September 27, 2008

Event at fancy new Borders, by golly!

Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob
Signing and Discussion

October 4, 2008
4:00 pm
Borders Books and Music Watters Creek
965 Bethany
Allen, TX 75013

Part of Educators Appreciation Weekend

Borders Books and Music Watters Creek
Schedule for October 4th

11:00 am - Special Kids Story Time with activity provided by the City of Allen

12:00 pm - Live radio show and book signing with Kim Snider, author of How To Be the Family CFO

2:30-4:00 pm - Book signing Sarah Goodall, author of The Palace Diaries
and Lady Colin Campbell, author of Empress Bianca

3:00-6:00 pm - Bounce House (located outside)
Provided by Fire House Bounce

4:00 pm - Signing and Discussion with Robert Rummel-Hudson, author of Schuyler's Monster

7:30 pm - Musician Mark Shelton

September 23, 2008

Baby Monster

Three little monsters
Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob
Not being a teacher or having any experience with kids other than my own (other than being a former child myself), I'm not sure if she's at the appropriate age for this, but Schuyler has become fascinated with babies. More to the point, she's become fascinated by the fact that babies start off in their mother's tummies.

Oh yeah. That's the conversation we've been having. This one I've left mostly to Julie.

You might remember that Schuyler has two monsters that she loves above all her others (with King Kong being the possible exception). They are from Star Wars, known in nerdspeak as "rancors", although if you are Schuyler, they are Sam and Margaret. (She asked me to name the second one; readers of my book will enjoy my choice.) I think she believes they are Cloverfield monsters, but now they've become her friends. And, as she was careful to note, they don't eat their friends. (Everyone else is presumably screwed.)

Sam and Margaret have been boyfriend and girlfriend for a while, but recently, Schuyler has begun referring to them as the mommy monster and the daddy monster. And of course, she keeps asking if Margaret has a baby monster in her tummy.


I wasn't sure how to deal with this; she's not even nine yet. But it seems really important to her, and so I've been trying to come up with something. And the thing is, I know that just about any bug-eyed monster toy would do. But as much of a slob as I can be in just about every aspect of my life, I am weirdly OCD when it comes to Schuyler. I have Issues.

Well, thanks to a line of Star Wars toys aimed at younger kids (although, perhaps predictably, coveted by thirtysomething Mom's-basement-dwellers who are making it hard to find except on eBay, ouch ouch ouch), a perfect answer presented itself.

If I can find one, I do believe I may have found Baby Monster.

Peeper Caper

Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob
We thought Schuyler lost her new glasses last week. We talked to her teachers and to the people who run her after school program, and we tore her school apart for two days looking for them. We managed to narrow down the time when they were lost, between her last class and the beginning of her after school program. The woman who runs the program insisted that Schuyler didn't have them on when she arrived, and despite the fact that there are probably a hundred kids in that program arriving at roughly the same time, we believed her.

I'm ashamed to say that it was only two days after they went missing that I took Schuyler for a walk around the school, asking her what she did with them. She'd originally told Julie that she took her glasses off in the gym, and when I asked, Schuyler's story didn't change. This time, rather than getting any input from anyone else, I just let Schuyler show me what she did.

Quietly but with an air of certainty and even relief that she was finally being taken seriously, Schuyler again said she took them off in the gym and then showed me where she took them, to where her backpack was left every day with the rest of the kids'. She showed me how she took her glasses off and placed them in the hard, clam-shell case and slipped them into the mesh side pocket of her backpack, snug bug visible. And when she returned for them, they were gone.

I feel bad for not listening to her more closely; in my defense, it was the first time I'd been there with her, and Julie got distracted early on by the insistent protestations by the program head that Schuyler absolutely did not have her glasses on when she arrived. I feel bad about it, because based on what Schuyler says and on the unlikelihood of that big purple case just vanishing into thin air during a walk down one hallway between classes, I now don't think Schuyler's glasses were lost.

Yeah, I think they were probably stolen.

The older I get, the more I realize that while I once thought I liked kids, it is becoming increasingly clear that really, I probably only like my own.

September 18, 2008

Shameless request for help

Monster & Monster
Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob
Okay, so I just found out that I have, um, very little time to turn in any typos and edits to St. Martin's Press for the paperback. So if you have read my book and you saw anything that jumped out at you as wrong or weird, please drop me a line or leave a comment. You'll have my eternal gratitude, which is probably worth more than your stock portfolio at this point, right? Am I right?

I promise, I'll post something real soon, maybe later today. Lots to talk about regarding Schuyler, the love of my life, my little mermaid princess, my reason for living, as soon as I drive to her school and look for the new glasses that she lost. After a week and a half.

Ten days. Yeah.

September 11, 2008

I made the DaFoWo Show!

Okay, I'm going to geek out a little now, because this is actually my favorite web program, and I got some serious screen time on it. (I'm about three minutes in.) It's a weekly webcast sponsored by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, featuring Kristin Campbell and John Metz, who do the hosting, the writing and the very fun editing. It focuses on local Fort Worth/Dallas content, but I don't think there's a lot of inside humor. Go check out some of the older shows, too, at

Anyway, thanks, Kristin!

