Mindful Parenting with the Passion Planner

mindful parenting PP

Over the past few months, I’ve become obsessed with my Passion Planner. In the past, I’ve written about why I love the idea of a paper planner (check here if you’re curious). And in the future, I’ll probably write about why I chose to go with this particular size and brand for all my current planning needs.

But for now, I’d like to tell you how I use my weekly layout to support a more mindful parenting style. 

Let me start with the caveat that there are tons of great resources already out there, often geared specifically towards moms who bullet journal. If you’re looking for cute and/or efficient ways to set up a meal plan or a chore chart, you can easily fall down a Pinterest rabbit hole (or, even more dangerous, go on an Etsy sticker shopping spree!) Even if you stick purely to Passion Planner-specific web content, there’s still plenty of eye candy out there.

And yeah, I LOVE that kind of information. I drool over gorgeous layouts, and I dream of a life codified by little check boxes. But that’s not a surprise, because I tend to be frightfully detail-oriented. Yeah, I don’t just lose the forest for the trees. I lose the forest for the individual tree leaves I’m obsessively scrutinizing and categorizing.

Hence why my current planner practice is less about trying to get organized and more about trying to get intentional. I need help when it comes to aligning my plans and follow-through with my true priorities. So I’m trying to harness my detail-oriented tendencies in service of something larger.

Here’s how I’m currently planning for and then reflecting on each week:

1. Some time over the weekend (or Monday if life’s busy), I pencil out a plan for the week. I fill in our set obligations and routines first, then I add how I’d like to spend the remaining time. I also give the week (and then each day) a potential focus. This step helps me several ways:

  • First and foremost, it reminds me that our family life is actually quite full… and that saying yes to one thing means saying no to something else. This helps me prioritize (easier to do now that I’ve actually done some values pondering). For instance, if I’m focused on “routines” for the week, I might (theoretically, at least) pause before agreeing to an all-day adventure that will screw with meals and quiet time.
  • On a purely practical level, I can (again, theoretically) spot and address any imbalances or potential problems with my week before they blow up in real time.
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the week ahead, in pencil

2. After my day is over, I review it and set down what actually happened in pen. I summarize the true focus for the day up top and indicate the dominant weather. (Yeah, the weather thing started during a particularly depressing stretch of winter. I was thinking my whole life was horrible and needed completely revamped. Really, it was just raining a lot. Good to know.)

3. After recapping the day, I add a little heart on times that I particularly enjoyed being with one or both of my children. (Yeah, I always love them, but I don’t always like them… know what I mean? The little hearts–or lack thereof–prompt me to prioritize the actual relationship part of my parenting. I can definitely see it when I’m missing that connection with one of my kiddos.)

4. Finally, I color-code my finished day to see how I spent my time.

  • Green logs all work (of both the paid and unpaid variety)
  • Yellow conveys group fun (two or more family members engaged together)
  • Pink signals time driven by Big Sis’s needs, blue does the same for Little Bro. Mr. M is turquoise.
  • Purple shows all my self-care (exercise, writing, relaxing, time with Mr. M, etc.)
  • Brown is for service activities (helping others outside our home)
mindful parenting PP (3)

three finished days, hearts and all

That may sound like a long process, but it actually goes pretty quickly and has the added benefit of relaxing me. Yay! It’s like my own personal adult coloring book! And when I’m done coloring my day, I can often identify why I’m feeling satisfied or crappy, where I’m imbalanced, or why one of my kids might be acting up more than usual. So much win!

Of course, I’m a navel-gazing control freak who loves both planning and reflecting. So clearly this sort of process only works for certain personalities. 🙂

I’d love to hear from some other parents and/or caregivers. How do you use your planner to parent more mindfully? Have you found ways to render your ephemeral family hopes or visions more tangible? Are you breaking down your long-range family goals into meaningful yet manageable steps? Please, share your brilliance! 

July Meal Plan #4: a Whole Lot of Hosting


Image and Recipe from Sweet Anna’s blog

I’ve been laboring under the delusion that this will be a quiet week because swim lessons ended. But then I realized that we’re hosting overnight guests on Thursday and a dinner party potluck on Friday. Then Saturday, we’re helping my delightful 88-year-old grandma move to her new home. All good things that we plan to fully savor… which means I’ve got to have my cooking and cleaning game thoughtfully planned in advance!

