A follow-up to the fretting I was doing about Dylan’s homework struggles: things are better. I think the routine of it is settling into place a bit, and I think it’s been helpful that Riley finally has some daily homework as well (apparently the entire fifth grade was waiting for an IXL.com site license to get funded) so a sense of fairness seems to have returned to Dylan’s brotherly-competition universe.

The head-down battles over the math worksheets have mostly disappeared, but it’s the reading improvements I’m most excited to see. He no longer needs help with his response journal, and thanks to a newfound love for a certain set of chapter books — chapter books! Not picture books! This is a big deal! — he’s actually doing some reading on his own now, with no prompting.

Now, I honestly don’t care what books he chooses, as long as he gets some enjoyment from reading. That said, I suspect some of you may commiserate with the fact that the series that seems to have flipped some switch for him where no other did is … Magic Tree House.

There are 1,900,000 Google results for “I hate Magic Tree House.” I checked. Probably because there are a zillion of these books, so if your kid likes them there’s no end in sight, and every story goes like this:

JACK and ANNIE sneak out of their house because they have no adult supervision. The tree house starts to spin, then — say it with me, you know this phrase is permanently lodged in your brain — everything is still, absolutely still.

ANNIE: Yay let’s go!

JACK: Oh gosh I don’t know jeez wow have we considered all the various dangers?

ANNIE: I have no impulse control and am already doing the thing.

JACK: I should consult the book, so something vaguely educational can happen. Then I’ll write a sentence in my notebook in order to promote braininess as a good thing even though I am a nerd caricature down to the glasses I am forever pushing up my nerd face.

ANNIE: Wow check out this scene which is meant to be historically accurate!

JACK: I am intrigued, yet I am still a giant pussy.

ANNIE: O no some conflict is happening

JACK: Good thing I read the one part of the book that contained the relevant information to help us extract ourselves from this worrying situation. Should we also use teamwork?

ANNIE: Yay, teamwork! I love teamwork almost as much as sentence fragments!

JACK: Your enthusiasm continues to underscore what a damp towel I am. BTW according to the book the invention of the towel is commonly associated with the city of Bursa, Turkey in the 17th century.

:: fin ::

Anyway, I do not love these books but I sure love that he loves them. Also, as someone who recently paid actual U.S. dollars to watch a piece of pita bread get a rimjob from a bagel, I’m pretty sure I can’t judge anyone’s choice of entertainment.

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I have a counselor who is a tiny woman with the most unnerving gaze I’ve ever encountered. I don’t mean she’s aggressive, I mean she can outstare a cat. I’m not sure if she actually has eyelids. Maybe it’s a common technique in therapy, to simply hold eye contact at certain points in the conversation, but if the intended result is to prompt me to involuntarily fill the air with words as I scootch around in discomfort, boy, it works like a damn charm.

It’s not particularly enjoyable, but she definitely helps me to go deeper into the murk, flashlight in hand.

One of my biggest stumbling blocks in recovery is that when I am sober, I turn to food. It’s happened time and time again. Food becomes yet another mood-altering substance for me to abuse. I binge on sugary, salty, nutritionally bankrupt foods. I eat to feel better or to cope with stress or to reward myself, but mostly to feel mindlessly lost in the act of eating. I try to get back on track, I download apps, I restrict and obsess, and then I lose all control. Over and over.

As a result of the bingeing, I gain weight. The bigger I get, the more self-loathing I feel. I feel bad about the way I look, so I turn to food, which makes me feel worse about myself, and on it goes. The cycle becomes more and more consuming. Soon it’s like I’ve pried myself out of one trap, only to have stepped directly into yet another set of steel jaws.

I gained at least 25 pounds after inpatient. None of my clothes fit, I was depressed and struggling, and eventually I started romanticizing the drug I’d just worked so hard to break free from. I can even pinpoint the strongest trigger: I started getting photos and social media posts from my Timehop app that were captured a year prior, when I’d first started using and was still in the euphoric state. I seemed so happy, I weighed so much less. I remember thinking that it seemed worth anything to feel like that again. Anything.

I knew how to make all my food problems disappear. I could end the cycle and have the body I wanted. The pesky reality of how my use had escalated until the whole house of cards came crashing down around me … well, I just wouldn’t use as much, this time. It would be different!

And it was, but not in the way I’d hoped. I got the weight loss and the relief from food obsessions, but I never got those good feelings back. I just got an express ride back into full-blown addiction, back to the dependency and the lies and the guilt and the inability to think about anything but how much I had and when I’d get more and how I’d hide it.

So I tell my counselor about all of this, saying that I want to work on coping skills I can turn to instead of food. I tell her I’ve gained six pounds in the last couple weeks, I’m scared it won’t stop, and it feels like I’m doomed to either hate myself for being out of control and using, or hate myself for being out of control and fat.

She asks me what it means for me to gain weight. We go back and forth on this for a bit, I’m thinking I’m not sure what she’s getting at, doesn’t everyone hate gaining weight? and then she does the Silent Eye Thing and I suddenly find myself blurting,

It would mean I would have a larger presence in the world, and I don’t deserve to take up space.

Let’s start by working on that, she says gently.

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