Step back from the Precious Moments Figurine. Put the pre-wrapped bubble bath/shower gel combo back on the drugstore shelf. And those cheap chocolates are 70 percent paraffin wax, and the fact that they're jammed into a pink heart-shaped box doesn't change that. You can do better.
Your mother is not a cliché. Your mom is unique. You have at your disposal a universal shopping center call "The internet," where, with a little looking, you can find a gift as special as your Mom.
(Editor's note: The Week has affiliate partnerships with certain retailers and may get a share of the revenue from your purchase.)
For the Brainy Mom
Most moms are smart, but the Brainy Mom believes there is no truer beauty than the collection and celebration of knowledge. She's the mom, who when you asked her why the sky was blue, pulled out a prism and the garden hose and an anatomical model of an eyeball she must have lifted from the optometrist's office. For her, we can offer these suggestions.
1. The Serotonin Molecule Necklace ($17.80)
This nerdy accessory by Rose Vila Boutique is just one of the many chemical emotions mom can wear around her neck. Depending on her needs, they also offer jewelry representing the compositions of adrenaline, dopamine, and for the very special mom, whiskey. Buy it at Amazon.
2. Banned Book Socks ($10-$14)
Help your mom throw off moral tyranny with a pair of Banned Book Socks by Out of Print. The purposefully mismatched pair lists America's most commonly challenged books, including such sketchy titles as To Kill a Mockingbird and Origin of Species. Of course, if that's too dicey for a milder mother, Out of Print offers a variety of tamer book- and library-themed products, including the nostalgic Library Stamp T-shirt. Buy them at Amazon.
If mom still roils with indignation every time someone brings up Pluto's demotion among the heavenly bodies, you probably don't want to get her this otherwise fantastic set of Planet Plates by the Unemployed Philosopher's Guild. They even offer matching bowls to complete the set. But no Pluto. Pluto is not welcome here. Buy them at Amazon.
4. Word Cloud Box Set ($59.54 and up)
"Word clouds" take the most common words in a book, size them according to frequency, and make a peculiarly pleasing arrangement of art and literature. Canterbury Classics offers two beautiful box sets of classic works whose word cloud end pages are a treat all by themselves. Buy it at Amazon.
For the All-Natural Mom
This is the sort of mom who has an innate distrust of all things mass-produced, whether it be food or fashion. She is centered in simplicity and nature. A disposable diaper never touched your bottom, she made you take charcoal tablets for tummy aches, and you were 14 before you tasted your first Twinkie. There are many gifts you can get for her over the internet that won't compromise her ethics.
5. Clay in Motion Mug ($23, approx.)
There is a lot of bad pottery in the world. In fact, Mom probably still has some that you gave her in second grade. But these cups, made by a 35-year-old family-owned business called Clay in Motion, are not ugly. But that's not their only selling point. Clay in Motion mugs come in a variety of sizes and designs, including one shaped specifically to double as a hand warmer. And, get this, mugs are made for both right- and left-handed consumers. Mom will be so flattered that you remembered she was left-handed. Buy it at Amazon.
6. Fair Indigo Ballerina Sweater ($79.90)
She will love everything about this sweater. I'm not shilling for it; in fact, it doesn't even come in my size. But I promise you. This is your gentle, (slender-ish) nature-loving mama's soul sweater. It's made Fair Trade in Lima, Peru, out of soft organic cotton. It's delicate, spans seasons, and makes you feel like you're taking a stretch break between your prima donna performances in The Rite of Spring. At least that's how I like to imagine it. Buy it at Amazon.
7. Kopi Luwak Free-Range Coffee ($100)
Yes, this is the cat poop coffee you've heard about, arguably the most expensive type of coffee in the world. It is the result of when little badger-faced wildcats, called Asian palm civets, eat a certain type of coffee "cherry." Particular enzymes in their stomachs react to the cherry and make it delicious, but undigested. The "coffee beans" pass through and are harvested from their poop. This is as gosh-darned organic as it comes. Kopi Luwak Direct is especially natural because it is harvested from free-range civets. This hopefully increases the quality of the poop-coffee, because it is presumed that left to their own devices, the civet will only eat the best coffee cherries available, leading to the finest coffee coming out the other side. Buy it at Amazon.
8. Dead Sea Mud Mask ($14.95)
The Dead Sea is really salty. Ten times more so than ocean water. It contains many other minerals besides salt, and for millennia people have sought its curative and restorative powers. So if your mother is inclined to spread goop on her face for whatever reason (and we actually can find a lot of reasons), you make sure it's the nicest, most natural goop you can buy. Buy it at Amazon.
For the Foodie Mom
If your mother's cookbook collection has invaded every room in the house, including the bathroom, you've got a Foodie Mom. Her Facebook posts are almost exclusively pictures of complicated food with the words, "I've gotta try this!" written above them. Don't get her another cook book; that will make you an enabler. Instead, try making it easier to have Mom's culinary dreams become reality.
