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Friday, October 31, 2008


I should have posted this before, but I knew the deadline was creeping up...www.winkflash.com is running a deal on photo books. You can make a 100 page photo book for $19.95. That's an amazing deal!!! The deadline was supposed to be today (thus me up before dawn working on it) but they extended the deadline until Monday! There's still time! This is an inexpensive and thoughtful Christmas gift for grandparents. It took me a long time to download my pictures to the site, but no time at all to put the book together. So if you're interested in doing this, start downloading your pictures as you do your life, and when they're all done, you can put together your book. I've looked around, and this deal seems unbeatable to me. Also, the site is running a deal on 6 cent prints. Also an amazing deal!
So if you're trying to get a jump on Christmas gifts, and you're doing inexpensive, handmade, and thoughtful gifts, get on it! I plan to be completely finished by December.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Happy Adoption Day Treston!

One year ago today, we dressed up, nervous, excited.
We were going to court. Finally! We had fostered Treston for more than 10 months, completely in the dark on what would happen at the end of this story. But we knew what God had done in our hearts...he made him ours. As determined as I was going into this fostering thing to see things realistically, I did not. That lasted about half of a second. When I lay eyes on Treston and held him for the first time, he became my own sweet boy. This was a dangerous but inevitable feeling. We sought the Lord. We trusted Him. We waited, willing months to pass and for our case to be seen. On October 29th, that day arrived. A judge would finalize what God had done in our hearts long before that day. Treston would be a Bacak forever. His name was changed to Treston Jeremiah, because just as God set Jeremiah apart from birth, so had He with Treston.
Adoption. I wish I could total up, hit enter, and print a receipt of all the things God has taught us so far through this ride. But we're still learning. It's tangible, and it's ongoing. It's hard and it's good. It's stretching and rewarding.
Most of all, we have learned that God is faithful. He's so faithful, and we're supposed to shout his faithfulness to all who will listen.
I'm shouting! HE IS FAITHFUL!
If you haven't walked along this road with us, here is the link to what I wrote about the day Treston was placed with us.
We're doing fun things today. We're celebrating what God has done in giving us Treston through the miracle of adoption, and ultimately, how He's adopted us all when we didn't deserve it. If we fail to recognize that every time we think of adoption, we're missing it.
Happy 1st adoption day T-Bear! We love you!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

My FAVORITE pumpkin bread recipe!

Pumpkin bread...I'm a fan. I've tried several recipes, but this one that I got off of the Food Network website has been my favorite, by far! My family is eating it for breakfast right now, and I had to share. Also, my friend Shannan wanted this recipe, because she is such a good wife, she hates pumpkin with a passion, but will make this for her husband. Way to be, Shannan. This recipe makes a lot, so you can share with friends. I often make mini-loaves for friends or family at Thanksgiving and add an "I'm thankful for you" tag, and Bible verse to it.

Awesome Pumpkin Bread

3 c sugar
1 c vegetable oil
4 eggs
16 oz. pumpkin
3 1/2 c flour
2 t salt
1 t baking powder
1 t nutmeg
1 t allspice
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t cloves
2/3 c water

(Spray 2 loaf pans, or 6 mini-loaf pans- great for sharing with friends.)
Stir together sugar and oil.
Then stir in eggs, one a time while mixing, and add pumpkin.
In a separate mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture in increments, alternating with the water.
It's hard for me to tell how long this will take in your oven, because my oven is sick. It runs very slowly, and everything takes forever. It took about an hour for my regular loaf pans to bake, but the mini-loaf pans will obviously take much less time. Just test it by inserting a clean knife in the center and when it's done, it will come out clean. (This is for our new bakers, just a little FYI.)
You're going to love this bread!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

I had a brilliant idea...