Prodigal Son Revisited

You know, there's been a lot of different press for Schuyler's Monster, from public radio to television to articles in newspapers like The Dallas Morning News and magazines like People and Wondertime and Good Housekeeping, and yet there's nothing quite like seeing your face in your old college newspaper:

The UT Arlington Shorthorn - Robert Rummel-Hudson to speak at library

I'm not sure why it's always such a big deal to me, just like I'm not sure why I'm so nervous about my address at the university tomorrow night. I suppose it's the juxtaposition between whatever success I've achieved with this book and in my life as Schuyler's father with whatever abysmal expectations I probably set when I was a student.

I mean, I'm not sure how many people read about me in People and said, "Hey, wow, I thought he'd be in jail by now, or maybe working the window at Taco Bell. Good for him..."

September 10, 2008


Don't forget the exclamation point
Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob

The Friends of the UT Arlington Library

cordially invite you to a presentation

"Fighting Monsters with Rubber Swords"

By Robert Rummel-Hudson

author of the new book Schuyler's Monster
(St. Martin's Press, 2008)

Friday, September 12, 2008
7:30 p.m.
6th Floor Parlor
UT Arlington Central Library

R.S.V.P. by September 11
at 817-272-7421 or

Robert Rummel-Hudson is communications coordinator in the University of Texas at Arlington School of Architecture. Rummel-Hudson spent his early years growing up in the West Texas town of Odessa. He attended UTA, studying music and English. During this time, he worked as a professional freelance trombonist and music instructor. At the age of twenty-nine, he left it all behind and moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan, to marry Julie Rummel. A year later, they had a daughter, Schuyler Noelle, and moved to New Haven, Connecticut, to work for Yale University. It was at Yale that Schuyler was diagnosed with Bilateral Perisylvian Polymicrogyria, a neurological condition that left her unable to speak.

Robert, Julie and Schuyler now live in Plano, where Schuyler attends a special class for children who use Alternative and Augmentative Communication devices. Rummel-Hudson's first book, Schuyler's Monster: A Father's Journey with His Wordless Daughter, tells the story of raising a little girl with a disability and learning to become the father she needs. The book was published in 2008 by St. Martin's Press.

An autograph party will follow his presentation to the Friends.

September 9, 2008

The best job ever

Seriously. Getting to chase kids around the museum? I'd only require the assistance of someone to keep me from slipping in the little pee puddles left behind.

Also? I'd be Schuyler's hero. For life.

(My apologies if you came here looking for political content. If it makes you feel better, you can pretend it's John McCain at a campaign stop.)

September 4, 2008

Politics of the Broken

As you might have noticed, unless you were busy redecorating that new rock you've been living under, the political scene in this country has gotten pretty nasty. I have no idea how the next two months are going to possibly go by without at least one candidate using the term "motherfuckers" on Meet the Press at some point. (Perhaps I should set my DVR, just in case.)

I keep seeing dubious "facts" being throw out into the mix (and honestly, I see it mostly from the McCain campaign, although perhaps that's just because I expect it from the Republicans and am thus activated to catch it when it happens), and when the opposition does some legwork and disproves the accusation, the party who originally threw the mud just leaves it stuck to the wall as if just saying it somehow made it true. The voting public is left with such a mess to sort through that they usually walk away in disgust and end up voting for the person with the best hair.

I hate watching that happen. I hate it more that I was almost party to it.

This morning, I received an email on an assistive communications discussion list I belong to. (Yeah, every day's a party in my depressing inbox.) The email claimed that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was responsible for a SIXTY-TWO PERCENT cut in special education services during her brief tenure in office. I went online and did some cursory reading, and became convinced pretty quickly that it was true.

Here's what I found. The 2007 annual budget for the Department of Education and Early Development Special Schools in Alaska, which is overseen by the governor, showed the program funded at $8,265,300. This would have been approved prior to Palin taking office. The 2008 annual budget showed a reduction to $3,156,000, and the 2009 annual budget for that department showed the same. There's your sixty-two percent cut.

I was pissed. A lot of people were.

So I posted something on Twitter, which automatically posted a status update on Facebook, and before long I'd gotten a tiny little tornado going. I didn't have much time to spend researching the claim, since we had to take Schuyler to an eye appointment, but I kept thinking about it while I was gone. And the thing I kept thinking was how it simply didn't make sense.

Now, please understand something. For years, I had a bumper sticker on my old car that said "I'm too liberal for the Democratic Party". I find the Republican Party to be wrong in almost every area of policy, and furthermore I find their commitment to slimeball politics to be un-American. When the metaphorical Visigoths breach the walls of our modern day American Rome, it'll be the Republicans and their relentless polarization of our society unlocking the gates for them.

And the more I learn about Sarah Palin, the more I believe that she represents the most extreme positions of her party, to the point of becoming a cartoon villain. Here are just a few of her resume items:

-- As mayor of Bugfuck, Alaska, she tried to ban books and control media access to her staff. She also employed a lobbying firm and secured $27 million in earmarks for this town of fewer than 7,000 people.

