Monday, January 31, 2011

Twice as Old

Happy birthday to me!

It occurs to me that I'm more than twice as old as I was when my classmate and I made these signs:

Hitch-hiking from Freiburg to Strasbourg

and hitch-hiked from Freiburg, Germany over to the gorgeous town of Strasbourg, France:

View of Strasbourg from the top of the cathedral

and then re-crossed the French/German border in the company of a car-load of Algerians. Who ditched us right after we got across the border (I think we were more trouble than we were worth), so then we caught a ride on a big rig with a long-distance trucker, who didn't want to go into town when we neared Freiburg so he dropped us at a rest stop and we had to find someone who would take us into town from there.

Good times! And, good guess, Lynn. I'll grant you that much, seeing as how you made the whole pack-o-memetastic-lies happen in the first place....

Back to the present day, we had a low-key celebration. JoyDad took us all out to eat, and did all the Joy-packing and Joy-wrangling to make it possible (she really did very well, as restaurants go.) Rose made me a birthday card, and they gave me a book edited by a college classmate of mine, and this evening we're going to eat my traditional favorite -- as baked by JoyDad -- spice cake with penuche frosting.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Joy is a Guppy

How often is it that you get to do something that you absolutely need, that is the healthiest thing for you, and is also the most fun you've had all day?

Joy had that experience on Tuesday after school, starting a 10-week session of swimming lessons.

I figured she'd enjoy it, but was a little bit wary. We'd last done swimming lessons at this facility back when I was just getting this blog going, the second half of 2008. Joy had a great one-on-one teacher for the summer session, and I posted triumphantly to Elvis Sightings to show off a perfect report card for the beginner Crab-level skills. Graduated after one session, just like any other kid, woohoo! (That post, by the way, is among my all-time most popular in terms of hits, as people go Googling for images of swimming report cards. Go figure.)

Alas, the second session of lessons did not go so well. Joy's fall-session teacher didn't "get" her and Joy responded accordingly. The second report card was so disheartening I didn't blog about it for months -- not only did Joy not get a Guppy (level 2) report card, her Crab report card suddenly had her going backwards, losing mastery of skills marked "M" the first round, even though I'd witnessed them working on new skills. (The staff fumblingly made it worse by explaining they'd been more honest the second round. Ugh.)

And then we got fully-underway with intensive autism therapy, and stopped the swim lessons altogether.

Lots has changed since then. Our schedule is more open now that school is underway. Joy is longer, taller, stronger. We've seen some glorious gains over those several years in communication and interaction. (Hurrah for Agency 2 and relationship-emphasizing House Blend therapy!) We've also seen Joy get braver at the public pool with jump-ins and dunking under on her own.

Tuesday with a new one-on-one teacher, I saw it all come together.

Joy had grown into Rose's old swimsuit that matched the one Joy was wearing last time we had lessons! She and her new teacher hit the same wavelength immediately, as the teacher led off right away with big smiles and animated praise -- a lovely repertoire of enthusiastic affirmations. Joy not only responded but started initiating little giggly face-making games! They were having more fun together than anyone else in the whole pool. And the kicking around against the resistance of the water was just the kind of sensory input that Joy needed.

She kept up with every one of the Crab skills her teacher put her through:
-- Submersions with Instructor
-- Backfloats with Assistance
-- Comfortable on Platform
-- No Tears

And, she's already got one of the Guppy skills nailed: unassisted jump-ins.

I have yet to confirm it with the new teacher. But if Joy doesn't get a Guppy report card this session, I'll eat my swim goggles.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Truth, Lies, and Memetasticity

Oh, I shouldn't-ta done that.

My latest Facebook status-update is a re-post of a status-update making fun of awareness-raising status-updates.

Memetastic Award, in Comic Sans font
As karmic revenge, I've just been tagged for an award that makes fun of award-tagging! Unlike most awards, which by the time you get them you have no idea where they originated, this one was invented by Jillsmo from Yeah. Good Times. (And she, like, even admits it!)

