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Barack Levin

Author: Barack Levin

Archive for December, 2010

How to save money for the holidays

Posted by Barack Levin on 27th December 2010

It the holiday season again and we, parents, open our wallets to our children’s loud demands and spend money on toys. I have gathered some tips to help you save some money during this holiday season and the next ones:

TV – have you ever wondered where your kids get all of these crazy ideas for gifts and toys for them? Do not over think it, you give them the opportunity to be exposed to items they will probably use for a few days and never play with again. Kids are brain washed my TV ads and by the brilliant marketing campaigns that play on their wants and emotions. Turn off your TV or make sure your kids only watch one hour a week of supervised TV. You will not believe the difference in their demands. When they are not exposed to it – they do not want it

Spread the joy – In our house, we do not give all the gifts at once during the holiday season. We spread the joy. We buy one gift per kid and the rest (from relatives) we hide away and during the year, every 3 months or so, introduce a new toy. This way the kids are not overwhelmed with so many toys in a very short time. They are actually abele to enjoy them all year round.

Expectations – we always prepare our kids (whether it is their birthday or holiday season) to modest presents. They can ask for expansible gifts but then we go with them to the toy store and show them how much it costs and equate it to something they can understand (a fancy Barbie doll costs like 2 visits to their favorite restaurant). If you play it right, they will soon understand to appreciate the value of money and not bug you with buying the latest models and fashions. They are not stupid – they understand

Used toys – this a great tip. Kids do not care if their toy is new or used. They have no idea. All that matters to them is – do I like it or not. I have already bought many used toys for my kids and many of them became their favorite items.

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My girl at the doctor

Posted by Barack Levin on 27th December 2010

Today, my little girl (5) went for her annual checkup. I already knew that she was going to get her shots today and prepared her in advance. About 2 weeks ago I already told her about it and told her that it would hurt but not much. I also told her that if it hurts a lot ad she needs to cry, go ahead and cry – no problem however, if she feels that the pain is not the severe she does not have to cry. It also helped that her brother for his 6 year old checkup got his shots and did not cry at all.

My wife took them to the doctor appointment and when my little girl came back from the doctor she was all smiles. She got 2 shots, one in each leg and said it did not hurt a bit. I was also happy not because of the fact that she did not cry but because we did lie to her, told her it might hurt and gave her the option to make her own decision.

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How to raise a clingy girl

Posted by Barack Levin on 27th December 2010

We went to a friend’s house for a Christmas lunch. Our friends have a boy who is my son’s age (6) and a girl who is 2.5 years old. We got there around 12:00 and the girl was already sitting on the sofa, doing nothing but watching cartoons, I am assuming that she has been sitting there for at least 2 hours just blurring at the TV while her brother was playing with his Lego set. After a while, lunch was ready and it was time to sit down. The girl did not walk to the table, she called her mom who in return took her on her hands and carried her to her high-chair. The first thing that of course struck me was that she carried her but the second one was the high chair. A 2.5 year old girl should not be sitting in a high chair. At most, a booster sit but defiantly not a high chair. These chairs are for babies and at 2.5 years old she simply does not belong there. But that was not the end of that. During the meal the girl did not have to move a muscle. Her mom, sitting on her right, fed her with a spoon and her dad, sitting on the left, held her cup and straw so that she does not need to make any effort drinking. The girl was served the same way kings and queens are portrayed in movies.

No wonder that during our conversation with the parents, the mom told us that her girl is very clingy and she can not understand why. I did not comment but if I was the mom I would start by giving her the freedom to eat by herself with her hands first on that high chair and shortly after graduate her to a booster sit and have her eat like a normal 2.5 year should – by herself with the rest of the family.

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A walk in the snow

Posted by Barack Levin on 27th December 2010

It snowed in Atlanta in the last 2 days. The kids do not have school today and I am babysitting them. Around 1 PM the sun was coming out and while it was still cold outside the sun does help to warm up things. I called the kids over (6 and 5), told them to put o their coats, take the dog and go for a walk in the street in the snow all by themselves. I gave them the instructions that they already know by heart: walk on the side of the road and look out for cars. Also told them to go 3 houses up the street and 3 houses down the street and sent them on their way.

From my living room window I could see heir 2 little figures going up and down the street with our dog. They stopped for a while and played in the snow and after about 15 or 20 minutes came back home all excited from the snow.

I know I can send my kids out there all alone at this age because I trust them. I know exactly how they will behave. It was their first tie alone this way and I was of course a little concerned but they demonstrated that you can put your trust in your kids and let them be independent, reliable and self confident. Kids their age should know better and should be taught the responsibility of being alone without constant adult supervision.

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Is my girl lazy?

Posted by Barack Levin on 24th December 2010

Recently I started to notice a disturbing behavior with my girl (5). When she is given a task, let’s say, complete a puzzle, she does one of 2 things. Either, she gets tired half way through and does not want to complete it or if she encounters a problem, she refuses to wrap her brain around the problem and gives up.

At first, I was not sure if I was correct, but as time went by, I realized that more times than not, she starts something but does not finish it. I decided that enough is enough and I need to take care of things.

