The Chasing Hazel Foundation

By now, some of you may have heard that we launched The Chasing Hazel Foundation - Inspired by the sweetest girl in all the land, our daughter Hazel. 

Photo below by Jeff Casey (Snapd)

The need to educate, advocate and simply share the joy she brings not only to our lives but to many lives daily, became the driving force behind much of how we lived our lives over the past 5 years. As the moments passed and our lives seemed much like any other families, we fell deeper and deeper in love with Hazel. We began to get to know Down syndrome and welcome it into our lives. At first it came by for a casual dinner date every now and again, which then turned into an aggressive live in mother-in-law demanding attention and making us do everything its way. To the now preferred presence that sits quietly in the background just waiting to be referred to if we need it. We co-exist together quite nicely. 

What also became clear over the last 5 years is that the community as a whole is still miles away from truly accepting, understanding, and accommodating people with a disability. That is not to say that the DESIRE to accept, understand, and accommodate is absent, only that the method as to how we do these things needs a little work. I get that. That's why The Chasing Hazel Foundation is here.

Do I have all the answers: NO. Of course not. 

Did I fully accept, understand, and accommodate Down syndorme before I had too: NOPE.

I've spent the last 5 years getting schooled on living with a disability by watching and supporting my daughter navigate through life. Which very often looks the same as any child that is learning, growing, and achieving. But sometimes it looks different - not different bad - JUST different. I have had the honour and privilege of watching other children with Down syndorme and their families celebrate milestones, share their hearts, nurture the sick, and fight the fight in every regard when it comes to truly accepting our children for who they are. While also, helping EVERYONE ELSE accept our children for who they truly are. 

Shortly after Hazel was born we were blessed with a second daughter, Nola. One who also doesn't fit into the "normal" category in terms of her growth, intelligence, personality, or the rate at which she's been able to meet certain milestones. She is determined to get things done. Really hard things that she shouldn't want to understand or try, she's gettin' it done. She's doing her, the best way she can. Both of our children make us proud. The longer we parent these girls, the more obvious it is to us that standards and comparison are not a valid way to determine anyone's worth or capability.

Why is it that we only seem to be impressed by growth when it is beyond the standard expectation of ability?

Why is it that we are not impressed with the amount of determination and will that leads us to reaching our goals? 

Our success should most definitely be measured by the blood, sweat, and tears that we put in to reach the end result. So what if that end result is taking your first step at 3, or 10 or 25? So what if it's making eye contact while you speak to someone? So what if you learn to tie your shoe for the first time when you are 20? So what if your first way to communicate is through touch, or signs or grunting?  


The real measure of a person is the amount of SOUL that goes into getting to the end. The amount of HEART. The amount of GRIT. How hard did you work - and then work harder? How many times did you want to give up - but didn't? How many times did you cry - and then carry on? How many times did you say, "I can't" - but then you did? THAT is what should be used to determine a person's worth. THAT RIGHT THERE, IS THE STUFF THAT COUNTS.

So we have two daughters that are completely different, who do them the best way they can. In my opinion they are ROCKIN' it. I have witnessed countless others who have Down syndrome and who grow and achieve at their own rate, with their own strengths and uniqueness. I celebrate with families on social media daily regardless of what the achievement is. In my opinion, THEY are ROCKIN' it!!!

We all have gifts, strengths, weaknesses. We offer our own uniqueness to everyone we encounter. Everybody has something that makes them, them. In sharing this with the communities in which we live and the world of which we are a part we create DIVERSITY, COLOUR, and VARIETY

I want The Chasing Hazel Foundation to highlight this diversity, colour and variety. I want to respect what makes us different and embrace what keeps us the same. I want to talk about, share, educate, and celebrate with the community just how much we have learned about the extra chromosome and ultimately what Down syndrome has taught us about EVERYTHING else:

We are all individuals. 

We are all strong. 

We are all equal. 

We are all capable. 

We are all different. And that's ok.

We are all worthy.

We all want to be loved.

We are all deserving of love.

We are NOT ALONE. 

So how do we do this? What's the key to bring this all together? 


Inclusion can look different for each individual person and that's ok. In my opinion, the only way to make room for our differences is to be around differences. Living everyday along side a diverse population and exposure to individuals of all abilities can only strengthen our understanding of one another. Respecting each other for who we are and what each of us brings to the table creates a space where we are all encouraged to be exactly who we are and celebrate what we are capable of. Eventually we don't see "differences" anymore, we see a colourful, tolerant community filled with people that live, work, and grow together everyday. If we practice inclusion, we will have built a culture where we are all valued for who we are. A culture where our children have grown in and developed an innate compassion for every individual regardless of their abilities. 

I want The Chasing Hazel Foundation to be a big part of creating this culture by offering support to families that have children with Down syndrome, developing inclusionary community programs where all our children can learn together, and spreading the message that each person has worth and a great deal to offer the communities in which they live. 

To read more about our foundation or see how you can become involved, please click on the website below:


Unless otherwise stated: ALL photos taken by Tiffany (Vita Photography)

Unless otherwise stated: ALL photos taken by Tiffany (Vita Photography)

Above photo taken by Jeff Casey (Snapd)

We had a launch on March 20th, which officially put us on the map. We were completely blown away by the amount of friends, family and community members that came out to support us on this next adventure. The room was full, on a Monday morning, right after March break - That's loyalty!!! It was amazing!!!! Thank you so much to all of you who made the effort to come out and hear what our plans are for the local community and families that have children with Down syndrome.

We have so much gratitude for your support. Thank you so much!!!! 

Easter 2017

There could not have been a more beautiful weekend to have been surrounded by family and celebrating Easter. 

The joy a basket filled with small trinkets brings a child is absolute perfection! So fun to watch them discover everything. 

These little nuggets, I can't get enough of them together.

2016 & 2017 - Nola has her priorities. Had to post this cause it's too funny to have the exact same pic 2 years in a row!

We were outside all weekend long, which really was the true blessing (especially around here at this time of year). The nice weather helps to bring out the very best in everyone and more importantly, gives us the space to run off all the chocolate we have all eaten.

