July 31, 2006

I am the Bug Whisperer.

Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob.

You know, I don't really have much to say today. The girls are still gone and I am sitting at work far later than usual because, well, it's nice to use a computer that actually functions.

(I got repair estimates today on the iBook (now retamed "iTard" after its latest meltdown), and it's not pretty. Mac users, listen to me. Listen closely. Get AppleCare. Is it a ripoff? Perhaps, but when your logic board fails, you will cry like a little girl. Pay it. It's like mafia protection. You have to pay up, doesn't matter if the thing the mob is protecting you from is the mob.)

The weekend was spent taking LOTS of cool photos. The most unexpected came when I went with a photographer I occasionally work for to the Zilker Park Botanical Gardens in Austin to assist in two engagement shoots. During the time that she was actually taking photos of the happy couples, I was poking around the place, taking more photos of pretty flowers (the names of which I neither know nor particularly care about).

And that's when I discovered that I am beloved amongst dragonflies. I've taken a lot of nature photos, but these might just be my favorites so far.

Although I dig the vultures, too. How creepy is THAT?

July 28, 2006

Leaving on a jet plane...

Fall colors are here early.
Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob.

Is it pink or is it purple?

Either way, Homeland Security is going to stop her in the airport for sure now. She's the world's shortest anarchist.


Update: They got there okay. I'm going to start breathing again, if that's okay with you.

Throw my iBook into the light...

Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob.
...because I think it is ready for the next world. I keep reporting its death and then manage to reanimate its stinking corpse for a few more weeks, but this time I think it might have shed its Lazarethesque rebound capabilities for good.

And I'm leaving for three days tomorrow, with neither the time nor the resources to devote to squeezing a bit more life out of it. So you know what? Screw this, I'll deal with it later.

I'll try to get on periodically and approve comments from time to time. If you need to write me, it's probably best to do so at rhudsonphoto@gmail.com for the time being.

Have a nice weekend, by golly.

July 27, 2006

Pre-fret fret

Snort, snicker, snarl
Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob.
Julie and Schuyler are going away for five days, off to Michigan to visit her family. They leave tomorrow.

It's not going to be as bad as it sounds for me, since I am also going to be gone as well, shooting a wedding out of town. Still, five days is a long time. Also, they'll be flying, just the two of them, and I watch too many air disaster shows on the National Geographic Channel to love that idea too much.

(Although I have to confess, Air Emergency is my secret shameful TV addiction. Well, not so secret anymore, I guess.)

So this weekend, it is their job to have a good time, and my job to worry. Apparently I'm starting early.

July 24, 2006

"I just want to go with you."

I was shooting an event over the weekend when I first noticed this little girl, maybe two years old. I can try to describe why she caught my eye and never let go of my attention, but I'm not sure if it would make sense. She was pretty, with impossibly big eyes and a serious expression. She didn't play with the other kids, but she played, lost in an internal world as she danced and ran happily but alone, in a room full of people. When she wasn't in that realm of her own making, she watched, carefully studying the actions of everyone around her. There was nothing wrong with her, nothing broken or amiss. And yet, she was different from any kid in that room, but not from any kid I'd ever seen, which was why I couldn't stop watching her.

She reminded me of Schuyler. Not Schuyler now so much, but Schuyler a few years ago, before we knew her monster's name or nature, but after she had already embarked on her life's path, a path that she would travel alone.

I pointed her out to the photographer with whom I was working. I didn't know exactly how to describe what I was seeing, but when I opened my mouth, I suddenly knew exactly how to say it. "Whatever planet Schuyler comes from, that little girl comes from there, too."

Which, as it turns out, is exactly how her own father described her. A visitor from another world.

I feel a little self-indulgent in telling you all this, but I suspect my own behavior isn't all that different from that of any other parent of a child who is different. I'm not just talking about kids with broken bodies or broken brains or broken spirits. I'm talking about any parent who knows, for whatever reason, that their child is going to have a life full of obstacles that other kids don't have.

I'm talking about any parent who gets overwhelmed in a way that ninety-nine out of a hundred other parents around them won't ever get.

So yeah, I feel weird talking about what happened next, but maybe a hundred of you will read this and one of you will say "God, me too."

The thing that happened next was that as I watched this little girl run and play and walk through this world without ever leaving her own, and watched how some people reached out protectively as she passed, I realized that in watching someone else's ethereal kid, I was seeing how the rest of the world must see Schuyler.

