Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Graduation Party Themes

Good Wednesday morning!

Let's get busy, shall we?

RANDOMNESS #1 - The Chick made the high school volleyball team! We are happy and relieved. Today she finds out if she is on Junior Varsity or Varsity... and she told me she would be fine either way.

As I type this, I am letting out a huge sigh of relief. Today is a happy day!

And tomorrow we begin basketball tryouts.

And we'll be nervous and fretful and restless... So I'm just going to focus on TODAY!

Roxie, Shelby and Kelci. These chicks have been playing volleyball together since 7th grade.

Some things never change.

RANDOMNESS #2 - Josh received his FIRST official graduation gift this past Sunday.

Mr. and Mrs. Faulkner gave Austin a TV when he graduated, so guess what Josh was given?

If you guessed a new TV...

You would be correct!

RANDOMNESS #3 - Josh is graduating next Thursday. Six years ago, when Josh was first diagnosed with Severe OCD and Severe Anxiety Disorder, we didn't know if this day would come. We couldn't look ahead to the next Tuesday, much less the final year of high school.

But as of today, he has accomplished this monumental task. He is an Honor's Grad and a member of the Top Twenty of his class.

He has no plans to attend college at the moment. He needs a break from school and classes. He needs to re-evaluate and figure out what he can and cannot do during this next phase of his life.

We've all been working so hard to get to this point, it is overwhelming to think about the question, "Now what?"

As we've learned the past six years, our plans are not necessarily God's plans. Josh's Life Journey will be different from Austin's. Roxie's will be different from both of The Brothers.

And I will have to accept the fact, once again, I cannot plan and control their adult lives. (Yuck! That's even hard to type!)

Thankfully, God is always here... guiding us, comforting us and helping us make the right choices (sometimes after we make the wrong ones).

With Josh's permission, I will be re-posting the story of his illness over the next few days. With the end of A Simple Life fast approaching (September), I want to make sure the reason I started the blog in the first place is made clear.

At the time I wrote the story, it chronicled the first three years (12 through 15 years of age) of Josh's OCD.

I will also be sharing (for the first time) the last three years of our lives.

Josh's illness and life has helped others. I have no doubt about that. We have never hidden the fact he has OCD. Because of being open, other parents have spoken to me about the struggles of having a child with a mental illness OR suffering from a mental illness themselves.

As isolating as having the illness is in the first place, I cannot imagine the pain and loneliness of never speaking of it... to anyone.

If you've already read it, feel free to skip ahead.

If not, this is Part One of Josh's Journey...

I'll start off by describing Josh in 6th grade. He was, and had always been a straight-A student. He was funny and a leader in his class (as described by his teachers). He was a boy, but he was obedient. He was very close to Roxie and Austin. He was also very close to me and Mike. He was a talker. He didn't keep things inside. He was not a hard child to parent at all.

The beginning of Josh's story is incredibly easy to tell. It's the three years from the beginning until now that get so complicated. December 5, 2005 I pulled up to Josh's middle school where he was in 6th grade. He simply said, "I'm not getting out of the car." I thought he was kidding, and without looking back told him to hurry, he was holding up the car line. "I'm not getting out, and you can't make me." The words were not said loudly or defiantly. But they weren't said in a joking way either. I turned around in my seat and looked him in the eyes. There was absolutely no expression.

"What are you talking about, Josh? You need to get out of the car and go to class." Without taking his eyes off me, he opened the door and stepped out of the van. I told him to have a good day and drove off. Looking in my rear-view mirror I could see him standing there staring at the van.

Of course, the first thing I thought about was bullies. I called the school when I got home and talked to several teachers to see if they had noticed a problem. They knew of nothing going on and said they would watch. When I picked Josh up that afternoon, he was happy and excited and telling me about his day. When we arrived home, I spoke to him privately and asked him if anyone had been bothering him, teacher or student. "No, ma'am," he replied.

"Is there something you need to talk to me or Dad about?" I continued questioning.

"No, ma'am," he again replied.

We had a normal, good weekend. I didn't think much about what had happened on the 5th until the following Monday. We drove to school. "I'm not getting out of the car," he said flatly. Again, no emotion... no anger... nothing.

"Josh, you have to get out. There are people waiting," I told him. Then tears began pouring out of his eyes. "I really can't get out of the car. If I get out of the car, I'm going to die."

"Josh, is someone threatening you?" I asked again. He shook his head, and without another word, he opened the door and stepped out of the car. He stood staring at me again, and as I pulled off, I watched him standing in the same spot until I was out of sight. When I picked him up in the afternoon, he was fine... happy, talkative, excited.

That was the last day he got out of the car willingly for school for two years.

During the 18 months prior to December 5, Josh had gone through a number of unusual events. He "played" with soap. I would find a bar of soap caked on the faucet, door handles and toilet flusher. It took forever to peel off, and I called him into the bathroom to ask him if he was responsible. "Yes, ma'am," he said evenly.

"Well, cut it out," I said irritably. "You're too old to be playing with soap."

"Yes, ma'am." Just as suddenly as it had started, it stopped.

Then we started getting up in the morning and most of the lights in the house would be on. "Who got up last night," we asked. Josh would reply he had either gone to the bathroom or gotten a drink. We now know he was just roaming because he was unable to sleep.