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Hazel has taken to hanging from the bars on the play ground lately. She watches her friends at school and comes home eager to practice on our swing set. Well, this weekend, with a little help, she figured out that she can hang from trees too. Her joy was palpapble. 

Two days that both ended the same. With beautiful skies to remind us to be grateful for our lives, families, health and good fortune. Tucking our kids in their warm, cozy beds with their bellies full, smelling faintly of fresh air and chocolate. Knowing that they felt love, joy and comfort while creating new memories and honouring old traditions. 

Hope you all had a very Happy Easter!

"Off to College" March Playgroup

Guys!! I can't even with this group!!! Like every single time I leave I have the biggest smile on my face. I Just love it so much!!!!!!


The kids, the parents, the games, the shenanigans (mostly Nola), the volunteers. I JUST LOVE IT ALL!!!!! A space we are all free to be or do as we please. Some of the parents sit and play with the kids, they do crafts, they hang on the carpet. Some of the parents run out the room and go hang where they can sit and talk to other parents. Thanks to the incredible volunteers that are so happy to play with and chase after (mostly Nola) our children.

Connecting with other families is such a gift. It's so important to be able to talk, share and just be around people who know EXACTLY what your life is like sometimes. Plus parents are the most innovative problem solvers around so often we give each other so many ideas to walk away with in order to enrich our kids lives even more. It's brilliant.

I don't know what else to say about this little playgroup of ours. It's loud. It's fun. It's packed. There's lots of hugging, laughing and "oh-I-know-what-you-mean" looks exchanged. There's babies that swap arms and are loved, and talked to. Who then in turn reward us with smiles and their sweet voices. The kids they run, they eat, they laugh, they play. There's new families that enter the world of Down syndrome with some trepidation and hopefully this group offers them a safe place to land. I literally can't take it. There is love, compassion and understanding everywhere you look. 

What an absolute gift this group is. I am so excited for the next one already. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!

On behalf of the newly founded - 

Chasing Hazel Foundation

Thank you to all who donated and helped to make this happen for our families. It takes a village and we live in an incredible one.

WDSD 2017 Around Town

What a huge success again this year!!!

Adults, children, families, schools, businesses, daycare centres, gyms, offices, the mayor, the college, news anchors, EVERYONE - EVERYWHERE you turned was rocking their socks to show love to individuals with Down syndrome this year on World Down Syndrome Day. I was frequently checking in with social media that day and was bombarded with the love and effort everyone was putting in to get the message that Down syndrome is something to be respected and celebrated out there. 

I absolutely loved seeing all your pics and the super cool socks!!!!

Thanks so much!!!!

I am so thankful to live in a community that doesn't hesitate to stand up and show support to all the citizens that contribute a great deal everyday to the society in which they live.

Here's some of the love we saw around town on WDSD 2017. Thanks so much everyone for making the day AWESOME!!!

How cool!!!!!! Our Mayor recognizes WDSD - WOOT!!!!!

Well that wraps up WDSD 2017!!!! Until next year...

Rocking Socks on #WDSD2017

Why World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD)?

WDSD exists to celebrate individuals with Down syndrome by choosing activities that show support and awareness to those individuals. Rocking Socks has become and easy, attainable and VERY visual way to demonstrate this support around the globe. We are seeking to share what it IS to have Down syndrome - something to be celebrated. We are advocating for the inclusion, respect and understanding that individuals with Down syndrome have a great deal to offer their communities. This day occurs on the 21st day of the 3rd month because we celebrate the 3rd copy of the 21st chromosome which is what makes Down syndrome. 

For us, and you've heard me say this before, we celebrate Down syndrome everyday. We are learning to understand what it means for people who have it. We are learning to accept it, and accommodate it, when it needs accommodating, and mostly love Hazel for her individual self. We live everyday just like anyone else, doing what our kids need us to do to the best of our ability.

On World Down Syndrome Day we go out of our home and we try to spread the message of...


to the rest of our community. In 2017, we are in a more accepting place than we have been in the past, in regards to people with disabilities, however I feel, we still have some work to do. It's important for us to use this SUPER FUN platform - Rocking Funky Socks - as a tool for sharing the gift of Down syndrome with our community. Last year, #wdsd2016, we had over 40 local institutions/businesses participate!!!! How amazing!!!! They got their socks on, snapped a few pics to share, hung flyers about DS for all to see and I hope, HAD FUN!!! 

Here's a link to both of last years Windsor Star pieces:

On WDSD we do 2 things:

1. Rock our funky mismatched socks

2. Make the commitment to educate, share, and spread awareness about Down syndrome

Can't wait to see what WDSD 2017 brings. I absolutely love being out there with everyone and watching them love Down syndrome just like we do. WOOT!!!! 

Please feel free to tag us in what you decide to do this year for World Down Syndrome Day at 





3/21 Pledge 2017

Anyone who has been following me for a while has most certainly seen me write or post about Ruby's Rainbow. If not, stop reading this right now and click RIGHT HERE to go and see what it's all about. I am OBSESSED!!!

Forget it - here's a video. Watch this...

(Let me apologize now for all the exclamation points and caps you are about to read - I AM YELLING!!!!! Just to be clear).

Tell me you don't either have goosebumps, tears a smile on your face - or ALL DANG 3!!!! I have seen this video countless times and I get all of those EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I LOVE IT SO MUCH!!!!!!!

What else can I say about Ruby's Rainbow? The first time I heard about it, I thought to myself, "of course, people with Down syndrome go to college" and "what an amazing idea to offer them scholarships" and finally, "I need to read more about this organization." Than I found Liz. And Ruby. And her family. The more I learned, the more I read, the more I became inspired. Inspired by Liz and her ginormous heart, her mission, her positivity. And then inspired by every single one of her recipients. It has been such a source of hope every single day for me to see the message of worthiness, capability, success, and achievement for individuals with Down syndrome.

If you are anything like me you are gonna wanna help these sweet kids get a scholarship. Well YOU CAN!!!! Every person who takes the 3-21 pledge is helping one of these people with Down syndrome with their dreams of achieving higher education. 


Isn't that so exciting!!! If you take that pledge - click here to read more about the pledge - not only are you helping them do just that BUT you are acknowledging the POTENTIAL and WORTH of each individual with Down syndrome in this world. I can NOT think of a better message to send out. Please take a look, consider taking the pledge. 

