### Spinning food

Image caption: Little Pea is a handy tool for getting your kids to eat their veggies.

Parenting is tough. The moment you figure something out, the logarithmic evolutionary timescale of your kids' development surpasses any gains you've made over a similar timescale. Pardon my technical writing just then, I'm writing three papers and two proposals right now. Basically what I'm saying is that a 1-year difference between, say, ages 3 and 4 is enormous in terms of a kid's development in comparison to the meager gains that I, as a parent, make over that same period. After all, when you're 34, one year feels pretty short, and let's face it we parents aren't learning at the rate we used to! The moment you finally learn a new parenting trick, your kid is an entirely different person.

I remember how this effect was especially acute when the boys were babies. A baby basically has only four things that can go wrong. They need: a new diaper, food, burping, sleep. But I can vividly recall the frustration of systematically working through this list (Diaper dirty? Nope. Want baba? Nope...etc), and by the time you reach the end of the short list, it's 10 minutes later and a new need/problem has emerged.

Anyway, I'm writing all of this as an intro to a list of useful tactics for getting my kids to eat. I'm writing this list because I think it's kinda funny, and because other parents might find it useful.

Drinking orange juice with pulp

Owen: "Mom, can I have some orange juice?"
Mom: "Sure."
Owen: "Does it have pulp in it?"
Mom: "Um, just a little, not a lot."
Owen: "Ew! I don't want it."
Dad: "WHAT? Don't you realize that pulp has tons of vitamin C? Vitamin C is like weapons and ammo for your immune system. When you drink pulp, it's like delivering machine guns and bazookas to the front line. Your white blood cells are all, 'Hooray! Reinforcements!' They grab the machine guns from the vitamin C and they start blasting away at cold viruses. One squad of white blood cells is like, 'Help! I'm pinned down by the flu.' And the Bravo Squad rushes in with a vitamin C bazooka and its all 'Fwoosh, KABOOM!' No more flu virus!"
Owen: "Marcus, let's drink lots of pulp so our white blood cells can have bazookas!"

Eating vegetables (Owen)

Owen (picking at his thai curry): "Ew, what are these?"
Dad: "Oh! Those! Those are Super-Happy Peppers."
Owen: "What do they do?"
Dad: "Well...it doesn't really matter. You might not be old enough to handle the explanation."
Owen: "Yes I am! I'm 7!"
Dad: "Oh yeah, I forgot! Okay, Super-Happy Peppers are bright colors like red, green and yellow. These colors are caused by happiness. When you eat them, the happiness gets into your blood and carried up to your face where they stimulate your smile muscles. Watch." (I then eat a bell peper, wait a few seconds and then start smiling goofily.) "See there! I can't stop smiling!"
Owen: "Oooh! I want to try that! Look, I'm smiling! I like Super-Happy Peppers!"

Eating vegetables (Marcus)

Marcus (picking at his jumbalaya): "Ew, what's this?"
Dad: "That's a green pea. It's all, 'HA HA! Little boys don't eat us, so we're safe!'"
Marcus (smiling devilishly while eating the pea)
Dad with high-pitched voice: "OH NO! He's eating us! Please don't eat us!"
Marcus (smiling even more while eating more defenseless peas)
Dad: "OH NO! We misjudged this little boy!"

Eating vegetables 2 (Owen)

Owen (holding up a carrot): "What vitamins does this have?"
Dad: "That? That has a lot of vitamin A, which helps you see further. Watch. Right now I can't read that box over there." (eats carrot) "Okay, whoa! Now I can read it. It says 'rice.' Wow, I can see so much better now!"

Owen (eats carrot): "I can see better now, too! Mom, look. I can read that sign way over there!"

Full disclosure: I'm not sure what vitamins carrots have. D? C? But it totally doesn't matter as long as he eats his damn vegetables. Fortunately, he usually buys my silly explanations and he eats his veggies. Yes, I do occasionally worry about his performance in his future biology and health classes...

Marshall said…
Carrots have beta carotene, of course.

Don't tell Owen and Marcus, but between you and me, "carrots make you see better" is actually just an urban legend. In fact, the idea that massive consumption of carrots can give you super good night vision was a cover story first circulated about 70 years ago, to explain why RAF fighter pilots were suddenly so good at shooting down Nazi raiders at night. "Why, our pilots just suddenly have superb night vision from eating all their veggies! We haven't at all just invented radar, oh no, nothing like that." I have no idea whether the Germans bought this explanation...

See Snopes for the scoop. Though there is a little bit of actual science underlying this that people had indeed been doing research on beta carotene improving night vision, the effect turns out to not be large enough to be useful. At least, not nearly as useful as inventing radar!
JohnJohn said…
Marshall: That's awesome! Thanks for the info. I'll hold this in reserve for when Owen and Marcus call BS on their dad.
mama mia said…
These tactics work now...and will for a brief while...but in parenting, a sense of humor and playful manner are always going to serve you well...I love, love, love watching you and Erin parent. I smile proudly every time I read about or witness family life in your household :)

### On the Height of J.J. Barea

Dallas Mavericks point guard J.J. Barea standing between two very tall people (from: Picassa user photoasisphoto).

Congrats to the Dallas Mavericks, who beat the Miami Heat tonight in game six to win the NBA championship.

Okay, with that out of the way, just how tall is the busy-footed Maverick point guard J.J. Barea? He's listed as 6-foot on NBA.com, but no one, not even the sports casters, believes that he can possibly be that tall. He looks like a super-fast Hobbit out there. But could that just be relative scaling, with him standing next to a bunch of extremely tall people? People on Yahoo! Answers think so---I know because I've been Google searching "J.J. Barea Height" for the past 15 minutes.

So I decided to find a photo and settle the issue once and for all.

I then used the basketball as my metric. Wikipedia states that an NBA basketball is 29.5 inches in circumfe…

### Finding Blissful Clarity by Tuning Out

It's been a minute since I've posted here. My last post was back in April, so it has actually been something like 193,000 minutes, but I like how the kids say "it's been a minute," so I'll stick with that.
As I've said before, I use this space to work out the truths in my life. Writing is a valuable way of taking the non-linear jumble of thoughts in my head and linearizing them by putting them down on the page. In short, writing helps me figure things out. However, logical thinking is not the only way of knowing the world. Another way is to recognize, listen to, and trust one's emotions. Yes, emotions are important for figuring things out.
Back in April, when I last posted here, my emotions were largely characterized by fear, sadness, anger, frustration, confusion and despair. I say largely, because this is what I was feeling on large scales; the world outside of my immediate influence. On smaller scales, where my wife, children and friends reside, I…

### The Force is strong with this one...

Last night we were reviewing multiplication tables with Owen. The family fired off doublets of numbers and Owen confidently multiplied away. In the middle of the review Owen stopped and said, "I noticed something. 2 times 2 is 4. If you subtract 1 it's 3. That's equal to taking 2 and adding 1, and then taking 2 and subtracting 1, and multiplying. So 1 times 3 is 2 times 2 minus 1."

I have to admit, that I didn't quite get it at first. I asked him to repeat with another number and he did with six: "6 times 6 is 36. 36 minus 1 is 35. That's the same as 6-1 times 6+1, which is 35."

Ummmmm....wait. Huh? Lemme see...oh. OH! WOW! Owen figured out

x^2 - 1 = (x - 1) (x +1)

So $6 \times 8 = 7 \times 7 - 1 = (7-1) (7+1) = 48$. That's actually pretty handy!

You can see it in the image above. Look at the elements perpendicular to the diagonal. There's 48 bracketing 49, 35 bracketing 36, etc... After a bit more thought we…