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Last-Minute Gifts Your Ma Will Get for Mother's Day

Mother's Day Gifts
If you're reading this, chances are it's because once again the second Sunday of May has crept up on you with nary a thought for dear old Ma, and now you're in a white-knuckled panic looking for something to show that you care more than you apparently do. But never fear, once again the trusty Internet -- that faithful refuge for poor planners and the absent-minded -- doth provide. We've scoured the 'Net for the best stuff you can still get delivered (if you really hurry) (or at least print out and stuff in a card or e-mail by Saturday) and helpfully grouped them by strategy. Godspeed, and oh yeah -- say hello to your mother for me.

1. Recall her good ole days

mom ancestry.com gift
When in doubt, go for the heartstrings. A sentimental journey through yesteryear is always appreciated by moms, all the more so when you're initiating the trip. The Web service Animoto has some pretty nifty software that will take the photos, videos and music you feed it and then auto-edit it into a really slick video. It's free for vids up to 30-seconds, $3 for a one-off or $30 a year for unlimited access. If you've ever tried to stitch together an appealing home video/slideshow hybrid yourself, you know what a lifesaver this is.

Looking back further -- like, really far back -- users of Ancestry.com love to crow about their historical and hysterical family finds. For $20, you can give your mom a month of access that lets her dig into the past, build a family tree and even have a book printed with the results. Annual memberships drop it to $13 a month. Though you may permanently lose your mother to her new obsession, take comfort in knowing she just may discover you're related to Oprah or Bill Gates.

2. Broaden her horizons

mom learning gifts
Ask anyone older than you what their biggest regret is, and chances are it'll involve not having taken the time to learn some skill (well, unless they're evil or something). As the Internet has grown up, so have the number of polished offerings that now include an impressive array of fully-fledged tutoring services that'll fulfill at least one of your mom's wishes.

If she's the musical type, there are loads of online programs for learning an instrument that are cheap enough that she can try without committing to private lessons. Despite a chintzy website, Rocket Piano is well-reviewed and, if you choose the download-only version, is just $39.95 for everything -- books, videos, music, a whole bevy of stuff. For a similar guitar program, check out Jamorama which, again, has an abysmally designed site and seems like a fly-by-night infomercial, but is nicely reviewed and has fully downloadable lessons for just $50 -- what's the price of a nice dinner compared to the possibility of seeing your mom shred in the near future?

Everyone likes to think they'll pick up a second language some day, but the truth is, Mom's going to have to earn it. Rather than ponying up for a pricey Rosetta Stone set or crash course at the local college, check out praxislanguage.com, which offers podcast lessons starting at $9 a month for French, Italian, Spanish and Chinese (Mandarin). If she likes it, offer to pay for a few added months.

3. Go postal on her

mom postal gifts
If there's any one thing that signifies you've officially made it, it's having your mug plastered on a postage stamp (well, you've made it and you're dead, but let's not quibble). Fortunately for us, the USPS has generously lowered that bar and now lets you custom design your own stamps, giving your mom a convenient way to remind her friends of your awesomeness via snail mail. Depending on which service you choose, you can upload your own fanciful photo (they do censor them, so don't get too creative -- it is Mother's Day after all) or choose from a vast collection of clip art and images from the Library of Congress. Packs of 20 start as low as $15 (or about double the cost of ordinary stamps) and are delivered via, surprise, mail.

Or, if your mother is anything like ours, then she has spent more than a few weekends craned over a giant box of photos and assorted mementos making family scrapbooks. The convenience of the digital age means you can streamline the process for her and get credit for a thoughtful gift as well. You could assemble a photobook yourself using any of the services like snapfish or shutterfly, or let her get creative with a credit to scrapblog.com (requires registering first to buy credit). The site, which integrates easily with most photo storage sites, like Facebook, is an easy drag-and-drop interface for assembling completely custom and free shareable photo scrapbooks. You can also be print them as books starting from $9.

4. Get her on her back

mom media gifts
Digital media is enough in the mainstream these days that music, audiobooks, e-books, movies and TV shows are perfectly appropriate if Mom is even modestly PC savvy. A gift certificate to iTunes or Amazon is always a fine gesture and allows her to pick something she actually wants. But if she's any kind of movie or TV nut, a gift subscription to Netflix is awesome (one month starts at $9 and goes up depending on the plan), though it may come off like a gift grenade -- she'll receive it and say thanks nicely, but wait for the call in a week to tell you how addicted she is and wonderful you are.

Another solid option, considering that the vast majority of casual gamers are middle-aged women, is to spring for a $189 Nintendo DSi XL. [Ed. Note: Managing Editor Leila Brillson gave this to her mom last year, and it went off like gangbusters.] Puzzle games appeal to Mom's New York Times Crossword side, and sims like 'Animal Crossing' are heartwarming at any age. Just get used to feeling uncomfortable when you catch mom whistling the Super Mario Bros theme song next time you're home.


5. Show her your heart

mom charity gifts
If your Mom is of the particularly selfless, big-hearted breed, then show her she's done right by you and put your money to a cause she'll be happy to attach her name to. If you don't know of a particular charity she likes, hit up Charitywatch.org, which vets 500 non-profits and has a top-rated list of those that pass on 75-percent or better of all donations. Charitynavigator.org works similarly, but covers a few thousand charities and has some handy lists.

If she's more into the personal touch, you might try a microfinance service, which lets you loan or donate small sums of money to (typically) third-world entrepreneurs trying to boot-strap their way out of poverty. We'd caution that big banks have gotten into the game (and make huge profits) so look for a non-profit like press darling Kiva, or Pro Mujer, which has been around and praised for two decades. Good luck, and Happy Mother's Day.

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