31 January 2013

January #everydayonabike Review

January is a few hours from being over. Hard to believe, but also exciting - for it means that spring is nearly here (well, after February that is). I'm counting down the days until March 10 when we can spring forward on our clocks and enjoy an extra hour of sunlight! Also, Lila starts at Benny's old daycare at the end of March, so there's a lot to look forward to post-February. Not that any of that is relevant here.

Although I didn't collect photos from every day this month for #everydayonabike, I'm only missing pictures from five days. Not too shabby. Maybe I should have called it #almosteverydayonabike? Allow me break it down for you:

53 photos posted // 31 photos tagged by others // 22 photos tagged by me // 10 contributors

I'm a little amazed about how this challenge has changed the way I think about biking. I'm much more likely to hop on my bike for everyday tasks now than I was before the challenge. I'm much more likely to ride in cold weather. If nothing else, it's been a great motivator.

Also, congrats to @mrsweichbrodt for winning the $10 Starbucks gift card. Be sure to email me your address and I'll put the gift card in the mail for you!

Stay tuned for the February #everydayonabike theme and drawing! Thanks to everyone who participated this month:

@familyride // @shaggybrownie // @cathope // @runbobbierun // @emfritz 
@mrsweichbrodt // @simplybike // @annabhu // @smilingcolleen // @sallylhunt

29 January 2013

Um, Er, Can I Get Back to You?

Otherwise known as frequent scenes from my class this quarter.

There's nothing like lecturing about a subject matter that I'm not super familiar with to students who are very smart to make me feel like a complete idiot - on a regular basis.

This quarter I'm teaching about Media Effects & Consequences*. It's a section of media/communication studies that is rooted in psychology and sociology and stats and testing and quantitative mumbo jumbo. I'm more of a critical, cultural theory kinda gal, so sometimes I get a little lost in the details. Like, for example, independent and dependent variables. I swear that when I planned the lecture, I completely understood the two and how they applied to a certain concept we covered tonight. But then, there I was, scratching my head trying to explain it to the students. Not pretty.

There are a lot of um, er, can I get back to you moments. And I'm sort of okay with that. Since this particular class is a graduate-level class, I'm very happy to discuss things with the class and try to figure them out. If that doesn't happen, I'm happy to come home, work through it in my head and try again.

Despite my lack of knowledge on this particular subject, I'm having a great time teaching this quarter. The class is dynamic and interesting. Students aren't afraid to ask questions and state opinions. I want to be an approachable professor and I want students to understand that I don't know everything. But, I can't help wonder if this half in/half out lifestyle is hampering my teaching in a way. I have a variety of responsibilities to deal with every day - from grant writing, to meetings, to cooking, to playing with kids. Pile class prep on those activities and it's no wonder I'm a little off in my presentations. It probably didn't help that I was gone for a longggg weekend and didn't have time to work on lectures last week.

There's no real point to this post, other than to acknowledge that I have a lot of room for growth in my teaching. I'm just happy that I have the chance to stretch my academic muscles every once in awhile.

*For the record, when Benny asked about what I was teaching, I gave him the example of how sometimes we watch TV and sometimes it helps us learn, sometimes it makes us happy, sometimes it scares us - you know examples I thought he could relate to. His response? "Mom, doesn't everybody already know that?" He summarized my own questions about the field I study in one simple sentence. 

The Potty Chronicles // No More Diapers!(?)

Before you get too excited about what that means, let me throw in a caveat: No more cloth diapers. I just put my last load of cloth diapers in the washing machine. No joke. I haven't been using them very regularly for the past few months. You better believe that this mama is super excited about the end of cloth diapers in this house!

 For the past few days, Lila has been rocking the underwear, so we haven't used many diapers at all.

We have a few disposable diapers left, so we're saving those for night time. And I've been waiting to use up the leftover pull ups that we used for Benny (stored up in the closet for nearly two years now!).

I'm not celebrating just yet. Lila still has her fair share of accidents and I have to remind her nearly hourly to sit on the potty. But, we're making progress. And progress is good.

28 January 2013

Learning to Ride without Training Wheels

If you have a child between 2-3 years of age and you think he/she is ready to start learning balance for biking DO NOT buy him/her a bike with training wheels.

When Benny was small, I remember seeing a couple of kids ride balance bikes to the park. Then we moved into our house and the boy down the street could totally rock his balance bike - and fast. We signed up to the revolution and bought Benny a balance bike for his third birthday. He wasn't too keen at it at first. Turns out that kids need to learn balance (shocking) and a balance bike is the perfect tool to practice because kids can feel secure with their feet on the ground and gradually learn to balance.

