Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

As of last night, 11 p.m. local time/8 p.m. Cali time, the winner of last night’s GOP primary in New Hampshire was Mitt Romney (38%), followed by Ron Paul (23%) and Jon Huntsman (17%). I expect a lot of dropouts in the next few days. Here are the polls and details at our brother site Daily Kos.

Speaking of politics, when will we catch up to Jamaica? Portia Simpson Miller, Jamaica’s first female prime minister, was just sworn in for her second term. Check out her bad-ass response to homophobia on the island.

In related news, I teared up reading this personal account by a legislator and son of a gay man who has endorsed a gay marriage bill in Washington state.

MSN Health ran a fascinating study on how people who live 110 years or longer have as many disease-associated genes as people in the general population, but they may also have protective genes that help them live longer.

Liz Cerezo over at the Thoughts of a Mommy blog wrote a thoughtful and honest account about parenting a teenage boy.

The Boston Globe ran a wonderful essay about raising teenagers with autism.

BlogHer published another provocative piece, this one proposed an expiration date on marriage to prevent snarling the courts with divorce cases. She suggested having a mechanism where married couples can choose to renew their marital vows — er contract — online. What do you think?

Mother Jones magazine included a round-up of tidbits from a biography about the Obamas. I couldn’t put it down!

Finally, here is a little humor on this lovely hump day courtesy of the Huffington Post. Like this author and illustrator, I hardly drank any caffeinated or alcoholic drinks prior to becoming a mother. Now? There are days I just can’t get by without them! :)

Thanks for the tip, Hilary!

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Late-Night Liberty: The Sleep Edition

While I was away in Argentina, my friend — who is a mom to a six-year-old boy — and I were astounded at each other’s sleep patterns.

I was in awe at how she easily slept 10 hours without waking once. She even snored to the point I had to wear ear plugs at night! She could not believe how little I slept and insisted I nap. I couldn’t do that either.

But it made me, once again, take inventory of what I was doing “wrong.” Why can’t I sleep more than, like, 4 hours without waking? In Argentina there were three things disrupting my zzz’s — caffeine, which is why I never drink coffee at home, jet lag and an unfamiliar bed. For some reason, I have a hard time sleeping in any other bed but my own. When we bought our current bed three years ago, I tossed and turned until I got used to it. Does anyone else have this problem?

Conveniently, I spotted an article in Bay Area Parent — it is a free magazine in the street and I could not find the article online — with Dos and Don’ts to get much-needed rest. Some of the tips I already knew like keep a regular sleep schedule, make sure the room is dark, quiet and cool and have a relaxing ritual like a bath. Here is what I didn’t know:

2. Expose yourself to bright light. Thirty minutes of bright light within five minutes of waking up, either outdoors or in a well-lit area of your home, triggers an area in the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, the “circadian pacemaker” of the brain that sets the sleep-wake cycle. You should also avoid bright light two to three hours before bed.

3. Follow the 20-minute rule. If you can’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something that will make you drowsy. “Bed should be a place for sleep, not for tossing and turning,” Kushida says.

As for the Don’ts, almost all of them I eliminated by trial and error. The melatonin didn’t work for me so now I do not take any sleep medication. I try to avoid alcohol, caffeine, exercise, the computer and TV before bedtime. Also, I don’t nap because as I suspected it keeps me up at night.

The magazine pointed out that sleeping with restless sleepers — like young children — can also deprive you of sleep. That has definitely been my experience, which is why I try to keep the kids in their beds unless they show up in the middle of the night. Ari hasn’t done so in a while, but Eli falls asleep with me and then Markos moves her to the crib.

As you can see, I have done everything to sleep through the night. Maybe I am just wired to run on less sleep than most people? What say you? What other tricks do you have to catch more zzz’s?


Late-Night Liberty: Beauty Myth Edition

Recently during that “time of month,” I went shopping. I went to the mall and bought myself — “cellulite serum.”

Keep in mind, I have lost 15 pounds since the New Year, am only 5 pounds from my pre-pregnancy weight and have very little cellulite to begin with. But you know how it goes that time of month with the bloating and feelings of inadequacy.

So at the Body Shop I was convinced to buy the serum ($32), which purports to have caffeine — a cellulite-fighting agent, according to numerous magazine articles I have read — and this “massager,” which looks like a torture device. (See picture on right.)

As I suspected, I have been massaging this lotion into my belly and butt like a tool. According to Wikipedia, a host of cellulite-fighting “drugs” like caffeine have not been reported in scientific literature as having a “significant effect” on cellulite.

While harmless, the dimpled appearance is a cause of concern for some people. The cosmetics industry claims to offer many of what it calls remedies. There are no supplements that have been approved as effective for reducing cellulite.

Syneron, the first cosmetic laser manufacturer to receive FDA clearance for treating cellulite, combine mechanical, light, heat, and radio frequency energy, also known as ELOS, to the skin and claim success after a few applications of their product.[citation needed]

Radio frequency in the cosmetic industry is used to heat the skin in a non-invasive cosmetic procedure to heat the fat tissue underneath the skin. That procedure regenerates the collagen in the area and makes the skin look younger and more vital.[citation needed]

Other cosmetic procedures such as Mesotherapy have produced inconclusive results. While each has been FDA approved to reduce the appearance of cellulite temporarily, effectiveness varies by procedure. All methods require continual follow-up to maintain reduced levels of cellulite.