The other night I was playing with my boy and she was working on arranging the Alphabet on a magnetic board. For whatever reason, around the letter M she showed signs of giving up or as she likes to put it: “I do not feel like it any more” But this time I was not ready to give up. I told her that I want her to finish. She of course refused, but I had a plan and told her she can not have dinner until she finishes. Usually, I am against such measures, but I did not have time and patience for anything else at that time so I used it against it. She of course, did not have any choice and continued. Within about 10 minutes she finished everything. I made a big fuss over it. I hugged and kissed her, asked her to show it to mom and even took her picture with the board. When we were done with the celebrations, I told her that this is why I and her mom want her to finish things. This way she can learn and know more. She agreed and I am hoping this problem is solved as well.

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Kids and Starbucks

Posted by Barack Levin on 14th December 2010

The kids came back home today and for once, I felt much better. Had more energy than my usual self. My son finished his homework and my girl arranged her things when I told them I have a surprise for them. My son needs to read 20 minutes a day. Usually he reads it at bed time with me or his mother but today I wanted to break the routine a little and feeling much better in month decided act on it.

I loaded up the kids to the car with his book and a book for my little girl and we drove to Starbucks. When we got there, they of course ordered their hot milk and my hot chocolate. They paid for it and waited for it to be ready to bring to the table while I was sitting down. He asked for some honey in his milk, she likes it straight.

We sat down and he read his book while I was reading a book to my girl. We stayed there for about 30 minutes or so just having fun. Nothing special but they were happy to break the routine. As for me, it was all fun as well, but I have found out that my taste has now changed. I have noticed it before but today it came out strong. The hot chocolate had a bitter after taste to it. Another sign that my kidneys are on their last run.

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The Heavy Coat

Posted by Barack Levin on 14th December 2010

If you asked yourself how cold it is for a person with almost no kidney functionality, here is an example. On a daily basis I go out wearing long underpants and jeans. On top I wear long undershirt, a sweater, a wool sweater and my heavy duty coat. On my head I wear my wool ski hat. I am adding to the arsenal, starting tomorrow, a heavy duty scarf too. But this is of course no point of reference because many people wear many layers during the winter time. So here is the comparison.

My wife wore tonight her new flannel pajama. She had to take the dog out to do his thing. It was already around 7 and it was freezing cold outside all day long so you can only imagine it was even colder when she went out. She put on her my heavy duty coat (the one I bought specially for a ski trip we had in the past) and walked the dog in the street for about 20 minutes with her slippers on. When she got back she said something like this: “this coat is great. I did not even feel the cold”. That’s the difference between a normal functioning body and kidney failure body.

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Running on Fumes

Posted by Barack Levin on 12th December 2010

I wanted to give you an example what it means to live with only 14% kidneys functionality and how much strain it takes on the body. Yesterday, for my 40th birthday, my wife bought me a surprise present – a helicopter lesson. It is only 30 minutes but a lot of fun. There is a 15 minute introduction after which you board the tiny craft and control it all by yourself (with the instructor right next to you as a safe guard of course). You have to concentrate on the instruments and fly above somewhat familiar terrain.

As I said, all in all, about 45 minutes, but that was enough to take a toll on my weak body. The headache started forming mid flight and did not leave until I went to sleep. The whole afternoon I just laid on the sofa with no energy. Could barely move. Went to bed at 8 and slept for almost 12 hours. Woke up, played with the kids and at 10AM went back to sleep for 2 more hours and I am still exhausted.

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Authoritative Figure

Posted by Barack Levin on 12th December 2010

Last night we went to our friends’ house to baby sit their kids. Usually we have no problem of having our kids’ friends at our house for a sleepover and our kids do not have a problem with sleepovers at their friends, but the kids of this couple are “special”; especially the younger one who is 3.5 years old. He is super clingy and does not leave his mom, always cries and yells to get what he wants and in summary he controls what ever happens in the house. It is for this reason that they are not comfortable brining in a baby sitter and when they had to leave for the evening for a party they asked us to bring our kids for a sleepover and also look after their kids.

We do not have a problem that and did so. The evening started with the little guy screaming his lungs out that he wants mommy. My wife held him until his parents left and he of course continued with his cries. We, my wife and I, are not used to this behavior and have dealt with it in the past where our kids were younger and so within seconds we started to take care of the problematic child. The first thing was to get him off of my wife’s hands. Second, we put him in the corner to cry and get out his frustration. We ignored him completely. The reason behind it was to show him that we do not reward this behavior. After several minutes when he noticed that his usual cries do not bring the results he waned, we could hear a shift in his cries. They were no longer angry and frustrated they were softer. That means that now he is crying to get our attention. He understands that crying out of anger will not help him but he still does not know what to do next so he cries to get attention to figure out what is going on and plans his next moves. At this stage I looked at him and said: “If you want us to help you, you have to stop crying and tell us what you need”. He continued sobbing and only said:” I want my mommy”. I replied:” I am sorry, but I can not understand what you are saying. As soon as you stop crying I can help you”. He continued to cry and we continued to ignore him. As a matter of fact, we just left the kitchen and warned him not to move from his place and not to bang on the walls. After about 5 minutes, there was no more noise from the kitchen and my wife came back. He was now complacent. He understood that his methods do not work with us and he has to follow our rules if he wants some cooperation. He asked my wife where his mom was and she told him that she stepped out and will come shortly. From that moment on he started behaving. No more cries, no more demands, no more tantrums. He played by himself and not with the other kids, asked to be cuddled with my wife and around 8:30 went to bed, again, a ritual that in that house is always accompanied with yelling and screaming. We did not let him do his usual stuff and within 10 minutes he was ready to sleep.