Stay tuned over on all the Chasing Hazel social media outlets (FB & IG). If you take the pledge under my name there might be a few extra fun things in it for you!!!!

I'M SO EXCITED!!!!!!!!

OFF TO COLLEGE - February Play Session

Honestly GUYS!!! We had the best time at the last play group. LIKE I CAN'T EVEN!!!! 

First, I have to brag about the volunteers from the ECE/Concurrent Education program at the St. Clair College (where the play groups are held). 


They not only do they LOVE our kids - LIKE ALL OF EM - they are the most lovely people to be around. They are so genuinely happy to be there and hanging out, playing, dancing, playing dolls - literally whatever the kids want to do. Each playgroup we have, I see them become so much more confident with the kids. It really is a beautiful thing to watch. Each of our kids pretty much have their very own buddy for the entire time, which totally frees up the parents to hang with each other and talk. We are free to float around, relax and visit, play with the kids, talk with the volunteers (who are lovely by the way, did I mention that?), there are so many options.

It is the perfect scenario. Everyone wins!!! 

What I love the most (besides the volunteers) is, because the siblings are welcome to come to the playgroup, we've created a fully inclusionary environment. I mean, I know Nola has experience with Hazel who has special needs BUT not every kid with DS is like Hazel. There is a great deal of variation among kids with DS, just as there is with all children. It really gives all the kids a chance to BE TOGETHER, make new friends and experience the diversity that exists in the world of Down syndrome. 

My heart was really full leaving that last playgroup.

Until next time!!! xo

OFF TO COLLEGE - January Play Session

Well it was a success!!!!

We had around 20 families out in one night. We danced, coloured, played, hung out, and laughed. LOTS OF LAUGHING. I finally got to meet some new families that have been online friends and it was AWESOME!!!! There were a variety of activities for the kids to choose from and LOTS of super excited, enthusiastic Concurrent Education/ECE students there to help facilitate the activities and events. They were more then happy to hold and snuggle the sweet babes or chase, play and dance with the older children. 

Thank you to representatives from Children's First and the JMCC who were there as a resource to new parents and share a little bit about the services they have to offer to families in our DS community. 

HUGE THANK YOU TO the student volunteers and their fearless leader, Kathryn. Of course to The St. Clair College for providing the space.

ALSO, FAMILIES!!!! I am so glad you came out to see what the play group is all about. Hope we can keep it going strong. 

Next session: 

This Girl is 5

She's 5.

You'd think after these last 5 years with her that I would be used to her making me have all the feels, all the time. I'm not!! This here, what I got goin' is a "I can't believe it's been 5 years since this child has entered our lives and changed so much about what we stand for, who we are and how we love" feeling. It takes me by surprise because each year with her opens me up to so many new experiences. Ones that I feel almost guilty that I GET to have. Ones that I never dreamed I would be a part of. She has brought so much PURE goodness to our world. So many wonderful people and friendships have been founded in the roots of Down syndrome and having Hazel in our lives. 5 years of these roots growing deeper and deeper into my soul. It's gotta a grip on me now, nice and snug. This grip gives me comfort. 

Even the really hard, ugly truths that sweep us up and leave us vulnerable. Things that I share with people make me feel blessed and honoured to be on this path. When someone cries with me, shares with me, hands me their new baby, or I simply get to experience a family come together to support and love one another something fierce - that's Hazel feeding me, giving me life. The roots grow deeper, stronger.

I am grateful for all of it.  

And yes over the last year of her life, I had to send an almost 5 year old to JK with a diaper bag. For like 5 minutes, I had a pity party about that. Poor her, she's different. Poor me, I have an almost 5 year old in diapers still. The roots tighten. Also, I notice the gap between her and her same age friends expanding the older she gets. School has made that a more of a clear difference, which has me all, "if it's like this now, how will it be in another year or 5 or 10?" Sometimes I have a pity party about that too. The roots tighten. Then when she gets sick I worry so incredibly much that I am missing something because she can't tell me what she's feeling. Matt and I have to rely on our gut. We have to really KNOW our girl. How easily can something be missed? New shoots grow.

Am I including her enough? Roots.

Do I expect enough? Tighten. 

Do I give her the right vitamins? Roots.

Do I treat her fairly? Do I give her a pass? Do I hold her to the same equal standard as her sister? Roots. Tighten. ROOTS!!!!

I can't breathe. Sometimes the roots of Down syndrome suffocate me.

Sometimes I wonder if I do the exact thing that enrages me when other people do it - Blame the extra chromosome. Gosh, I hope I don't. But I dunno. I remember at the beginning of the school year, Hazel had a field trip that was on the bus. Well, she had never been on the bus. I was convinced that it was a disaster waiting to happen. I offered to be the parent volunteer for the day. I am pretty sure the teacher was kind enough to understand that I was freaking out just a tad and chose me to be one of the parents to come along. When it came time to leave, I was just about to grab Hazel and throw her in my car. Meet them there. Cause there was no way she was going to understand the "rules of the bus ride." For example, stay sitting in your seat or even STAY IN YOUR SEAT. The teachers (and other parents) though - they didn't think twice. Hazel was going to go on the bus like everyone else and she was going to do fine. It took me a minute and some serious self reflection but I let myself hear them and decided to head for the bus, Hazel in tow.

And you know what???

She rocked it!!! Sat, sang, smiled, looked out the window. She LOVED it!!! And she knew just what to do. I may have let he sit with her EA for fear that she wouldn't actually listen to me but, hey - she did it. Point is the team at the school was 100% confident that she was capable even when I wasn't, they INCLUDED her when I didn't. At that moment I realized, I can't sit here and advocate for inclusion if I don't do the including myself. Thank you teachers and other parents that were so confident in Hazel when I just couldn't see it. Since that day Hazel has been putting me in my place. She learning, growing and proving every single day that she is capable and deserving of a spot in that fully included classroom.

