes, even cooking dinners! THINGS CHANGE! 😉 

I have changed. I become the gentler, softer person I’ve always prayed to be. (Ok, I still have my snarky, quick-mouthed, stubborn side but at least it’s taken a back seat! Baby steps, people, baby steps!) My goals have shifted. Yes I still want to teach elementary school and finish my Masters degree but the priority is being there for my daughter, spending time with her, and watching her grow in God’s grace.

I can grow and change and shift without fear or caution as I have this year because of my never-changing, ever-constant God & Savior. He carried me. He put my amazing support system in place. He gave me the earthly tools possible to climb out of the depths and become the stronger, gentler, more confident Katie I am today. He never leaves or forsakes. He plans and directs things for my prosperity to His glory. I want to be a good stay at home mom out of thanks for the fact that He saved me eternally & blessed me with this incredible responsibility of motherhood. 

Things change. Jesus remains. Goodness…all goodness.