I'd never seen that before. Not really. And it was more than I could deal with.

I'm not going to get all maudlin or dramatic about this. I simply took the first opportunity I had to step out of the venue and go outside past the reach of the lights, and then I lost my shit for a few minutes. That's all. Sometimes the way broken parents of broken children get through it all is to step into the dark and lose their fucking minds, to cry hard and insult God as the bully that he undeniably is, and just stop being the brave little soldier for a while.

That's how it happens. You exhaust yourself of the frustration and the unfairness of it. You empty out that part of you, the little pit in the center of you that stores away the fear and the anger and the protective fire that you can use against child molesters and internet bullies and mean bitey dogs but not against God and Fate and a child's brain.

And then you wait for it to slowly fill again, I guess.

When I returned to the event, I bumped into the little girl and her father outside, and I took her picture. I told her, and her father, how much she reminded me of my own little girl, and while I don't think the dad noticed how emotional I was, she did. She opened up to me and followed me around for a while.

Later, she danced with her father, who looked at her with the same intensity that I find myself watching Schuyler, the one that shows that we have a visitor's pass to their world. As father and daughter moved past me, she caught sight of me over his shoulder. As I raised my camera and took my favorite photo of the evening, she smiled her mysterious little smile and reached out as if to touch me.

I don't know if this entry makes any sense. I'm not certain this world makes any sense, either.

July 21, 2006


That's what I told a friend of mine yesterday that I must have been suffering from. Fat Old Man Belly.

Feeling much better today. Must have been that 24-hour appendicitis.

Thanks to everyone who send me their learned opinions and their fucked up little activities. You people are freaks.

July 20, 2006


Nice boy watching TV
Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob.
What does appendicitis feel like, anyway?

Yeah, this isn't how I wanted to start the day. Well, it also feels like gas, so we'll see. Perhaps I just need to, you know, play a little pants tuba.

I'll let you know. Without a lot of detail, because I love love love you all.


July 18, 2006

My new favorite writer

Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob.
I just received an email from the regional consultant for the Prentke Romich Company, makers of the Big Box of Words. Schuyler is now featured on part of their website, the section concerning Language. It's actually a really good primer for learning about the BBoW, if you're interested. Also, a couple of her friends from the Box Class are there, including her girl crush, Sara.

If you want to skip straight to Schuyler, her moment in the spotlight (including a fairly relaxed attitude towards the spelling of her name, but they got closer than most people do) is under Putting Symbols Together. Even better, some of her writing samples are featured. She reflects on the transient nature of childhood experience, and she lays out a little earth science as well.

Email of the Week

From: cool Dutch name deleted
Date: July 18, 2006
To: rhudson@digitalism.com
Subject: Hello from The Netherlands

Hello Rob,

On your website about your pragnent wife Julie, I saw that she had put a headphone on her belly. Is that relaxing for the baby, when you put on soft music? Because a week ago I saw on a website that another women had a headphone on her pregnant belly, and that gave me an idea to innovate this. By making a belt with earplugs on it with a standard jack, so you can put it in your mp3/stereo.

Kind Regards,
cool Dutch name deleted

My favorite part is where he asks me if it's relaxing for the baby. I'm so stupid, I totally forgot to ask Schuyler when she was born...

July 16, 2006

Knowing Schuyler

Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob.
It is obviously an understatement to say that I frequently write about Schuyler.

Before she was born, I was a pretty selfish person. It made my writing fun, I suppose, but not in a way that was going to enrich anyone's life. I wrote about me, and how the world affected me, and what the world owed me, and occasionally I might wander off topic briefly, only to suddenly realize that we weren't talking about me anymore.

After we found out that Schuyler was coming, I was still writing about me, but suddenly it was about this baby and how she was growing and how scared I was and how I didn't have a clue what to do and how, yes, I was afraid of all the things that could go wrong with her, never guessing that the thing that would become her bane had already formed and was simply going to sit there for almost four years waiting to be noticed.

After she was born, I wrote about her a lot, in the way you write about babies. They don't do much worth writing about. They shit and cry and scare you and occasionally do something vaguely human-like. So in writing about her, I was still writing about me.

And then she turned into a little girl, and then a little girl who didn't talk, and then a little girl being tested by big Yale medical brains, and finally she was a little girl with a monster living in her head, its invisible hand clapped firmly and immovably over her mouth.

