Results tagged “family”

I started riding motorcycles as a kid (Motobécane bien rouillé et la Peugeot 104... ahh mobilettes de mon enfance) but my parents wouldn't have it.

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Things started in earnest once I left home with my first 'proper' bike, a 1975 Bultaco Sherpa bought from a farmer in Cairns. After that, I lived and traveled with Baby, a black KZ1000J2. I still remember the first night I saw her. Took a bus to way the hell out in New Jersey somewhere and looked at her in the guy's driveway. He turned the key and the dash lights light up the open garage with this glow. I just had to have her:-)

When I moved to the UK in 1988 Baby took the boat to Liverpool. When she eventually gave up the ghost I bought another Classic Jap (Z400 - it behaved like a triumph, used to lose its mufflers in corners) and eventually ended up discovering the BMW GS. The GS was great, it focused on the journey, always getting through to its destination, a bike to drive around the world on. I wanted to be able to ride reliably, not having to switch to a car when a bit of rain started. It wasn't light or fast but it handled beautifully, had great brakes and a very low center of gravity (thank you opposed twin) and was comfortable even on multi-hour motorway trips.

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I've now owned three GSes and have been riding them for Fourteen years. The most recent one was a 2006 R1200GS Adventure, the basic GS with knobblies, a taller first gear, poor quality fuel chipping, luggage, tall windscreen, headlamp protectors and aux lights. Lovely thing, rode it every day, rain or shine. It did particularly well in the snow.

Also, at this point if you've made it here after Googling R1200GS I should thank Kevin and Steve at SBW Motorrad in Hertforshire who have looked after me with love and care (and high-reliability servicing for many years:-)

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So in January I was hit by a car doing a u-turn. I was on life support for a week and it was pretty intense. I had a brain contusion from where (I've reconstructed) my head impacted the car's roof (thank you Mr Shoei, I'd not be here without your good efforts), eight ribs (including #1) were broken in multiple places (leaving me with several flail segments) as well as a collarbone shattered into 5 pieces and a torn lung and resulting hemothorax--nasty that, once your lung is punctured you can't breath and your chest cavity fills with fluid and you die very quickly if the first responders don't make it to you quickly. As it happened, my accident happened right behind a fire station so my treatment was ace:-)

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So after riding a bike for many many years it looks like I'm going to hang up my helmet for a few years (until the kids are grown?) and buy my first car. Normally I'm not a big fan of cars so I was trying to find a four-wheel equivalent to my trusty GS. I can't drive right now because of my injuries but hopefully I will soon and so I thought I'd give one of these a home:

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We'll see how it works out. We're off to the beach this summer so hopefully this thing will manage a bunch of little people with canoes and bicycles:-)

Saturdays with no fencing

Saturday with Clementine--we saw many things this afternoon.

We looked at the Phoenix in East Finchley (C saw The Muppets there earlier this year)

We looked at giraffes in Regents Park (and their giraffe-shaped doors)

We looked at Hamleys (just the outside, we were on a budget today)

We looked at Eros in Piccadilly Circus (and lots of tourists and billboards)

We looked at Nelson's column (from the back) and wondered about all the extra police and Pall Mall being partially closed (I figured it was the Save our hospitals No to privatisation march but not sure where the Department of Heath was. Didn't fancy getting kettled with Clem as she's not a fan of crowds). The police may have been there to keep an eye on the Morris dancers but we couldn't be sure...

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We looked at Vincent's yellow chair then walked around the museum. Had a couple of good "what can you see" observation things with good spotting of scallop shells, keys, scythes, cats and canaries. Stopped at Degas, Gustave Moreau, Seurat (Bathers at Asnières 1884) and tested the leather couch in front of Hogarth's The Graham Children (1742). Loads to figure out if you just sit there and look (does the cat behind the chair ready to pounce on the canary foretell future conflict that might endanger the children in the picture? Is the pram handle on the floor supposed to suggest a fallen sceptre?).

At which point we hopped back on the bike and chased a stretch limo around Trafalgar Square. Three girls leaning out the window (that smelt like cleaning fluid) doing their best to ignore us.