So, yes. What party-pleasing recipes do I have that feel appropriately celebratory without totally taking over my life? And how can I make them while using lots of fresh veggies? After all, I’ve still got leftover CSA cabbage to use. Items in the new box include: potatoes, zucchini, sweet red Italian torpedo onion, cherry tomatoes, snow peas, arugula. We also got garlic and carrots, which get eaten and used without any planning. 🙂

So, for our overnight guests we’ll be going on the casserole route. Why? Because they’ve been traveling all summer and are joining us fresh from a long camping trip. I imagine they’ve had tons of barbecue in the past few weeks, and an oven-baked meal might be a refreshing change. I’ll also be making a slow-cooker breakfast casserole for everyone to enjoy the next morning alongside some cantaloupe. (I love a good slow-cooker breakfast when I’m hosting. It means people can eat whenever they’re hungry and no one’s beholden to wake up at a certain time.)

And for our Friday night dinner party? Kebabs! Food on sticks = pretty. Plus, it involves grill work (Mr. M’s chosen domain, which gives me an all-too-brief and very-much-needed break on the domestic front!)

* * * * *

CSA meal #1 (cabbage and snow peas) – shrimp stir fry (snow peas and chopped onions added to this recipe)

CSA meal #2 (zucchini, potato, onion) – turkey and zucchini meatballs with oven-baked potatoes and grill-charred onions)

vegetarian dinner – Brie and fig jam grilled cheese sandwiches (yes, I have more leftovers to use up!)

hosting overnight guests (CSA arugula) – broccoli quinoa casserole with arugula salad and a fruit tray. For dessert, I’ll serve ice cream and/or some lemon cookies pulled from the freezer.

Kebab-themed potluck dinner party (more CSA zucchini, tomato) – We will grill kielbasa kebabs and piri-piri kebabs. I’ll also serve green bean salad and Caprese salad skewers (note: I’ll be buying balsamic glaze in order to prefer my sanity!)

Journal Prompts for Mindful Parenting

journal prompts

Photo by Wyat L. Taylor

I’ve been spending time this summer reflecting on my personal family values. Why? In large part, it’s because I want to openly acknowledge that there are many ways to be a good parent. And I can only be a good mom if I know what values and ideals are most important to me. 

If I can’t keep that focused vision in mind, my home life tends to devolve pretty quickly. I tend to glut myself on parenting research and  comparisons to others, then self-shame because I’m going about life  “all wrong.” Or I fall into crisis mode, doing nothing more than surviving the day. I’m not a mom so much as a warden, steering the kids away from bad choices and inappropriate behavior. It’s simultaneously boring and exhausting… and really not the way I want to spend my kiddos’ ever-dwindling years at home.

Here are some journal questions I use periodically to help me reflect and refocus on what’s important to me as a parent. Perhaps they can help you, as well!

  1. How would I, personally, define good parenting?
  2. Who are some good parents, teachers, or other caregivers I know? Which of their qualities and/or practices would I like to emulate?
  3. Who are some good families I admire? What qualities do they exhibit that I want my own family to share?
  4. What do I want people to observe when they see me with my family?
  5. If a miracle occurred and all the anxiety and stress in my life were suddenly gone, what would my family life look like? How would it change?
  6. Pretend money is no object. What would you do with your family?
  7. When do I feel like my best parenting self? List several memories or situations. What do they all have in common?
  8. What memories do I want my grown children to have of this time in our lives?
  9. How do I want my grown children to remember my parenting?
  10. What qualities do I want my adult children to exhibit? What values do I want their daily lives to embody?

July Meal Plan #3: Fast, Fresh, and Filled with Veggies


Two factors continue to govern our summer meal planning. First and foremost, I’ve got to use up our weekly CSA produce. This week’s box included lettuce, carrots, cauliflower, beets, green beans, cabbage, and cucumbers. (I’m using ingredients for every dinner this week, so no CSA notations on the recipes below).

I’m also surprisingly busy this summer with tons of close-to-home fun. Currently that includes hanging out with friends and family, soccer practice, swim lessons, and the occasional kid-friendly adventure. I’m trying to minimize my time in the kitchen without compromising the yum factor.

With that in mind, here are our dinners for the week…

* * * * *

Pantry Challenge #1 (clams from freezer) – fried razor clams and beet slaw

The Big Easy #1 – Dutch oven bread and a thrown-together green salad (mine will contain shredded chicken, diced melon, goat cheese, cucumber, and candied walnuts… topping it off with store-bought honey mustard dressing)

The Big Easy #2 – anchovy pasta with steamed green beans

Pantry Challenge #2 (chicken from freezer) – Vietnamese chicken salad

July Meal Plan #2: Simplify, Simplify


Recipe and photo from Amanda at Heartbeet Kitchen

Confession: while I’m thrilled about this week’s dinner plans, I’m saving the real excitement for our leftovers. Yes, the whole reason I’m making crock pot chicken is so that (a) I can roast it without heating up my house and (b) I can shred the leftovers to make buffalo chicken quinoa casserole. (Yes, Amanda’s delicious casserole recipe IS there, I swear! You just have to scroll down past the equally delicious green salad recipe.) I’m looking forward to stocking our fridge with some delicious make-ahead lunches.

