Well, wouldn’t you know Wm has already thought of this one? It’s even in two parts! (You can read about the grand unified theory of Mormon kitsch here and Wm’s actual favorite items of Mormon kitsch here) But that was six years ago, so it’s probably worth revisiting.
My husband and I recently celebrated our tenth anniversary by going on a Big Date. We drove the hour and a half to the Denver temple and then went out to dinner. It was nice (and disorienting to be away from our kids for five whole hours!). And do you know what made it even nicer? Surprisingly, a trip into Deseret Book for a little Mormon kitsch. What we ended up buying was like, well, a godsend. See, we’ve been working on teaching our kids about tithing, saving, and spending and other money matters. I can vividly remember a black, white, and gold three part cardboard bank to hold the three different kinds of money. I used that thing until I was 16 and old enough for a bank account. When we started teaching our kids I tried making them a bank out of cardboard. Then I tried to make one out of plastic containers. Then I tried plastic, cardboard, and duct tape. At one point there were even very small mason jars involved. That was when I realized I was trying to reinvent the wheel.
I feel the need to stop here and mention that I have mixed feelings toward Deseret Book. There have been times I have walked in and found exactly what I looked for and been extremely grateful for the products they provide. (“I am a Child of God” stickers = awesome. As do the cheap scripture marking kits for kids.) Then there are other times where all I can do is cringe because of the mixed messages. (True story: one particularly difficult day I made the decision to take my children to the temple grounds in an effort to feel the Spirit and try to renew my connection with the Lord. It was a little chilly so the kiddos and I stopped at Deseret Book for a Lion House cinnamon roll. The kids spent the whole time in DB in front of a TV that was playing Disney’s Aladdin–you know the part where Jasmine is in the extra skanky red outfit and Jafar is a giant snake trying to kill her? It was that part. Um, Disney, Freud called, he wants to thank you. . . Suffice it to say, DB did a fair amount that day to distract from the spiritual experience I was aiming for.) But lately, as a Primary and Cub Scout leader, I’ve found myself checking out their website to find out what kind of fun stuff is available for the kiddos. I’m often surprised by how many things I like.
Anyway, on our anniversary, I found the tithing banks. Not the exact ones from my childhood but 3 or 4 different kinds that suited each of my different kids. My husband and I were both surprised and grateful. That product would make things so much easier! The banks even came with little lock and keys, which my kids played with endlessly–until they lost them.
The other thing we found? An “Our Family Rules” wall hanging. When I picked it up my husband asked if it had been personalized for our family. The answer was no; someone just knows what it’s like to have more than one or two kids and put those feelings into words.
The piece de resistance? A parenting book! I’m a sucker for parenting books and read quite a lot of them, but my main complaint is that the techniques are almost always aimed at families with one or two children. The techniques worked great until I had more kids than hands. Since then I’ve been looking for some more practical advice. Enter Marilee Boyack’s The Parenting Breakthrough. Not all the ideas have worked for my family, but some of them have made a real difference and I recommend this book to a lot of people.
Now, I do have quibbles with each of these pieces. The stereotypes on the tithing banks bother me a bit. (What? Girls can only earn money by babysitting and they all want to be ballerinas? And why are they all blond? And boys can only mow lawns??) The style of the wall hanging is a little more Stampin’ Up!/country chic than I usually go for. And Merilee Boyack’s tone is the epitome of that strange Relief Society rhetoric that is both self-defeating and self-aggrandizing. But overall each of these items filled a need in my family. (When my kids are laying into each other I point to the rules and remind them, “A little forgiveness goes a long way!” ‘Nough said. And, even if I don’t like her tone, when it comes to figuring out who sits where at the dinner table without arguing Boyack’s method is seamless.) And it’s a good thing.
So, the long and the short of it is this: I own Mormon kitsch. And I’m not sorry.
How about you? What cheesy Mormon products work for your family? Which ones do you own and proudly display? Which ones are cringeworthy?