We looked at Buckingham Palace, the Serpentine, Baker Street, St John's Wood high Street and stopped at the crepe stand in Hampstead. Picked up flowers for Nicki from the stand at the Spaniards and back to Whetstone.

All in all, nice to be hanging out and looking at the world go by. So Clem, what shall we do next week?

11 March 1934

Cards and hairstyles oh my...

Well, it's the 11th of March again, Mom's birthday. She would have been 79 years old today.

H, yesterday you had a meltdown while playing Monopoly with Nicki, C and me. It got a bit frantic and we all messed with your head and eventually you were so worked up you locked yourself in your room and cried. I think we were all collectively very sorry at the time but I thought I'd mention this as it reminded me of Ruth, my mother and your grandmother.

For some reason, we always played cards at home. Ruth would teach us tricks like shuffling upside down, and she even had poker chips in the house. These were red and blue and stacked really easily (they had special grooves that preventing them sliding and I still remember the feeling they gave you in the hand--really lovely). Ruth taught us Poker (5 card stud I think) and Canasta, and Casino and others I'm sure but I can't remember now. Pretty much the only game she didn't teach us was Pinochle and maybe that was because she associated the game with a particular type of player (the problem with children like C and you is that you've reached the age when you like to be cheeky and rowdy and edgy and rough but actually you're still young and vulnerable on the inside. If I had to teach you cards, what game would it be? Maybe teaching you advanced negociation skills in Monopoly is a little too premature?).

So on the topic of rowdy card playing, Ohna sent me this today (on Ruth's holidays on Staten Island):

She would talk about all the different guys and how they did their hair (were they all related? I don't think so...), sneaking cigarettes, staying up hanging out as the parents all hung out together drinking and playing pinochle. It sounded innocent but exciting...

Well, anyways, Ohna and I loved playing games with Ruth and back then we didn't have a TV or the internet so that might have been a factor.

C, H, I just wanted to remind you of your Grandma Ruth on her birthday and remind myself that I have fond memories of us playing together. My guess is our rowdy Monopoly play is something similar, so I'm going to try and play a whole lot more with you guys:-)

School days

Clem's new school

Cleme on tender-hooks yesterday as councils were due to send out emails at 17.30 with news of secondary school places. Just noting this down here for Cleme (which was the original point of me writing all this stuff). In the end the thing she'll want to remember is the feeling she got when the email came through with her first choice school:-)

The gates above are made by the students and resident artists. All v. exciting, much to look forward to (they even have Arduinos in technology class! not like doing Rotring drawings of Le Creuset pans like I was doing at her age).

Fun with Lego

F-22 Raptor

Hal keeps getting given these Lego sets. Most recently, he's had a Pirates of the Caribbean thing with a mill-wheel and a bell tower (set 4183-1) and before that it was Mandalorian fighters (set 7914-1) and the Space Shuttle (set 3367-1) as well as a bunch of others I can't locate.

I pretty much build these as Hal wants the finished product in a hurry but what tends to happen is that he goes for it and pretty soon the toy breaks. Of course it's Lego, so it's not breaking as such, it's supposed to come apart after all...

Recently, after spending a good hour assembling the pirates set I decided that the thing to do would be to glue the parts with super-glue. Not the whole assembly, but those groups of parts that moved or were hinged in some way (the Shuttle's bay doors only stayed attached to the mother ship for a few minutes under heavy playing).

So, I read up on the Lego forums to find out what the best glue was and did anyone have any techniques for glueing with a light touch to prevent destroying the bricks. I can't imagine I'm the only dad out there who has had this idea so I was really surprised to read the near universal condemnation of glue in Lego assembly...

So in the end I gave up on the glue and this morning I was playing with Hal and we smashed up the Space Shuttle and I put this F-22 Raptor together. OK, so it looks nothing like a raptor and it's missing its nose cone among other things but it was really fun to do.

