Lisa Knickerbocker had just removed one of her favorite Mother's Day gifts from the refrigerator door for packing, in preparation for her family's move to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
So she didn't remember exactly what was written on the handprints that daughter Kaity made for her last year in pre-kindergarten for Mother's Day. "But I remember it said, ‘These are my hands … they came from you and Dad,'" Knickerbocker said.
"I like the presents she makes for me," Knickerbocker said. The prints were laminated, and Knickerbocker framed them.
Whether you're in elementary school or deployed to a combat outpost, you might be agonizing over what to give your mom on Mother's Day on May 9.
It doesn't have to be expensive. In fact, it doesn't have to cost anything. But the common denominator of most moms' wishes is: Put some thought into it!
Here are some starters:
1. Write her a letter.
Even if you live in the same house, write her a letter telling her why she's special and why you love her. Be specific. For example, "When I fell off my bike, you made me feel better. Whatever's hurting me now, you make me feel better, even by long distance."
2. Make that phone call.
You may not be able to call on Mother's Day because of a mission or difficulty getting through, and Mom will understand. But try to call her in the days before or after.
3. Make breakfast in bed.
Marine wife Robin Schoolfield, whose husband is deployed to Afghanistan, remembers several years ago when her children cooked up the idea of serving her breakfast in bed. Their dad, who has been deployed five times since 2003, happened to be home that year and watched over the cooking of eggs and biscuits, but the kids did it all.
"Abe hand-squeezed the orange juice. There wasn't much juice in the glass, and there was a lot of other stuff in it. But it was the best juice I ever had," said Schoolfield, who has just been chosen as the winner of Operation Homefront's Military Motherhood Award. Abe is now 7; Sam Jr. is 12; Jack is 10; and Scarlett is 6.
Schoolfield said she especially enjoys sleeping in on Mother's Day and "doing what I want to do." She appreciates the break, as busy as she is with her family, volunteering, and her full-time job as a family readiness officer helping at the squadron and group level to support families of deployed Marines at Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C.
4. Think about what Mom might want or need - and find it at a bargain.
Army wife Lisa Williams, in Hampton Roads, Va., said her kids bought her a pair of bright red Justin Lacer boots for Mother's Day 2004. "They paid $12 for them on eBay, and they're usually $75 to $150," Williams said. She wears them so much that she's already had them resoled three times.
"They don't ever give me things that I don't want. They go into eBay to see what I've been looking at," she said. "They gave me Rachel Ray pots and pans on Mother's Day in 2008, which they got for $89, and had them delivered gift-wrapped." She said she's seen the set for $300.
"My kids know me — and know I don't like to pay full price."
5. Use your talents.
Make your own card. Draw a picture. Write a poem. Arrange a vase of flowers. Frame pictures of you and your mom or your mom and your kids. Navy wife Kelly Hruska said she found an inexpensive mug with a sleeve for photos, which she gave to her father. She inserted pictures of her baby daughter. It was one of her father's favorite gifts, and she has periodically supplied him with updated pictures of his granddaughter.
6. How about a coffee gift card - one that your deployed mom can pick up on location?
You can order a http://www.greenbeanscoffee.com/coffeecard/">prepaid coffee gift card from Green Beans Coffee that Mom can pick up at the Green Beans café nearby. If your mom is deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait or Qatar she can pick up the card almost instantly after you order it. Even better, for each coffee card purchase, Green Beans will add another 10 percent in face value to the card. So if you order a $20 gift card, Mom will get $22 worth of coffee.
These cards may be particularly appreciated in Afghanistan. Green Beans cafés are among the few Army and Air Force Exchange Service concessions that remain there and are exempted from being closed. Green Beans is also at seven locations in the U.S.
Keep this idea tucked away for Father's Day — you can order these gift cards all year long.
7. Put together a gift basket.
Include your Mom's favorite coffees or teas, chocolates, soaps and lotions.
8. If you're not at home.
Send your mom a gift certificate to her favorite restaurant or salon. Or send her a book, or a magazine subscription — especially if she loves to read but thinks she doesn't have time.
9. If you're close to home.
Ask mom what she'd like to do that day or another day with you. Then do it with her — a walk on the beach, a bike ride, dinner at her favorite restaurant. Or just relax with a pot of her favorite tea.
10. Give mom a coupon book.
You can craft this any way you like, but provide coupons that allow Mom to cash in on your good deeds, such as "Clean my room without being asked on Saturday," or "Wash Mom's car inside and out." Be sure to include "No expiration date."
11. Who says appreciation for Mom should be limited to Mother's Day?
Kaity Knickerbocker has the right idea. She drew a picture for her mom with stick figures of her, her mom and her dad, weeks before Mother's Day. "She put it on the refrigerator, because she knows that's where I put the important things," Lisa Knickerbocker said.
12. Whatever you do, don't break the bank.
Remember, she loves you and doesn't want you to go into debt.
In the military community, mothers seem to have their priorities straight.
"Nothing will ever beat my first Mother's Day as a new mom. My son was only 4 months old, and being a mom was the best gift ever," said Army wife Lisa D. Andrews, whose husband, Staff Sgt. Dan Andrews, is stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. "But my second Mother's Day is one I could never forget. My husband came home from being deployed with [1st Cavalry Division] out of Fort Hood, Texas, on Mother's Day of last year.
"After we picked him up from the parade grounds, we went home to enjoy our time as a family. That was one of the best gifts I could have received."