The award was inflicted bestowed upon me by Lynn of My Life as an Ungraceful, Unhinged, and Unwilling Draftee into the Autism Army. The instructions are mighty foul-mouthed not entirely suitable for family blogging. So I'm going to abbreviate. Click on Lynn's link above to see what I've left out.

  1. You must proudly display the absolutely disgusting graphic that I have created for these purposes...
  2. You must list 5 things about yourself, and 4 of them must be bold-faced lies...
  3. You must pass this award on to 5 bloggers that you either like or don't like or don't really have much of an opinion about...
  4. If you fail to follow any of the above rules, I will... (yadda, yadda, yadda, see how scared I am!)
  5. This one isn't actually a rule, but once you do the above, please link up to the Memetastic Hop so that I can keep track of where this thing goes.
OK, with all those bleepedy-bleep rules out of the way, here are my 5 statements, four of which are lies.
  1. This is the last blog-award I am EVAH going to allow to waste my precious time (and yours). For reals.
  2. I turned down two offers of marriage before JoyDad came along.
  3. I am so allergic to make-up, I almost break out in hives just thinking about it.
  4. I once hitch-hiked across the French/German border, in the company of another American, picked up by a carload of Algerians. The border guards had no idea what to make of us.
  5. I took a stilt-walking gym class in college one semester, in which I learned to walk on clown stilts three feet high. Never looked so slender in my life, before or since!
There you go. Guess away if you must. And I'm not going to pass this on, nor even ask you to post your own truth-or-lies. 'Cause Jillsmo doesn't know me from a hole in the ground anyway. (Oh wait... is that Lynn who's going to carry out the dire threats?)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Every Child Will Participate

We're all swatting at the same mosquitoes
Eating burned-up burgers
At the picnic of the world.

-- Tom Chapin, "Picnic of the World," to the tune of the CanCan

It was an ambitious project. I first heard about it at a PTO meeting last November -- Joy & Rose's school had won a grant to host a dance residency in January. For three intense weeks, a university dance professor and one of her doctoral students would swoop into the physical education classes, teaching grade-appropriate dance curriculum while choreographing (with major student input) an hour-long all-school performance.

"Every child will participate," said the principal.

I raised my eyebrows. Even the non-verbal second-grader with CP who relies on staff to wheel her chair around? Even Joy, who follows very few directives and has trouble with noises and large groups of people?

Come January, though, Joy's staff was ready and willing. PhyEd is one of Joy's best bets as far as being in class with her peers, and her gym teacher and special educator collaborated with me on how best to make the experience successful for Joy, and the initial dance-class sessions went reasonably well. We hammered out a plan whereby Joy would participate in only the first of two evening performances, with her trusty special educator at her side the whole time. We cancelled Joy's therapy for the evening of the performance, re-scheduled Rose's piano lesson, and went second-hand-store scrounging for the right color of shirt for each of them to wear. Brown for Joy, yellow for Rose.

The first hint of trouble came from Rose. She wasn't enthusiastic about the dance residency from the beginning, and ramped up the complaints as the performance neared. It's too chaotic -- this isn't coming together -- we don't know what we're doing -- everyone is SCREAMING in the gym, it gives me a headache!


Then on the day of the performance, the whole school had dress-rehearsal all afternoon, first class-by-class, then as an all-school group. When I came to pick up the girls at the end fo the day, one mama (who had come to see the rehearsal) told me that Joy had danced and done just fine. But then out came the special educator with a teary-eyed Joy, and gently told me -- the performance might not be such a good idea. As long as Joy was sitting on her lap in the noisy chaotic rehearsal, it was at least manageable. But when she and her group were "on," Joy had been frustrated, tearful, lashing out. Her special educator had had quite a dance herself, trying to guide Joy through the motions while anticipating and blocking all the other-directed acts-of-ow. It wasn't fun for anyone, just an unfortunate spectacle. (That last was my summing of the situation, not her words!)

One on level it felt like the first days of kindergarten all over again. All that prepping, all those plans, lost in a whirl of tears and frustrated injurious outburst.

On the other hand, I've had some practice now in adjusting expectations on the fly. Plus Joy's special educator was great. She was willing to hold and sing to Joy through the whole performance if we wanted, or to care for her in another room while we watched Rose perform. We decided, though, that Joy would be happier at home, and did a parental tag-team instead: JoyDad went to the first iteration of the show that evening, I went to the second.