Justus could totally be Obama for Halloween!
Can you see it? Put some slacks and a long-sleeve polo shirt, sleeves rolled-up, on the kid...it would be perfect!
However, this would have to compete with his ideas of what to be for Halloween.
His top ideas right now are: 1) Jaba the Hut 2) a monkey 3) a penguin
I'm going to work on it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Christmas...thinking it through

I know, it's a little early to talk about Christmas.
But it's not. Christmas time sneaks up on us, and suddenly, it's December, and there's a trillion things to do, host, shop for, wrap, bake, and oh, by the way, worship the God of the universe.
That doesn't seem to work for me.
So for the past few years, we've been really thinking through the CHRISTmas season, and trying to make it more and more of what it should be.
Every family has different ideas on how to do this.
But one that I have to throw out there: spend less. SPEND LESS!
My brother, Chris, started a beautiful campaign called Advent Conspiracy with Living Water (an organization we love that drills wells all over the world bringing clean drinking water and life to whole villages of people, and sharing the Gospel of Jesus, bringing real life at the same time! Read more about it on their website.) My brothers have been heavily involved with Living Water, and they are on to something.
This short video will get you thinking about how we do Christmas here in America.
So Rusty and I are committing to spending less, and giving more to further the Kingdom of Christ. We are going to be making hand-made, thoughtful gifts to our friends and family, keeping it simple with our kids, and giving money in it's place to Living Water. Last year, I made meals for my parents and put them in their freezer as their Christmas gift. They both work full-time, so they appreciated that. I've made fleece tie blankets for family members, and they loved it! There are so many things we can do that cost less, and mean more.
We have already started talking about it with our kids in preparation for this season. In fact, my kids loved this video. It inspired them.
Making homemade gifts will take time and planning on my part. Would it be easier to run around like a crazy woman the day after Thanksgiving and buy a bunch of junk instead? Probably. But if I start now and plan carefully, my kids and I will enjoy this much more, and it will mean more on our end. Will people feel jipped by us on Christmas day? I don't know. But it only costs $1000.00 in some parts of the world to bring an entire village clean water and give them life, so I'm thinking they won't be feeling jipped. Most of us spend much more than a thousand dollars on Christmas gifts yearly.
Most importantly, we have to break free from the greed that grabs hold of us and put all our love and worship on the King. Ephesians 4 says that a greedy person is really an idolator, loving the things of this world. You know how God felt about idol worship? Read the Old Testament! It's generally frowned upon! And no matter how we dress it up, the way we spend and expect material things in the name of Jesus' birthday is greed in it's purest form.
There's nothing wrong with gifts. There's nothing wrong with giving as an expression of love. But there is something heinous about the way we go into debt at Christmas time just to keep up with the expectation of excessive gift giving.
So let's re-focus...check out this video, and look into Advent Conspiracy. This is something your whole church can commit to, and make an eternal difference.
Also, something I'm doing, is thinking ahead to the things that stress me out in December, and trying to pre-emptively accomplish those things early.
For example, a mass mail-out of Christmas cards. That gets me every time. So I've already ordered my early holiday photo cards and will send them out in advance. (BTW, Winflash.com has a great deal running right now!)
My hope is that this season is less about stress...less about stuff...and more about worship, rest, and reflection. I want more than anything to honor Christ in that way.
If you have any other ideas on how you and your family do this, let me know! I want to hear them! (OH, and my sister-in-law, Liz, who is brilliant with gifts, has some great ideas on her blog and recommends Martha Stewart's new holiday magazine for awesome creative ideas.)

Monday, October 20, 2008

FFFD 2008

Fall Family Fun Day...a Bacak family tradition. (And you know how I love traditions!)
It was actually a Fall Family Fun Weekend, because it's hard to squeeze this much fun into one day with four kiddos. When we started this business, we had only two. We've doubled the fun...and the mess.
There's no better photo op with your kids than a pumpkin patch. It's the superior photo op. I love the color!
Every Bacak kid gets to choose their own pumpkin. We had to resort to the HEB pumpkin patch, because the others are just so expensive! Kyle McVay would grow her own pumpkins. She probably does. We probably could have gone to the McVays.
This year we painted pumpkins. I loved this! Creativity without the risk of someone dying, and NO pumpkin guts! I hate pumpkin guts!
Caramel apples...it's so good, and it's only once a year! We've fine tuned this sticky mess. We cut up the apples and dip them and roll them. It's awesome.
Here is a slideshow of our best fall pics.
This is what I want my kids to look back on fondly when they leave this home. We love the holidays, and our own self-proclaimed holiday, FFFD, kicks it all off!
Below this, I'll post the recipe of Pumpkin Pie Crunch. You DON'T want to miss this one! It has two sticks of butter. Seriously!

