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Ditch the chocolates and the bath salts

You want a suggestion for a great Mother's Day gift? Give me time to enjoy it, writes MSNBC.com's Kari Huus.
/ Source: msnbc.com

No offense Hallmark, FTD, Zale’s, Whitman's, et al. There’s nothing wrong with your traditional Mother’s Day fare — flowers, jewelry, chocolates, hand bags and bath salts. I’d never turn away these little luxuries.

If you ask me what I really want, though, they just don’t make the top 10. As a full-time journalist and overtime mother of two small children, my top 10 all involve sleep and relaxation.

But wait. It's not enough to draw up one of those “good for one morning of sleep” coupons and call it good.

I’m talking about sleep undisturbed by the sounds of distant crises elsewhere in the house — screams and loud thumps (was that the baby's head?) and the wail of the cat getting its tail pulled. So here's a suggestion for Dad and the kids: Take yourselves out for Mother's Day brunch while Mom sleeps in.

And for a really great upgrade? While mom is sleeping, as described above, engineer it so that when she wakes up, several loads of laundry have been completed.

Of mice and ThighMastersJust to be clear, my pointers are for husbands and grown kids. Gifts from small children are exempt from judgement; they are great gifts, by definition. I know this because I once bought my mom a pet mouse for Mother's Day and she still loved me.

It's fortunate this is the attitude that most women have, according to one Web poll, because there are so many dubious crafts out there. A quick perusal of the Web turned up a kid's site with instructions for the following easy-to-make Mother’s Day gifts: 4 x 6-inch recipe holders, hotpads of woven nylon and bowls to hold dish scrubbers. My kids could give me a rusty can of beets and I would be charmed.

But grown children (and husbands) should not try this. Another site aimed at adults offered a cautionary list of "worst Mother’s Day gifts." Maybe it's obvious, but EverythingMothersDay.com advises shoppers against things like ThighMasters, cleaning supplies, and "dead and poorly arranged flowers." Forgetting the holiday is also considered bad form.

Give a spa day, adopt a chore
What I consider really good news is the trend towards giving moms the opportunity to relax — a day at the spa, a deep-tissue massage, rock-climbing sessions or yoga classes.

Offering Mom a chance to do something that you know will make her feel great is a fabulous way to show love and concern for her well-being.

You can't be too lavish with this one, if you believe as I do that the Romans, not Hallmark, started the holiday by worshipping a mother Goddess as early 250 B.C. Their celebration lasted three days, a tradition certainly worth reviving.

Anyway, the gifts of time and relaxation are great ones, but ... yes, this too must be qualified. How relaxing is a day at the spa if Mom spends the whole time worrying about a long and growing list of stuff to do? Have you ever wondered why she didn't redeem her coupon for the balloon ride? Because figuring it out became another item on the list of things to figure out!

My suggestion: In addition to giving Mom the yoga lessons, painting classes, or a night out with the girls — whatever it is — take away some of the stuff that prevents her from doing these things on her own. For instance, adopt five items from her to-do list.

Tasks that won't die
Here are a couple of real-life examples from my own tattered list: 1) Find and fill a dinosaur piñata for birthday party; 2) Line up CPR classes (an item that has moved from list to list for several years); 3) Research living wills (it shouldn't take Terry Schiavo to remind us of the perils of procrastination); 4) Apply for new passport.

Oh, and dads? Let's not forget the central point here. Be sure to take great care of the kids -- that means meals, baths and clean-up while Mom is relaxing -- or the whole thing is for naught.

Here's the bonus: when she returns from her facial or mountain hike, or wakes from her untroubled morning of sleep, she will be refreshed — and surprisingly cheerful.

At this point, if you wish to deliver French toast and mimosas in bed, a truckload of roses and a diamond tiara, I'd say, bring it on!

When not taking her two kids to the doctor — or to school or to the park — MSNBC.com's Kari Huus covers social issues and international affairs.