Across the pond...


Day 1229: Today I'm thankful prezzies from their Aunt whose visiting England came & started a conversation about what it's like to travel the world. I've lived this momma-life-for-too-long-now, I forget or never talk about the fact, that I lived in Switzerland, cities all over Australia & created a life in Ireland. 


I'm so swamped in the life I lead right now with three-kids-under-five, warming up my coffee twice if not three times a morning & almost too tired to brush my teeth before zonking-out-to-Netflix every night. So there just ain't a lot of reminiscing happening on my end. 



I'm not thinking about moving to a small mountain town in Frutigen, Switzerland for my penpal crush when I was 18. 



Or I'm not remembering the rush of jumping out of a plane, scuba diving with sharks or taking a shady bus tour in Morocco. 



I'm not smiling at outrageous nights like when I drew on my foot with pen and in the happy state the free-spirited-atmosphere Byron Bay brings, I then got a man about 6 feet tall, in all leather, with a grey mustache and gnawing on a toothpick, to tattoo over the pen while singing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" with a burly Oz accent. 




I'm not remembering the warm nights, the comfort an acoustic guitar could bring, the excitement of who you'd meet tomorrow & the ability to leap outta any comfort zone you may have had. 


When I landed in Australia, I was 20 Years old. I had just spent 3 nights in Hong Kong. Alone. With little money, only enough to get me from the airport, to the hostel I booked in Sydney. Only problem was the taxi took me to opposite end of the city to a sister hostel & I had to learn that the freaking-Australian-sun-can-melt-off-makeup-in-no-time-flat while walking to the right one in Kings Cross. My roomate was a stripper, I got asked out for the first time by another girl & once woke up on a top bunk bed to find the face of a German boy who broke into our room staring me in the eyes. #thankgodIwokeupwhenheburpedwhatsmelledlikekobassa



I then stayed & I traveled around Australia, pretending I was a hairdresser - Giving everyone the "Rachel" & highlighting with "Sun-in-type-stuff" using tin-foil from the Hostel's shared kitchens. Wasn't horrible. Wasn't great. Just gave them something different. And that's all they were seeking and all I was offering. 




Traveling was beyond fulfilling, scary at times, deeply soul searching & in my case, something I needed to do before I moved on to the rest of my life. 



So today, I'm thankful these presents came from across the pond. That they reminded me how traveling is what made me, a large part me. How it taught me lessons & independence & I'll be forever grateful those years & experiences make up my life. 



And I'm proud of my sister-in-law for doing it, I want my son to know I encourage it & I wanna give others a push if they can, to live abroad at least once in your life. 







P.S - Just cause...


While he learns to walk. She's been "spotting" him like a freaking-little-gymnastics-coach. She's there to catch him, nudges him along & claps & cheers if he takes more than three steps at a time...

#Swoon

Feel like a Queen...


Today I'm thankful I got to see her feel like a Queen. 


I saw her big brother go from dead-asleep to adorably sweet.



I listened as her boys told her, how their Elf-on-the-shelf-Tink decorated for her big day.


I got to watch her from afar, in her morning routine at school. I saw as she proudly stood for O'Canada & only gave her amazing EA half-the-sass-she-gives me. I then beamed as she confidently vocalized choosing her big brother to be the "leader with her" & then swooned as they walked hand in hand to bring the attendance down to the office. 


I giggled as her friends gathered around as she got crowned with the "Birthday Hat" and sung upon. 


I watched her as she watched me make my way to the front of the classroom to chat about Down syndrome, using our 2017 #differentisbeautiful Calendar


I caught my son's eye a few times and I'm telling you, the love I felt beaming from him in that moment was a beautiful thing. He kept nodding as if almost urging me along in my presentation to his class. Like "You got this mom, come on, you can do this."


And I could not stop smiling each time I flipped a page and Pip proudly hit her chest and claimed to the room it was "Pippy".


I could not help but feel my sweet girl was so very celebrated. 


And because of that on her 4th Birthday we gave her entire school a #differentisbeautiful Calendar & I walked away feeling so very proud of who my daughter is. And so very excited to see who she will become.


Not to mention the fact that BRITNEY-FREAKING-SPEARS posted her sweet face on Instagram, she got her very own not-annoying-at-all-music-making-keyboard and she stuffed a gluten-free-chocolate-cupcake down her hatch like a champ.



She felt loved. She felt celebrated. She felt like a Queen. 