This meal plan was tailored for a CSA box that includes lettuce, new potatoes, zucchini, cabbage, broccoli, and snow peas.

* * * * *

Big Easy CSA Meal #1 (potatoes, broccoli) – crock pot roast chicken, potatoes, and broccoli

CSA Meal #2 (lettuce & freezer bacon) – Hawaiian salad (three great salad recipes grouped together here… just keep scrolling)

Vegetarian CSA Meal #3 (snow peas) – tofu and veggie stir fry

Pantry Challenge CSA Meal #4 (cabbage) – grilled ribs and ramen cabbage salad

Delicious Carbs – pesto pizza with goat cheese, kalamata olives, red onions, and roasted red peppers (here’s the link to my preferred crust recipe)

How to Pack the Perfect Summer Adventure Bag

adventure bag green

This basket may not look like much, but it holds the key to my summer sanity.

Those extra socks and tattered old towels? On a philosophical level, they help me bridge the gap between the parent I am and the parent I want to be. More practically, they give me tools to clean up my kiddos after a routine trip to the park turns to mud-pie making or another such unexpected filth generator.

I first got the idea for a summer car kit from Martha Stewart. But as I am in neither her tax bracket nor her time of life, I don’t actually need to gear out my Subaru for spontaneous antiquing trips. Instead, I’ve tricked out my kit to address all the issues we encounter during day-tripping and errand-running. It’s like a diaper bag for the next stage of parenting.

When my kids have an awesome idea for spontaneous summer fun, I want to be the kind of mom who moves forward with an enthusiastic “yes!” And yet, so often I give a short-tempered “no” because I’m bogged down by all the logistics that would be involved. The adventure bag is one way I address that response. I stock the bag/basket to preemptively address all the issues I can anticipate while adventuring with my wild little ankle biters. The bag has always been regionally influenced (translation: our Pacific Northwest weather is… capricious). I also change what I stock according to the kids’ ages and stages (6 and 3 this summer, both chronically incapable of staying clean).

Here’s what’s currently in my car:

In my trunk, I keep…

  • A full outfit for each child (underwear, bottoms, tops, socks, shoes, and hoodie)
  • A blanket (perfect for picnics, warming up, creating shade and/or privacy)
  • 1 or 2 towels (for drying off wet children and/or rain-drenched playground equipment)
  • sunscreen (yes, I know it loses effectiveness in a hot car… but compromised sunscreen is better than none at all if I happened to forget at home!)
  • at least one plastic bag, garbage bag, or re-purposed diaper wet bag (contain their dirty clothing after the filthy fun)

Up front, I keep…

  • baby wipes and Kleenex in the drivers’ side door (I’m constantly addressing unexpected messes and snotty sneezes while driving)
  • small bottles of water (I hate when the kids end up wasting water in a bigger bottle… I also try to remember their canteens, but these are around just in case I forget)
  • non-perishable kid snacks (if the snacks are not prepackaged, I keep them in 4-oz mason jars with plastic lids. Again, I often try to pack a lunch but this is great for if I forget… or if an ostensibly short jaunt morphs into something unexpected.)
  • sunglasses for the kids (being Pacific Northwesters, they’re somewhat vampire-like in their sun sensitivity…)
  • an engaging book and/or small, inexpensive toy for each kid (keep in reserve for if they get super whiny)

That’s it on my end, though I’ve considered adding a Frisbee, soccer ball, or wiffle bat set for spontaneous trips to the park. The final step of creating a functional adventure bag is, of course, to make sure it stays stocked. If you use a snack or rotate out some clothes, be sure to replace the item as soon as possible! (This is hard for me. I can’t tell you how many times Little Bro has spent half the day in his much taller sister’s rolled-up pants because I didn’t restock his clothes…)

Thanks for reading, fellow parents and caregivers! I’d love to hear from you. What do you keep in your adventure bag? 


Blogging Experiment: Expanding My Brand

expanding my brand

“I write. I parent. I eat good food.”

So reads the tagline on my home page, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it from my blog content. Don’t get me wrong… I love me some meal planning, and that feature of the blog is certainly sticking around. But what about sharing my family’s original recipes? What about my strategies for stocking my freezer before NaNoWriMo?