And at some point, she became the thing I wrote about most of all. In February, realizing this and wanting to say more in less time, I gave up all pretenses of being independently interesting myself, and I moved my writing to a blog, and named it after Schuyler and me. And here we are.

So yes. I write about Schuyler. And yet, I'm not sure how well I do, because different people have different ideas of who she is, based on my words. Some people get it right, and some people get it wildly wrong. Schuyler's hard to describe. I'll spend the rest of my life trying.

We watched her at play in one of those big indoor playgrounds today. One reason, as I wrote last time, that I will never hit her (as if I need a list) is that Schuyler is a courageous girl, and I don't want the first thing she learns to fear to be me. Her fearlessness is astounding, and one of the things of which I am the most proud of. We went to see a movie today, and we had our misgivings about how scary it might be for her. Once again, she loved the movie and embraced its monsters as her own.

(I'm not in love with hearing everyone's criticism of the movies we take her to, but I'll simply say that in her usual "everyone gets a role in the movie" way, she has now determined that she is the Captain, complete with bold swagger and a hearty "Arrr!", I am Davy Jones (with little fingers miming the tentacles on my face), and poor Julie is none other than the Kraken. She's less than thrilled by that, but honestly, I'm jealous. Who wouldn't want to be the Kraken?)

It's hard to describe Schuyler's fearlessness, or her bursting optimism, her almost constant good mood and her complete and total lack of shyness. I can't think of a person I know with more cause to wake up in a shitty mood than Schuyler, no one who has a better reason to go outside and shake her angry fists at the sky, cursing God unintelligibly. And yet, she never does. She gets frustrated, she occasionally throws up her hands in exasperation, but she moves on. And I wish you could know her, every one of you, even those of you who say unkind things about her and about me, because I can't win you over (and I don't always want to), but she could. She would.

I was thinking about this earlier, and I decided to add a few links to the sidebar, links to things that other people who know Schuyler have written about her. They were written by our friends, and hers. I don't tell them often enough how much I love them, but I do. These entries mostly revolve around the time when Schuyler was diagnosed, or after we went to Chicago to meet with Dr. Dobyns and instead of hope, we got handed the full measure of her monster.

I hope you'll go read them.

Schuyler's hair has almost faded back to its original color, and since she's swimming in a chlorinated pool every day at camp, we've held off on coloring it again. But she's asking. She watches her favorite characters on kid shows like The Doodlebops and the ever-weird LazyTown, and if you're bold enough to follow those links, you'll see what those characters have in common. And you'll probably be able to figure out what Schuyler's been asking for.

You should know by now that our answer is probably going to be yes.

July 13, 2006

Spare the child.

Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob.
(I can't remember the last time I felt like I needed to open an entry with a disclaimer, unless it was when I was going to show a photo of a goopy toe. But this entry is probably going to anger some good people, and for that, I am legitimately sorry. Sometimes, though, you really do just have to spill what's in your head.)

Well, someone finally said it. I've been waiting for a month for someone to come right out and say it, and with yesterday's email, I finally got an honest soul who wasn't afraid to use the words.

After all the thinly veiled remarks I have gotten from a particular group of people about how Schuyler is a horrible little brat and it's my fault for not disciplining her properly, someone finally figured out what's wrong with her.

I don't hit her. I don't beat Schuyler.

(I can only assume that by "what's wrong with her", they mean the fact that she is apparently an out-of-control barbarian and not her mutism. No one has suggested that she simply needs to have the words beaten out of her. Not yet, anyway.)

No one ever puts it in those terms, of course. People hide behind words like "spank" and "swat" and "discipline" and "corporal punishment" and, as my Agnostic Maybe-God is my witness, "Spanking With Love". (URL updated; the old one is now a porn site, chicka-pow-pow!) That site uses as its logo a heart formed by a pair of upturned buttocks. I kid you not.

(The "Spanking With Love" site is a real peach, by the way. In addition to some fun "how to" sections, there is also a page for kids who WANT to be spanked and how to get their parents to do so. I wonder how many spanking parents really want to think that their kids might be getting aroused by it? Believe me when I say that I'm all for spanking your girlfriend, that dirty little whore/French maid/Catholic schoolgirl/sexy veterinarian/whatever. Your own kids? Not so much.)