Britney Spears #Pipmebabyonemoretime



Dear Brit, 
Today for some odd-unknown-outrageously-awesome reason you posted a picture of my little girl Pip, with our #differentisbeautiful message to the thousands-of-bazillion-people who follow you...











                                                             
Within minutes, I was getting flooded with messages from any & everyone who follows Happy Soul Project about what you had done. 



I don't think you really understand what you have though.



Not only did you share an important-much-needed message, brought awareness to Down syndrome and got anyone who loves Pip to shoutout and claim it was her.




You gave a tired-weary-starting-to-doubt-what-I'm-even-doing momma a big ol' boost of hope.



Pip will be four tomorrow and she's done more, been through more & inspired more, than most people do their entire lives. 




She's literally inspired my everything & because of her I do what I do.



Pip was recently diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, just recovered from her 10th surgery, has Celiac Disease, is usually in bed by 6:30 & I'm just so God-damn-tired that her birthday party will consist of a Costco gluten-free pizza, 4 balloons hung up by our Elf-on-the-shelf and her hometeam singing Happy Birthday as many times as she wants. 



And she'll feel loved & she'll be over-the-top happy.




But despite all that, a wee bit of momma guilt will still make an appearance for not throwing her a birthday party. 




So, because the internet is a weird and wild place, you proved that today. I thought what the heck, why not give it a go, can't hurt to ask. 



You wanna throw a Pip's 4th Birthday Bash with moi?




Here's the thing. Hear me out. 


I run a cool thing called Happy Soul Project. Here's a small peek into what our Non-Profit does: 

  • #differentisbeautiful: From our annual calendar, to inspiring companies to have inclusion in advertising. From our school presentations or chatting with medical students & doctors to our Ted Talk - We are spreading a message that being YOU is being BEAUTIFUL.


  • #BeAwesomeToday:On the 15th of every month we challenge thousands of people around the world to do something awesome for someone else.


  • #Kick-It-Capes: Close to 6,000 kids have received a personalized superhero cape to help them get through cancer, a terminal illness or face a vast difference in their lives. 


  • #SchoolKits: We're launching a school/club/group program about how to live with a Happy Soul. Which engages kids in important life lessons, opportunities to help their communities and teaches confidence in being themselves.


  • #PenpalProject: An old-school-paper-and-pen concept linking kids and parents to others in similar situations. 



So Brit, how cool would it be to throw a bash that helps our Pip-inspired-Projects soar? 



I was thinking all Pip's favorites:
 - You along with musical guests Bruno, Justin x 2, Walk Off the Earth & obviously Adele.



- And since Ellen is pretty much all their BFF's, I guess we should probably invite her too - Hello, #OperationEllenMeetPip 


- And then I mean, whomever you wanna rope in too.


Thoughts?


Let's chat.







P.S - If a party isn't your thing. Maybe you could facilitate us pranking Ellen instead. I'd be killer at that Dennis Quaid hidden camera prank kinda thing.


P.P.S - If everyone and their mothers read this and Britney doesn't - Please help instead. You can donate to our Non-Profit Projects HERE!!!


P.P.P.S - Back to Brit again, out of curiosity what in Sweet Jesus moved you to share Pip's photo? 



Flip Your Whole World Upside Down...


Sweet Jesus, do Facebook memories take a walk down memory lane or what? Sometimes I look at a photo and it kinda shocks my system, sending it down a path of emotions. Take this photo for example. 


Man, am I thankful perspectives change, your mind can shift and your heart can heal. The first few months after Pip was born & I was still "grieving" her Down syndrome diagnosis, I use to look at pictures of me pregnant with her and almost cringe. I use to get angry & think, "How the bloody hell, did you not know? You're such an idiot, here you are all happy and pregnant and little did you know your whole world would be flipped upside down."



Then Pip got all up in there, into that heart of mine.



Now I look at pictures like this and think, "How the bloody hell, did you not know? You're such an idiot. Why oh why did you waste so many tears and such heartache on something that can flip your whole world upside down."




In 2017, we are celebrating her. Pip. And in turn we are hoping to create a useful tool in bringing awareness & education about Down syndrome.


So, we've partnered with SafeHaven to bring you some cool Christmas gifts that will help others this season. You can not only get our 2017 #differentisbeautiful Calendar in their popup shop, but you can snag some of these adorably groovy pj's too.





Visit the popup shop HERE & for 20% off, use code: pjsforcharity 


Just something about all my kiddos in matching pjs, makes me right swoon...