It was entirely the right decision.

The gym was way overcrowded, and noisy, and hot. This stood in contrast to the outdoor temperatures which were plunging toward zero and beyond! By the second performance, the one I saw, even some of the NT kids were tired and teary. SO not Joy's scene.

The show came together really well, though! They were working on the school's motto, the theme of "Growing Strong." Then they divided it into four things you need to grow strong: sleep (kindergarten), shelter (first-graders), food (2nd/3rd graders), and clean air (4th/5th graders). Then each division had a wide latitude for interpretation. Joy's class, for example, had learned about Great Horned Owls -- sleep, night, owls... toldja it was widely interpretive! -- and moving with bodies held tightly and loosely. Best moment: watching the kindergarteners pounce and consume their prey, and then mimic regurgitation!

Rose's class, on the theme of food, went with a Picnic of the World dance. Their movement goals included African dance forms and cross-rhythms, which brought in the international component. Then for the picnic/food component, they split into small groups, each of which designed its own dance moves incorporating a picnic blanket.

Rose's complaints about the dance residency vanished for the performance. And I realized I didn't have much to complain about either. Joy had gotten the benefit of the instructional part of the residency, really quite a neat experience in itself, and Rose got to perform (which she loves to do, even if she couldn't articulate one single thing she'd learned from the dance residency.) Each child participated on her own terms, and at the end of the day, I guess that's really what it's all about.

We're all knowing at the deep-down heart of it,
We're all a part of it,
The picnic of the, picnic of the, picnic of the world!

One Last Bit of Administrivia

Hmmf. My efforts at updating Elvis Sightings to use third-party comment-threading software have not gone as I hoped. (You may have seen the two test-run posts that I've since deleted!) It took trying out both Disqus and IntenseDebate to realize that any comments using either software would be stored separately from the actual blog -- and there were some other technical issues too. If I were starting a new blog, I'd probably use IntenseDebate. But I'm not starting a new blog.

So, back to our regularly scheduled programming. Maybe one day Blogger will get with the program and integrate comment-threading within their own software!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Squeezing the Balloon

Some aspects of life with Joy lately have felt rather like what happens when you squeeze a balloon. If you put your hands around the most bulging part of the balloon and squeeze, the air will move over and make another part of the balloon bulge instead...

Or that classic bedbug baby-toy, where there are four bedbugs and two are always "up." Hit one with the little plastic hammer, and it pops down but another pops up.

Pound the Bedbugs toy
Take, for example, Joy's stims. She's not pulling down Christmas cards or plants (yay!) But she is getting so insistent on snow-stimming that it's harder and harder to make even a short walk between car and school, even if the sidewalks are clear -- she dives and kicks into the snowbanks on either side, and then goes limp when you try to get her to stand and walk. And she's getting terribly insistent on "making friends with the pillow" if left to her own devices for any length of time at all. That lovely fleece boa I made her for Christmas, that I was hoping would be a socially-acceptable twiddle-stim? She lo-o-o-o-o-oves that boa, and not in a way we can take out in public. And if we take the boa away, the house is full of usable substitutes.

Then there's the "acts of ow." She's hardly pulling out her own hair any more, and the self-injurious stuff has dropped to near zero (yay!) But guess what has gone way up instead? Outbursts directed at other people. Hitting, kicking, hair-pulling, as a very touchy and very immediate frustration response.

I don't like the balloon/bedbug-toy analogy nearly as well as I like comparing Joy's development and behavior to a mixer board (with sliders that go both up and down but don't necessarily have to be zero-sum.)

I'm pretty sure that the stimming does have to happen in one form or another, though I wish we would be able to have more influence as far as what the range of preferred stim would be. [Update: TherExtras reminds me to link to our joint-post from a year ago, Stim-Sense, that explored stimming issues.] Even more so, I wish the acts-of-ow weren't acting like a squeezed balloon. Because as far as I'm concerned, I'd rather have that acts-of-ow-balloon just pop and disappear altogether.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Tagged, Redux

I've circled back to blogging about tagging several times now. My first Tagged post was about Joy's Project Lifesaver radio tag, for tracking purposes in case she wanders. (Now that she's in kindergarten, we're extra-glad to have that safeguard.) Just lately, I succumbed to the lure of tagging via blog-meme.