There are, in fact, a lot of ways to describe the act of physically striking a small child in order to cause pain with the intent of imposing your will on them. You can use any number of words and never even get around to "beat", "bully", "violence" or "abuse". It is one of the many attributes that make the English language so powerful, its ability to elegantly mask the true meaning behind concepts and behaviors.

So there it is. I threw some words out there, and it is from those words that you can, if you haven't figured it out already, discern my feelings towards physically punishing my child. That's my kid. You are free to beat your own kid. You are free to use violence against your own son or daughter. You are free, inasmuch as the law will allow, to ABUSE your own child.

Just don't expect me to use your terminology.

I've heard the arguments, and I'm sure I'm about to hear them again. And because I have written on occasion about isolated incidents where Schuyler felt compelled to act out aggressively, the Loving Spankers will no doubt say that I have raised an unruly child.

That's fine. Her school doesn't agree, and neither do any of her other caregivers. She has never been cited as unusually aggressive, either as a non-verbal child or otherwise, and her behavior, while troubling to me on those occasions when I have written about it, has always been described by her teachers as normal for a child her age. (Although I must say that if she had been cited, I would be even less likely to hurt her.)

But what do that bunch of liberal, permissive, crunchy granola educator hippies know about raising a child? Do they have children? And this brings us to another argument. "People who oppose spanking children simply do not understand the what it is like trying to raise a child." Okay, fair enough. So why do you spank? To teach your child a constructive lesson or to relieve your own anger?

The American Academy of Pediatrics thinks it knows the answer.

Corporal punishment is of limited effectiveness and has potentially deleterious side effects. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents be encouraged and assisted in the development of methods other than spanking for managing undesired behavior.

It thinks it knows the result of beating your kids, too.

The more children are spanked, the more anger they report as adults, the more likely they are to spank their own children, the more likely they are to approve of hitting a spouse, and the more marital conflict they experience as adults. Spanking has been associated with higher rates of physical aggression, more substance abuse, and increased risk of crime and violence when used with older children and adolescents.

And in a 2002 study looking back at sixty years of research on corporal punishment, Elizabeth Gershoff, Ph. D., found that the only positive result of spanking was immediate compliance; long-term compliance was actually diminished as a result of corporal punishment. Spanking was also directly linked to increased rates of aggression, delinquency, mental health disorders, problems in relationships with parents, and the likelihood of those children being physically abused and, eventually, abusing their own children.

So. It doesn't work, and it fucks up your kids. Seems pretty straightforward to me. But you, in the back? You had something to say?

"You know, I was spanked as a child, and I grew up to be perfectly healthy and have raised my kids just fine."

Did you? You think? You were, as a small child, routinely subjected to violence by someone probably five times your size so that you would be subject to their demands? As a result, you grew up, had some small children of your own, and then proceeded to beat them into submission as well?

We have a different definition of "perfectly healthy", you and I. We have a wildly different idea of what it means for an innocent child to be "just fine".

You may think that I believe that if you as a parent spank your children, I automatically believe that you are a bad parent. I don't, not necessarily and not without knowing what kind of parent you are as a whole. Nor do I think your children are necessarily going to grow up to be damaged.

But I do think you are wrong. And as much as you might feel sorry for my kid for having me as a father, I guarantee I feel more sorry for yours.

July 10, 2006

Why I was late for work.

Duck Princess
Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob.
I'm not a morning person. (And if you are, it doesn't mean I won't be your friend. I'm just unlikely to be your friend before 10am.) But some mornings are tolerable. More than tolerable, actually.

Take today, for example. We started off the day getting ready for summer camp the same way we always do, singing the Village People. Don't start with me. I don't put on assless chaps when we sing it, freaks. It's topical. Don't look at me like I'm a monster.

Anyway, our version just has the refrain over and over, with appropriate variations on her day camp theme. Today went like this:

Me: "We're gonna' play at the..."

Schuyler: "Eye-eh-ee-ay!" (YMCA, with the moves. Well, of course.)

Me: "We're gonna swim at the..."

Schuyler: "Eye-eh-ee-ay!"

Me: "And have some fun at the..."

Schuyler: "Eye-eh-ee-ay!"

Me: "And eat a bug at the..."

Schuyler: "Eye... Nooooooo!"

And then she laughed and signed Mommy, because as she makes clear to anyone who asks, Julie is the bug eater in our home.

