gifts for mom ribbon redBy this point, you’ve probably received very specific holiday lists from your kids. They tell you exactly what things they want, and then you go out and get some of them. Doesn’t that sound fun? Meanwhile, you’re praying you don’t get another scarf or makeup bag.

So here’s an idea: Why not do like your kids and make your own list? Invite anyone with whom you normally exchange gifts—your spouse, your mother, your mother-in-law (okay, not your mother-in-law)—to exchange lists this year beforehand.

Worried this will take the fun and surprise out of gifting? Just look at your kids: Do they seem like list making takes the fun and surprise out of it? Of course not, because they put about 35 things on the list and know they’ll be getting only a few of them. It’s wondering which few that keeps them in suspense. So you know that list in your head of those little things you wish you had or have admired in a store window? Write them down! Then see if you can contain your excitement.

And if you can stomach one more heretical suggestion, consider putting practical gifts on the list. Sure, diamond earrings would be nice, and a new car (i.e., one without milk stains on the backseat) would really hit the spot. But since I’m not getting either of those, I might as well ask for a few things that will make everyday life easier.

Are you feeling it? Who’s with me? If you are, here are some suggestions:

  • A cordless stick vacuum. You read right: I am actually suggesting a cleaning item for a gift. Because if you haven’t got a cordless stick vac, this might be the best gift you ever get. The one I have is the Shark Cordless Floor and Carpet Cleaner, and I just keep it in the kitchen (unlike the Dustbuster of your childhood, it doesn’t have to stay charged until you use it) to quickly suck up leaves tracked in from outside, the woodchips that spill out of my five-year-old’s sneakers, the crumbs that surround his chair…. You get the idea: things you want to clean up right away but don’t want to haul the real vacuum out of the closet for, especially since who wants crumbs sitting in a vacuum bag for six months? Stick vacs don’t have a bag, are simple to empty, and don’t cost a lot. Sign me up!
  • A warm, machine-washable, tumble-dry sweater. Hey, I love cashmere as much as the next gal, but if all I’m doing is chauffeuring my kids around town, I’d rather not wear something that’ll cost me five bucks (or a lot of inconvenience) to clean.
  • Anything you’ve admired in a store window. For our anniversary, my husband bought me this gorgeous cloche (that’s fancy-speak for a close-fitting, bell-shaped hat. I didn’t know that either until I got one!) I’d remarked upon when we’d passed it weeks before. It was nothing I ever would have bought for myself, but I love it. So go ahead and write down, “Anything you’ve ever seen me admire in a store window” on your list!

What else do mommies want? —>

  • The gift of research. I was the last person on earth to get a smartphone. The task of researching the best kind to get, and where to get it at the best price, just seemed too overwhelming. What I really wanted was for someone to research it for me, and then I could buy it myself. If you’ve got a loved one who’s facing hard economic times, but who you know would feel terrible not getting you a gift, this is a good solution.
  • The gift of time. I’d adore a gift card to Ann Taylor, but if it came with two guilt-free hours at the mall, I’d like it even better. One year, my brother got my husband and me a gift card to a movie theater and an offer to babysit while we used it. Now that’s speaking my language!
  • Handyman special. How great would it be if you woke up on Christmas morning and all (or one) of the things you’ve been nagging your husband to do were done?
  • Anything from Pampered Chef. Seriously. Anything.
  • A homemade gift. I enrolled my daughter at a daycare center when she was just shy of two years old. I felt the usual guilt and worry about how she was doing there. That holiday season, the staff had each kid make and decorate a photo frame out of popsicle sticks. Inside was a photo of the child, taken at the center. When I saw the gleeful smile in the photo—and the pride with which my daughter gave the gift to me—I instantly knew she was all right there. I consider that gift one of my most prized possessions.

My kids are no longer in daycare, but you can bet that this is all I ask from them come Chanukah time—something they made themselves, just for me. I’ve never been disappointed.

Happy holidays, everyone!