Click to play FFFD 2008
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Pumpkin Pie Crunch
1 can pumpkin
1 can evaporated milk 12 oz.
3 eggs
1 1/2 c sugar
4 t pumpkin pie spice
1/2 t salt
yellow cake mix (butter recipe)
1 c chopped pecan bits
1 c butter, melted (that's 2 sticks!)
Cool Whip (if you can find the vanilla Cool Whip, you're in luck!!!)

Grease a 9X13 pan. Then combine ingredients pumpkin, milk, eggs, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Mix until smooth. Pour into pan.
Pour cake mix evenly on top of it.
Sprinkle pecans on top.
Drizzle melted butter on top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50-55 min. Let cool and serve with lots of Cool Whip.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

"Dirt Cake"

I put that in parenthesis, because it's not actually made of dirt.
But so good! I made it last night for our potluck church gathering, and yum!
And so fun-looking for the kids.
Here you go...

8 oz. softened cream cheese
1/4 margarine, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 small pckg. instant vanilla pudding
1 small pckg. instant chocolate pudding
3 1/2 cups milk
12 oz. Cool Whip
20 oz. bag of Oreos or, if you're like me, "Twisters" HEB brand
1 pckg. of Gummi Worms

Mix cream cheese, margarine, and powdered sugar together. In another bowl, mix together the puddings and milk and let is set for five minutes until thick. (It needs to have that pudding consistency.) Combine, adding the Cool Whip in.
In a food processor, twist apart your Oreos, and pulse in your processor or blender until fine, looking like dirt.
Then, in whatever container you wish (like a flower pot lined with wax paper, a glass bowl, whatever) layer your Oreos, then pudding mixture, a few times, starting and ending with "dirt".
Sneak a few gummi worms into your layers, and also arrange a few on top.
You can also serve this in individual clear cups.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Justus and Kathleen: Open Adoption

See a resemblance here? Me too.
That's because this is Justus' birthmom, Kathleen. Isn't she gorgeous?
I realize I'm WAY behind in blogging about a birthday that happenned six weeks ago, but I really want to share with y'all about Kathleen.
Justus turned four, and this was our third time to invite Kathleen in for his birthday celebration. Kathleen moved far away after she placed Justus with us, so we don't have the advantage of proximity in our relationship, but we do have the advantage of openness.
Open Adoption. I know these are two words that strike fear into many people's hearts who are considering adoption.
Because of that, I want to share where we are coming from on this.
New Life, our agency, does semi-open adoptions. This mean you are chosen by the birthmom, you meet her, you visit and write letters and send pictures, all under the supervision of the agency. In other words, they are the go-between in all those things. You don't exchange last names or addresses or e-mail addresses usually. The agency handles your communication, but requires that you communicate. They encourage the building of a relationship that is beneficial to both the birthmom and your child. Why is this beneficial? So many reasons.