Our latest new form of tag in the JoyFamily is a disability hang-tag for access to priority parking spaces.

Parking lot safety for Joy has long been a concern of ours, but the possibility of a hang-tag didn't really click for me until I had a conversation with Joy's special educator about dropping Joy off at the start of the school day. I've got my work-schedule arranged so as to be able to do both drop-off and pickup for the girls at school, so we aren't taking advantage of the "short bus" that drops kids right by the back door. If you don't bus, parental drop-off is on the far side of a busy street, with a walk either up or down-hill to the crossing guard. As an alternative, Joy's special educator mentioned that some parents do a quick drop-off in the handicap spots. Of course, for that you need official dispensation.

Earlier in our journey I'd have had more of an internal debate. ("But she's not handicapped -- she's just delayed a little -- we don't really need this -- why mark her as more different than she already is" -- etc.) At this point, though, I've learned to agonize less over taking advantage of available resources and designations that can make our lives easier. The application for the tags was a simple form, just a download away. It needed a physician's approval, which Joy's doctor gave easily on request. Two hang tags soon arrived in the mail, one for each car's glove compartment.

So far, I have used them sparingly: only at school, and only at drop-off. In general I'd prefer to have Joy learn to walk with me and her sister and the other kids. Sometimes we make it the whole 15-minute walk home! However, if there's rain and puddles, or new snow, the walk becomes too much of a stimmy distracted battle. It's exhausting, not entirely safe, and sets up a miserable mood for turning Joy over to school staff. So on those days, out comes the tag and we drive practically up to the door.

I haven't yet used the tag in a public parking lot yet, but I sure feel better knowing we have the option. Parking lots can be scary-rough -- there was a set of helpful parking-lot tips the other day at Stuart Duncan's blog with suggestions for the situation. (I added the hang-tag suggestion in the comments!)

It has crossed my mind that, with Joy's invisible disability, we might come in for some pushback from the self-appointed parking lot police -- the folks who see fit to call challenge if they see someone they don't think looks disabled get out of a car in a handicap-accessible spot. I was reminded of this yesterday when Rachel posted at Journeys with Autism about the barrage of doubt and disbelief that people with invisible disabilities often face. She mentioned one woman who developed a snappy comeback for the doubters: when someone issued a "you don't look disabled" parking lot challenge, she'd fire back, "And you don't look like a doctor!" (Rachel's post and the comments were much more detailed and nuanced than this little example; well worth the read.)

I gave a quick delighted high-five in the comments about that comeback -- it's so the perfect response that you wish you'd thought of at the time! I've been re-thinking my enthusiasm somewhat, though. It strikes me that if any parking lot pushback were to come our way, I'd rather be prepared with a gentle, educational answer than a snappy zinger. That way if the challenger turns out to be a well-meaning soul and open to new ideas, I might be able to send them away thoughtful rather than cranky/defensive. And if they really deserved the edgy comeback after all -- well, then I'll have been nicer to them than they deserved. Which wouldn't be so bad.

I should make clear that my re-thinking is in no way meant as a prescription for how I think everyone ought to react to a parking lot challenge. Just my own thoughts and planned approach. A person with an invisible disability who has had it up to HERE with spending precious energy trying to educate people who won't listen anyway -- may well choose a different approach entirely.

The snow has been falling all day today. Glad we've got that hang-tag for tomorrow.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


I got introduced to a new word the other day over at Special Needs Disability Parenting: BLOOM. The author was reflecting on how daunting the typical "milestones" can seem, when they feel so few and far between for our kiddos (and typically-developing kids are just galloping along.) She spoke of giving due celebration instead to the advances that would to others seem small. The baby-steps, the inchstones.

We've had some very nice inchstones with Joy lately.

