It all began in August of 2012, when my little guys went to a bug-themed summer camp at a local nature center. One of their counselors was a cute, teenaged girl named Callie. The boys had a great time at the camp and loved all the counselors, including Callie. The camp only lasted 5 days, and we haven’t seen her since. Yet that girl has absolutely NO IDEA what she unintentionally started!
Soon after the camp was over, SB sometimes started calling himself Callie. (Except now it is spelled Caly. I have no explanation for the spelling change.) He would often (but not always) correct us when we called him by his actual name, and we thought it was funny, so we played along.
Around this time SB also started trying to tell jokes. He was really bad at it, of course. Still is. One of his favorites was to answer the question, “When is your birthday?” with the date of May 11. His birthday is February 24. He thought this was HILARIOUS, and would giggle uncontrollably while the person who had asked him about his birthday just smiled, totally not in on the joke. It didn’t take long for these two behaviors to mesh, and soon SB’s birthday was February 24, but Caly’s birthday was May 11. This made things a little easier for us to understand, but we were still never exactly sure when we were talking to Caly and when we were talking to SB. We still aren’t, really.
This went on for several months, and then I noticed that SB was calling his brother as Mrs. Gulak, and AB was answering him. Since this was kind of weird, I asked them about it. “I’m Caly. AB is Mrs. Gulak,” SB answered, and then matter-of-factly went back to playing. After a little bit of research, I learned that Mrs. Gulak is actually the name of a retired elementary school teacher in the area who frequently subs at my kids’ school. Why AB took on her name, I’ll never know. But now my children regularly refer to each other as Caly and Mrs. Gulak when they are playing together. It’s especially funny that they do it even when they are angry at each other. Just imagine a 9-year-old boy yelling at a 7-year-old boy and saying, “Mrs. Gulak! You NEVER let me go first in Donkey Kong! I NEVER get to go first, Mrs. Gulak!”
The guys have a lot of stuffed animals that they play with regularly, using them to reenact scenes from their school day, Tae Kwon Do class, or other activities. It’s usually pretty cute, although sometimes the stuffed animals get scolded a LOT, and I’m horrified that this is what I must sound like to my children!
Once we accidentally left an important stuffed animal behind after a visit with my extended family, and this started a tradition still going on today where a few animals get left behind on purpose after each visit, and then my parents will email pictures back of all the trouble the animals are getting into.
Over the last year or so, the guys have started referring to certain stuffed animals as their “children.” Only a select few get to be in this category. Pretty soon, each animal that had been given the honorable distinction of “child” also had a birthday that I was expected to remember to celebrate. The details about their stuffed “families” continue to get more and more elaborate as time goes on. It’s funny to hear all of the crazy stuff that they come up with. It’s also really impressive that they can keep straight all of these made up details and keep them consistent. And then sometimes it’s all just a little bit strange! A few weeks ago, SB was telling my sister-in-law all about his alternate family, his children, and where they all live. She was tickled by all of it and she said to me, “You know, you really should write all of this down!” I realized that she was right, so that’s what inspired this blog post.
Last weekend, I interviewed Caly and Mrs. Gulak. The interviews were fascinating, and here is what I learned:
Although she goes by Caly, the full name of this woman is Kleen Parthie Caly.
Birthday: May 11, 1968
Address: 3112 Main Street San Francisco, CA (My sister-in-law and her family live in a nearby suburb with a house number of 3113. A long time ago, SB told me that he was going to live at 3112 when he grew up, so that he could live next door to his beloved cousin. I’m pretty sure that’s where this number came from.)
Marital Status: Married for 22 years to Mr. Williams (first name Scott, but he always goes by Mr. Williams. Scott is the name of one of their ABA therapists.)
Elijah – born January 23, 2006, age 8, 2nd grade, favorite food is pizza
Joshua – born March 28, 2006, age 8, 2nd grade, favorite food is corn dogs (I think that both Elijah and Joshua are named after children that SB knows from school.)
Wolie – born April 29, 2007, age 7, 1st grade, favorite food is watermelon (This is a stuffed Walrus that I’ve had since before my children were born. I named him Wally, but again, the spelling has been changed.)
Hearty – born December 5, 2008, age 5, kindergarten, favorite food is cantaloupe (This is a bear that has a small heart embroidered on his chest, which is how he got his name.)
Semcheski – born May 16, 2009, age 5, preschool, favorite food is applesauce (This is a stuffed Halloween bat named after a former art teacher at their school. I’m not sure if she would feel flattered or horrified to have a bat named after her, but if she happens to read this, I can assure her that it is an honor.)
Allergies: Elijah is allergic to pineapple. None of the other children have any allergies.
Church: The family attends Flower Embry Baptist Church in San Francisco
Caly plays the clarinet, but not in a band or orchestra. She only plays solos. Mr. Williams teaches 10th grade band. (It’s not too difficult to figure out where this one came from, since I am a clarinetist in the Air Force Band and my husband is a middle school band director. If only we all could just play solos!)
Family: Caly’s parents are Rachel, born December 8, 1948, age 65 and Joe, born December 11, 1945, age 68. (Rachel is the name of one of their ABA therapists. Joe is actually a good friend and former colleague of my husband’s who has a wife and child of his own. Not long ago we were at a party at their home, and SB announced for all to hear that Joe was his Dad. Can you say, “Awkward?”) Caly also has 2 siblings. Her sister Katie, who is 2 years older than her, has 2 children named Jason (age 13) and James (age 8.) (Katie is the name of the real Joe’s real wife. Getting confused yet?) Caly’s brother Robert, who is 4 years older than her, has no children yet, but his wife Judy is pregnant and the baby is due in 4-5 weeks. (I’m wondering if I was supposed to throw her a baby shower? Do imaginary personalities get baby showers?)