You see this Down syndrome thing is growing with me. I am growing alongside of it. I don't have it all figured out. I hardly have any of it figured out. I don't know all the answers. Actually, I know very few of the answers. To tell you the truth I still really don't like looking too far ahead. I just don't like the uncertainty that lies in the future. I have a constant mantra running in my head to "STAY PRESENT" in order to not worry about something that may never be part of our world. And maybe I'm not doing anybody any favours by sitting in this comfortable, cushy place that I have created for us but I will tell you, that I am continuing to grow. I am continuing to provide a space for the roots and give them a place to flourish and be nurtured. I am growing as Hazel grows. The older she gets the more harmony that exists in the root system. I realize exactly which roots need to be nourished and which need to be pinched off because they are threatening to kill the whole system. I'm learning not to give energy to something that doesn't serve our greater good.

As a mother and an advocate for those with Down syndrome, I do realize that Down syndrome is only a part of what makes Hazel who she is. It doesn't define her, nor is she just like the rest of her friends who have Down syndrome. It's just that when I look back at our lives before Hazel, before Down syndrome - I don't recognize it. We have new friends, new family, different priorities, a new mission, different places to hang out. We've shifted and maneuvered around learning how to accept and love everyone for who they are. And I mean REALLY LOVE and REALLY ACCEPT. While I can sit here and attribute that to Hazel or her making me a mother, I have to give credit where credit is due. For the past 5 years, Down syndrome has enriched our lives, expanded our bubble, it's been the light at the end of the tunnel.

Granted Hazel is that light. She is pure, honest and sweet. That just IS Hazel, not because she has Down syndrome. I do strongly believe that hidden within the seed of this tiny extra chromosome is a certain wisdom, love and light. There is HOPE and FIGHT and DRIVE. There is a WORTHINESS, a CAPABILITY, a DETERMINATION. Most importantly there is something for the rest of us to learn. A lesson that's entirely different for everybody, for each individual person, who has nurtured this seed and provided a space for its roots to grow. 

So you see, Hazel will of course always be Hazel first. THAT part of her will ALWAYS come first. She will always be her lovely, unique self and will be celebrated everyday in our home as one of our children. She will also always have this little part of her who has had such a profound impact on all of our lives. Down syndrome. Sometimes it's a silent part, and sometimes it demands a little more attention. All I know for sure is that the last 5 years have been both challenging and full of joy. They have gifted us way more than they have taken. We have laughed more than we have cried. We have been more healthy than we have been sick. We have absolutely maxed out the scales on the amount that we have LOVED. And all of it is because Hazel chose us to be her parents. I'm not quite sure I could ever be even half the person I am today without her guiding me, teaching me, leading me, feeding me and nurturing the roots that hug my soul so very tight.

LOVE has never been enough of a word for the way I feel about you baby girl, but I guess it will have to do. Happy 6th year sweet, sweet Hazel - I do LOVE you so entirely that it hurts in the best possible way. Looking forward to what treasures will lie ahead, Haze. 

I got super lucky this year and was able to get a couple of pics from the very moment she turned 5. 9:55 am.







New Habits...2017

This pic here is the very first sunrise of the very first day in the brand new year - 2017. I wish I could say my mental state was at it's best when I caught this beauty but truth was we were up with Hazel starting at 4:30 in the morning. I was so annoyed and tired and just UGHHHHHHHHHH - ya know? And then this happened. And for like a solid 15 minutes my horns retracted and all I could feel was...


To be able to begin a new year with a new sunrise of this magnitude was indeed a gift, a sign of good things to come, a blank slate before us. I have never been as excited to start fresh in any other years prior. And then the rest of the day was a S@&T show. But there was that. 

We are into the new year already. It's always crazy to think about the time passing. It all just happens right under our noses. Myself, I know it's happening because there is a new beginning each morning and a huge sigh of relief every night when I crawl back into bed. That sigh signifying another day done. Add it to the overall tally. All of a sudden it's almost the end, of the first month, of the new year - 2017 is rollin'. 

Well then...2017. Let's do it!!!

I have been quiet here because for me a new year is all about creating some new habits. Not resolutions so much but making the changes that lacked the year before. Changes for our family, for just the girls, for myself, for the community and for overall health and wellness. I've been taking a look at some of the things that need to be added to our daily routines to increase our quality of life. These things don't just come easy to me nor do they come overnight, so I have been letting it all rattle around in my brain for the last month.

Things pop into my head and I, literally, have to write it down because even though I feel so strongly about the changes, they aren't quite a habit yet. I need the daily reminder. I have been really trying to wrap my head around the practicality of having a busy lifestyle AND having the time/energy to make these changes attainable. I have not yet come up with a solution for this attainability, but that's what this last month has been about. 

Setting the TARGETS.

Now for the next bit, it's about the METHOD - how am I going to make this all happen? 

And finally, hopefully, making these changes a HABIT

Overall, making lifestyle changes that stick with us. The goal is to create new habits that come as second nature. I mean, some things may not stick. That's totally fine but I would rather walk away from 2017 with 3 GREAT new habits than nothing at all. 

This is me. The very beginning of 2017 version of me. HEEEEYYYYYYY!!!!

Can't wait to see what 2017 brings to these 5 ladies. It's an honour to watch them grow together. 

Family selfie 2016 - at one of our most favourite places. 

Christmas Festivities

Sorry I am not feeling the writing vibe today. Might have something to do with the million pics I just uploaded and saved and posted here. I'm spent...

Hope you all felt love from somewhere this holiday season.

Christmas Eve...

Christmas morning...Santa CAME!!!!!!

Who knew the joy this harmonica would bring??? BEST gift ever!!!!

A little Chritmas magic for mommy...

This is what they are like 50% of the time. Poor Hazel.

Christmas Day...


We literally have zero pics from the big old Italian Christmas but there's this...

This is us. Christmas 2016...

Merry Christmas of 2016

Here we are once again. About to shut it all down and just let it unfold. We prepare. We cook (well some of us cook), we shop, we bake (well some of us bake), we stress about making sure everything is perfect, we decorate, we craft, we watch Christmas movies, we sing and dance. When the time comes we settle in and just let it all happen.

This year I got to watch that little ball of magic that lives inside children take shape in the girls. This year they were excited to see the lights, the Christmas decorations, and even to visit Santa. As any of you know that have been with us a while, my girls have not had a great rapport with Santa over the years.