By the time Benny was three and a half, he could ride long distances on his balance bike. By the time he was four and a half, it was clear that he was almost ready for a bike.

I wrote about Benny's first (successful) bike ride here. When Benny was ready, Nate held the back of his bike for less than a block and Benny took off. No struggling, no falling, no crying. Just fun.

And Zulily has Strider bikes on sale today! Don't miss out! Once the weather is more predictable and we have time in the evenings, we'll strap on Lila's helmet and watch her start learning how to balance on the bike.

26 January 2013

Biking and Life

If there's one thing the Everyday on the Bike Challenge has taught me, it's that life sometimes interferes with goals. (That's not entirely true - I'm pretty experienced with life interfering with the goals and plans - but it sounds more dramatic this way.) In January, I was forced to park my bike thanks to weather and a last-minute out of town trip. I also missed out one day, I'm a little ashamed to say, because I was making a trip to an area of downtown where I don't know the bike lanes.

Otherwise, I made near-daily trips with Benny to school, to run errands, to meetings, to the park, and around town with family. It was a good riding month, indeed.

As the first month of the challenge winds down, I'm happy to report that I've collected photos of someone biking for almost every single day of the month. Don't forget to submit an #everdayonabike photo on Instagram (tag it!) for an entry to win a $10 gift card to Starbucks*. I'll profile an #everydayonabike rider next week and I'll announce the winner of the gift card, so check back on January 31.

*Starbucks is not a sponsor of #everydayonabike. 

24 January 2013


They're really important, you know? Yet it seems that after college it's been harder for me to make close girlfriends. I miss the days of hanging out, without a care in the world. I miss living in the same city - or even within driving distance - of my good girlfriends.

When I was in Iowa this weekend, the stars aligned and I was able to meet up with some of my very best and oldest girlfriends. Pretty Girl was in town from Minneapolis, visiting Katie and Jackie, who were in town from Singapore and Boston, respectively. I don't get enough opportunities to sit down with these ladies and laugh and laugh and laugh. And be rambunctious. And reminisce about the good old days. I feel refreshed and recharged after a mere few hours with these ladies. On the way home, we stopped to have dinner with my oldest friend and her family (as in, we've been friends since we were six!). It wasn't enough time to catch up, but it was enough time to remind me that I need to make visiting more of a priority.

Making new friends these days often involves making friends with kids. And I so value all of my friends with kids. But I've found that I have a new, unexpected outlet to connect with other women. I wrote about what this blog means to me earlier this month. For the longest time, it was a journal for me - a place to record moments and milestones about my family. But something happened about a year ago, which changed the way I think about this blog. I started actively reading other blogs. In the course of 2012, I started corresponding with S. from Simply Bike. The more I got to know her, the more I liked her. And then I met Bobbie from Run.Bobbie.Run through S.'s blog. They both live in Iowa, so when I was passing through, I figured it was time to meet them in person. And let me tell you, it was so fun to talk with them in real time and space. There wasn't enough time to visit, but apparently there never is.

As a media scholar, it's so interesting to me to see how the internet facilitates friendships between people who are separated by miles but manage to find enough in common to create supportive and interesting and encouraging relationships. Without ever having met S. and Bobbie, I knew they were the kind of ladies I could relate to and share with and just generally like. I look forward to seeing them again (hopefully sometime soon). Because, you know, you can never have too many girlfriends.

23 January 2013

Unexpected Road Trip

Wasting time with stuffed animals // Playing outside on the road
Putting the pen to paper for some good ol' fashioned entertainment
Hanging out with old friends and new // Bossing Uncle Matt around
Posing with all of the Hall cousins // Sleeping in briefly before our last day on the road
Driving across western Nebraska // Getting silly with one hour left!

And we're home! I should  be getting caught up on work. Posting something about our road trip seems like more fun. Although we traveled to Iowa for a sad event, we made the most of the trip. Some of the stats:

Days on the road // 4.5
Total hours in the car // 26
Meals on the road // 12
Home-cooked meals // 4
Meals at locally owned restaurants // 5
Meals at chain restaurants // 1
Meals at hotels // 2
Friends and family visited // 23
Different beds slept in // 4
Coffee stops // 3 (shockingly!)
New friends met // 2 (more about this in another post)
Hours spent on the floor in a dark hotel room working on Tuesday's lecture // 2

I'm so happy and thankful that we were able to make the trip back. It's important to make time for family and to remember Nana Lila's legacy. It's hard to say goodbye, but it's easy to remember that she's such a big part of why Iowa is a special place.