My point here is very simple. When you let your kids control your life they will do it happily, but if you show some authority you can gain that control back almost immediately. We managed to do so and we are not even the kid’s parents so anyone can do it.

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Watching TV

Posted by Barack Levin on 9th December 2010

I had a talk with a mom the other day and naturally conversation focused on kids. She has 2 kids one is my son’s age and the other is 4. She talked about the problems she was having with her kids. For example, her little one climbed the shelves and almost broke her neck. But mostly, we were talking about TV and watching TV. I told her that my kids watch on average 1 hour a week in the winter time and even less in the summer. When they do finally watch TV it is never live TV. Always a DVD or something we recorded for them. I do not think they are at the appropriate age to watch TV freely. She said that her girl watches live TV freely. She also said that she taught her girl to call her when there is, as she put it, “nasty” stuff on TV. From this I am guessing that the little girl is a) watching TV with no limits instead, for example, playing boared games and b) that she is exposed to inappropriate content on TV with her mom fully knowing about it.

But the most interesting thing here is not the kid’s TV watching habits but how her mom decided to control it. Apparently the mom does have some power over the kid. She taught her how to call her when there is “nasty” stuff on TV. So I have to ask myself, if the mom admits that she is not happy with her girl watching TV and has some control over her, why not take this control one step further and simply stop TV all together?. Exercise your parental right to protect your kid and not give in to all of their demands. I am just frustrated with parents who know very well what is bad for their kids and still let them to it. It simply blows my mind – you are their parents – do something about it.

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14 and counting

Posted by Barack Levin on 9th December 2010

That’s it for my kidneys. I have reached 14% kidney functionality. To my amazement, the last 2 weeks have been pretty good, in comparison of course of the last several months. Good is a comparative term, by good I mean that I do not have nausea anymore, no throwing up, no throbbing headaches and no more deep under the skin chills (even though the temperature here dropped to below 0). I am still tired but not as much but surprisingly have some energy to spare.  

But my latest blood test results leave no room for a second thought – my kidneys are about to fail. My Nephrologist started talking about dialysis and we are all hoping that the kidneys will hold on for at least 6 more weeks. By that time, my living donors will complete their evaluation and we can run through the operation. If there was ever a time in my life that I was hoping to jump on the operating table it is now. Life is simply unbearable any more. I keep my fingers crossed that my kidneys will cooperate with me, one last time, before giving up.

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My Girl’s Party

Posted by Barack Levin on 6th December 2010

Yesterday my little girl celebrated her 5th birthday. We invited 12 of her friends home to celebrate with her. I had no doubt in my mind that I will not attend the party. Walking around 12 kids in the small space of our house can mean only one thing – a death sentence to me if one of them has the flu or any other nasty virus. When they arrived I left the house. I returned back after 3 hours and after my wife aired the house, sanitized all the public places and sprayed the air with Lysol. I wanted to feel sorry for my girl, I wanted to feel sad that I missed her birthday but I could not.

I am so preoccupied with just simply staying awake, fighting with the headaches, the nausea, the chills and the mere fact that I can barely function that I got nothing else left in me. I am basically a zombie. I function on a daily bases, but that’s it. I got nothing else going on up there. It is sad but that’s what renal failure will do to your body and spirit. Hopefully next year I will be able to attend her birthday.

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Tummy Aches

Posted by Barack Levin on 2nd December 2010

2 evenings ago my son started complaining about stomach aches. I thought nothing of it but when bed time got closer both my wife and I started noticing that he is not as cheerful as always. He looked wiped, tired and sad. He had no fever and we were sure it was just a minor tummy ache that will take care of itself by the morning. The fact that we all ate the same food in the last 24 hours only indicated to us that it might not be food poisoning. To be on the safe side, my wife asked him if he wanted to sleep with her at night and he agreed.

Surprise, surprise, in the middle of the night he started vomiting. They rushed to the bathroom and made it in time before he splashed all over the floor. They went back to bed and the next day he went to school as usual. However, he did not last long. More complaints of a tummy ache and we took him back home. I stayed with him most of that day and afternoon.

The problem now was that I was fearing for my life because of him. I did not know what he had and was worried that he might infect me with that bug. So now just imagine for a minute. Your child hurts and at that very moment that you want to consult, hug and comfort him, you can not. Instead, I had to tell him to stay away from me. Heart breaking but he understands because I have already explained to him why I act the way I do because of my kidneys. At last, his mom came home and he got his comfort and love and right after that vomited again but went to sleep happy. He woke up and the tummy ache was gone.

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