Schoolwork is paying off! It's rather a new phenomenon for Joy to suddenly show us something that we haven't been working on at home and weren't particularly tracking with from school. Recent example: Joy has been excited to play catch at home lately, with a soft inflated kick-ball-size ball. All of a sudden, we started seeing her do occasional two-handed throws over her head, something we'd not taught her. "Oh, we learn that in gym!" cried Rose. And sure enough, Joy had been working on it both in gym and with her one-on-one staffers.

Another was when we went to the library earlier this week and encountered a chunky wooden bead-stringing set that went with Eric Carle's classic book The Very Hungry Caterpillar. There was a wooden butterfly attached to the far end of the string, and the "needle" was the caterpillar, and all the foods that the caterpillar ate were the beads to string. Joy knew exactly what to do, even though the "needle" was a long rectangle and had to be inserted just-so, and we hadn't done beads at home for a quite a while. But she's got a bead-stringing task-box at school!

Another delightful set of inchstones stareted with the Christmas tree and stockings and cards that she left unmolested this year. Right behind her dining chair, those cards are. Easy reach, and stimmy-favorite material. And yet she hasn't pulled down a single one.

Christmas Card Display
The tree as well, she only made a very few grabs for it this year, even though she was easily tall enough to take it down with one good pull had she chosen to do so.

Christmas tree 2009
Emboldened by our success with the tree, I tried something new when we took the tree down. I replaced it with a plant that's been exiled to the back bedroom (now Rose's room) for years. I can't even remember when we pulled the last plant out of our common living area for Joy-proofing purposes. Long, long since.

The Plant
The plant has now stood in place of the tree for a week and a half. We had to warn Joy away a couple of times, but she has mostly let it be.

This plant is a survivor, and not just of Joy-depredations. We rescued it from JoyDad's mother's condo after her passing in 1998. A number of weeks had gone by between the funeral and the final housecleaning, and the soil in the plant's little six-inch pot was bone-dry. We didn't really expect the plant to survive even the trip home from Chicago, let alone the long run.

Not only is it still going strong, it's some inches taller than Joy now.

We reckon that Grandma P would approve, and is somehow celebrating the inchstones right along with us.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Stylishly Yours (More About JoyMama)

Well, the joke's on me. Just when I say I've never done one of these seven-things-about-yourself memes, I get tagged honored with the Stylish Blogger award, courtesy of my splendid recently-acquainted bloggy friend Professor Mother.

Stylish Blogger Award
The rules of this award-game are that the recipient post seven things about herself and then pass the award on to three other stylish bloggers. I've been ridiculously non-compliant with meme-awards in the past, but I actually feel like doing the seven-things part this time, so here goes:

1) My three words for 2011 are: active, tidy, relax. (See Both Hands and a Flashlight for more about the three-words thing.)

2) On the "active" front, I've actually biked to work a couple of times this week, courtesy of a major snow-melt between Christmas and New Years that left the paths clean. Nine degrees Fahrenheit on the way there Wednesday morning, snowing on the way back. Woohoo!

3) "Tidy" applies to things like the filing of papers and the more deliberate tracking and attending to loose ends in various aspects of my life. It does not, however, mean that I'm going to buy back into the societal fetish that says grown women's legs need to be baby-smooth-depilated, either by razor or other means. Because I gave that up in 1987. (Got me a career and a JoyDad anyway. Heh.)

4) In 1987 I was studying in Germany for a semester. The other additional country I've lived in, besides the US, was Botswana, when I was a pre-schooler and my parents were on a two-year assignment with Mennonite Central Committee.

5) JoyDad and I went non-traditional when it came to engagement rings. Instead of spending money we didn't have for sparkly rocks from the mines of southern Africa, we bought each other ten-dollar sterling silver pinky-rings. They seemed to work! (Our wedding bands are gold and plain.)

6) I read around 30 new books a year, not counting re-reads. Some of my favorites from 2010 were The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and Playing the Enemy.

7) I re-read The Lord of the Rings about once every two years. My first time through was in 8th grade.