This year they were the perfect amount of hesitant. A little nervous but nothing they couldn't overcome with a few quiet minutes to really let it all sink in. They were so EXCITED to meet Santa this year. Lots of pointing and high fives. Nola wouldn't sit on his lap but hey, I get that. I respect it. When we left him she was so happy. Right before she went through the door she turned and said, "Merry Christmas Santa" in her most excited and thankful voice ever. I am alive to tell about it, but just barely I assure you. Hazel kept looking at him and waving. Flashing her million dollar smile. The smile that renders you helpless, you fall in love with her. It's her superpower. Like you know how vampires can 'compel' people to act, well she can compel people to LOVE, just by flashing them that sweet smile. I think this might be my cue to stop binge watching The Vampire Diaries. I digress...

It is such an honour to get to be a parent. We get to live the magic through them, lead them to it and watch it grow into belief and joy. Yeah, sure, parenting is also changing the sheets cause your kid was sick on them last night, and on you. It's about staying up nights on end to make sure they sleep well. Tis the season after all. The season for celebrating but also for nursing back to health. Maybe having both the very hardest moments of parenting juxtaposed with the very rewarding moments of parenting makes the reward taste that much sweeter. All I can say at the moment, as I sit here in the total quiet, I am choosing to feed the magic. Let's see just how big we can make it grow.

These two gals have a way of feeding the magic that lives inside me as well...

Wishing you all a peaceful holiday season celebrating (or not celebrating) in exactly the way you feel is right. Whether surrounded by family and friends or alone, I wish you joy, love and health. 

Merry Christmas Chasing Hazel fam!!!!!

A Day In the Life - Tarantino Style

So the other day we had to be at a high school about 30 min away from where we live for a play session that the high school students were responsible for setting up and managing.

The Tarantino version of the story is we made it.

All was well and the kids had a BLAST!! The students did an amazing job at planning age appropriate activities for the 4 children present. They created a very welcoming, calm environment where the kids felt very comfortable. WELL DONE!!! Even Hazel had a great time and she's a tough critic. 

The rest of the story goes something like this - And I guess I should say that this was a couple days ago now because I really didn't find humour in the situation at ALL at the time. I still don't but I'm a realist so here you have it...

Nola decided that this particular day she was going to be extra pokey getting her sweet butt out the door. We finally get out the door and have to go pick up Hazel from school. I debate for about 30 seconds on getting the kids fries cause ya know - try to keep em' happy and content before we have any expectations of them. I pulled in, waited, and then left with NOTHING, cause apparently everyone and their brother need fries at 11:15 in the morning. ANYWAY.... #notjudging #iwasinlinetoo

Needless to say we are running late, emotions were at an all time high, stress levels were elevated, and I am doing my very best to not be SUPER late. 

It's at this point I turn around and see that Nola is chewing on the freezer pack she took out of Hazel's lunch pail. When I say chewing I mean gnawing, with purpose. Trying at all costs to put a hole in that plastic so that she can get a taste of what's on the inside. 


Naturally, I yelled at her to hand over the bag immediately so I could see if she had indeed succeeded in her mission and made a hole in the bag. In that very panicky mom tone I yell - NOLA!!!! DID YOU EAT SOMETHING OUT OF THAT BAG????? 

Nola: Blank stare 


Nola: Blank stare


Nola: No words, throws the bag on the side of the car seat that is literally the furthest away from me as humanly possible - BLANK, TAUNTING STARE.

Oh - I did mention I was driving right?!

ME (to my friend on the phone - oh yes I had a friend on speaker phone the ENTIRE time): OK so I might have to take Nola to the hospital.  Tell the high school students to carry on without us. WHAT IS MY ACTUAL LIFE?!!!!! I HAVE NEVER BEEN MORE MAD!!! (my friend stays on the phone for the verdict)

I pull over when it was safe, cause you see, I was driving on a highway(ish). I leap out of the car, find the freezer bag and inspect every inch. 


I think I probably gave the most effective "arresting bitch face" on the planet, got back in the car and started driving. Gave my friend our ETA, and assured her Nola had NOT ingested poison. I have NEVER been more mad at a human being in my life. Her blatant disregard for my requests never ceases to amaze. Everything I say to her is a suggestion and she gives me this look like, 'I'll take that under advisement' mom. YIKES!!!!! hole meant no emergency trip to the ER and we managed to make it to the play group about 10 minutes late. We do like to make an entrance. 

And there you have it. Just one day in the life of Nola Charlie. There is NEVER a dull moment.





St. Clair College Down Syndrome Play Group

If you have been following Chasing Hazel for any length of time, you may have seen that I have been doing guest lectures at the College for a couple years now. I am often invited, by my super awesome friend, Kathryn, to speak about our lives, our kids and what the diagnosis of Down syndrome may mean to families. These lectures are delivered to future teachers, and early childhood educators. They are just about to begin a career where they devote the next 30 or so years to children of all different abilities. 

Often, I go in with the message of inclusion and the importance of high expectations. I talk a great deal about being compassionate. I explain how Hazel is the same as all other children. I explain how she is different - And how that is ok. Different is not scary, it’s just that different. And EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I am looking around the room and I just know - I can FEEL - that they already get it. They LOVE Hazel, they understand her, and me. They already have compassion pouring out of their hearts. They WANT her. They ACCEPT her. They’ve already made the commitment to educating whoever walks through the doors of their classroom. I’m preaching to the choir, so to speak.

Anyway - What I am trying to say is, this relationship has lead to a SUPER cool opportunity to do something pretty amazing for our DS community here in Windsor.


And we are opening the doors to all those in the DS community that have children from ages 0-10 (or 12 we haven’t decided yet - LOL) I am so excited I can barely stand it!!!!!

Our goal with this play group is to provide a family friendly environment for children and families to get together and play, bond, connect and discuss. We want to make it as convenient and EASY for families as possible. So we decided - Brothers and sisters are welcome too! A place the whole family can go to hang with their kids, simply observe them playing in the group or step away to another room to sit and enjoy the company of other parents. It was also important to us to provide an inclusive environment so opening this up to siblings just made sense to us. 