On a related note, thank you for the kind words and thoughts about Nana Lila.

21 January 2013

On Successful Road Trips and Avoiding Meltdowns

Wow, that's the most misleading title to a post. Ever.

About 5 1/2 hours into our trip. Still going strong.

If you had asked me how to avoid meltdowns on long road trips about five hours ago, I would have had great advice for you: Don't push the kids too far. That's still good advice, so long as you follow it. After spending a majority of the past four days in the car, my kids are absolutely at their limit. Combine that with switching sleeping accommodations every night, massive amounts of attention from family and friends, awful food on the road and a lack of sleep, they are farrrrr beyond their limit.

Both of the kids did great on the first 3 1/2 days of the road trip to Iowa. They were happy and well-behaved. And they were cute. They certainly brought joy to a sad situation.

Here are some tips on having a successful road trip:
  1. Take breaks every 2 or 2 1/2 hours. Get some fresh air, let the kids run around a bit. Of course, this advice completely backfires when it's 0 degrees outside, which may have been part of our problem today.
  2. Pack lots of snacks - mostly healthy if you can. Of course, this advice completely backfires when the bananas and apples freeze in the car because you forget to remove them. Also, we ate through most of the healthy snacks by yesterday at noon.
  3. Use electronics sparingly. We don't have a portable DVD player for the kids on purpose. They actually entertain themselves quite well without that type of activity. However, when the mood in the car is devolving and you still have roughly 2 hours to go, break all of the rules. Nate had his computer loaded with movies and they came in handy tonight when we were driving in the dark. Watching a movie in the car was a big reward and the kids instantly quieted down.
  4. As noted in the introduction, don't push the kids too far. We certainly did that tonight. We left after the funeral at 1. We were already tired from a long and emotional day. Pile on 7 hours of driving and EVERYONE in the car had a meltdown at some point (adults included).
By the time we arrived at the hotel for the night, the kids were exhausted, but jazzed up because we were finally out of the car. Mom and Dad were tired and tired, so the combo of jazzed/tired didn't work out in anyone's favor.

With all of that said, though, I am so proud of Benny and Lila. For the most part, they have been wonderful traveling companions for the past 4 days. We are all looking forward to being home tomorrow and getting some R&R before returning to work/school for the remainder of the week.

17 January 2013

Remembering Nana Lila

Yesterday we received a dreaded message - a message that we knew one day would come, but couldn't fully prepare ourselves for it. Nana Lila passed away early Monday morning.

Last year, at about this time, we were planning on hosting Nana Lila for another visit in the spring. Then she fell and broke a hip. During surgery, she had a pretty severe stroke. She never really recovered. The visit was postponed and then cancelled when we realized that Lila would not fully recover. Overnight, she went from an active octogenarian to confined to a bed.

Nana Lila was a wonderful great-grandmother. She loved the kids. She loved Iowa basketball. She made a mean rhubarb pie. She loved her grandkids. She was incredibly close to Nate's mom and always kept her memory alive. She had the most amazing clear blue eyes that she passed on to both Benny and Lila.

We'll be traveling to Iowa this weekend to remember Lila. To say that we'll miss her is such an understatement.

16 January 2013

Cold S-Nap

Holy doodles it was cold this weekend! Sub-15 degrees for a good three days. Although I claimed that the cold doesn't bother me while riding, I couldn't muster the motivation to hop on my bike in that kind of chill (plus there was ice on the ground). So, there was some radio silence on the #everdyaonabike challenge this weekend. I'm back at it today, though, and loving every minute of it.

I'm a little surprised by how much I missed my short rides. I've grown to increasingly appreciate that biking makes me get outside during the winter months. Dottie, at Let's Go Ride a Bike, explained it the best today:

"I am the happiest and calmest version of myself, bicycling on a crystal clear winter day."

Although I don't have pictures for the past two days on #everydayonabike, the challenge moves on and I'm more determined to ride and make up for lost time.

Don't forget to post your own bike pictures to Instagram and tag them with #everydayonabike!

Also, check out the new Bike Challenge page on the tabs section. Happy riding!

11 January 2013

Winter Riding

It's not really fair to say that I've been "winter riding." The weather in Denver has been far too nice for that.