I just never tire of the way a couple of bricks can suggest a familiar profile, a familiar shape:-)

The other kind of interesting thing was that in trying to get the two jet engines as close as possible, I made the main body lift area (the bit between the two turbines) with an odd number of rows. Normally my models are symmetrical but in this instance I had to have a central, single-row brick running down the middle. For some reason this made progress way more difficult. The cockpit glass comes from a dinosaur set and was four rows wide so to fit the nose cone (or make a gap where the nose-cone would go) I had to use flat pieces with uneven numbers of rows on top and bottom (I think they were claws from another animal, with two rows on the bottom but a single, centred row on the top)

So yeah, so do you glue your Lego?

Mornington Crescent

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Hal never ceases to surprise me. The other morning he corners me and demands we play his new game he's just invented. He spends at least 15 minutes explaining what dots mean and how you rub random bits out with your finger and that impacts your performance and the points out the final destination stop. First person to get there wins but the point of the game is random and is just about drawing interesting shapes, arguing about the rules and just generally enjoying the delightful complexity of the thing.

He's 5 so I dread to think what's next:-)

Vorpin and Aphrodite

Vorpin and Aphrodite

Welcome Venus Flytraps, meet Vorpin and Aphrodite. Extra credit for identifying which child named which flytrap. And yes, Hal is determined to stuff as many bugs as possible in there.

San Francisco 1963-1965

At some point, Ohna and I are going to have to go through all those little round yellow boxes of 8mm film and find out what's on them. In the mean time, Jed put this compilation together from 1963 to 1965 with shots of Ohna, Ruth and me.

Sushi-cake

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Nicki baked a bunch of cakes for a Japan relief cake and sushi sale at school. My contribution was sushi icing. They ended up looking great, we even had a squirt of 'wasabe' between the 'rice' and the 'salmon'...

Yeah, OK I didn't actually taste one but the kids seemed to like them:-)

New floor

Clem Hal floor zoom

It's surprisingly difficult to put a floor down. One really stupid, simple point is that you have to remove your stuff. What? you mean like push the couch to one side? No, I mean ALL OF IT, from THE WHOLE GROUND FLOOR. Riiiiight... I see.

So yeah... but the kids like it:-)

Health & Safety, 1963

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Wow, Dad just sent this through, that's me and my Mom sitting in Firebucket Dad's MG somewhere in San Francisco (I'm guessing that's the Golgen Gate Bridge in the background).

Dad writes:

Where's the seat belt?
Where's the baby-seat?
Did your loving parents take these careless trips without thought of health and safety? you bet they did!
Luckily we did survive didn't we:-)
Love,
Your Old Dad

Gardening beard

One of the fun side-effects of not shaving for a few weeks is that you get to give yourself a funny beard before shaving it all off:-)

Les corps exquis

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We're all down in Devon staying with Grandpa Jed for the Easter hols. These were created by Jed, Nicki, Cleme and Dug. I love that 'space alien' one:-)

Ruth's memory tree

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Her tree is impermanent, an apple tree among the firs, but the thoughts expressed should last forever...

This is the last post about Ruth's passing and subsequent service. I am now going to return this blog to its normal pattern of nonsense from Dug's head. I am building a page for Mom and will transfer all the Jobbles Wood content to there when it's ready.

If you want to add a thought to the tree picture, you can comment here or add your thoughts to the picture's Flickr page

Ruth's celebration was held at Salem Chapel East Budleigh, Devon, on March 7th 2010.

Many who attended the ceremony expressed a desire to read the text of the remarks by the Humanist officiant, Alan Turner, Ruth's sister Elsie, her husband Jed, daughter Ohna and son Dug. While Dug is planning a more permanent home for this information, here are some of the transcripts:

Elsie, Ruth's younger sister made the following remarks

Ruth and I grew up in Brooklyn New York.

We were three sisters-daughters of Norwegian immigrants. We were part of the American 'melting pot'. Although people immigrated to have a better life in the US, they hung on to their identities for a long time. Everyone in our neighborhood , which was predominantly Italian, Irish and Norwegian, identified themselves as belonging to the country of origin of their parents or grandparents. So we grew up identifying ourselves as 'Norwegian' and we shopped at the Norwegian businesses. Our eldest sister, Mary, spoke Norwegian as her first language and all three of us could understand our parents, although we answered in English.

We grew up influenced by our parents' European culture.

