The tree’s dry needles are stuck in the carpet, the avocado dip sprouts mold in the frig, and leftover cookies grow staler by the day. Unfortunately, they’re still yummy dunked in my morning tea, the chocolate chips oozing warm and yummy.

Christmas Day may be over, but figuring out gadgets and gizmos will keep us busy and anxious as we scratch our heads, passing up strolling for scrolling, our eyes alight from screens, not riverfront and park scenes.

Before I started writing this column, it took me an hour to pair my new Magic Mouse and wireless keyboard with my computer. I was successful. I’m sitting untethered by a window in my office, laptop on my desk, and keyboard jiggling in my lap as I look out on the thin glaze of ice coating our lake. It’s simple and serene outside, but inside we complicate our lives trying to make things easier.

Across the river and through the woods, my Book Buzz buddy and friend Dawn has had minimal problems with a present she received—a gadget that brought howls of happiness to the household.

Her husband, Eric, and son, Tate, set up the gift presentation. On Christmas Eve they urged her to take a seat in Eric’s favorite chair. Dawn didn’t want to, insisting she’d be more comfortable on the couch with their daughters Bailey and Aubree. But the guys wouldn’t hear it; Dawn complied. Minutes later, out from under the footed chair, her new buddy emerged, a motorized disk in black, humming happily along sucking up every little crumb in sight.

Now, any woman, on any day, would be happy to receive an iRobot Rumba vacuum sweeper, but they wouldn’t be as over the moon as Dawn. She’s more thrilled with the gadget than her new boots. When you consider her circumstances, it’s understandable.

For the past seven weeks, Dawn hasn’t been able to do a lick of housework because she and her daughter Bailey were in a bad car accident in Texas.

Dawn has two broken vertebrae in her back and can’t lift a thing or bend. Bailey has a broken pelvis. That leaves a lot of downtime to sit and watch dog hair drift and dust dance in the winter sun streaming through the windows.

Last week, I got to see the miracle worker in action as iRobot did her thing twirling in circles, zooming along in straight lines and maneuvering under cabinets and tables with ease. Hoss and Ollie, the Kitchells’ big dogs, didn’t even budge when nudged.

The whiz-bang vacuum is a marvel and keeps her charge for four hours before returning to her home base as fresh as a daisy. While the hum of her motor gets under Bailey’s skin, Dawn says it’s music to her ears as the gizmo moves from room to room, her radar keenly aware of the dangers that steps present.

The iRobot is just the shot in the arm that Dawn needed. Being laid up can get old, and though both Kitchells are improving daily, they’ve got a ways to go. Now they’ll weather the journey with iRobot for company.

While the vacuum is amazing, it can get into some pretty tight spots. Sunday night the Kitchells couldn’t find their helpmate anywhere — they searched high and low and found it in Eric’s bedroom closet. The slick machine had closed each door it went through and got stuck.

“That was kind of creepy,” Dawn said, but not creepy enough for her to think about benching the brilliant addition to their family. The iRobot has made a very bad time for the family much better and provided some smiles too.

You know what they say about laughter being the best medicine. There are plenty across the river and through the woods these days, and lots of counting their blessings too.