The following was written by me for the Columbia Register.So you got through the tears at the drop-off door of Kindergarten. Now you’re wondering what happened to all of those years in between. Your baby is graduating. Having had two children graduate from high school then college, I can relate. Don’t let your emotions get in the way of having a blast for your graduate. This is an amazing time for him when friends, schools and lives will change. He’s really looking forward to it. So do I hear a party is in order? I’m glad you agree. Parties have come a long way from mini-frankfurters with mortarboard toothpicks in them. Gone are the days of formal sit down meals, as well. Today’s kids are looking for the hip, the great and the wonderful as a way to part from the alma mater. I belong to a coordinator’s web site where we share ideas, accomplishments (and on occasion frustrations) with each other. These coordinators come from all over the globe. I like to think I rub elbows with some of the most talented and popular coordinators of this nation. What I’ve learned over the last few years is that there are a lot of new trendy ideas out there for graduation parties that seem to come to Lancaster County by horse and buggy. Sometimes the horse and buggy never manages to make it here. For example, did you know you can have custom made fruit roll ups for your graduation party? You can choose the flavor then have an emblem or figure etched into them. Lots of kids have their year and school name cut out of the fruit rollups. There’s also a lot of energy around having food stations. Quesadillas, hot dogs, slushies, mini burgers, popcorn, pizza and cotton candy stations are very popular right now. Kids like fast food done fast. What’s better is that they are making their own meals and all you have to provide are the fixin’s. Those are the relatively new trends but some of the old ones are still alive: photo stamps of your graduate as a baby or toddler (you place these on the invitations. Yes, they are real U.S. postage stamps.), the all too familiar candy bar station. All of the candy must be in school colors. It wouldn’t be cool any other way. Lastly, the most popular old trend? Chocolate fountains. I can’t tell you how many chocolate fountains I’ve seen in the last 5 years. I’ll be happy when all of those motors die. Ironically, however, is that kids are always drawn to the least expected items that are the least expensive… a basket of dollar store toys. Glowsticks, leis, Mardi Gras beads, oversized glasses and sunglasses, hats, horns, paper yoyos (sometimes called Chinese yoyos), false teeth, gross false teeth, ostrich feathers, bouncy balls… the sillier the better. They may be graduating from high school but they’re still kids. If you are thinking you would love to have a party but can’t afford to have some of the popular trends, think about this; have one graduation party for your child in conjunction with some of his best friends. This way you’re killing lots of birds with one stone. Everyone will be there and a joint effort from all of the parents to tackle this party can be done. It doesn’t seem so daunting when there are people that have a common goal accomplishing the task. Be sure to have a meeting of the minds with an agenda. Ask the grads what it is that they want and be sure to validate everyone’s suggestions. While it seems that a mere RSVP request is straightforward enough, you’ll find that high schoolers are the worst at this simple task. My suggestion would be to have all RSVPs sent to a MySpace or Facebook page or have them texted to you. Kids spend the most time at these places. Why not have them make their time valuable at a familiar place for them? We have to go where kids are most comfortable. That or spend an afternoon calling each and everyone one of the invitees only to get voicemail that is prefaced with four minutes of hip-hop music. Just remember; the party is not for you. You may have been the one waking him up for the last 12 years for school but in the end it’s his accomplishment and no one can be more proud than your graduate.