Thank You Letter - City of Kingston...



Dear City of Kingston,


This thank you has been a long time coming. 


Exactly four years ago my family & I moved here. Two weeks later our little girl was born and unknown to us she happen to have Down syndrome. Add in Congenital Cataracts, Heart defects, Type 1 Diabetes, Celiac Disease and a handful of other challenges and somehow you still end up with the sassiest-most-influential 4 year old I've ever met in my life. 

  

My daughter Pip, not only has changed my life. But she is changing the lives of Kingstonians every chance she can. In simple ways like acknowledging the lady who slept on a bench downtown or bringing a smile to the hospital receptionist. To powerful ways like changing perspectives & influencing inclusion & acceptance. 



She has inspired me to strive for a world, a city, a community where change is possible. Where differences are celebrated and all people are valued.



Yesterday, I pulled my five year old from school so he could be there. I bravely decided to skip my one year old's nap and I knew Pip needed to come as she was the inspiration behind it all. Yesterday I was humbly honoured with a Celebrating Accessibility Award for making a significant contribution to improving access for persons of disabilities in Kingston. 


"Tara from Happy Soul Project uses her voice to inspire people to celebrate those with Down Syndrome and the beauty of people of all abilities and gifts through her blog and projects like the “Difference is Beautiful” calendar."


Even though my kids are young, were way more interested in the refreshment table & my son thought that Mayor Goodway from Paw Patrol would be there instead of Mayor Paterson, it was beyond important that they came.


I wanted them to see and feel the importance of change. 


Thank you for acknowledging my ideas and my contributions.
Thank you for recognizing people trying to do good. 
Thank you for supporting important decisions that in turn provide inclusion.
Thank you for gifting me this award & validating my efforts.

“I started Happy Soul Project with the intent of informing family and friends about our journey with special needs — and since then it’s soared into this beautiful movement — this extraordinary community and i’m so honoured to be the voice behind it and have this platform to create change.”


Thank you for showing my children that one voice can make a difference.


Much love, 
Tara McCallan
Proud Founder of Happy Soul Project



Punch in the Face on #WDD


Yesterday was World Diabetes Day & it came & went without me even acknowledging it. 
 

And it's not like I didn't know, it's more like I didn't want to give up my-plain-and-ordinary November 14th just yet. 


I'm not ready to. 


It's been 90 days since my Pip was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. And I still wanna punch it in the face EVERY SINGLE DAY. I still don't get it. 


It's a disease that is not for the faint of heart.
It's a disease that is not for the weary. 
It's a disease that is quite simply not fair. 


I've literally become Pip's pancreas. And no matter what I do. Nothing stays the same. 


One day she's low & the fear is unconsciousness or seizures. 
One day she's high & the fear is keytones & Diabetic ketoacidosis. 


Add antibiotics, morphine, numerous surgeries & now a diet of juice & Popsicles & I am all the more convinced, Diabetes is EVERY-BLOODY-DANG-DAY & a cure is absolutely NEEDED. 


So,

Next year. I will be ready. 
Next year. I will be better. 
Next year. I will be an advocate.


This year I will let it pass.






Just in case...


Dear Pip, 

Tomorrow we face another one & I just wanted to note a few things that I want-need-have to remember:


  • The way a smile takes over your entire face when I come into your room in the morning. How you're always sitting crossed-legged chatting it up with your dolls, but you shyly lift your eyes to match mine and say,"BOO". How you then pop up, reaching your arms as high as they can go & sweetly say,"Hi momma".
  • The way as soon as we hit the bottom stair, your little hands are already in the position to sign for "music" & before I can even ask you what you want for breakfast you've already yelled out "tooooast" six times. The way you continue to yell out your order, when I'm asking your brothers what they want. 
  • The way I catch you feeding your puppy food or tossing over something hitting the baby's highchair. The way I tell you no and you then look at them, wagging your little finger pretending you are me, telling them, "no no no no".
  • The way you giggle every morning when I'm changing you out of your pj's & point to your belly wanting a quick tickle. How you then point at your Dexcom & tell me "Daddy" did that & demand a brave-fist-pump.
  • The way you always try to put on your hat or shoes or coat with such determination but then decided who gets to help you instead.
  • The way you strut down our driveway, are so adamant about getting a big smooch and then insert your independence taking-what-feels-like 3 minutes to get up the stairs of the bus. 
  • The way your little Owl backpack makes you look like a big girl and a baby all at the same time.
  • The way you come barging in after school, tossing your shoes, giving your baby brother a quick hug & your puppy a kiss. 
  • The way you then hug me so tight it almost feels like your knocking the wind outta me. 
  • The way you light up when your big brother gets off the bus, jumping up & down and yelling out, "Hi Nooooooal, hi". 
  • The way you "chat it up" at dinner, telling us all your stories, pretending the dining room table is a piano & singing "Let it Go" or "Hello" at the top of your lungs.
  • The way you splash no matter what we say or how stern our voices get in the bathtub.
  • The way you make me rock you, some days longer than others. Just knowing you or I need it. The way you gently don't let me get up and you mutter, "No momma", so we rock and rock and rock away.
  • The way your eyelashes feel because our faces are smashed so close together - And on nights I tend to drop a few tears, you tend to squeeze me even tighter.
  • The way right before you fall asleep, you reach out, touch my face and smile.
  • And the way you love sweet girl - It is everything.