It crossed my mind to explain to SB that 2 of his children are only 2 months apart, and that it’s not biologically possible to give birth to children that close together. But I decided against it because: 1. His children are a rabbit, a pig, a walrus, a bear, and a bat. Biology seems irrelevant. 2. It’s possible that his children are adopted. And 3. I realized that going down that road could lead to questions about the reproductive system that I was not prepared to answer. So I let it go.
And on to the second interview!
Mrs. Gulak is what people call her, but her real name is Lydia Evens Gulak. (Lydia is not the first name of the real Mrs. Gulak, but it is the name of one of SB’s neighborhood playmates.)
Birthday: July 29, 1984
Address: 7465 Filthy Road Street Seattle, Washington
Marital Status: Married to Mr. Michul (pronounced like “Michael”), whose full name is Thamasett Cordish Michul. (Mrs. Thamasett is the special education teacher who works closely with SB.) Mr. Michul’s birthday is February 29, but he celebrates it on February 28 on non-leap years.
Tim – born January 25, 2006, age 8, 2nd grade, favorite food is chocolate cake
Panther Pig – born July 2, 2005, age 8, 2nd grade, favorite food is mixed vegetables (My husband is from Charlotte, so obviously he is a Carolina Panthers fan!)
Diddy – born June 28, 2006, age 7, 1st grade, favorite food is peas (Diddy Kong is the nephew of the video game character Donkey Kong. The Wii game “Donkey Kong Country Returns” was the ONLY thing my children wanted to do with their time for many, many months. This explains the reason Mrs. Gulak has a child named Diddy, and also why several of her children are pigs. In the video game, when you get partway through a level, there is a cute little pig that cheers you on, and marks your place so that even if you lose the life you are playing, you don’t have to go all the way back to the beginning of the level. You can start back at the last pig you passed.)
Emma – born January 10, 2008, age 6, 1st grade, favorite food is lima beans
Princess Pig – born November 29, 2007, age 6, kindergarten, favorite food is apples
Fluffy Pig – born March 21, 2009, age 5, kindergarten, favorite food is chocolate cake with cherry garnish
Emma is allergic to dairy. Princess Pig is allergic to all animals. (But is she allergic to pigs? I should have asked.)
Church: Woodland Hood Church
Mrs. Gulak is a band teacher at Guilty Pit School. She only teaches the practices, no concerts. Mr. Michul is also a band teacher. He works at Westside Middle and High Schools. He only teaches concerts, no practices. (Mr. Michul totally has the better deal, I think.)
Mrs. Gulak’s parents are Jim and Karie, who live in Nashville, TN. Karie is 28 and Jim is 57. (Jim is the name of my father, AB’s grandfather, and Kerry is the name of their ABA provider. I can only guess that is where these names have come from. And I didn’t have the heart to tell him that a 29-year-old woman cannot have a 28-year-old mother. Again, biology seems irrelevant here.) Mrs. Gulak also has a sister named Maddie who is 2 years younger than her. Maddie lives by herself in Great Falls, Montana.
Fluffy Pig is a bully. He is mean to the other children, regularly hitting them and calling them names. He gets into trouble a lot and does not treat other children nicely. He spends a lot of time in time out or missing recess.
Again, I can’t tell you how impressed I was during my interviews at how easily both guys were able to answer all of these questions about their alto egos and keep all of these details consistent. They have been talking about some of these pieces of information for as long as two years, and it always stays the same. SB could quickly and easily tell me the ages and birthdays of all of Caly’s family members, including the year of their birth. He didn’t have to stop and think about the ages or dates, because he already has it all committed to memory. For example, he had been talking about how Caly was 45 years old for several months. On May 11, 2014, he insisted that we all wish her a happy birthday, and then a week later I made some mention of Caly being 45. “No, Mom!” he corrected me. “I’m 46 now!” (So far the only things the birthdays have required have been a birthday wish and maybe a homemade card. I can’t wait until it is requested that my stuffed grandchildren receive a cake and a trip to Chuck E. Cheese.) AB was a little less fluid with his details. He knew by heart all of the birthdays of Mrs. Gulak’s children and how old they were, but he needed my help to use that information to figure out what year they were born.
Speaking of May 11, SB can really get out of hand with insisting that May 11 is his birthday. On this past May 11, which was a Sunday, my husband actually sat him down and told him, “You CANNOT tell people at church today that it is your birthday. They will believe you, and it is not the truth. It is a lie.” SB probably told some people anyway. Once he gets started, sometimes it’s hard to stop him!
Another cute thing SB has done involves a digital clock. About 3 years ago, he asked for a digital clock for Christmas because he liked to play with the buttons on the clock in his room, but we wouldn’t let him. So with his new Christmas clock, he loved to sit just pressing the buttons as fast as he could and changing the time at lightning speed. Since this was really stimmy, we only let him do it briefly as a reward at the end of the day for cleaning up his toys. Over time, his stims have become a little more subtle, and (thankfully!) he doesn’t seem to enjoy the repetitive button-pushing so much anymore. So for a while, he changed the time on his clock almost daily, just having fun with the fact that he could control what time it was in his room. (There is another digital clock in his room with the correct time that he is not allowed to change.) A few months ago, he put his clock on Pacific Time and has left it there ever since. Now he always knows what time it is in California – where Caly lives.
I used to lament that my kids didn’t have a very elaborate imagination. They never play truly imaginative games, pretending to be pirates or super heroes. If you give them a bucket of Legos or other building toys, they seem somewhat lost. Now I know that they have incredible imaginations. They just express them differently than other kids. And “different”? Well, we’re used to that around here.