Mother's Day celebrates the one person who not only keeps our lives from toppling into slovenliness and disorder, but singlehandedly also makes all the other holidays of the year magical.
So it is only fitting — and perhaps imperative — that we mobilize on Mother's Day with an all-hands attempt to serve unto Mom the magic she so richly deserves.
But what about the sobering reality of the limited funds in your bank account?
Take heart, sisters and brothers: While it is assumed that you will not let that woman a) prepare a meal, b) wash a dish or c) touch a vacuum or broom on her one special day of the year, you can also surprise her with one of these five frugal gift ideas.
Take her 'Dancing with the Stars'
Here's one surprise she won't see coming: Take Mom dancing with the whole family!
If she's one of the few moms out there who does dance regularly, you'll already know her favorite spots. If she hasn't danced since disco, even better. Ask friends and check online for a fun Sunday night venue in the style she most enjoys, whether it's ballroom, Latin, country line dance or big band piano-lounge romantic.
If she happens to be a "DWTS" fan, here's a fun idea: Have family members seated at a table when Mom arrives, each holding a homemade mask of a judge, host or dancer from the TV show.
Even if she claims to be the world's worst dancer, she'll be touched that you cared enough to take her dancing and will enjoy your attempts to prove that a sense of rhythm is not a recessive gene.
Throw a flash mob car wash
If much of Mom's life is spent in her car — commuting to her job, ferrying the troops to soccer practice, dropping clothes at the cleaners and making grocery runs — chances are her ride looks it!
As an alternative gift this Mother's Day, surprise her with a flash mob car wash. It's just like those staged "spontaneous" public events only with buckets, sponges and a hose.
To prepare, scout out a car wash location she'd never expect, assign scrub duties and dream up a reason for her to take a ride with you in her car.
When you reach the location, family and friends will suddenly descend from all directions and usher Mom to a makeshift throne. From there, she'll watch as her loved ones vacuum, clean her upholstery and windows, wash and wax the exterior and sign the back window of her shiny new ride with "World's Greatest Mom!" All while singing the theme to "Car Wash."
If you lack an able-bodied car wash crew, arrange for the next best thing: a mobile auto detailing team to arrive on the big day and detail her ride.
Create a home spa grottoAnyone can take Mom to the local spa for the day; it takes love and imagination to turn her own cozy bath into an unforgettable spa grotto experience. Your bank account will also appreciate your creativity.
You may even already have most of the basic ingredients: fancy soaps, soft towels, tealight candles, bath oil, a loofah and an aromatherapy infuser. All that remains to turn her tub into Athena's retreat is some sheer gauzy fabric, a portable player loaded with environmental sounds or new age music and a handful of rose petals.
First, tack the fabric to the ceiling and drape it tent-like over the tub. Then, add as many tealight candles as fire code or common sense permits and arrange them at different heights around the room to create a fairyland atmosphere.
Next, lay out the bath accessories where appropriate. Then draw the bath, add bath oil and scatter the rose petals on top when the tub is full. Finally, warm her robe and slippers in the dryer, kill the lights and summon your surprised guest.
Put a shine to her soles
As Sigmund Freud once observed, a woman's shoes are the window to her soul. Or was it Carrie Bradshaw? Well, no matter. If you really want to make Mom's day, buff up her Manolos — all of them!
If your family has a humorous bent, employ the flash mob approach, with each family member showing up with a pair or two of Mom's shoes, freshly polished.
Or you may want to nudge that up a notch to "Sex and the City" territory and give Mom's entire shoe closet a makeover.
As you polish each pair, slip it into a white paper lunch sack, label it with a marker ("Crocs sandals") and return it to its place in her closet. If you don't have a shoe fashionista in your clan and don't know the correct style names, just get close and have a laugh about it later.
Once the collection is polished, bagged and labeled, close the closet door and affix an appropriate poster to set up her surprise, something like "Royal Realm of the Shoe Queen" or "Caution: Shoe Avalanche Zone." She'll get a real kick out of it.
Makeover Mom's media
Sure, Mom's a whirlwind. But she's never too busy to listen to her favorite song, poem or family story narrated by her kids and grandkids or show off her funniest photos to friends.
If she enjoys plugging in while gardening or working out, spirit away her iPod or MP3 player for a day and surprise her with a few new entries: her dog barking, the grandkids singing that Hall & Oates song she loves or her kids cutting up about their funniest Mom moments. Or burn a CD for her as a gift and slip it in her deck for some surprise commuter fun.
If she's inseparable from her smartphone, there's a world of free phone possibilities to remind her you love her. Try programming her favorite song as her ring tone or install a photo or slideshow of funny family outtakes as her screensaver.
There's plenty of free online software that can turn Mom's iPod or iPhone into a mobile hug.