-- The Alaska National Guard, her command of which is being touted as part of her executive experience, is experiencing such extreme personnel shortages that its aviation units are among the most poorly staffed in the nation; the Alaska Guard's top officer warns that the lack of qualified airmen has reached a crisis level and puts missions at risk.

-- She's deeply in love with the idea of drilling the shit out of her state of Alaska, doesn't believe in global warming and denies the viability of alternative energy solutions, saying that they "are far from imminent and would require more than 10 years to develop".

-- As part of her support for increased oil drilling in her state, Governor Palin sued the Bush administration in an effort to have polar bears removed from the list of threatened species. Polar bears! Who hates polar bears? It's a good thing puppies don't impede oil exploration.

-- Palin believe that Creationism should be taught in public schools and has frequently expressed her belief that Jesus Howard Christ needs to play a larger role in government. (Well, not literally; Jesus is a notorious slacker where civic responsibility is concerned. He dodges jury duty every time.)

-- As part of her deep Christian beliefs, she is opposed to abortion in all cases, even those resulting from rape or incest. The only unwanted pregnancies she's willing to give any ground on are ones in which childbirth would result in the death of the mother. Sarah Palin is very proud of her daughter for choosing to keep her baby (as if she would have tolerated any dissent), but she doesn't believe that anyone else should actually have that same choice.

-- Palin is a former director of "Ted Stevens Excellence in Public Service", an advocacy group for Republican women in Alaska. Stevens has been indicted by a grand jury for violations of the Ethics in Government Act. He is also out of his tiny mind, incidentally.

-- Most amusingly for me, as a citizen of the former Republic of Texas (which has its own very similar nutbags), Sarah Palin and her husband have very direct ties to the Alaskan Independence Party, a group that has advocated secession from the United States. (She addressed their party conferences in 1994, 2000 and 2008; her husband has been a registered member for ten years.) The party's founder, Joe Vogler, is a magical fountain of fun patriotic quotes: "The fires of hell are frozen glaciers compared to my hatred for the American government and I won't be buried under their damn flag."

So there you go. Governor Sarah Palin.

I don't feel much better about Palin's behavior as the mother of a child with special needs, either. The fact that she accepted a place on her party's ticket with a five-month-old baby with Down syndrome at the very least suggests that she simply has no idea what a hard road is waiting for her and the level of commitment that will be required of her. In an interview with People, she admitted that she didn't tell her children about her son's Down syndrome until after he was born because she wasn't sure how she felt about it herself.

"Not knowing in my own heart if I was going to be ready to embrace a child with special needs," she said, "I couldn't talk about it."

But that's the thing that didn't make sense to me. Everything I'd read about Sarah Palin suggested that she'd be a terrible choice as a vice president; indeed, she seems like a pretty poor excuse for a governor. But she did choose to have a baby with Down syndrome, and while that makes sense in light of her views on abortion, it also seems to fly in the face of the kind of disregard for disabled children that would seem to drive someone to cut their budget by sixty-two percent. The world is hardly lacking in examples of pious Christians whose opposition to abortion disintegrated as soon as they peed on the stick and saw the little plus sign. As much as it may chap her sanctimonious ass to admit it, Sarah Palin had a choice.

I couldn't escape the feeling that Palin did not seem to be the kind of monster to metaphorically throw special needs kids out on the ice floe and leave them to the mercy of cruel Nature. Perhaps I'm naive; I've certainly heard from plenty of Conservatives in the past year who believe that special education, and particularly mainstreaming, is destroying the educational opportunities for their own neurotypical kids. But still.

So I did a little more reading, and as it turns out, I was right.

So yes, the budget for the Department of Education and Early Development Special Schools in Alaska appears to have been cut by about sixty-two percent between 2007 and 2008. But if you look carefully, you'll see that one program, the Alaska Challenge Youth Academy, disappears from the budget during that time. Dig a little further, and you'll find that it's still there, but now as a separate budget item. So the money didn't get cut after all; indeed, it appears that she actually increased funding for that particular program.

There's a sort of community that exists, or seems to, among parents of special needs children. In the past I've referred to us as Shepherds of the Broken. Like it or not, I have been thinking all week, Sarah Palin just joined that group. She may not know it just yet, but it's a hard journey ahead, and the joy and political expediency of waving her baby in front of the cameras is eventually going to give way to some hard truths. The monsters that afflict our broken children don't care about your politics, and they don't make things any easier on parents who have money and power and handlers.

In her address to the Republican National Convention, a speech that was otherwise puerile and sarcastic (and trust me, I know what I'm talking about; I frequently traffic in puerile and sarcastic, although no one ever hails me as the second coming of Lincoln when I do it), Sarah Palin reached out to her fellow Shepherds:

"To the families of special needs children all across this country, I have a message for you. For years you've sought to make America a more welcoming place for your sons and daughters and I pledge to you that if we're elected, you will have a friend and advocate in the White House."

Well, I don't believe a word of that, but at the very least, I suspect that no matter what happens to Governor Palin, she and I are going to have plenty in common. I hope she's ready. I don't think she is, but then again, not many of us were, and we're still here and still fighting. Sarah Palin, your rubber sword is waiting for you.