OK, there's my meme-fulfillment. Here's where I break the rules -- like Jess (another of Professor Mother's awardees), I don't feel like figuring out whom to pass the award to. So I'm not going to do that part. How about you all take care of it for me, by posting something fun about yourself in the comments!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Included: Gifts in Her Name, Words in Her Mouth

This Christmas Joy and Rose both brought gifts home from school for their parents. Rose's gift to JoyDad was especially fine -- a calendar with the following image:

Calendar from Rose
"Hot peppers are red
Your guitar is blue
You are my dad
And I love you."

As far as gifts from Joy went, it felt like something of a new era. There was a little "I (heart) Mom" pillow for JoyMama, a calendar for JoyDad (what are they trying to tell him?), and a lovely pair of red beeswax candles for both of us that we've been lighting for a festive touch at meals.

Gifts from Joy

It felt really sweet to get gifts from Joy. I was happy to see the inclusion aspect of it too -- this was something the rest of her classmates were doing, something the teacher had thoughtfully organized and parent volunteers had facilitated. I witnessed some of the other kids taking their turn to make candles and saw as how it was mostly grown-ups doing the work, though I think the kids were proud of "their" candles.

I do wonder to what extent Joy had any idea what was going on. She may or may not have been able to have any hand at all in the making of them.

I have some similar wonderings about another procedure that's a regular part of Joy's school day. It's the routine during circle-time at the beginning of the morning where the kids take turns standing up and sharing their news since last they met. Joy participates in this via a GoTalk 4, on which we can record spoken messages that play back when she pushes a picture-button. The standard picture for "news" is a star. (The other button you see on the image is how she says "yes please" or "no thank you" to hot-lunch for that day.)

Joy's GoTalk
As with the gifts, this is a routine with a very sweet feel to it. Every morning, I come up with something for her to share. Monday it was "My Grandma and Grandpa came to visit from Kansas." Tuesday we had "I sat on my new rocking chair." I always try to make it something relatively normal-sounding, that the other kids can relate to. After all, this is one of the few consistent times of the day they'll be in one another's company! Rose provides the voice, and does a fantastic job. Joy's teacher and I are both charmed at the way Joy "speaks" in her sister's voice.

The benefits of this are many. Joy gets to take part in a classroom routine. Rose gets to help her sister. Classmates get a little window into Joy's world.

And yet, we're putting words into Joy's mouth every day with this routine, words she did not choose. Words that she can't (yet) choose. Is this befitting the dignity of a six-year-old human being, who does after all have her own thoughts and feelings and opinions? Is it that much different than if one used the GoTalk to make your favorite dolly "talk" by hand-over-hand causing dolly to push that button?

I'm not entirely sure. At this point, I feel we can justify it from a "fake it till you make it" perspective -- one day Joy will learn to share her own news, while dolly never would! -- in addition to all the other positives I pointed out.

As with everything we do in service of inclusion, we'll have to keep re-evaluating as we go.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Blog Gems: Spin, Spin, Spin!

This fortnight's Blog Gems asks participants, "This week link up a post that tells us something about you." The example given was that many of us have participated in memes such as "tell seven things about yourself." But though I've seen lots of those, I've never played.

Instead, I'm linking to an old favorite from my first few months of blogging: Spin, Spin, Spin. My life as a plate-spinning, unicycle-riding acrobat! Some of the plates are slightly different two years later, but most of it still applies quite well.

Hop on over to the Blog Gems linky-list at The King and Eye to link to a self-revelatory post from your own blog archives!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Can't Drive A Sled

Wherein the women of the JoyFamily prove that not a one of us can drive a sled...

This was from our sledding trip during our lovely visit from Grandma Joy and GrandpaJ, who both sledded in a straighter line than the younger generations managed.

Three cheers for our new Flip video cam, and for JoyDad the intrepid videographer!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's Reflections: Identity

"On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog."
-- Cartoon from the New Yorker, July 1993

"Facebook makes cyberspace more like the real world: dull but civilized. The masked-ball period of the Internet is ending. Where people once led double lives, real and virtual, now they lead single ones again."
Time magazine, Dec. 15, 2010
-- "Person of the Year 2010: Mark Zuckerberg"

The turn of the year is a traditional opportunity for introspection, taking stock, looking back and looking forward. In this medium, I tend toward what I call "bloggy navel-gazing" -- reflections on what this Elvis Sightings enterprise means for me (and about me) as Joy's mother, JoyMama. Of course the blog is framed around Joy herself, but she's not the one with the words to speak for herself. Someday, someday! but till then, I'm afraid that most of what you're getting here is me.

