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Family photo
JJ Stringer with her grandson, Franz Holmes, at his high school graduation. He's now a graduate student and she's no longer just a great mom, but a great grandmom, too, says her daughter, Genma Holmes.

SALT LAKE CITY — A Western Union survey says nearly half of us find it hard to shop for Mom on Mother's Day. That's echoed repeatedly, despite an abundance of sources that claim to know just what Mom is really hoping to receive.

There's remarkable variability in the suggestions. Apple says that Mom wants an iPad. Amazon thinks a Kindle is the queen of gifts. Ebates thinks moms want gift cards and spa days, homemade gifts, jewelry, roses, perfume and clothes, in that order. Men who took that survey thought roses were Mom's biggest wish, followed by jewelry.

Moms themselves may tell a slightly different story.

"All I really want for Mother's Day is an uninterrupted nap, which is very hard to come by, and one thing that I normally would not splurge on for myself like fancy chocolates or a really good treat from a bakery," said Carly Kerby, of Taylorsville, Utah, who has girls ages 11 months, 4, 7 and 9. "Oh, and my kids going the whole day without fighting would also be nice."

Cari Andreani of Jacksonville, Fla., would like a day off from her usual tasks. She has kids ages 15, 10 and 8, and works full-time. A little me-time would delight her.

"A day's vacation and I would be like new," said Andreani, who believes spa days or manicures and pedicures are a real treat for a busy mom. "Even an hour massage can rejuvenate a woman."

Ursula Reynolds wants alone time, too, though she wants the family close by. "I would love to go on an extended vacation with my family," said the Norcross, Ga., mom, who has kids ages 11 and 2. "Going out to dinner is fine and gifts are great, but the next day you have clothes to fold and dishes to wash. I would love to go to a resort where I am pampered and my hubby and kids are having a great time. Let the kids run wild and make a mess; I won't have to clean it up. Let the hubby play rounds of golf for hours; it will be OK because I will be in the spa and the kids will have their own activity scheduled for the day."

It seems moms with younger kids may want both a little time off from mothering and pampering, too. Older moms, whose kids have flown the nest, want nothing more than to gather them close again.

The only thing Anne Zane, 93, "really wants from my daughters and me is time," said Kerri Zane, an award-winning TV producer from Long Beach, Calif., and author of "It Takes All 5: A Single Mom's Guide to Finding the REAL One." "For her, nothing is more precious than for the four of us to be together laughing and enjoying the day."

That perfect gift

Kerby and her two brothers on one Mother's Day each gave their mom, Jo Zumbrunnen, two dozen roses, enough to fill her house with aroma and her heart with joy.

Kerby's mom gave her the gift of time and that's something she hopes to pass on. "The dishes and housework can always wait. So choose to spend time with your children and family. The chores will always be there when you get back," she said when asked what she learned from her mom that she values the most.

Lynn Lehmann was a morning radio personality in Salt Lake City before moving to Los Angeles to write and produce for TV. He's also written books, including, most recently, "Naked and Crying." He gave his mom, Eva Berhold, the perfect gift when she was 72; he took her back to her native Hamburg, Germany. It was the first time she'd visited since leaving in 1930.

Her gifts to him were equally impressive, anchored by a lifetime of unconditional love, he said. "She was always so kind."

Andreani's not sure she ever gave the perfect gift, but she knows she once received it. She's closer to her mom now than she was growing up, helped by a gift she received a few years ago. Her mom gave her a digital scrapbook with all of her pictures from birth through high school graduation. The real gift was the narrative: Her mom wrote what she was feeling at each point in her daughter's life, her fears, her proud moments, all of it. She wrote a love letter to go with it.

Author Cynthia Ellingsen dedicated her latest novel, "Marriage Matters," to her mom, Cheryl Phipps, for a Mother's Day gift. It's fitting, she said, because her mom was "always, always reading something when I was growing up. She was definitely the inspiration for me to become a writer."

It sure beats the year she gave her mom a toad she found in the garden. "That gift did not go over as I planned," said Ellingsen, who lives in Lexington, Ky. Her mom lives in Battle Creek, Mich.

Blogger Robert Nickell (aka Daddy Nickell), father of seven, said you can't go wrong with certain gifts. He recommends breakfast in bed, planting a garden with mom, having a family spa day, creating a blessing book or making a family video.

Not quite as planned

For some, there are bound to be misfires, but that's OK. A CreditDonkey survey saw a disconnect between what children plan to give and what mom said she wants. She craves something homemade or dinner or greeting cards. Those didn't top the survey list of things children plan to give.

The good news is, Mom will probably say she loves whatever she gets. While the Western Union survey said 42 percent of kids find it hard to shop for Mom, a like number of moms admitted they pretend to like what they get sometimes. The survey noted that the sons and daughter of all ages "have good intentions when it come to finding the perfect gift."

Mothers know that.

When Genma Stringer Holmes was growing up in rural Mississippi, her mom, JJ Stringer, woke her up every morning playing the piano softly at 5 a.m. That was their alarm clock. "After I grew up and left my rural community behind, her music was always in my head," said Holmes, of Hermitage, Tenn. Later she realized it was the theme to "The Young and the Restless" — and that her mom liked soap operas. Other likes were easier to recognize, like her mom's love of reading and her affection for plants.

One year, she gave her mom a plant that turned out to be "sick" and its "illness spread to her other babies — oh my! She reminds me every year how much that one plant cost her. Cash is now queen of gifts for my mother."

Holmes' own Mother's Day wish list is short. She wishes her three grown children would chip in for a cleaning service — she'd happily settle for once a month.

Suzanne Hitt is quirky. The Dallas woman plays the accordion, piano and trumpet, is an expert fly fisher and mountain climber, runs 5Ks, creates balloon animals, loves to take pictures, drives a super-fast Corvette and at age 64, she has taken up urban rebounding on a mini-trampoline.

Daughter Hilary Kennedy remembers the Mother's Day she gave her mom a specific perfume. Hitt had a bad reaction and sick headaches for a week. It turned out she wanted Adobe Photoshop or camera gear.

EMAIL: lois@desnews.com, Twitter: Loisco