When we travelled--and we all wanted to travel--we were always asked if we were Dutch, or Scandinavian, surprising people when we said we were American. I think this 'dual citizenship' made it easier to take on the role of a foreigner living in another country. Mary and Ruth did quite well, when in 1969, they both left the United States never to return. Mary moved with her husband Dan and four of their children to Norway, Ruth and family moved to Paris, then to Italy, back to Paris and finally to Devon.

With every move she had to adjust to running a household in countries with different customs and languages, make new friends, get the children settled in schools, and support her husband in his endeavors. Luckily she was very smart, practical, inventive and not fazed about being a stranger in a strange land.

We were a small family. My mother and father came separately to the US, and met and married in 1929. The Depression and WW2 put a damper on further immigration and our relatives remained essentially unknown to us except for an occasional visitor. So birthdays, Christmas, and other occasions had the five of us as a core.

In the 1950s, girls were expected to live at home until they married.

Mary followed the rules and got married at age 19. Ruth, who was 4 years younger, seemed content to stay in the family nest. I wasn't. When I was 21 and Ruth was 26, I announced I was moving in with roommates in Manhattan. It was a wakeup call for Ruth who complained YOU CAN'T MOVE OUT BEFORE ME-it was too embarrassing to have your younger sister leave home first.

So I moved out in July 1960 and she left for San Francisco in August. At that point our lives diverged, but that close beginning forged our basic outlook on life, and as our lives developed new chapters and new directions, we stayed connected.

Whenever I saw Ruth we could start our conversations by finishing the sentences we had been speaking the last time.

I may not know all the important events in her life as they occurred but we were right on top of OUR shared history that grew with every year. We saw each other infrequently, but corresponded often-real letters-not email. It was always exciting to see an airmail envelope in the mailbox with her familiar handwriting.

It is very odd hearing people talk about Ruth as if they knew her.

How could they know her-she was MY Sister-but then I have to concede that she was also YOUR wife, YOUR mother, YOUR grandmother, YOUR aunt, and YOUR friend. She had a different existence with each of you.

The threads of her life were interwoven with many people. Now one thread of my life is broken.

Goodbye Ruth.

Dug, Ruth's son, made the following remarks

Ruth, my mother, was an enabler.

We don't spend a lot of time thinking about the enablers in our lives.
We don't consider the air we breathe, we don't appreciate the water we drink and we don't even worship the sun anymore.

So today I'd like to say thanks to my greatest enabler.

My Mom who spent a large part of her life creating wonderful things for her family, for her friends.

Today, I'd like to say thanks for all the gifts my mother enabled for me. These are precious gifts that will be with me until my own death. They are gifts I hope to pass on to my own children as well.

  • Thank you for making me capable of trying for the impossible
  • Thank you for the self-belief to push on doors and take chances
  • Thank you the peaceful sleep I enjoy even as I navigate seriously troubled waters
  • Thank you for letting me know what it feels like to be safe, to be cherished
  • Thank you for the keys to everything.

Finally, I'd like to read you a short message of thanks, a poem I copied out for Ruth in June 1969 and that she tucked away in one of her scrapbooks.

"Pour ma mere" de Maurice Carême

Il y a plus de fleurs
Pour ma mère, en mon coeur,
Que dans tous les vergers;
Plus de merles rieurs
Pour ma mère, en mon coeur,
Que dans le monde entier;
Et bien plus de baisers
Pour ma mère, en mon coeur,
Qu'on en pourrait donner.

Thank you.

Ohna, Ruth's daughter, made the following remarks

My mother was the most nurturing, loving and caring person. She was my safety and was my point of reference. She was a hug when I needed it, and a sharp word when I needed that. She was 'home' wherever I was and for quite a while after I left.

She was so welcoming and easy that my home became my friends' second home and she became their 2nd mom. After she died, I even received messages from siblings of my friends expressing their sadness and respect for her, wanting to share with me how important she had been in all our young lives. So much so that my childhood friends have come from Paris today to say good bye and share in her memories.