I don't mind riding in the cold. The lowest temperature I've ridden in so far this winter is 25. I won't ride in temperatures lower than that with the kids. No, my biggest problem with winter riding is precipitation. I'm a wuss about riding with any kind of precipitation on the road - particularly ice. I know there are things I can do to have a better winter biking experience, but I'm not willing to buy a new bike with fat tires (yet) or other accouterments for winter biking. (I'm so amazed by Miss Sarah at Girls and Bicycles who rides nearly all year in Edmonton, Alberta and Dottie of Let's Go Ride a Bike who commutes year-round in Chicago!) So, I'm crossing my fingers that the weather will continue to be mild and what ice and snow that we do have melts quickly.

With that said, it's snowing now and it's supposed to be 15 degrees all weekend. The Everyday on a Bike Challenge continues and someone has posted a picture for every single day of this month: A huge feat in the winter months. I'm hoping that the contributors in warm climates are able to keep it up this weekend, because I really doubt I'll be on the bike for the next three days!

I have run across some interesting articles about making it easier to ride - wherever and whoever you are.

What's keeping you from riding this winter? Schedule? Weather? Equipment? Or, are you powering through the cold temperatures in anticipation of spring-time rides? If you are powering through, don't forget to document it, post it on Instagram with the tag of #everydayonabike. Happy (cold) riding!

08 January 2013

Everyday on a Bike // Week 1

The weather in Denver has been spectacular - the perfect get-on-your-bike-before-it-snows-again kind of weather. Although my bike rides never topped 2 miles, I was able to ride 5 out of 7 days this week. Not bad. And, on the days I missed out, others contributed their pictures (including Bobbie of Run.Bobbie.Run who rode in Iowa in sub-freezing temps!).

What's fascinating to me about these photos and this project is how close I stay to home - because I can. We picked the perfect walkable/bikeable community for a reason!

For example, on various days, I rode to the dentist and dry cleaners, to pick Lila up from daycare, to taste wine at our local wine purveyor and to lunch with the family.

Don't forget, if you post a photo on Instagram with the tag #everydayonabike this month, you'll be entered to win a $10 Starbucks gift card. For an additional entry, leave a comment on this post about why you ride in the winter. Check out the great photos from the week. You can find me on Instagram @sarastruckman.

07 January 2013

Struckman Consulting // One Year In

Today marks one year since I officially embarked on my own as an independent consultant with nonprofits as Struckman Consulting. I signed my first contract with the Global Down Syndrome Foundation. It was scary - I didn't know how long that contract would last and I didn't have any additional clients lined up. The good news is, I finished my contract with GDSF after about five months and managed to sign a long-term client. Since then, I've signed another long-term client and two short-term clients. Somehow things have worked out and I've been able to pay myself every month (a very good thing). I'm also learning as I go. Although I haven't necessarily been strategic in my actions, I'd like to record my successes and failures as reminders for years to come.

  • Network, network, network. I attended several networking functions throughout the year and met some really great people. I've even been able to refer some of the people I met to paid gigs of their own. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. Chit chat and small talk don't always come easy for me, so these activities challenged me - in such a good way.
  • Give back. I took on one pro bono client this year. Working with the Denver VOICE has been so rewarding. I love the mission and the people are fantastic. Not only that, but the contacts I've made by working with the VOICE are priceless.
  • Sell, sell, sell. Word of mouth is the most successful way to get new clients. Hence networking and volunteering. I pass my card out whenever I get a chance and try to meet with new and old contacts at least twice a month. I also printed holiday post cards to send to many of my contacts this year. I received great feedback on them - an inexpensive, yet powerful way to keep my name out there. Although I don't think it's necessary to have a website, I'm glad I designed one for the business. It's certainly easier to point people to my website than to lug around a bunch of writing samples.

I'm so happy with much of how I conducted business in 2012, but there's always room for improvement.

Try and Try Again
  • Manage time wisely. Time management has always been a weakness of mine. I tend to thrive on deadlines, so when there's not a hard-and-fast date for a project, I wait until there is one. This has led to some late nights. I can definitely improve on last minute rushes by preparing in advance. I also need to resist tidying the house up and other time wasters while working at home.
  • Keep good books. The small details - entering expenses and tracking trends - are also a weakness. It's not that I can't do them, it's that I leave them until last minute. I also don't have a good system to track these things outside of Excel and I can't justify buying a program - yet. On the same note, I tend to pay taxes at the very last minute as well. That's something I'm definitely planning on working out in the year to come.
  • Cut unnecessary expenses. Although I know that networking expenses are an important part of doing business, I'm going to try to stick to meetings over coffee rather than meetings over lunch. 