9. Fancy International Tea Samplers ($29.99 and up)
It is an internet by-law that you can't list Mother's Day gifts without mentioning tea or tea accessories at some point. (Lately, you can add fancy salt samplers to that same list.) So if you do choose these standbys, make sure your mother is an actual tea or salt fan. And don't get her gift from a place that also sells flip-flops and tires. Heavenly Tea Leaves and The Salt Experiment are two examples of the more exotic and lovely variations. Buy them at Amazon.
10. Graphic Dish Towels ($8.99, approx.)
Not the kind of "graphic" you might find adorning party favors at a bachelorette party in Vegas. Unless your mom is into that. If she is, you probably still shouldn't be the one buying them for her. Rather, consider the minimalist, tasteful art prints of Montgomery Street Designs or the charm of the Kay Dee collection. Buy them at Amazon.
11. Nostalgia Electrics Breakfast Station ($114.53)
If you're thinking, "This is silly. Mom has an entire kitchen full of stuff that does this," I beg you, hold your tongue. The Nostalgia Electrics Breakfast Station is a work of art. Griddle, toaster oven, coffee maker, all compact and red and shiny and beautiful. You can be practical every other day of the year, but it's Mother's Day. Let her have add a little pizzazz to the meal she drags herself out of bed to provide you with every day. Buy it at Amazon.
For the Goofy Mom
If it wasn't for your mother's sense of humor, the one that allowed her to see the funny side of all the terrible things you've done throughout your life, you'd be a mess, or even more of one. This mom needs laughter as part of her daily diet. Here are couple ways you can provide it.
12. Cards Against Humanity ($25)
Cards Against Humanity is like playing Mad Libs, except the blanks have already been filled in with really disturbing nouns and adjectives. It's the player's job to match the worst possible answer ("Child Beauty Pageants") to otherwise innocuous statements ("A new study shows chimps have developed their own primitive version of -----"). That's one of the lesser disturbing matchups. Buy it at Amazon.
13. CreepyParty Unicorn Head ($11.99)
Sometimes one must possess an object, even a horrible one, simply because it exists. Like the impulse to smell rotting compost, so is the undeniable desire to see your mom with her own nightmare unicorn head. Only purchase if your mother is also inclined to these compulsions. Or, if fantasy horror is not to her taste, Creepy Party sells what she needs to become a nightmare panda or a nightmare goat. Buy it at Amazon.
14. Animal Kigurumi Sleepsuit ($16.68 and up)
For a less frightening and more cuddly animal experience, there is a wide selection of full-bodied jammies from iNewBetter. Here the pandas, piggies, and even the dinosaurs are good for snuggles. Buy it at Amazon.
15. Anne Taintor Pill Compact ($15)
Pillboxes and their contents can be of great service to mothers who are trying to keep their humor humming throughout their child's lifetime. Anne Taintor, who marries dark thoughts to bright retro graphics, understands this. She also provides totes, notepads, and other throwback paraphernalia to give a voice to all the crazy, un-mom-like thoughts your mother manages to keep tamped down. Buy one at Amazon.
16. Prank Pack Box ($6.85 and up)
But no matter what you decide to get Mom, make sure you deliver it in a Prank Pack. Even a bar of flowery soap can be fun if it's presented in a box for bacon scented dryer sheets. Unless Mom is super disappointed to find out bacon-scented dryer sheets don't actually exist. Buy it at Amazon.
For the Vintage Mom
In a way, all our mothers are vintage treasures. (Don't write that on the card, she might misinterpret it.) But there are women among them who surround themselves in what they perceive is the romance of time gone by. It's your job to make sure that however endearingly retro a product is, it can do the same work as its modern equivalent.
17. Polaroid Snap ($99.99)
The Snap marries the charm of old Polaroid instant pictures with the absolute necessity of modern computers and pixilation. Which, bonus, your mother doesn't have to understand if she doesn't want to. Just point and click, (after selecting from black and white, color, or sepia) and the picture appears, just like in the old days. No ink required. Buy it at Amazon.
18. Michael Miller Retro Fabrics ($9, approx.)
The nostalgic mom will go all goosey over the selections of mid-century atomic glory and Paris chic patterns available from Michael Miller. Even if the yardage eventually winds up with all her other untouched craft materials in your old bedroom, she'll be extremely proud to have it in the collection. Buy them from Amazon.
19. Seiki Retro TV ($237.64)
Behold, the circle of life. Flat screens have become ubiquitous in America and have been so for only a short time. And we're already sick of them. Seiki understands, however, that you still require the hi-definition, subwoofers, and remote control of course. So they've bundled it all up in one shiny package that your mom will adore. Buy it at Amazon.
20. Crosley Turntable ($79.73)
There are those who treat vinyl and its interface as a religion, spending thousands on sound systems to play the rarest of studio recordings. And there are those of us who just want to listen to our old Grease soundtrack while we fold laundry. But we can't, because affordable record players are all but extinct. Crosley isn't fancy, but it does its job and looks adorable in the process, coming in its own case with built-in speakers, available in a variety of retro colors. Buy it at Amazon.
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