Then he began praying. We would watch him in church on Sunday, and he would pray the entire service, mouth moving silently, head twitching every now and then. He started praying during TV shows and movies, not making any sound, eyes closed, mouth moving and head twitching.

With each of these unsettling behaviors, we talked to his pediatrician. Because of my Dad's sudden death June 25, 2004, he attributed all of the odd behavior to the grieving process. Josh was the middle child. Austin, at 13, grieved as an adult. Roxie at 7, grieved as a child. Josh, at 10 didn't really have a normal grieving release, and the doctor believed it came out in these strange behaviors.

In June of 2005, one year after Dad's death, Josh began doubting his salvation. Again, our pediatrician told us it was not unusual for Josh to think more about his salvation and Heaven since he personally knew someone there he wanted to be with again. This made sense, and we began taking him to the pastor of the church I had grown up in for counseling.

His behaviors escalated until December 5, 2005 when he was unable to go any further without help. We had been treating symptoms without knowing what the illness was, and from December 5 until December 12 everything came together. Washing, lights on all night (meaning he was up all night), unable to leave the house, non-stop praying and twitching... everything that had been happening over the last 18 months one thing at a time was now happening in a one-week period at the same time... and the illness, diagnosis and severity of all the symptoms came to a head during that one week in December.

I'll end Part One of Josh's story by simply saying we went to a child psychiatrist our pediatrician recommended. He met with us for a few minutes and diagnosed Josh with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. He said Josh was a textbook case. He prescribed medication, and said in two to three weeks we should be able to see a difference. All the while, Josh was unable to go to school, and was washing and praying constantly. While we were glad to get a diagnosis, what we later found on the Internet was very disturbing. However, we continued to be hopeful since we were led to believe most patietns could be treated effectively with certain drugs.

Little did we know our nightmare was just beginning as Josh turned out to be in the minority of patients who did not respond normally to drug treatments. Before things would get better, we had two years of "worse" in front of us. We were told our family would have to get used to a new "normal," and until this past year (year three of his illness) we didn't know what the new "normal" would be... and we were very, very scared.

DISCLAIMER - Please understand Mike and I know there are many parents and children dealing with life and death illnesses and much, much more debilitating conditions than we are going to be talking about this week. We don't put ourselves in the same "category" with these parents or children. We feel the deepest compassion and sorrow for their pain and suffering. But in saying that, we firmly believe by talking about Josh's mental illness, others can and will be helped.

Josh's Journey has a purpose and a plan. We were surprised when Josh became so incredibly ill, but God was not. He has been there every step of the way... opening doors, helping us fight battles, giving us strength and wisdom.

No. God was not surprised, and He is on Josh's Journey with us each and every day.

Wednesday Wisdom - I firmly believe this is one of the most "truer than true" quotes I've ever read.

"The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else's highlight reels." Steven Furtick

Graduation Party Ideas

I am lucky. I live in a community and attend a church which has a very well-attended Graduation Reception immediately after the High School Graduation Ceremony. I count how many family members will be coming to celebrate, make a reservation and I walk into a decorated Fellowship Hall full of good food, cake, tables, pictures, friends and family.

And when it is over, I go home.

However, if I wasn't so fortunate, I would want to throw the kids a Graduation Party. Here are just a few ideas I thought were really good if you're thinking about such a party for your grad.

Graduation Party Themes

School Spirit Graduation Theme - Just go with the school colors. Streamers, paper products and balloons come in all kinds of colors. Use them to decorate.

Sports Graduation Theme - Is your teen an athlete? If so, use this to decorate your teen's party. Place a scrapbook of your teen playing the sport(s) with awards displayed, too. While the cake should still say, "Congratulations, Grad," you could have it made with a sports theme. Decorate the main party room with goal posts or pom-poms. Using school colors would add just the right touch, also.

This is Your Life Graduation Theme - Show the graduate off by displaying photo albums and decorating in his or her favorite colors. Do a "peek into the future" banner with your graduate's future plans.

A Major Graduation Theme - This works well with college graduation. Decorate and use the student's major as the party theme. (Nursing, teaching, physical therapist, etc.)

More Tips for a Graduation Party

1. Make a time capsule. Have each person bring something that has to do with their years in high school. Place this in a waterproof box and let the kids bury it in a pre-designated spot in the backyard. Plan on having a "reunion" party with the same kids after college graduations, and you can dig up the time capsule.

2. Have a Memory Note Station. Set up "note boxes" for each guest. Have paper and pens out to write notes to each other. The teens can write their memories of the other person and stick it in their friend's box.

3. Video tape the party. Place the video camera on a tripod and just let it roll.

4. Have a photo-op. Place a photo-up in a corner. Set it up for individual, couple and group shots. The easiest way to do this is to have a cluster of 15 or so balloons (in school colors) tied low enough in a corner to be visible behind the grads' heads when they step up for a picture.

5. Have a table FULL of finger foods and desserts.

6. Step back and let the kids hang out.

It's what they do best!

Have a great Wednesday. I'll be back tomorrow with Blog Linkage, a fun Date and Part Two of Josh's Journey. Oh, and more pictures!

Take care, and I'll talk to you in the morning.


The Enchanting Belinda

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