Meet Reese & Hazel

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It’s nearly time to wrap up Down Syndrome Awareness Month here on the blog because we’re breaking all the rules and have gone right on into November! Tomorrow we’ll end our celebrating with our very own Sammy. But first, I want you to meet five-year-olds Reese and Hazel – also adorably known as Reezel. I love following mama Nicole’s posts on Instagram and seeing the relationship between her four girls. And you must go watch the signing videos Nicole posts! Seriously, I melt with every single one and am always super inspired to learn more signs with Sam. Click over to @mizzoumum to follow. Another family made complete by adoption. Oh, I just love it!

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First, what are some things the girls really like to do?
Reese loves to dance, sign, swim, play with our personal/foster animals & love on her baby dolls. She also loves church, storytime at the library, parks & school (most of the time 😉 ).

Hazel loves to eat, dance, play on the iPad, listen to music, jump on the trampoline, ride on mom’s shoulders & watch Signing Time. She loves puzzles, learning & being challenged. She takes great pride in accomplishing new things & has been described as a “workhorse” by her teachers. She was known as “little hero” in her orphanage – she loved helping the staff with the younger children & various chores. I see so much of that in her personality.

Who are their favorite cartoon characters?
That’s tough. Reese is currently obsessed with princesses. Fiona (from Shrek), Rapunzel (from Tangled) & Elsa (duh) are favorites. Harper (the girls’ little sister) introduced her to Peppa Pig & it’s definitely her new favorite cartoon. Hazel hasn’t really gotten into movies or cartoons yet but basically idolizes Rachel, Alex, Leah & Hopkins from Signing Time!

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If the girls could do anything for a day, what do you think they would do?
Reese would alternate dancing to Justine Timberlake, Prince & Dolly Parton while Hazel would watch Signing Time on repeat while eating unlimited pretzels & hummus.

What have the girls taught their sisters? What have their sisters taught them?
After Reese was born & we received her diagnosis, I was flooded with emotions & worry. I remember thinking, “How will this impact Reagan (their big sis)? What will their relationship look like?” I’m so thankful Reagan was only 21 months when Reese was born. We never had to explain Down syndrome to her or watch as she processed the news. It has been unconditional love & 100% acceptance from day one. Reagan does not see disability. Her heart has been molded to accept & value everyone, regardless of ability, just by doing life with Reezel.

When Hazel came home, we had to figure out the best learning environment for her. After carefully weighing her unique learning needs, we decided to send her to a school other than our home school, the place where Reagan attended kindergarten. We were told siblings could transfer to this new school so we gave Reagan the option to switch. Without hesitation, she chose to transfer so she could be with her sister. We reminded her this would mean leaving the friends & teachers she met last year to which she replied, “That’s fine. I’ll make new friends & then I’ll introduce them to Hazel. I’ll help her on the bus & say hi to her in the halls. I hope I can play with her at recess. Her teachers can come find me if they can’t figure out what she’s saying or signing. It’ll be fun.” I think that perfectly sums up Reagan’s feelings. She’s a nurturer & teacher and is fiercely protective of her sisters.

Harper (their little sister) is three going on thirty & she is the official play mate. She’s their model for interactive play & challenges both of them in the imagination department. I smile when I sit back & watch them play because a) it’s adorable & b) Reezel are active participants & engage appropriately. They are experts at playing house, restaurant, school, hide & seek, duck/duck/goose & tag (to name a few) & I credit Harper for much of that. Harper treats them like she does her own friends at preschool, no babying, no exceptions. She instinctively presumes competence, because to her, there’s no reason to assume otherwise.

I think having siblings has been the #1 most important & most effective factor in Reezel’s development. Gross motor, fine motor, speech, communication, interpersonal relationships, behavior, self care skills – there’s not one area of development isn’t modeled by both big & little sister. They are Reezel’s biggest teachers just by being them.

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What is something you want everyone to know about Reese and Hazel?
This has been said time & time again, but it’s worth repeating. Reese & Hazel are more alike than different. They want to be loved, included & valued. I think social media has made it easier to spread that message & it’s the reason our Instagram account is public. I think it’s important to show the world that life with Down syndrome is not only doable, it’s quite beautiful.

What have been good resources for you to learn more about Down syndrome?
The Just Like You film is an amazing resource. Our local Down Syndrome Guild created the film & it’s absolutely wonderful! I personally think following other families on social media & reading blogs is most helpful for a new parent. Statistics are fine, but watching families & individuals do life with Down syndrome is the most powerful.

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Check back tomorrow as we continue celebrating Down Syndrome Awareness Month or click below to read all of our previous posts.

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