The perks of working for myself and at home are limitless. Here are the highlights:

The Perks
  • I can run during the day, which makes winter-time running possible. This is the first winter I've really been able to keep up on running and the flexible schedule is to thank.
  • I purposely schedule meetings within a five-mile radius of my house so that I can ride my bike. I can't remember a week when I didn't ride my bike to a meeting.
  • Sick days with the kids aren't so stressful because Nate and I don't have to juggle days off any more. Similarly, we don't have to piece together daycare when school is out and daycare is closed.
  • Most importantly, I can spend more quality time with my kids. 
  • My schedule is flexible so that I can accept adjuct teaching opportunities when they pop up.

Although I never planned for my professional life to look like this, I feel like it's balanced and rewarding - just what I need at this point in my life. Happy one-year anniversary to Struckman Consulting. Here's to many more!

06 January 2013

Winter Running

I was all but ready to give up running a few months ago. My legs were sore and my motivation was low. Then November rolled around and the days were gorgeous. I figured I better get out and run because I never know when the weather will take a turn. I ran or walked every day that month. December proved to be pretty similar - out of character warm, dry weather. So, I kept running. I also increased my "base" run from 3 miles to 4 miles. In all of my running life, 3 miles have been the absolute minimum I will run. Lately, I haven't run anything less than 4 miles.

In late December the weather did turn. But, I just kept at it. Turns out that dressing appropriately helps with winter running. And it turns out that keeping active over the winter months helps with extra pounds over the holidays (shocking, I know). It's been very helpful to run without any particular goal. I'm not registered for any races. My only goal is to keep running. And so far it's working.

03 January 2013

Back at It and Out of the Groove

Today marks the end of the holiday vacation. Both kids are back in daycare and I have a long list of items I need to tackle. In less than two weeks, I have fallen way out of the groove. We didn't leave the house until 8 this morning, I nearly forgot Lila's lunch AND tuition for the month. It's going to be rough getting back into the groove - especially considering that I have more hours to bill  this month and I start teaching again next week. And, I'm going to try to do it all without increasing hours at daycare. I may have to budge a bit on that.

The good news is that I was able to hop on the bike briefly yesterday. Benny had a play date, so I bundled the kids up and rode about a mile to drop him off. I've never ridden in temps below 40 degrees, so yesterday's 30-degree ride was a bit brisker than I'm used to. I need to learn how to dress for winter riding.

Don't forget, if you take a ride this month, be sure to capture it, upload it to Instagram and tag it #everydayonabike. You can find me @sarastruckman. If you post a picture in January, your name will be entered into a drawing for a $10 Starbucks gift card. For an additional entry, comment on this post about why you ride in the winter.

01 January 2013


This year has a strange ring to it. It's almost like I can't quite believe that another year has passed, that my kids continue to get older and more amazing, that I can't count the grey hairs on my head any more because there are too many.

New Years doesn't quite mean the same thing to me like it did way back in my 20s. Then it was a time for new beginnings and new experiences. Now, it's a time to reflect on how happy I am with my life. Each year truly seems to get better and better, so I have few expectations for 2013 - aside from being mostly great.

I took a few big steps in 2012 that seem to be paying back. I'm quickly approaching my one-year anniversary as an independent nonprofit consultant and adjunct professor. My decision to change things up professionally has been an overwhelmingly positive one and I look forward to another year in these roles.

In terms of this space, the blog, I still can't quite pinpoint the number one purpose for posting regularly. I do love that it forces me to remember things about the kids and our lives together. I also love that it's a space for me to write regularly and capture some of the day-to-day things that I would surely otherwise forget. In the past year, however, it has become a bit more than that. I have "met" some amazing women through this blog and I finally understand what people are talking about when they refer to the "blog community."

With that, I'm excited (and a little nervous) for my newest experiment: Everyday on a Bike Challenge. Check the original post for more information about the challenge.

Essentially, I want to collect pictures of people (myself included) before, during or after a bike ride for every day in 2013. I started riding my bike more in 2012 and I'm kind of in love with bike commuting. Let's share that love via Instagram! (Find me @sarastruckman.) Watch for regular updates in 2013!

So, happy, happy new year! Here's hoping that life just keeps moving along an upward trajectory!