Believe it or not, my favorite new gadget at home is not the iPad. Sure, Apple's tablet is cool and all, but it hasn't picked up a single Cheerio off the floor. Not one--there's not an app for that!
On the other hand, the iRobot Roomba vacuum cleaner I bought works tirelessly, vigorously, and automatically, scuttling around the house, sweeping floors and carpets as it goes, then returning to its dock for recharging. Frankly, it makes my children look like a couple of slackers.
J&R has the Roomba 530 for $269.88 with free shipping, which is about $30 below the list price. That's good, but the real deal is on eBay, where you can pick up a refurbished Roomba 530 for $199.95 with free shipping. (If that link doesn't work, try this one.)
There's no guarantee with either deal that a Roomba will arrive in time for Mother's Day, but you can always print a photo, stick it inside a card, and say, "This will be here soon." Trust me; it's worth the wait.
I can't say enough good things about the Roomba. My only complaint is that I waited so many years to get one. There's something deeply satisfying about floors that stay clean with almost no effort on your part. If this is what the future looks like, I say let the robot uprising come!
iRobot includes two virtual walls with the Roomba 530, so you can wirelessly cordon off areas you don't want Roomba to go; a floor-standing charging base; and an extra filter.
CNET hasn't reviewed this model, but iRobot's product page shows a rating of 4.5 stars out of 5 from 272 users.
The Roomba isn't perfect. It can get tangled in cords and curtains--though it's smart enough to shut down before damaging itself or anything else--and it doesn't always navigate successfully back to its dock. But it does a better job of cleaning than you'd expect from such a little robot; and unlike with children, it does so without complaint. Get one; you will not be disappointed.
Bonus deal: Today only, Dell has the 1TB Western Digital Elements external hard drive for $74 with free shipping. It's compatible with Windows and Macs, and comes with a 1-year warranty.