For the Birthmom
I think there is a lot of misunderstanding concerning a birthmom and her motives for placing her baby. My Mom has been doing this for about 20 years, and I will be making generalizations based on New Life's experience with birthmoms and what I've seen over the majority of my life as she's done this. Not every birthmom is the same, of course, thus the word "generalization."
Birthmoms want what's best for their baby. They carried this baby to term for a reason. They love their babies, and as heart-wrenching as it is for so many of them, that have come to the realization that they can't parent in a way their baby deserves to be parented. Some of them grew up without fathers or in homes that were less than ideal. They don't want that for their own babies. They want them to have Moms, loving Dads, siblings, a dog, a house, and all the things they can dream up for their child. (Every birthmoms dream is different, of course, but I think they definitely have dreams for their kids, like you and I do.) For various reasons specific to them, they are overwhelmed with their own lives and problems, and in such great humility that so many of us lack, have to admit they can't give those things. They are heart broken over this decision. But they put their baby's needs above their own...something I know I should do as a believer but still fear I would put my own feelings first...and they make the most difficult decision they'll ever make, and choose to make an adoption plan for their child.
This is not something they take lightly. There is much grief, tears, and doubt that surrounds this decision. They have very real fears. They fear that they'll never see or hear from their child again. They fear that their child will think they don't love them. They fear that they'll feel abandoned by them. They fear the adoptive parents will divorce or worse. They fear their child will be sick and they won't know about it. They have a deep need to know that their child will be okay.
Communication is so important here! New Life requires a good deal of communication by letters and pictures in the first year, and this is such a relief to them! They get reports on their health and well-being. They get to see how their growing and changing! This means the world to them, and every picture and letter is a treasure.

For the adopted child
In trying to keep this brief, let me just say, we wholeheartedly believe a child knowing his birthparents, feeling totally secure is their love for him, certain of the reasoning for his placement so that he doesn't feel abandoned or unloved, is in his ABSOLUTE best interest! Instead of seeing birthparents as a risk, we choose to see them as a loving part of our extended family! They made this very wise choice! They gave us the greatest gift of all time! Who are we to say "thanks for the baby! Now...go away!" Where is the Christ-like attitude in that? Every family and agency has to decide what are the wise boundaries in this relationship in order to keep it healthy, (and this will of course vary from situation to situation!) but in the end, a relationship is ideal! When a child who's been adopted has questions about the circumstances of his birth, his birth family history, where he gets his color eyes and hair, we know where to go! What comfort there is in that! Adoptive parents need to get over the feelings of insecurity and fear and think about what is best for the child. I alone am his mother. If you call Kathleen Justus' Mom, I will always correct you. I'm his Mom. But she is his birthmom, and that is something I'll never be. She is important and special in his life, as Lynda is to Treston as well.

How open are we?
With Justus' birthmom, we've gone all the way open. I love it! It didn't happen overnight. We built a relationship that has taken time and trust. Slowly, with the blessing and supervision of New Life, we've crept more and more toward open until we busted it wide open with this last visit in August. She came to OUR house, stayed here in our home, and spent the weekend loving on Justus. She's amazing! I don't want to include a lot of details about her life, but she has overcome so much, and we are so proud of her. She's very different from us. In fact, she was Muslim when she placed Justus with us, and we have spent the past four years praying for her salvation and talking to her about Jesus. She is closer than ever to believing in the Truth! She knows we love her. She knows Justus loves her and knows her. They have a special bond that blesses us! We love seeing them together. We know that only good will come from their open relationship and his feeling loved by her.

We have learned SO, SO, SO MUCH from this process. We tell people starting out on this journey, this is the most refining, sanctifying process you'll ever go through. You will know yourself and be stripped of junk you didn't know you were wearing by the end. Praise God! I wish I had time to list all of the good things we have learned through this, but my children need to eat breakfast.
But praise the Lord, He can take away all fear, all prejudice, all selfishness, all wrong thinking, and replace it with HIM through this.
We firmly believe that open adoption is a ministry to children and birthmoms equally. We have seen it serve more purposes than we actually dreamed of. God filled the holes in our family with beautiful children we didn't deserve, and he's taught us about loving people we never would have known or had a clue about before. We're not the same as we were before this. Were we scared? Were we selfish? Were we uncomfortable with being totally out of control? YES, YES, YES!!!! But those were all things that God was more than big enough to handle.
If you have questions about adoption, feel free to shoot them at us. We're not experts. We have only our own experiences, and I have a little benefit of growing up in the shadow of New Life and my Mom's life work, but in the end, I understand that there are different perspectives on this and we respect that. However, we feel compelled to always share what God has done through this for us, and for our children and birthmoms alike.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Is the moon blood-red, Mom?