She had no strong rules or formalities that we had to live by, and yet imparted a strong moral sense - that eventually my brother and I seemed to soak up quite unnoticeably. She was nurturing but also gave me a lot of freedom and independence. She made me feel trusted and confident, and gave me room to be me and grow. My friends' parents were sometimes quite taken aback with my lack of grooming. My French friends' parents taught me how to eat with the correct tilt of the bowl, and the correct way to sit and hold my knife and fork. My friend Sonia's mother used to brush my hair before she would let me out to play (I usually turned up with great big knots at the back of my head I couldn't be bothered to tease out). In fact, I missed out on being rebellious because I never felt I had anything to rebel against.

She was also a very individual mom and role model. For a start, most my life she was foreign (as was I) and her ways were always her own, not like anyone else's. This meant I grew up never knowing that I had to be like anyone else, because it was a given I'd be different and it really didn't matter.

She loved creating special occasions. She used to make beautiful gift packages made up of lots of little individually wrapped presents, which were always my favourite gifts to open. She put together picnics which always came fantastically presented with fabric tablecloths, real glasses and all kinds of delicious foods, and with my dad's help spotting the muddiest tracks to go hiking down and the most breathtaking settings to settle down in, made for many a memorable weekend. She knew how to throw the best parties I have ever been to. She sat with us making papier-mache pen pots and sculptures, she weaved beautiful rugs or sewed not only many of her own clothes, but my dolls' clothes too.

I feel very privileged and lucky that I had my children when my mother was still young and fit enough to be able to contribute with huge amounts of love and energy. She made me and my children feel that they were the most special and perfect children in the world.

My heart breaks every time I think of how oppressed she was by her many illnesses and ailments over the past few years. At times she was so tired of putting up a fight, she couldn't see the light. While she was in hospital she talked about the battle she waged against a silver army and that she just couldn't find the weapons to defeat them. But it encouraged me that she was still looking for them.

Right now it is hard to say what I will miss the most, as so many things remind me of her. I feel happy when I recognise elements of her in things that I do, and I hope I will continue to learn from her even though she has gone.

Alan read out a passage from Apoa and Kiloh, Ruth's granddaughters. They wanted to both speak and their text is in the form of a dialogue.

Apoa: I feel very lucky to have been able to know my grandma so well. We spent most holidays here in Devon and many of my childhood memories were here with her. Christmas has always been the strongest Devon tradition for me - the one time I remember trying it in London wasn't nearly as good. It always started with decoration the Christmas tree together and Grandma would point out all the old photos we used for decorations and we would pause to complete the puzzles hung in little boxes on the tree.

Kiloh: I have so many fond memories of my grandma, when I think her the first thing that comes to mind is her laugh; it was such an infectious laugh it always made me feel happy and I felt great every time I was the cause of it.
I also loved the American way Grandma would say things, like tub instead of bath and diapers instead of nappies which is something I realized I've picked up off her.

Apoa: I picture her often with curlers in her hair and remember her always fretting about us when our hair was wet, begging us to use her hairdryer.

Kiloh: She was always a very keen gamer she had a great skill with puzzles; and we also played a lot of cards together. Apoa and I would teach her new games, but not too well so that we could still win as she always beat us at most games. Another favourite was Chinese marbles, which we have also taught to Clemmie, and Grandma was particularly good at.

Apoa: Grandma loved books and read a Series of Unfortunate Events to us and I tried to return the favor, reading her the Northern Lights' one time when she was feeling ill. She had a keen love for detective stories, which I inherited from her. She once sent me an article (which I think Elsie sent her) explaining how it is a Norwegian tradition to go on holiday to read detective stories once a year, which explained to us why Hercule Poirot's crime-solving tales gave us such enjoyment. She also read children's stories like Jacqueline Wilson books and Harry Potter though I was never quite sure if she read them because she knew how much we liked them or if it was for her own enjoyment.

Kiloh: She always spoilt us with treats, Mars Bar ice-cream were her favourite and she had a large stock and then she discovered Snickers which filled the freezer too, and these always make me think of her. She also gave us biscuits and Mr. Kipling treats in abundance when our parents weren't there, which always felt special, as it was something I never really got used to.

Apoa: We will miss her massively but it's nice to know that we will always have such lovely memories of her and will forever have our grandma Ruth.

