Whole Parenting Family

A Letter for My Mom on Her Birthday

happy birthdayDear Mama,

You managed to raise five children! We all felt we were the specialist in the world, for our ages. And we all felt we had your undivided attention, but only when we had the floor. Which may have been for about two secs before someone else jumped in. It’s my turn to have the floor and tell you all my unsolicited thoughts about you.

In our childhood, you taught us to always mind our p’s and q’s (that’s politeness & quietness for the uninitiated). You taught us that we always had to share with our siblings, but warned them not to take too much. You taught us that if we felt awkward socially or uncomfortable around people who were old, differently abled, or from a different country, we should push past our insecurity and get outside ourselves to make sure we were extra polite and friendly. You taught us to never ever let a stranger talk to us or try to entice us to come to their white windowless van for “candy.” You taught us to be fiercely loyal to each other and always side with our sibling in public, or else . . .

In our early adulthood, you loved baking chocolate chip cookies, fudge, and caramels and ensuring this diabetic coma in a box was delivered to us when we lived out of town. It made us real popular at school with our newly-gleaned friends. You loved leaving us lengthy voice messages that started with “Now, listen” and sometimes would end two minutes later with a code word that we had to tell you so as to verify we had actually listened. Now we forced you into an iPhone so as to ensure many voice-to-text messages of similar repute.

When I rode horses, you were my stable hand, accompanying me to the barn just to keep me company on the long drive, traveling around the country to do things like shovel horse poop, wipe my boots before entering the show-ring, and gingerly walk Norman over to the patches of grass, desperately hoping he didn’t run away from (or worse, at) you.

When I went to law school, you were my staunch companion, driving those 11 hours to stay for long visits, accompanying me on walks throughout picturesque Ann Arbor while I regaled you with tales of Intentional Inflictions of Emotional Distress and my desire to snare the love of my life (current husband).

When I clerked out West, you drove with said husband across country, 24 hours this time, with our semi-feral cat in my unconventional gold caprice classic upon which we’d installed a black grill (a car for which I was offered not once, not twice, but thrice, any amount of money by three separate people on three separate occasions, only in Vegas). Don’t ask about the grill. Long story. You would walk mountain paths with me while I unloaded about wedding planning, intellectual property cases (not my forte by a billion shots), and whether or not eating red licorice and watching dismal cable news every night when I arrived home to my empty apartment was healthy. Verdict: no.

Now that I have babies, and you live with us for as much time as I can guilt-trip you into, I find we are on familiar ground. You helping, by my side, opining when queried, and offering the occasional consistent unsolicited advice. Kidding!! Sorta 😉

I watch your motherhood bloom into grandmotherhood as my children adore your every waking book read aloud to them, and “sample” of your baking finesse experienced by good little listeners. You have rocked, soothed, bounced, and tickle-pickled all three and they light up when they see their NuNu.

I suppose this is what motherhood is, right? This giving of yourself when it hurts. When you simply want time for your own thoughts and feelings in your head no one knows about. When you swell up with so much happiness, watching your children love their family. And you know that these gifts of children, they make every sacrifice glow into satisfaction.

To you, Mama, and to many more birthdays celebrated with your family gathered around the old dining room table, hastily wrapping in tissue paper a gift or three, blowing out candles and singing extra versus of Happy Birthday, knowing we have this one day a year to spoil you rotten and not let you clean a single dish.

All my love,

Your Nellbell

happy birthday nunu



  1. Ashley on June 2, 2015 at 7:21 am

    This is beautiful, Nell! What a beautiful example of motherhood. Happy Birthday to your Mama.

    P.S. Listened to your podcast on Little House Mothering and it was SO good! You said so many good nuggets of wisdom that I’ve been thinking over since. Thank you!

    • Natural Mama Nell on June 3, 2015 at 3:48 pm

      You’re so kind, Ahsley!!!

  2. Melissa on June 2, 2015 at 8:59 am

    Happy birthday to your mom. What a wonderful letter!
    Did you live in Ann Arbor? I love Ann Arbor. My sister lives there now. She went to grad school at University of Michigan and ended up moving back after her internship at UCSF hospital.

    • Natural Mama Nell on June 3, 2015 at 3:48 pm

      Yes! Three years for law school! Oh, your sister must love it. Aside from the many gray days (very overcast compared to Minneapolis/Saint Paul), I just loved it!