The child care space is fully equipped with a brand new preschool room filled to the brim with everything and anything a child would need to keep busy with their friends. They have crafts, sensory activities, lots of centre for imaginary play, manipulative and a super SUPER awesome Snoezelen room. It’s the perfect place!! We will do our best to provide snacks for each session. 

And HONESTLY GUYS!!!! The very best part of it all is…wait for it…

There will be a team of qualified, trusted Concurrent Education or Early Childhood Education students developing programming, activities and some guided play opportunities for all the children who attend each session. 

We had one opportunity to do a pilot session for this play group and it was fantastic!!! We were able to sit and connect as parents, while the kids were in the best hands playing and having a blast. This group is a work in progress and it is at the very beginning stages. Over time we hope to be able to build, expand, grow and have more specific goals. For now we are working with parents to see what it is that they want, and what will work for their families. 

This is all offered to parents at NO CHARGE (aside from the fee for parking). 

Of course we have future goals and hopes. Some of which include the possibility of seminars, presenters, integrating therapies but mostly for now we just want to….

Let it GROW!

We want to be a resource to new and existing families in our community. We want to be a safe place we can play, learn and just BE

I will leave you with this…

Our very first night piloting this play group changed me forever. We were able welcome a new mother to the Down syndrome community. A mother who had previously not known that there was even a DS community that existed. A room full of people who fussed and loved on her new little 5 month old baby boy. An experience that this particular mother had never had with her new baby boy. I held her in my arms as we cried together. To be honest I think mostly her tears were of relief and hope. She said she felt so much peace knowing she wasn’t alone. Some of the tears were indeed because she was scared and confused, which brought me back to my days of fear and worry. There we were connecting. Crying. Growing.

There is no doubt in my mind that this play group’s purpose is to connect families. And on the very first night of it’s existence we were able to make such a profound impact on an entire family. More importantly, I was reminded that in the end all we need to do is show up. Being a part of the Down syndrome community both on-line and in our local community has given me more peace that I could even try to put into words. I was so incredibly grateful to be able to give that feeling to another mother. 

This play group is going to be a gateway to changing lives. Everyone’s. Mine, new mothers, our children with DS and without, child care providers, teachers…EVERYONE!

SO I SAY LET IT GROW!!! (The Lorax)

These Gals...

I know I have gushed about the girls several times here in the past. I also know that I have been very real here about the girls as well. The good, the bad and the ugly (or so they say). However, every now and again the girls go through a phase that makes all those 'ugly' times so worth it. Embracing these moments must be how we survive. Realizing these moments are happening is how we stay present. We appreciate them and we know we are at a peak. 

Lately, every single day when Hazel gets home from school, they giggle as one starts running towards our bedroom. Somehow, the other knows EXACTLY where they are supposed to be headed. Immediately they get up to start running and giggling with who ever started it that time. And the pitter-patter of their feet and the giggling is enough to make me stop whatever I am doing and follow along with them. Laughing right behind them. I have turned the stove down many-a-time in order to follow them in this moment. 

When I get into the room they are always on the bed. It's the activity of choice that is different every time. They could be jumping. They could be singing. They could be laughing. They could be jumping AND signing AND laughing. I call that the "how-long-can-I-let-this-go-before-I-am-risking-an-injury" move. They may be counting to 3, then falling, then laughing. I like to call this the "its-all-fun-and-games" move.


AND SOMETIMES, just sometimes they may even be laying or sitting, hugging and staring into each others eyes. Saying things like, "I love you" or "I'm proud of you" or any other magical phrase you can think of. I start to feel my heart fluttering and my eyes turn into hearts. I like to call this one the, "we-are-trying-to-make-mommy-give-us-another-baby" move. For 30 seconds I am fully on board with this 3rd baby idea. Until the hugging becomes squeezing, the caressing becomes pinching, the kind words become, "STOP" or "DON'T TOUCH ME" and I'm confident that 2 little girls can be enough.

These ladies have been good for the soul lately. They are adding just enough spirit and magic to the upcoming season to turn even the Grinchiest of Grinch's into a Carol Singing Elf. As I age my faith grows stronger and stronger. Maybe it's the simple fact that I am getting older. Maybe it's because the more life experience I gain, the more I can see God's hand in everything - A sunset, sunrise, a kind gesture, a smile, a sweet child in Hazel's class. I see the beauty and the greatness in all of it. I appreciate it. I respect it. Most importantly, I know I am NOT entitled to it. This greatness is a gift and I have gratitude for all that I am given. 

I have been stumbling on them sitting and leaning on each other almost daily. Nothing is ever so clear to me in that moment than God's presence in our lives. These 2 were hand crafted for each other. Destined to be together. They likely have been to together many lifetimes before this one and will be for many after (if you believe in that kinda thing). This is love. REAL, fairy tale, true LOVE.

If they were all I had in the entire world (their daddy included) - nothing else at all - I would feel like I was given too much. And to think I have so much more. Feeling all the gratitude today folks.

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Heading into this Holiday season ready to share love and spread joy.

Frankenmuth, MI

Last week we were gifted the very coveted gift of family time. On a whim, we hopped in the car and drove a couple hours north to a magical place called, Frankenmuth, MI. The whim being the operative word. We all know the best laid plans...blah. Turned out it was a really REALLY great idea. We had the BEST day!!! So much fun!!!

The weather was perfect. It happened to be the very last warm, sunny, cozy day of the season. Thee most perfect day for running around and exploring a cute little town, with cute little shops, yummy restaurants, super fun parks and streets lined and FILLED with Christmas lights and decorations. We all came home with the a little more Christmas spirit, ready and looking forward to the upcoming holiday season.

Little did I know at the time, that that little trip we took on Friday would set the tone for the best weekend we had in a while. Lots of hanging out at home, playing together, singing, dancing, shopping, cleaning, organizing and just overall life. We got to LIVE TOGETHER. Be together. 

Truth is, most of the time, parenting is hard. It's ugly. Even though we are home a lot with our kids, we don't often spend the kind of time together where we are all happy, content, and present. There are so many things that distract us these days. It was lovely to be able to focus all our energy on just living with the kids. No agenda. Just us. Present. 

This was taken directly from my IG page...