Does that sound like the title to a cool new children's book? Maybe not.
My daughter, who is eight-years-old, is anxiously awaiting the return of our Lord Jesus.
She's waiting in expectation that it could happen at any time.
We read this passage together recently.

Acts 2:17-21
17'In the last days, God said,
I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
and your old men will dream dreams.
18 In those days I will pour out my Spirit
upon all my servants, men and women alike,
and they will prophesy.
19 And I will cause wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below —
blood and fire and clouds of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned into darkness,
and the moon will turn bloodred,
before that great and glorious day of the Lord arrives.
21 And anyone who calls on the name of the Lord
will be saved.'

Last night, as I was tucking her in, she jumped out of bed, and went to her window, knocking things over, trying to catch a glimpse of the moon. I thought she was trying to see the phase of the moon, because I'm such a FANTASTIC teacher, she would be studying on her own the things we've learned...but I was totally wrong.
I asked her why she needed to see the moon?
She said "I try to look at it every night, so I will know if it's red and Jesus is coming back. I WANT TO BE READY."
I love this girl. I love the way she loves the Lord.
I love the way the Holy Spirit uses her to convict me.
She has done this before, when a storm was coming, she thought maybe Jesus was coming back. She watches the sky for the slightest sign, fully expecting to see Jesus burst through the clouds.
We can all chuckle, and say "how cute."
But the truth is, He is coming back. And we'll all be surprised...except for Emma.
She'll say "I told you so!"
She's living in expectation of his return.
I have to admit, I am not.
I mean, I know He IS coming back, and I'm longing for that day! I'm beginning to hurt for it. I want to be home with our Father, and hear the music in heaven (cause the band is gonna rock!) and dance around the throne!
But in my everyday life, I don't think about it much. I think about all the junk I have going on down here. I am caught up in the here and now, when Colossians tells me to set my sights on things above!
My daughter is living with an eternal perspective.
I need to. I need to see everything in my life through the lens of eternity. I need to stop acting like I have all the time in the world to talk to all the people in my life about Christ that I am unsure about their salvation.
I need to not let the little things in life swallow up all my emotions and energy, as if today is all I'm living for.
I need to care the most about all the things God cares about the most.
I need to start watching the sky and checking the moon with my Emma, and living in expectation that our time here is short. A change in our perspective is bound to result in a change of our hearts and actions.
We don't know when He's coming back. But we ought to live like we're ready. My eight-year-old taught me that.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Jax sings "He's My Rock"...

I forgot I had this on the computer until I saw Ashton singing on Heather's blog today. Wow, that was hysterical!
There's just nothing like these songs. I know the days are passing quickly so I need to capture them all on tape. Jax is my most passionate singer. I LOVE sitting next to him during family worship. I've got to tape some of those songs next.
Here you go...in his pirate shirt and all.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

