Shhh don’t tell the guests – the surprise wedding!

At diagnosis
At diagnosis

Well where do I start… eight months ago we were rocked by the news that our baby boy had cancer.  Nothing else mattered at the time but loving and supporting all three children through what was plainly the most difficult thing we’ve ever had to deal with.

It felt like the shittiest card to have been dealt but we got on with it.  We took each day as it came, each hospital visit, side effect from chemotherapy, emotional outburst from one of the kids and we held it together as best we could.

Our previous plans for a wedding and honeymoon paled into insignificance compared to this new turning our lives had taken.  Not only did it just not matter so much, but we blatantly couldn’t afford it with less income since I gave up work to be on hand for George’s (and Oliver and Harriet’s!) care.

Ian Zippy Lees entertaining the kids
Ian Zippy Lees entertaining the kids

Months passed, hard, emotional and testing as George’s treatment has been, we kept as positive as we could and decided to plan something fun for the kids on the day we had originally planned on marrying.  We didn’t want the day to come and go with sadness, plus we wanted to thank all of our friends and family who had been there for us through thick and thin.

The Black Swan in Rixton confirmed they would love to support and host “Roozafest” for us, they loved our idea and we set about planning the Fun Day, together with Stuart, the manager.  I was thinking the outdoors, bunting, cakes, bouncy castle for the kids and balloons, a bit of a fete vibe going on.

bouncy castle
bouncy castle

All of our guests were told to bake a cake and bring it along, we were having a “Bake Off” competition that the children were going to judge.  We had in mind that we’d probably do a speech and little toast to everyone at some point too.

The cakes
The cakes

I can’t remember the exact moment we decided to add in a sneaky surprise but I know it was before George’s birthday… he had a stint in hospital around the time and I’d started to wobble about the whole idea.  What if he was too ill!?

Don’t get me wrong there were times I worried about other things, the weather, guests not showing, upsetting people…. but then I had a word with myself, we had no control over those things, so I began enjoying organising bits and pieces around George’s treatment and everything going on at school for Oliver and Harriet.

Before the cat was out of the bag
Before the cat was out of the bag

The Black Swan, Rixton was out of this world for support, from the offset the manager, Stuart, took on most of the organising which left me free to concentrate on George’s hospital trips. I turned up the day before Roozafest frantic about the torrential downpours forecast and Stuart reassured me that they’d got a back up plan in the form of a marquee!  something they’d sorted out of the goodness of their hearts as we were planning on just using the field… all of the staff were super supportive and so discrete.

Laura Linley of Linleys Cake and Party shop, a mummy from the kid’s school and friend, helped sort balloons, bunting and was there to bounce ideas off… she also created our surprise bake off entry 😉

Guests arriving
Guests arriving

So on a rather wet 28th July, at 2pm, our guests began to arrive. Ian Zippy Lees entertained the children teaching circus skills for the first hour and then a bouncy castle arrived.  Harriet was barefoot in her gorgeous dress in the rain having the time of her life.

The kids took over the play area and the adults huddled under the shelters and in the marquee at times when it poured while the music played – thank you to DJ Lee Valentinekeeping us all on our feet and even rapping!?

The ever supportive Lynda of the Joshua Tree charity arrived with her brother, the Rev Gwyn Parry and his wife to mingle and enjoy the day with us.

Amy prepping me in the morning
Amy prepping me in the morning

I was suspiciously glamorous on the day thanks to my friend and hairdresser, Amy Scott, who took time out of her own diary to give me a trial and then put my hair up at the crack on the morning.  The girls at Akira in Padgate, who also helped make the build up to the day special, were so lovely! My nails and make up were perfect and had a great time coming in for a pampering.

Fizz!
Fizz!

So after welcoming most of our guests to the party and a couple of glasses of dutch courage later, our plans came together.  Stuart got everyone’s attention to gather in the marquee for Oliver was about to read a poem and announce the winner of the bake off.  Harriet and I nipped off without anyone noticing with my good friend, Kath, chief dress fastener, as I needed a quick costume change.

Kath bolted as soon as her job was done and I paced anxiously in my dress up in my room in the hotel with the windows open listening to Oliver’s voice over the PA system – emotional wasn’t the word and it felt even worse not being down there with him!  Harriet was happily skipping around the room on another planet while I necked a glass of prosecco and tried to fan some cool air from the open window.

Harriet and I waiting to be called
Harriet and I waiting to be called

Oliver’s poem had gone from a thank you poem, to announcing the winner of the “bake off” to “there’s just one thing I forgot to mention, we’ve got another cake that will grab your attention” cue the gorgeous wedding cake making an appearance and Oliver telling everyone they’re actually at a wedding.  I heard the roar of cheering and applause and had a little sob knowing this is it!

I must have walked out onto the landing of the hotel twice being impatient only to be told they’re not ready yet… I remember thinking Oliver finished his poem ages ago, what’s the hold up!?  What I didn’t realise was that The Black Swan had organised flowers, illuminated lighting and dressed the marquee while I was upstairs… they got our guests involved reorganising the place and making it pretty.

