When my Leo turned three this past month, it was a huge milestone for my family. Finally we have no one left in the household in that dangerous zero-to-thirty-six-months age range.
Unfortunately this doesn't let me entirely off the hook in terms of child-proofing. Still, there's a big difference between being on the lookout for hazards that are actually hazardous (knives, poisonous cleaning fluids, busy streets) versus being on the lookout for all of those things plus any random object small enough to fit through a toilet paper tube.
The latent Mormon in me decided to celebrate this joyous occasion with a visit to the craft store to check out what sorts of no-longer-deadly folk art projects my kids and I might like to try together.
The other reason I wanted to go to the craft store was to do a little investigative reporting to see if this whole scrapbooking craze had made it to France yet. And yes indeed it has!
I'd always heard of scrapbooks -- which I thought of as books with various souvenirs stuck to the pages (ticket stubs from a memorable concert and the like). But I'd never heard of scrapbooking™ -- as a verb -- until I learned that it's all the rage these days in Mormon circles. (Please don't try to convince me that it's not new -- as far as I'm concerned, any LDS cultural innovation within the past fifteen years is new.)
I had noticed years ago that my sister had started sending some pretty amazing handmade greeting cards. But the related hobby of scrapbooking didn't show up on my radar until I read about it in Christopher Bigelow's Kindred Spirits. Like my novel, his is partially set in Orem, but although we both captured some of the timeless aspects of LDS culture (multi-level-marketing companies, creative first names), I knew I wouldn't be up on the latest fashions. That's why mine is a period piece.
Of course scrapbooking turned out to be one of those things where once I learned of its existence, I see it everywhere and wonder how I could have missed it before. I've even caught them talking about it over on RfM.
In one recent discussion, they were trying to decide whether scrapbooking is a general hobby or just a Mormon thing. The consensus was that it's a general hobby, but that Mormons love it more dearly than anyone else does.
One intriguing piece of evidence someone reported was seeing the only two choices of church building scrapbooking stamps (in a store in a very low Mormon concentration area) were one generic church and the Salt Lake Temple. As soon as I read that, I was dying to see if it would be the same in France. Because here finding a Mormon temple anything in a random store would be really something.
The result turned out not to be terribly newsworthy: as any reasonable person would have expected, there was nothing specifically Mormon-related in the whole scrapbooking department of my local craft store. It was kind of silly of me to have even imagined I'd find them selling a scrapbooking stamp of the Salt Lake Temple here. I think it's my nationalistic pride in the superiority of American retail science that makes me picture the French buyer who chose the stock as being some hapless amateur who would just order the generic American scrapbooking supplies set without a second thought about tailoring the stock to the local tastes. I should start giving these French retailers some credit. A careful examination of all of their choices of stamps yielded (among many other things) one generic church, two different very cute stylized versions of the Eiffel Tower, and no Salt Lake Temple. So, good job French retailers -- I'll try not to underestimate you so absurdly again.
It was pretty clear from looking at the display though that this fad didn't originate in France. A lot of the packaging was English-only, not to mention the word "scrapbooking" itself prominently displayed. Yet apparently it has taken root to the point where some of the books of ideas were clearly written for the French market and not just translated from English. Picking one up off the shelf and looking through it, I saw a page of ideas on how to beautifully set off the photos of one's inevitable weekend in Paris.
In theory, the book might still have been originally written for Americans since Americans also occasionally go on trips to Paris. But the clincher was the page of ideas on how to beautifully set off one's photos of little boys peeing against a tree.
Perhaps you think I'm joking. If only I were joking. Sadly, I am not joking.
Of course both of my kids were born and raised (so far) here in France, so really I'm more of a French mom than an American mom. For example, I learned to administer medicine to them by sticking it in their little bums rather than in their mouths. So I should probably just accept the fact that resistance is futile and resign myself to a future of chuckling over albums full of cute pictures of my little guys peeing in the great out-of-doors...
Aside from the cute peeing photos, I have to admit that all of these scrapbooking supplies looked fun. My main problem is that I have no graphic design sense whatsoever (exhibit A: this blog...) so I wouldn't be able to resist the temptation to overload my page with every cutesy accessory possible rather than coming up with a reasonable design and decorating in moderation.
Sure I could get some books and copy the suggested designs. But I can't bring myself to invest the time and money if I can't expect to be able to auto-suggest myself into believing I'm doing something original. If I'm spending my time manufacturing something more expensive and probably not as nice as a decorative item I could purchase ready-made, there's just this part of my brain that won't stop saying there's something wrong with this picture.
So I haven't given in to the lure of scrapbooking.