I need to remember all of these things. Just in case. 


I hate that I even have to think "just in case", I hate that tomorrow I have to sing you to sleep and wait to hold you in my arms to finally breath again. I hate that I had to co-ordinate 3 different surgeons to perform numerous surgeries or exams on you.  I hate that when we get on that dreaded hospital gown, you'll start to get uber clingy, refusing to let your arms leave my neck. I hate that you have to clock in more hours, in a hospital you've already spent more time in, than most would their entire lives. I hate that you're going to go right bananas trying to rip out the IV & screaming for me even though I'll be holding you as soon as they let me. I hate that T1D complicates everything so much more. And I hate that this time, more than ever, it feels like you know what's going on. 


So, Pip I need you to be brave & strong once again. I need you to be okay & I need you to remember a few things yourself:


  • Remember how much your big brother loves you - How he made you a card with pictures of you & him. How he stood up and told your entire Kindergarten class that, "Pippy is getting her balls out." - That's what he thought those hangy-things-called-tonsils are. 
  • Remember how much your baby brother adores you - How he follows you around, lights up when you play with him & is going to miss you. His entire life has been as your little sidekick.
  • Remember how much your Dad would do anything in the world for you. How he drives around the city looking for the gluten-free banana bread you like, how he takes days off to be with you in the hospital & how he calls you "his peach" & loves you more than any other girl on the planet.
  • And then remember me. And just know I am everything because I am your momma. 

I love you Pippy Layne. 
I need you.


Please be okay.





P.S - I've gone with Row Row Row Your boat & Twinkle Twinkle Little Star when I'm singing you to sleep in the operating room - But you & I both know, I'm busting out HARD with Adele's Hello tomorrow...



The Down syndrome Club...


It's a Club I didn't really know existed. 
It's a Club I didn't know I wanted to be in. 


It's a Club that fights hard, loves big & connects in a way only we-in-the-club, really understand.   







    

But it's also a Club, I am a tad wee jealous of...



You see, it's almost like I don't get to enjoy or explore that piece of her because I'm dealing with so many other aspects of who she is or what she has.



We were told back-to-back-to-back that our daughter had Down syndrome, Congenital Cataracts & Heart defects with no time in between to comprehend or look back. And since then, it's been one thing medically after the other. It's like Down syndrome was put on a shelf while we dealt with everything else and we haven't had a moment to take it down, dust it off & really get to know it. 


It's a Club that I feel like I'm missing out on because I'm in so deep with everything else. 



And I guess that's why i love 2017's #differentisbeautiful Calendar so much, because I get to share those parts of her, that I love so much. I get to share what I find cool about Down syndrome. What I would say if I gave a little talk to her school or did a presentation to a class. And in a way this calendar makes me feel like I have my feet in the doorway of the Club - And one day when all the stuff she actually suffers from is more manageable, I hope to be a more active participant. A bigger advocate. A momma that goes on Buddy Walks, celebrates Down syndrome Awareness more & significantly recognizes what it means in my daughter's & our lives. 



It's a Club I was once so scared of & now desperately want more of. 



Until then I am a Proud Member since 2012


Together with the Canadian Down syndrome Society - We have put together a wickedly cool basket with CDSS t-shirts, a Happy Soul Project sweatshirt, a 2017 #differentisbeautiful Calendar & one of our Be Awesome Today signs made by artist with extraordinary needs.


To enter: Simply share this blog post & in the comments below or on Facebook let us know you've shared it. A random winner will be picked by the Canadian Down syndrome Society.