I Heart October

Fall...it's finally here. I feel like summer is insufferable and lasts forever. I have to practice putting on thankfulness in the summer because I could complain non-stop about the heat, if not.
But Fall...or Fell, as Rusty calls it, because instead of the beautiful changing and falling of the leaves some parts of the U.S. have, we just wake up one morning, and the leaves fell. (Rusty lived in Connecticut once upon a time, so he's actually experienced real Fall. Like in Stars Hollow. I'm going there someday.)
But despite us having "Fell", instead of Fall, the dawn of October still makes me happy.
The cool mornings and evenings bring me great joy! Thank you Jesus for cool air and not sweating!
Pumpkins! Bright orange and yellows and golds! Putting up my Pre-K October banner on the calendar board was exciting.
My kids have been asking if it's Halloween yet, about every 30 minutes since October 1st. That might get old.
In October, we have the famous FALL FAMILY FUN DAY!!!
On FFFD, we go to buy our pumpkins, and it's a full-fledged photo shoot. What's cuter than kids in a pumpkin patch? Each child gets to pick their own pumpkin to carve or decorate. I like to pick the albino deformed looking squashes. No one seems to appreciate them but me.
Then we come home, do the pumpkin thing...which I think I've made an executive decision not to carve them this year. I know, that sounds crazy, but after you carve them, they look so fun! And then two days later, they are a sunken in pile of mold and pumpkin guts that leaves a permanent mark on your front porch and scares away children. This is not festive! It's a real October downer! So I think we will all paint ours this year, removing the risk of fatal knife wounds from the FFFD, and our pumpkins can live forever! Yay!
Then, to conclude FFFD, we make caramel apples, which is something we look forward to all year. If you know me, you know I don't mess around with food. If we're going to make caramel apples, we're going to do it right. I don't buy those nasty sheets of caramel in a box and drape them over an apple and call it yummy. No. We make dipping caramel, and then roll the apples in it and heath topping, nuts, whatever we like. It's so good! I have been perfecting this enormously sticky event over the last few years, and I think I have it down now. We do it in the backyard.
Treston's Adoption Day is on October 29th. This will always be a very special day in our lives! A year ago this month was a scary and roller coaster time for our family. There was a time we didn't know if this adoption would happen, and I was seriously considering picking up in the middle of the night, packing us all up in a mini-van and re-locating to Mexico under new names. These things seem logical when you think about one of your children being taken from you. In fact, it's the most logical thing in the world.
In God's goodness, we didn't have to become the Hernandez family in Monterrey. We were able to make Treston a Bacak last October, and it was amazing to see God's gracious hand on our little boy's life. We'll celebrate it every year!
Also, this October, I think we are planning to have a Pumpkin Painting Party for the kids and parents on our block. We are wanting to know our neighbors better to be missionaries where we live. I don't think we've done a good job of this so far. But I was thinking an event like this might be a good start. I want to build more relationships with my neighbors, and painting pumpkins is where I'm choosing to start. I'll let you know how it goes.
Finally, what I like about October, is all the food you can put pumpkin in.
Pumpkin bread, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin biscuits, and pumpkin Pie Crunch dessert. Oh my goodness, you don't want to miss that this October! I will be posting some of those Fall recipes soon.
Happy October people! Enjoy Fell this month!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

A word from Emma about TV...

I found this written on a piece of paper on my desk. I never know why or how these things get started. Emma is always in the middle of writing the great American fiction novel, or some enormous project. So I couldn't say what prompted this one, but I love it. (It would be way better if you could see her writing.)

"Parents: do you want your child to stop watching tv? Tell your child to use there amagenation. imagination. its cool. Get on the couch and turn it on. its tv in your mind."

Just a public service announcement about children and TV from Emma Bacak.

My contribution is more of a confession. I did something so indulgent last week. I turned on the TV during nap time. I never do that. Day time TV is just a distant memory from my past. General Hospital between classes in college, talk shows, Dr. Phil, all apart of another time, another life. TV no longer exists during the day in our home. If a major national tragedy strikes, please call me. I don't know about it. When the economy crashes, my husband has to tell me. I know nothing until I get to the gym and see it flash on seven screens. Talk about overload. But I watched this last week...

The Bonnie Hunt Show. I just like her. She is so witty! I've liked her for years, and when I saw she had her own show, I had to support. Even for one day during nap time, when my kids came in and said "What are you doing?" stunned, I said, watching Bonnie Hunt. And her show was so clean, there was absolutely no issue with having the kids in the room.
Don't worry, this won't become a habit. But if you are watching something between classes in college, or you DVR things during the day, I thought I'd throw it out there. It's a throwback to the Rosie O'Donnell show, which brings back vivid memories of me on bedrest with Jax, with monitors hooked up to my belly. Jax might actually recognize Rosie's voice. I liked her too, but I'm afraid I could be publicly flogged for that. I'll stop now.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Emma's 8th birthday party

Here are the pics from our fun party at Carousel Acres. She invited all girls (except for cousins and brothers, of course...they don't count as boys) because she's 8 now! I think it was special for her to share with her friends what she loves so much and is good at. You got to admit, this girl is precious on a horse! I even got to ride that day. Big change for me, and it was a blast! I can see why she loves it so much. (My rear didn't love it for at least 4 days.)
Enjoy the slideshow.
Click to play Emma's birthday party
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