About Me

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After being told I would never be able to have children, I am now a stay-at-home Mommy to Maddie who happens to have Down Syndrome. I've been married 16 years to my best friend, having the time of my life. Thanks for stopping by and sharing in our little journey through life.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Maddie Begins Ballet!

Today will be Maddie's first day of ballet classes! 
I'm so excited!

This morning I showed her the leotard and ballet shoes for class and she couldn't wait to put them on and try them out!

We are keeping things low-key.  
We chose to sign her up at the YMCA rather than a dance studio.  

I think she's going to love it. 

First position, second position, here we come!!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Lens Love!

So, I rented this little beauty and took her out for a test run yesterday.

She's very lovely.
All of these pictures are SOOC (straight out of camera).
No editing. 

1/2000, f/2.8, 200mm
I was probably 25 feet from Maddie when I took this photo.
I love the compression.
See how the pole she's leaning against appears to be the same scale as the tree behind her?
In reality it's more like a scale of 2:1 or more.
I love how this lens seems to pull in the background to make things "tighter".

The main reason I love this lens though is how it changes the relationship with the subject.
The physical distance creates this mood that I'm just LOVING!
1/1250, f/2.8, 190mm

1/1250, f/2.8, 135mm

1/1250, f/2.8, 95mm
 It feels more natural to me.
I just love it.  

It also performed really well with motion and keeping the focus.
1/1600, f/2.8, 70mm
I was panning to get this shot as she was running on the bridge.

I did discover this lens is all about distance.
I tried a familiar shot I get of Maddie all the time because it's one of her favorite things to do.
1/1250, f/2.8, 70mm
Peek-a-boo around the tree.  I was right there, maybe 1 foot from her.

1/500, f/2.8, 70mm
The lens couldn't find focus this close, so when there's action going on with little ones in close proximity, this is NOT the lens for the job.

Here are some of my favorite shots at 70mm.
I was probably 5-7 feet from her in most of these.
1/2000, f/2.8, 70mm

1/3200, f/2.8, 70mm

And here are my favorite shots at a longer focal length.

1/2500, f/2.8, 200mm

1/3200, f/2.8, 135mm
Another amazing find I discovered with this lens is the lack of chromatic aberration.
1/500, f/2.8, 70mm

Normally, with this much contrast between the chains and the sky there would be some green lines that appear between the transitions (aka chromatic aberration)
Look at this!  It's amazing!

Well, now that I have proven what a nerd I am, I have just ONE more observation/conclusion with this lens.

This is NOT your lens for macro photography.

On the left, 70-200.

On the right, my 100mm Macro.

No comparison!

Choosing the right tool for the task at hand is an artist's first decision to make when creating art.

I love this lens for the mood it can create with the distance between me and the subject.

If I want to capture the essence of who a person is, I'll reach for my 24-70 f/2.8 L II.

If I want the details, details, details, I'll pull out my 100mm Macro.

Bottom line:  I would absolutely love to have this lens in my toolkit!

Thank you for reading and allowing me to get all nerdy on you.
I know I really need a blog my photography can call all it's own, but who has time to create another blog ;)  

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Homeschooling: Creating the Right Learning Environment

We have begun our homeschooling adventures here at the Schasteen house!  
I was hoping to find a "perfect" private school for Maddie like this one but my search came up empty.

Since I couldn't find what I was searching for, I decided to create it myself...and here we are homeschooling!
We are actually doing a hybrid version of private school/homeschooling.  
She is still attending the private preschool she went to last year two days a week, and I am working with her the other 3 days.  

I still felt it was important for her to be in a "typical" developing environment for a couple of reasons:
1) Maddie can learn so much from her peers.
2)  Since she's an only child, she really benefits from the social interactions she gets while at preschool.  

Although we just celebrated her 6th birthday, she's in the 3-year-old class.
This fits her developmental needs best.  

With the struggles we have had with Sensory Processing Disorder to regulate her system, last year was a tough year. 
We are super fortunate to have the same teachers she had last year again this year! 

I really love the flexibility we have with homeschooling.  
My favorite thing is when Maddie comes to ask me, "wanna play?"
And I say, "yes!"

And we sort Easter eggs.
 and then line them up to create a pattern.
As a side note, do you notice the rock-star-type device she's wearing?  
That's her bone conduction therapy device.  
It's amazing!!!
We began doing music therapy with her last October as an Integrated Listening System to treat her SPD.  
Although we saw a bit of progress, we eventually hit a plateau and then digressed a bit.  
And then came the bone conduction therapy! 
At our last OT visit, Maddie is FINALLY looking like a regulated child!!!
What we spent 7 months trying to accomplish with music therapy, we finally accomplished within 14 weeks of bone conduction therapy!!!!
It basically bypasses the auditory system altogether and relays sound through the bones (like in utero).  This, in turn, trains the brain to receive and process information differently.
And this has made all the difference :)

OK, back on track wtih our homeschool story...

 We read one of our library books...

 Maddie re-created the steps in the book, learning sequence and number recognition.

And then her favorite part...
We got in a lot of gross motor play running around the house from the bear!

We also worked on fine motor skills while practicing pouring beans.

She uses her ipad and this stylus to practice writing all of her letters.
With other ipad apps, she can name all of the shapes including pentagon!

But my favorite accomplishment of hers has to be her amazing puzzle skills.
By the end of the week, she put together a 24 piece puzzle all by herself!  Wow!

She didn't really want me to tape her, so I didn't push my luck, but later this same week, she did the puzzle from start to finish with no help from Mommy!!

I love this series of photos because it shows her sheer determination.
These puzzles do not come easy to her, but she's so stubborn she's going to get it done!!

So far, homeschooling has been working great for us.
I love that I feel like I've got a handle on where she's at developmentally and what goals are appropriate for her.
I love getting to see her accomplish tasks and persevere through her frustration.
I also love the flexibility.

That's some highlights of our first couple of weeks.
I hope to keep posting to keep me accountable and also have a record of her progress.
(plus it's great for Grandma to see what she's doing to help us set new goals!)
We are spoiled to have a Grandma with TONS of experience  and expertise in teaching little ones!