The thing I find about parenting, is the lack of 'quality' time you ACTUALLY spend with your kids. It's like an illusion that once you have the kids, every second you spend with them is going to be grand. Truth is, when I have time to sit and play with them, they want nothing to do with me. When they want to play with me, my attention needs to be spent elsewhere- cooking, cleaning, hiding 😬 But every now and again all the stars align and the illusion becomes very real. This weekend the stars did not disappoint. We lived the illusion 💫🌟🌖🌟💫 And most of it was spent right at home 🏡✨

Official Apple Holiday 2016

Yeah so what if this was like over 2 months ago - SO what???!!!!

I am posting now. SO that's that!! Plus it was like super warm up until last week so it didn't feel much like fall or apple picking so I held on to this for a while just until it was cool enough out to feel 'season appropriate' to post. Then all of a sudden, it was like winter so - I don't know - have it now!!!

If you've been "Chasing Hazel" for a while now, you know that every year we get the cousins together and go apple picking. You will also know that this is my MOST FAVOURITE family tradition ever!!! We walk, we run, we talk, we eat apples, we try to take the most perfect pics ever, we laugh. It's SO MUCH FUN!!!! This year we adding sweating to our list. A LOT of sweat!! Usually, we have our sweaters, boots and scarves. This year we has on shorts, dresses, tanks and we still sweat. A LOT!!! I feel like I said that already??!! SO hot!!!

Neither of the girls really love to be warm so it definitely made for an interesting experience. Hazel started collecting apples and then she just walked over to the wagon, threw everything out and sat down. Then demanded water and chips. We did manage to get her back out again but she was pretty volatile. So aside from ALL. THE. SWEAT. We had a great time.

Love this day. Love hanging with some of my fav peeps. Love being outside watching it all just happen. And this year I especially LOOOOOOOVED the very cold beer we had immediately after our apple bags were full. 

This day has officially become a holiday in our family. Love it all!!!

Nola's 3

I am actually not at all sure how we have gotten to the point where we no longer have any babies living under our roof??? And I'm not talking about the fact that time passes all to quickly, my babies are all grown...blah blah. I'm ACTUALLY unsure how we LITERALLY survived? Are my children the only carnivores around?? Eat you alive, spit you back out and then mama bird what's left of you to the other one. I kid...Or do !?

Strangely enough I wouldn't change it for the world. Or would I? I kid...

Nola is 3.

I'm pretty used to her not being a baby actually since that stage lasted about 6 months. Since then she's been telling me how it is and, quite honestly, I just let her cause - "ain't nobody got time for that." This child can literally both simultaneously be the light, love and laughter of the home AS WELL AS the rage, anger and "oh-Lord-please-send-me-help-strength-serenity-and-wine" of the house as well.

No but seriously, she is funny almost all the time - a solid 95% of the time. Sometimes she is intentional with her humour and sometimes it's just the innocent comments that she makes on a daily basis. Once this girl hears something once, she files it in the, "I'm-gonna-pull-this-out-when-it-makes-my-parents-look-like-total-failures" part of her brain and she always nails the delivery. Usually we just laugh along side her, further ensuring the #failureparenting status. BUT SHE'S JUST SO FUNNY!!!!

A few of her favourite things are HAZEL!!!! Hazel and Hazel. Did I mention Hazel. When we pick her up from school she can barely contain herself. The second she sees her she runs to her, open arms and they hug so tight. Then she runs off and fulfills her own agenda, usually playing on the school playground, running away from me and basically doing whatever she wants at all times. She's not herself at home or at preschool these days, she's too lost without her sister around. 

Her favourite movie is Secret Life Of Pets, and any princess movie, with Horton Hears A Who close behind. Songs are The Hum (still), Fatboy Slim, "Praise You" and any princess song. She wears about 3-5 different dress-up dresses every single day. She picks out all her own outfits and gets really mad if I try to skip this step and just put her clothes on. Shoes - Forget it!! She's the most picky person ever. They have to look right, and feel right for her to wear them. She loves to paint, cut, write, have tea parties, pretend to make coffee, help me in the kitchen, be outside, go for walks. She loves to spend time with real live babies (who she usually tries to breast feed - no joke), her friends, and her cousins. 

Nola is an extremely challenging child to raise. Always testing the limits, wanting everything the exact way she wants it. She is far beyond her years in the scamming and working the system department. She knows that if Matt says no then she just comes to ask me. When I say no she wants to talk to her Nonna or Nana. The struggle is real. She's working on her negotiating skills and they are already on point. Good thing one of our mottos in this house is to, "not negotiate with terrorists." Most of the time she asks and receives cause I can't think of an argument that makes sense against hers. And most of the time I really don't care to argue about the small stuff. We have enough battles to fight teaching the girls to fundamentally good people so I tend to stick to those battles. 

Honestly, she is pretty amazing. She literally keeps the energy level up every single day in our home. She's always excited, or ready to be excited about just about anything. She's full of light, love and positivity. She loves to do everything! She loves to receive ANY gift - ANYTHING!!! She loves when ANYONE comes to visit! She tells us all she's proud of us all the time. She cheers so BIG and so LOUD for anything Hazel accomplishes, even if it's something she can already do. She's the kind of kid that wants to experience everything life has to offer her. She doesn't let any opportunity pass her by (even if it's naughty).

Her zest for life and her curiosity for the world is totally contagious. I want to go places with her, show her things, hold her hand (if she lets me, which is like, never). I want to watch her little mind be blown, her heart explode and her mind expand with each life experience she logs on her "childhood memories" meter. This year we decided that instead of a 'gift' gift that we would have her favourite princess come to the house and spend an hour with her. It was magic!!! Like pure joy and happiness for every single person regardless of their age.

We all got totally sucked into the moment watching Nola's little face light up with love and belief that Sleeping Beauty was real and was there to sing and dance with her. I think all our hearts were bursting with happiness and joy as we watched them sing and twirl around the living room together. I am telling you it was absolute MAGIC!! I could actually see this leaving a permanent mark on her soul. Maybe she doesn't remember it super clearly when she's older but it did leave a mark. It will present itself somehow in her heart as she grows. I know when she's way older, she'll come across a photo of this moment, hear a song, see a little girl wearing a princess dress, and her heart will feel all warm and fuzzy. She will remember. She will feel love. She will have a desire for magic.