And that’s just on the “I eat good food” front. I haven’t shared anything writing-focused since November. And I’ve got tons of research that I’d love to synthesize into some [parenting blog posts (to say nothing for some anxious mama ramblings I’d love to inflict on the world…)

It’s my professional July goal to fully embody my blog’s tagline. Can I do so without irritating my foodie followers? Can I increase my blogging output without compromising my creative writing? How can I find more readers who share my interests and outlook?

Part of me is tempted to do TONS of research before I blog anything beyond meal plans. But while I know that there’s a lot of useful information out there, I suspect that finding it is really just my latest procrastination technique. So I’m just going to dive in. (Though of course if you have any resources or wisdom to share, I am all ears.)

Fellow bloggers, fair warning: it might get messy as I do a little experimenting around here! Apologies in advance, and thanks for sticking with me! 


July Meal Plan #1: So Much BBQ…

7.4 (6)

Americans, time to bust out your flag food!

Lots of good news to share in the food department! Most importantly, despite my earlier anxiety around purchasing a large appliance, Mr. M and I are very happy with our new refrigerator.

Moving into a new fridge forced me to tally up all the goodies I’d been hoarding. Not surprisingly, I’m currently doing a better job of using up what we already have. (So much easier to do when you actually know what’s in your freezer… huh… go figure…) Consequently, for the first time in longer than I care to admit, I finally came in under the monthly grocery budget. Bonus: this was even after purchasing everything for a big family barbecue! (Admittedly, doing our event potluck-style definitely helped on the economizing front.)

We’ve still got a ton of leftovers from said barbecue that I’m trying to re-imagine into other dishes. And we’ll also be at yet another family gathering for the 4th of July holiday. (Wee! I LOVE summer! So many chances to socialize!)

Given this wealth of food on our hands, it’s a good thing that our CSA box includes mostly snack veggies this week. Our kids will just mow down the cucumbers, snap peas, and carrots no problem. And the garlic will somehow use itself up whether I plan for it or not. (All good recipes start with garlic in the Diamond household. Yes, we are a family with stinky breath and healthy hearts!)

So in terms of fresh produce, I’m only planning around lettuce and broccoli. Oh, and every meal listed below will be supplemented with fruit from the awesome tray my sister-in-law brought for the potluck. Woo-hoo! Bring on the pantry challenge to use up those leftovers!

* * * * *

CSA Meal #1 (lettuce) – Pacific Northwest Cobb Salad (just change the chicken for smoked salmon in a traditional Cobb. It’s fabulous. I’ll try to post an official recipe later!)

celebration food (4th of July) – I’ve been tasked with bringing a side dish. If I’m lazy, it will be chips. If I’m inspired, it will be hot Reuben dip and crackers (so good that people will eat it in any weather. Seriously.) But let’s be real, people. Odds are I’m bringing chips.

Pantry Challenge #1 (leftover burger meat, CSA broccoli) – fried rice made with cut-up leftover burgers, random freezer veggies, and fresh broccoli.

Pantry Challenge #2 (leftover burger buns, frozen pork) – savory bread pudding

Pantry Challenge #3 (leftover kale, frozen pork, frozen bread crumbs) – fried pork chops and Dr. Weil’s Tuscan kale salad

June Meal Plan #4: Frugal Freshness


Delicious recipe and gorgeous photo both from Langdon Cook’s food blog

Yikes! Somehow, a week passed without any blogging updates. Hmm. Could it be because I had multiple social engagements, culminating in Big Sister’s 6th birthday party? Hosting even a low-key family potluck requires quite a bit of prep work… that is, of course, if you want to clean your mirrors and vacuum your floors before your relatives come over.

So, yes. Despite my best intentions, I never published my last June meal plan. And that’s a travesty, because the week’s dinners were super tasty, inexpensive, and easy to prepare. So I’ll just post retroactively!

This meal plan was constructed around a CSA box that included lettuce, broccoli, strawberries, scallions, and snap peas. We promptly gobbled up the snap peas, but the rest were incorporated into the dinners you’ll see below.

* * * * *

CSA #1 (lettuce, strawberries) – strawberry salad (this recipe, plus bacon) with store-bought garlic bread

The Big Easyclam linguine (with more garlic bread, sliced and salted cucumbers, and strawberries)

CSA #2 (broccoli, scallions)Asian chicken fritters with steamed broccoli

vegetarian, CSA #3 (zucchini) – scrambled eggs and cranberry zucchini muffins

vegetarian, CSA #4 (scallions, last week’s leftover cabbage)okonomiyaki (Japanese vegetable pancakes)