Last-Minute Gifts Your Ma Will Get for Mother's Day
1. Recall her good ole days
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
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
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
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
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.