Sunday, July 02, 2006


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.



Rebecca said...

Nannies are big into scrapbooking. I'm not a big fan -- my stuff looks pretty good, but one page takes me at LEAST 45 minutes to do, so it's really not worth it. I just don't take pictures anymore. It's solved the problem beautifully. You should DEFINITELY make an ENTIRE scrapbook of your kids peeing outdoors. That would be CLASSIC.

C. L. Hanson said...

Maybe I should... Otherwise I don't know what I'll use as a conversation piece to show their future prom dates someday... ;-)

Joseph's Left One said...

My wife was a nanny but has stubbornly resisted all her friends' efforts to involve her in scrapbooking. It's funny that such a dyed-in-the-wool Mormon like she is has such an almost pathological resistance to some of the cultural touchstones of Mormonism.

I haven't figured out what the allure of scrapbooking is, and I'm quite sure I'll never get it.

Anonymous said...

To be honest, I cannot figure out how the scrapbooking phenomenon slipped past you. That is weird.

I am an avid scrapbooker. I live and breath scrapbooking and blogging and my poor kids are highly neglected.

At least I have the solace of spending time with their photos. The kids, on the other hand, do not have that benefit. They will be forever tainted because I spend more time with their pictures than with them. Ha ha.

But, I have to correct some things: scrapbooking is mainstream American now. No, Mormons do not love it more. Because it first started big in the Mormon community, many of the companies are Mormon-owned. But if you look in the current magazines, you will find scrapbook celebrities (there are celebrities!!) with pictures of themselves with margaritas in hand for New Years Eve.

Just last week on a scrapbooking forum someone started a thread about how their friend told her she'd have to become a Mormon now that she scrapbooks. She didn't know what the person was talking about, since no one she scrapbooked with was Mormon. So she started a poll to see what the various religions of scrapbookers were.

Mormons had a very low representation. Most of the people had no idea why anyone would associate scrapbooking with Mormons.

A bunch of us atheists spoke up and "confessed" our non-religion. Everyone was real nice, except for one sorry Christian who said how sad she was that some scrapbookers were non-believers and that she would pray for us. Another woman ditto'd her.

Of course, we all came back with responses of how our lives are improved, we are at peace with ourselves, we are happy and our families are healthy, etc. etc.

Everyone else was respectful. It is a new day in scrapbooking when atheists can reveal themselves. It is no longer considered a religious or Mormon-associated hobby.

Anonymous said...

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.

OK, I'm going to resort to an acronym I avoid pretty assiduously: LOL!!

I am so tempted to send a link to this entry to my sister, both because she scrapbooks (and stamps!) and because she constantly marvels at how fond her son is of peeing outdoors. But I resist, because she might notice my name and follow the links and discover my blog, and if there is any group in the world I want to hide my blog from, it's my Mormon family.

I myself am a scrapbooker only insofar as I sometimes punch holes in cards someone has sent me or glue ticket stubs and the like onto typing paper and stick them into the three-ring binder that serves as my journal. At least, I used to, before I started blogging and it kind of took over my journal-writing time and energy....

Cyn Bagley said...

One of my brother's sis-in-laws used to write scrapbooking books. LOL.

She was so embarrassed when she went to one of the conventions (they do have conventions too) and everyone wanted an autograph. She could of sold books and didn't bring any... She didn't realize that she was popular.

I have done some scrapbooking a long time ago. I am too busy writing now.

Have fun. And, boys peeing against a tree... is a classic picture LMAO

C. L. Hanson said...

JLO, resistence is futile.

j/k, I'll probably never really do it myself either... ;-)

Hey Noell!!!

I don't know how I missed it either, but I'm kind of a space cadet sometimes...

From making web pages for the family back in the US, I can totally relate to spending time with pictures of the kids instead of with the kids!!! ;-)

Hey Holly!!!

I recently told my LDS family about my blog in a sense. The thing is that I thought my sister's "tacky prom" pics were hilarious, but couldn't in good conscience post them without her permission. She okayed it and thought it was cool that people liked her pictures, so I couldn't resist telling her to try googling glamorous Mormon diva...

I don't think any of my LDS family members read my blog much though, or at least they haven't said anything about it.

Hey Cynthia!!!

That's cool that your bro's sis-in-law got some recognition for her book!!!

Like you, really I spend too much time writing (or more accurately blogging in my case) to do any serious scrapbooking.

AnnM said...

A Belgian friend of mine living in Seine-et-Marne came back from a year in Pennsylvania with a Creative Memories business. My Utah cousins had been selling it for years, so I already knew a great deal about it, but I was surprised to see how far it had spread. I can hook you up with her if you still need that temple stamp...;-)

Her surprise, however, was in learning that her scrapbooking buddy in PA was a Republican. She had never met one before, and was quite astonished to find that someone she counted as a friend was a "one of them."

Peeing outdoors was so automatic for my son that when we went to Aquaboulevard he stood on a footbridge over a pool, pulled out his equipment and peed into the water.

I used to see all the men peeing by the side of the road, with no effort to be discreet whatsoever, and wonder about the women. Did all those empty cars parked along the side of the road belong to women who had stepped a little further into the forest?

Anonymous said...

I've got to second all the responses about it not being just a mormon thing. My first roommate in college, from Kentucky and very Catholic introduced me to the hobby - special scissors, etc.

Now - the bead thing or the special Italian bracelet charm thing - if those make it to France...:)

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Sam-I-Am!!!

As much as I've been avoiding it, probably one of these days I'll end up writing a blog entry comparing various cultures' public urination habits... ;^)

Hey Rachel!!!

Wow, it sounds like everyone but me already knew all about scrapbooking. Oh well, better to learn about it late than never... ;^)

I don't know anything about those other crafts you mention, but I'll probably learn about them eventually. :D