And we do LOVE her so very much. Love seem like an understatement actually. There is not a child out there who gets more kisses, hugs, or snuggles than Nola. She's a very affectionate little lady. As the calendar pages keep turning, my hope is that we can provide her with experiences in life that satisfy her love of all things, we can teach her to be a compassionate human being and guide her to a life that is full of all the joy and happiness a person could ask for. While not ignoring the hard, sad times that are inevitable. For those we will be there to support her and watch them turn her into the person she is becoming. In the meantime, I plan to hug her and kiss her A LOT! Cause time is a jerk and it's taking away my babies. 

Happy 3rd Birthday sweet, smart, funny, loving, beautiful NOLA!!!! xo

My children were both kind enough to be born during the daytime hours so now for the rest of their lives I can take a picture of them (or 10) at the exact moment they start their next year of life. 

This is Nola on November 9th, 2016 at 11:02 am...

CDSW Day 6 - Daniel

Daniel is 15 months old and is an absolute pleasure to see pop up in my feed. Look at this kids face - LIKE LOOK AT IT!!!!!!

I actually CAN NOT!!!

 He and his sister, Savannah, are quite the duo. Although we have sadly never met in person. I am sure we are bound to one day in the future. I am so glad this little man and his family are in the Lucky 21 Club!!!

Ashley, Daniel's mom, shares with us...

How was your pregnancy?  

My pregnancy was no different than my first. I had all the usual aches and pains. All of the routine tests came back negative so we had no idea the gift that was headed our way.  Delivery was a breeze- I slept through my entire labor and then woke up moments before he was born- everything happened so fast.

When did you receive your diagnosis?

It was a couple hours after Daniel was born when I first found out that he may have Down syndrome. I was alone in the room waiting for my husband to bring our daughter to meet her new baby brother. I had complications with my epidural and was paralyzed from my waist down and waiting to head down for a CT. I was across the room from Daniel when a doctor came in to have a look at him- I was already shaken up from the news that they were unsure if I would gain all feeling back in my legs so I admit that had my full attention.. Until I heard them whispering about his eyes, and his hands. I remember the doctor whispering to his student about the placement of his ears and the tone of his little body. I suddenly couldn't feel my face now either.  The doctor looked over at me and said quickly "we suspect he has Down syndrome, we are going to send somebody in for blood work." Then before I could even reply- he was gone, and I was alone and a world apart from my son.  I felt like I was dreaming. I had so many questions, "how?" and "why?" were the biggest. I had never even met somebody with Down syndrome before. I was in such a panic.

What were some of your initial feelings/thoughts/fears/hopes about having a child with Down syndrome?

I was in complete disbelief, I felt a lot of sadness and fear. I didn't sleep at all that night. I grieved the child I thought we were having and had a hard time accepting that things were going to change. I was in no way prepared for the life I thought we were going to have. I remember looking at all his tiny little features and trying to compare them to his sister. I kept saying "I don't see it" and asking others if they "see it?" For three weeks we (my husband and I) took turns with this. We obsessed over it and I felt so guilty because it really didn't matter- We were already in love. We worried what this meant for his sister and if she would have a chance at a normal childhood/life and how his diagnosis would change our lives. We were especially scared for his health. Looking back now I wish I could tell that mess of a woman in that hospital bed that "I do see it, and he's perfect." I wish I could tell her to stop crying tears of grief and be grateful for this tiny life God had chosen me to care for. I wish I could go back and tell her to just take things one day at a time, go at Daniel's pace and stop researching every little tiny thing that could go wrong - But most of all I wish I could tell her that Daniel is going to bring so much love and so much happiness into our home and that things are going to change but in the absolute best of ways. It's all going to be alright, Ashley.  

What has your child with Down syndrome taught you?  

Daniel has taught me that I have strength I didn't know I had.  

What do you wish the world knew about people with Down syndrome?  

I wish the world knew that Down syndrome is nothing to be "sorry" for. My son is wanted and adored. He is a valuable member of our family and we would not be complete without him.

What are some of your hopes/dreams for your child with Down syndrome?  

My hopes and dreams for Daniel are no different than the hopes and dreams I have for my daughter. I hope my children have a very fun and memorable childhood. I hope they grow to be confident and respectable adults. I hope they find something they enjoy doing and become very good at it. I hope they find purpose and meaning in life but above all else I hope they are happy, and are happy with who they have become.

CDSW Day 6 - Aksel

This here, is Aksel. He is the whole package; smart, loving, handsome. The kid has it all. Hazel and Aksel are the same age, so I have had the pleasure of watching them play and grow together over the last 4 years. Oh and he also gives the BEST HUGS ON THE PLANET!!!!

Elizabeth, Aksel's mom, has blessed me with her friendship as well. It would not be uncommon for me to text her with a question about Down syndrome, reading tips, potty training, healthy meal ideas, anything that I'm confused about really. HA! We laugh all the time cause we are so entirely different but yet, we respect each other deeply for being who we are. Often, her opinion allows me to see something that I would never have thought on my own but makes perfect sense. I truly value her for all the ways she chooses to raise her son, for all the things that make us different and for all the guidance she has given me to this point. Also, I'm a tad obsessed with Hazel and Aksel #allthehearteyes

Elizabeth shares this with us...

Meet Aksel.
He's four years old.
He's bilingual (English and Finnish), and learning French.
He’s reading at third grade level.
He loves drumming, swimming, gymnastics, climbing,
... and did I mention reading? He LOVES reading.
He loves puzzles.
He loves animals.
He likes to jump from high places.
He goes to school at the local Montessori – fully included, and independent.
He's a great traveler.
He loves to learn.
He's healthy.
He's smart.
He's silly.
He's empathetic.
He's loving.
His smile is contagious.
He laughs with his whole body.
He loves kisses and hugs.
He's a perfect little boy.
Xoxo Mom & Dad

You can find Aksel on Instagram at @allstar.aksel - You are going to want to head over there and follow OBVI!!!

Tell me you are not totally in awe of this kid's skills!!!!! What did I say? He's got it all!!!

Thanks for sharing Aksel with us today!!!!