Not even liposuction is a remedy for cellulite, according Wikipedia. But a balanced diet and exercise can reduce the fat content within the distorted cells, reducing contribution to dimpling. There you go.

Have you tried any of these cellulite-fighting products? Did they work? What other beauty myths have you encountered?

We had a similar discussion on stretch marks, by the way. I am proud to say I escaped a second time unscathed!


Caffeine May Cause Miscarriage

In case you missed it, this story was playing all over the news yesterday.

There is a new study — and I know how much you all love studies 😉 — that caffeine may increase a woman’s chances of having a miscarriage. From Newsweek:

A study published Monday in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (AJOG) reports that women who reported consuming more than 200 milligrams of caffeine a day during the first three months of pregnancy doubled their risk of miscarriage (from the 12 percent average among participants who used no caffeine to 25 percent). During a two-year period, 1,063 pregnant San Francisco-area women participated in the study.

Traditionally, groups like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the March of Dimes have told women that drinking one or two cups of coffee a day is OK for most pregnant women. But these new findings suggest otherwise. Indeed, expectant mothers might be surprised to find out how little 200 mg of caffeine is by today’s mega-cup standards. For example, the smallest size of Starbucks’ regular coffee, the “tall” or 12-ounce cup of brewed joe, has 260 mg of caffeine. An eight-ounce cup of regular drip coffee contains 137 mg, an eight-ounce cup of brewed tea contains 48 mg and a 12-ounce soda contains about 37 mg.

Exactly how caffeine might be affecting the developing fetus is unclear. Doctors know that that the stimulant can easily cross the placental barrier to the fetus, but whether there’s a negative impact, is unclear. “That’s true of most things that cause miscarriage,” says Dr. Mark Nichols, an OB/GYN at Oregon Health and Sciences University.

I was glad Newsweek included the input of doctors who suggested we treat these findings with a grain a salt. As at least one expert pointed out, chromosomal defects — and not something that a woman does — can induce miscarriage. I have always drunk decaf-lattes and I still had two miscarriages.

Yale University OB/GYN Mary Jane Minkin, author of “The Yale Guide to Women’s Reproductive Health,” already tells her patients to limit caffeine consumption in part because it helps prevent breast discomfort. But she also wants women to understand that miscarriage is most often related to chromosomal abnormalities, not to caffeine. “Far and away, the most common cause of miscarriage is that that sperm and that egg didn’t get together so well,” she says. “Somehow in the chromosomes, things aren’t looking so terrific.” It’s not because of anything the mom did. “Even if you move to Idaho and breathe fresh air and drink fresh milk, even there you’re still going to have a baseline miscarriage rate of about 15 percent,” she says.

One other thing to note is that the AJOG study linking caffeine and miscarriage was an “observational” trial, not a prospective, double-blind controlled trial that injected some women with caffeine and others with none. It relied on the self-reports of pregnant women who were members of a Kaiser Permanente health care program in northern California. “What people report to you they’ve done isn’t necessarily what they’ve done,” says Dr. Alan Peaceman, professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and an expert in high-risk pregnancy…

Given the inconclusive evidence, what’s a pregnant latte lover to do? “Women are always asking what they can do to improve the health of their baby. There are so many things they can’t control,” says OB/GYN Tracy Flanagan, director of women’s health for Kaiser Permanente in northern California. “That’s not to say cutting out coffee is going to prevent miscarriage. What it can do is decrease the chance.” She plans to add caffeine to her list of issues she discusses with women, including folic acid, prenatal vitamins, smoking and alcohol. If women want a healthy, alternative stimulant, they can exercise, she suggests. And why not try decaf coffee or tea, or even apple cider?

Bottom line: It doesn’t hurt to cut down if you can. But the tone of this story suggested we should not get hysterical over it.


Not For Fido

National Geographic recently listed some “canine taboos“ — dangerous foods — for dogs. In case you are interested or it comes up in a Trivia Pursuit question, they are:

It depresses brain function and can cause a coma. So no piña coladas for Fido — not for fun and not by accident with party leftovers.

The caffeine in a cup of java is a methylxanthine compound that can increase a dog’s heart rate and trigger seizures.

The chemical theobromine can be fatal. Just three ounces of dark or seven of milk can bring on vomiting in a 50-pound dog.

Macadamia nuts
Experts have yet to determine why just a few of these nuts can produce tremors, even temporary paralysis, in a dog’s hind legs.

Garlic breaks down a dog’s red blood cells, leading to anemia and possible kidney failure from leaking hemoglobin.

Their damage to canine hemoglobin is cumulative, so small tastes over time can be worse than wolfing down a whole bulb.

Toxicologists have found that grapes and raisins can cause renal failure. They’re still trying to learn why.

I haven’t had a dog in years, but I was surprised by a lot of the foods on the list. I knew about caffeine, but the others were new to me.