When we were leaving, Schuyler opened the front door and stepped out first. I heard her gasp in amazement and say "Ah-ee!" (Daddy) When I looked out the door, I saw her standing in the grass as a flock of baby ducks mobbed her. They ran up to her, peeping excitedly and then lining up in front of her as if for inspection. They settled in for a while and relaxed with her. They weren't even a tiny bit afraid of her. She talked to them in her strange moonman language, and they peeped back at her as if she was making all the sense in the world.

That's how it is with Schuyler. She talks and you don't get it, but you want to. As we drove to camp, she was so happy about the ducklings that she sang the whole way. Unless I am horribly out of the loop regarding songs known by six year-olds, she wasn't singing anything she'd been taught in school. She makes up songs and lyrics, and I could listen to her sing them all day. Her songs make up the best part of any day, and also the saddest. They are songs that will be forever lost to the world, with meanings known only to her.

Anyway, that's why I was late to work. You can't blow off baby ducks.

July 6, 2006

Well, yeah

Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob.
(Cross posted from Diabetes Notes becaause it's more amusing than anything I am likely to write here today).

In a development sure to be covered in more detail in the next issue of The Journal of Duh, a study of overweight type 2 diabetics has found that increasing the amount of walking they do every day will result in significant improvements in heart and respiratory fitness. The study examined the exercise routine of eight subjects who were already walking more than the recommended 10,000 steps a day.

“The program used simple tools (pedometer and stopwatch) and a simple message to pick up the pace,” said Steven T. Johnson of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, along with colleagues in the journal Diabetes Care.

The “Pick Up the Pace” program measured the number of steps that test subjects were typically taking and increased them by ten percent. This increase led to improvements in heart rate response to exercise, as well as a decrease in blood sugar levels.

In an earlier study, Johnson and his colleagues found that type 2 diabetics typically walk at a speed that is slower than that necessary to derive health benefits, even when the number of steps taken daily were increased.

There’s no word on whether or not they uncovered any mysterious connection between slow walking and painful feet, but I can only hope that in the near future, these researchers can unlock the secrets of how not smoking or eating donuts can also increase the health of diabetics. Well played, Mister Science!

July 2, 2006

Schuyler's New Monster

Schuyler's New Monster
Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob.
When I get paid every month, our usual practice involves taking Schuyler out and rewarding her generally swell behavior with a trip to the toy store. She's not a terribly materialistic person, so it's not like she acts better or worse depending on how much stuff she gets. It's mostly just an excuse to go hang out in a toy store with Schuyler. Toys stores and pet stores are irresistible place to visit with her.

Tonight, Schuyler's choice came down to one of two things. One was a blue-haired Barbie with fairy wings, and believe me when I say that I am about sick to death of Barbie in her countless permutations. I don't care if she's a princess or a mermaid or a business woman or a crackwhore, her dead eyes and weird zero-gravity boobs give me the creeps. But when little girls find Barbie, and they always do, you have to decide whether to fight that losing battle or just raise your kid right and love her and hope that her self-esteem is high enough that she doesn't think that she has to grow up to be seven feet tall with giant dirigible tits to be happy.

But I digress.

The other toy she fixated on tonight was a dinosaur, from the same Fisher Price line as her others, but much cooler. No longer content to have one moving part and a single recorded snarl, this guy had glowing red eyes, a whole vocabulary of nasty sounds and a body that twisted menacingly, throwing his head back to roar when you pushed one of his scales.

It might only be a small surprise to learn that she picked the dinosaur.

I've written at length about her affinity for King Kong and dinosaurs and big scary beasts that scare most kids. Schuyler faces her own monster without flinching, and I truly believe that in her imaginary world, she goes into battle against that monster with her sword drawn and pink hair flying out Valkyrie-like from under her viking helmet, and she does so with a small army of her own monsters at her back.

As we left Toys-R-Us, she played with her new monster, watching him writhe and roar with a look of phony fear and rapt amazement. She held him up so he could see the lightning flashing in the distance and threatened other drivers with his big teeth and nasty disposition. Then she hugged him and kissed him and put him on the seat beside her, insisting that we buckle him in. Nothing staves off extinction like good common safety sense.

Now, as I write this, he is laying on the couch, covered by the blanket that she brought for him and tucked him under. I swear, he looks almost happy.