The other evening JoyDad and I had a holiday date-night, dinner and a movie thanks to the babysitting team of Grandma Joy and GrandpaJ. Our movie of choice was The Social Network, a fictionalized account of the founding of the wildly-popular online social-network known as Facebook. Well-paced show, zingy dialog, compellingly plotted, the two hours flew by! The lead character, Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and billionaire CEO of Facebook, was a geeky Harvard undergrad when he launched the first version of Facebook in 2003. While Facebook was a student-members-only operation for its first three years, in 2006 it expanded to anyone over the age of 13. Facebook now boasts over 500 million users worldwide, most of us under our "real names" -- because much of the point for Facebook users is that you want your friends and acquaintances to be able to find you.

The movie took as its frame the real-life legal battles over Facebook's origins, but played very fast-and-loose with Zuckerberg's character. To hear the movie tell it, the core motivation for the creation of Facebook had to do with Zuckerberg's inability to hold onto a certain girlfriend (or any other friends), as well as a desire to belong to Harvard's exclusive social circle. According to the Time article, however, Zuckerberg is still together with his Harvard girlfriend, and has devoted friends as well as a strong family, and founded Facebook because it was just such a cool thing to do!

The dance between real-name identity and pseudonymous identity has been of interest to me since I first started Elvis Sightings under the pseudonym JoyMama. At the time, I'd say that maybe half the autism-parent blogs I followed were under pseudonyms. About a year ago, there was even a cluster of three or so blogs that had started out with real-names and then made a retroactive switch to pseudonyms.

But lately it feels like there's a trend toward blogging under real-names. The new bloggers I've been adding to my list are predominantly real-name bloggers. I'm also one of very-very few contributors to The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism to contribute under a pseudonym.

I'm mostly happy with staying pseudonymous. For Joy's protection and my own, I don't want my real name to be too easy to connect to the blog, particularly since it's an unusual enough name that pretty much all the Google hits on it are really me -- and I've been leaving trace-able real-name trails online since about the time of that New Yorker cartoon. (Unlike a fellow I once met who shares a name with a world-famous Olympic athlete, who commented that he could post anything he wanted under his real name because it gets buried under famous search results!) But many of you knew my real name before you visited this blog, and I've shared it with others who have become bloggy friends.

Here's where I think the dance gets interesting. In general, I think that people tend to equate online anonymity with inauthenticity. After all, on the Internet nobody knows you're a dog! You can create any identity you want for yourself under a pseudonym -- or say awful things without having to own the consequences in real life, if so you choose.

On the other hand, face-to-face communication isn't free of identity-creation either. We make choices all the time about which of our thoughts we want to share, how we want to present ourselves, what face we want to show the world. And, as a recurring pseudonymous presence, JoyMama has to own what is said on Elvis Sightings and in comments on other blogs. I can't hit-and-run under my established pseudonym, not that I'd want to!

JoyMama is me. My reflections here have a great deal to do with my identity, even if they don't have my real name directly attached. In fact, readers can learn a lot more about the real me on this blog than through occasional casual face-to-face encounters -- or, for that matter, than by reading my real-name Facebook status updates. I wonder if that's maybe the best of both worlds: the protection (and fun!) of the masked-ball that the Internet can be, yet also the authenticity of a real-person identity, firmly attached to the pseudonym.

That identity is not a static entity. Joy is a work-in-progress, JoyMama is a work-in-progress, so are Rose and JoyDad... and all of you. I expect Joy and myself to be life-long learners, and I'm looking forward to blogging about what we learn in 2011.

If you'd like to get updates on our ongoing Elvis Sightings evolution via Facebook, you can click on the "Like" button in the right-hand sidebar. Be advised, though: it won't help you figure out my real name, but it will (probably) give me yours!

Happy New Year!