Jed, Ruth's husband was the last to speak. He added the following remarks

Ruth was a big city girl who had supported her family through seven family moves: San Francisco, New York, Connecticut, Paris, Milan and back to Paris again.

Now England and Budleigh Salterton were basically her choices, but I did wonder how my New York gal would fit in, in this very different community.

Soon after settling in, I was working in my studio upstairs when I heard a strange noise below me in the garden. Looking out, through the classic Devon drizzle, I found Ruth in a rain coat and a rain hat dead-heading the roses and happily singing to herself. "Well Done!"I thought to myself"my New York girl's turned into a true Budleigh Gardener. We'll be OK here."

And we were.

Thank you for coming...

After lunch at Ruth's home in Budleigh, we gathered in Jobbles Wood near the village of Coliton in Devon, to walk with Ruth to her final resting place. After a last message from Alan Turner, Richard, Paul, Eamon and Dug lowered her willow coffin onto a bed of pine needles and covered her with flint and earth.

The sun set during the ceremony and afterwards, lanterns and candles were lit. Those present stayed with Ruth for a while and wrote messages on a memory tree. We lit a bonfire and talked as the night set in over the woodlands.

It was a very special moment and I hope those present came away with a foundation for their future memories of my mother and a basis for working through their grief in a shared way.

On a personal note, while I still feel like crying at random moments during the day, I feel strangely positive about the experience. I'm glad my whole family was there and I'm glad I will be able to visit Mom and make patterns in flint and pine needles with my children and know that as Ruth returns to the earth she does so in her own space which she loved and in a way that her family can share with her.

Ruth's photos on Flickr

Thanks to all the folk who are sending in wishes. I need to apologise for not getting back to you, I don't get reception in Budleigh on my work mobile so communication is very patchy. We're saying goodbye to Ruth at Jobbles Wood in a few days time and if you want to send Jed some thoughts and wishes, his email is jed@falby.org

Mom died last night.

She was admitted to the Royal Devon & Exeter on the 12th of Feb after a fall in the kitchen which broke her hip. I headed down on Friday afternoon and caught up with Mom and Dad in the A&E where Mom was in the middle of something that looked like a stroke and stayed with her until some time in the early morning when Dad and I headed back to the house.

Since then she's been on oxygen as the doctors tried to stabilise her enough to operate on her hip. It's been a painful week and it turns out Dad had been toughing it out on his own most of January as Ruth's health nose-dived (Dad, you should have called sooner) and was running on empty (Dug, why didn't you call him sooner) so the three of us stumbled through Friday night and then Saturday morning...

Fast forward to today, what's going on in my head? Well the first thing that keeps coming back is why did I leave her on Sunday? I waved goodbye around Sunday lunchtime so I could drive back to London to be at work in Paddington on Monday. I can still see the look in her eye as she waved at me (slight confusion, a little bewilderment) and I waved at her. I had been reading Stieg Larsson to her and her morning was fairly quiet. The nurses had come to give her her morning bath and that was my queue to leave her space...

...and then the call this morning. And the call last night: that's the other thing, Dad called me late last night at work to tell me Mum had been prepped for the hip surgery but had relapsed and was having difficulty breathing again. I thought perhaps I should head down but I was knackered and it was freezing so a late-night three-hour bike ride seemed like a bad idea.

This morning, after Dad called to say she had left us around midnight I just wanted to kick myself--if only I had gone down the night before... So in the end I got to Devon around lunchtime today. The chaps in the mortuary were great and even though I had arrived unannounced, with no appointment and before the required time had passed they sorted me out after only a short wait.

I'm still kicking myself that I didn't go down last night but this morning felt like I had a chance to say goodbye properly. I stood with her for a while and talked with her and cried and then thanked the mortuary staff and headed outside. Being alone with my thoughts I felt I could experience both the sadness of Ruth's struggle through pain and confusion and ultimately death and then experience that more fully, though I'm sure the week ahead will bring other feelings and experiences I felt more connected and more, I guess more like I was giving Mom some much needed respect just by sitting there.

So now Jed, Elsie, Ohna and I have got to work out the next steps. I hope Mom is happy with whatever we come up with.