Big arrival
Big arrival

I walked downstairs and some of their lovely staff helped lift my dress off the grass to the start of the red carpet when our wedding song began “Tenerife Sea” by Ed Sheeran.  I had no saliva left at this point as Harriet marched in front with her beautiful flowers (courtesy of 2lips in Stockton Heath).  Our guests were all teary and smiling as I passed them and I got about half way and had to cry myself too… I’d made eye contact with too many people I cared about.  Damien, his best man Haynesy and the boys all looked dapper in their newly attached bow ties it suddenly felt about 100 degrees!

ceremony
ceremony

Rev Gwyn Parry was brilliant, the Order of Service he organised worked perfectly for us, incorporating our own vows and bringing the children into our prayer at the end – thank you so much for taking time out of your own schedule to make our day so special.

Group hug
Group hug

Following the ceremony there was obviously a lot of cheeky smiles, tears and long embraces.  The BBQ opened, the children were happy, the unpredictable weather became part of the fun and the bucking bronco arrived! – what else do you want at your wedding?!

The rest of the evening involved Mr Rooza’s speech, the first dance, a lot of laughter, fizz and feral kids.

Mr Rooza on the bronco
Mr Rooza on the bronco

Our wedding, because of the kind hearts of others, didn’t break the bank.  We could never have had a such a special, romantic and meaningful day even if we spent all the money in the world on it.  Thank you to all of those involved in making our day perfect, for organising, attending and wishing us well since…

Our first dance
Our first dance

Our son’s leukaemia diagnosis has brought us all closer, we’re grateful we are able to share such special moments with him and continue to live our lives to the fullest we can.  Thank you to the handful of friends who helped us pull this off, Oliver for your super confident reading, Harriet for being the barefoot free spirit you are and thank you Georgie for teaching us how to be brave and reminding us what love really is xx

 

Mummy & Harriet quality time

 

Harriet and I had a lovely Sunday at Dolly’s Haberdashery and Sewing School in Warrington a few weeks ago.  We needed some girly time she had been feeling a little bit overlooked lately.

Father Christmas had bought Harriet a sewing machine that unfortunately had remained in the box ever since it was unwrapped :-/ George’s diagnosis came just after Christmas so everything had been up in the air for all of us.  The box had become a wonderful place to pile clothes on top in the meantime.

I’d seen Dolly’s promoted on Facebook through friends and thought it’d be a nice idea for us to go together.  So we set off a few weeks ago and looked forward to a girl’s afternoon.

Linsey was very patient with a very giddy “enthusiastic” Harriet who’s alter ego had arrived too “Harret the Carrot”! I think i’ve laughed along with crazy Harret the Carrot a bit too often so she’s a regular visitor.

Harriet wanted to create an amazing dress or a hat, but as that was a little ambitious when we didnt even know how to thread a sewing machine, we settled on a nice bag instead.

Once Harriet stopped jumping ahead of herself and being cheeky, we learnt how to thread our machines and got on with our bags.  We were there for around an hour and a half which I thought was great value for money at £30 for the private class.

Us modelling our handmade bags
Our new bags and a giddy kipper

With our finished articles we swished down the street into Warrington Town Centre for a mooch around the shops.  Harriet spent her pennies on some trinkets which have subsequently been lost in the abyss of her bedroom, but she enjoyed carrying them in her bag for a while.

Armed with her new skills, Harriet has since been sewing little “Harret the Carrot” bags to order for her friends, they’re now in high demand!  she’s even had Nanny Jane posting fabric up from her shop for her.

Harriet’s learnt new skills and has had a great sense of achievement since with her orders – we will be back for more soon!

Joshua Tree Family Day – Feb 2016

We recently found out about The Joshua Tree – a wonderful charity who support families affected by childhood cancer.  They set up 10 years ago when their little boy, Joshua, was also diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (like George).

So far they have provided us with emotional support through 1-2-1 visits at home and also invited us to their family days in Northwich, Cheshire.  It was felt really beneficial to be around other families who are experiencing the same challenges as and no doubt emotions as us.

Oliver made a friend the same age as him who is now in the maintenance phase of his treatment.  He’s a lovely boy who Oliver is looking forward to seeing again next time.  It must be really comforting for Oliver to see his new friend leading a normal, happy life.  I’ve felt Oliver has been particularly worried about George’s diagnosis.

Harriet and Oliver in aprons giving a thumbs up for baking
Harriet and Oliver ready to bake

Harriet was in her element being crafty, creating a Mother’s Day card for me and both the older children got stuck in baking too.

There was even a Lego Police Helicopter there that George homed straight in on.  He loves Lego and the emergency services 🙂

I think Damien having the chance to chat to other Dad’s was really helpful.  I love a good chat wherever I am but Damien’s not one to walk up to someone and start a conversation – the lovely Lynda from the Joshua Tree was great at introducing families to each other.  I got talking to a few other mums whose children are also being cared for by Alder Hey so found out a few tips and about support groups I was previously unaware of.

All in all a lovely positive day out for all of us 🙂