Since my parents had gotten to see us at the wedding they drove us straight to T.J.'s parent's house where we planned to sleep the first couple of days but not before a quick stop for chicken biscuits at bojangles on the way (we were so happy to be back in the South). When we finally arrived in town his folks had shrimp and grits waiting for us and lots of catching up to do with their long absent son. We stayed there Sunday, Monday and Tuesday night and at my parents' on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday since they had more family coming to town on Wednesday. During the day we drove back and forth between the two homes, spending time with each family and sometimes spending the afternoon's apart from each other, but always coming back together for dinner at one place or the other.
On Monday we drove out to the lake so we could finally see the site of my parent's future home and the progress on their lot. I am so excited envisioning family gatherings on their screened in porch, laying out in the sun on the dock, jumping into the clear lake, cruising around on the boat between their house and T.J.'s family lake house.
On Tuesday, T.J. headed out to do a little target practice and I headed over to my parent's place so us girls could do some Christmas baking. While T.J.'s family always has a certain delicious chocolate cake this time of year, we always have an abundance of cookies and buttercreams and that's one tradition I'm not letting go of any time soon. We spent the whole day covered in flour, checking the timer, rolling out the yummy treats, sipping spiced cider, and listening to Christmas music.
Later that evening we merged families and headed out for big steak dinner. I love that our two sides get along and that everyone is willing to share time and meals together.
The next day, after more cookie baking, and buttercream dipping, my parents, T.J. and I, and my sister went to see Star Wars together. I may have had to force my sister's hand by buying her ticket without asking her but she was so glad she came. One of the best movies I've seen in a while and I would have happily sat there and watched six more hours, darn those cliff hangers!!
T.J.'s grandma and aunt arrived to town just as we got back from the movie. We had their family's traditional homemade broccoli and cheese soup for dinner (with the last of the broccoli from their own garden) and settled in to watch some football. Honestly, at T.J.'s house, football is on all day long which is something I still haven't gotten used to, but nothing makes my husband happier than to watch football all day long. But after I'd watched all the football I could handle for one day, that night, since they now had a full house, T.J. and I hauled our stuff over to my parents' place to sleep.
After a yummy breakfast with my folks, T.J. and I headed back over to his house and then my family joined us a bit later for the big Christmas eve lunch. We had ham, turkey, dressing, collards, black eyed peas, mac and cheese, rolls. Then we headed out to my sister's church for the Christmas eve service. It was just what I needed. Between the travelling, the newness, managing the logistics, and the fact that it was 70 degrees in South Carolina, I hadn't been feeling very Christmasy. Sister joined the praise band and we all sang every single one of my favorite carols in between the reading of the Christmas story. It was the perfect reminder to just take a step back and rest in the greatest news, the reason we all gather together this time of year, and nothing else matters.
I woke up Christmas morning and got to lean over and say "merry Christmas" to my husband beside me and that was just as wonderful as I always imagined it would be. We opened our stockings, and had breakfast with my family before tackling the presents under the tree.
Though it was strange to change out of my Christmas pj's and head over to T.J.'s house I was eager to get a glimpse at more of T.J.'s holiday traditions. I'm so pleased that we seem to have similar Christmas mornings and both our families go over the top to make the day especially special. We opened more presents with his family before my parents made their way over for Christmas dinner- left-over yumminess from the day before with the addition of my mom's cheese ball (a must have for family gatherings).
It had pretty much rained every day since we got to town but Saturday we woke up to a spring day! T.J. headed out to sit in a deer stand with his dad for most of the day and my parent's sister and I headed out to soak up some vitamin D and walk off some of the Christmas cookies at our college campus. It seriously felt like June and I was in 7th heaven. I know a lot of people want cold weather and snow on Christmas, and I love that too. But I will never ever complain about sunshine and blue skies and t-shirts. We grabbed slurpees on the way home and played a board game that I had asked for for Christmas (Ticket to Ride- so fun!) before T.J. came home to meet us for dinner.
We went out for dinner downtown and one of T.J.'s high school friends, and a groomsmen joined us for BBQ. We stayed out a bit later and ended up at a favorite bar playing darts, girls vs. boys. Sister and I were surprised to find that we have some dart skills and we ended up beating the boys once. I was glad to have this extra time with just my sister and it was a fun laid back last night in town.
Sunday came wayyyyy too soon. When planning our vacation, it seemed like such a long time but it always goes by in the blink of an eye. Going in to the week I was honestly nervous and pretty emotional about how we were going to manage our time between our two families but it ended up working out pretty well and I feel like everyone got their fair share of Shannon and T.J. time. It's something we are still figuring out and I know it will all look different once we have kids but, for this year, it worked out just right! I hated leaving (and hated the canceled flights and the airport frustration even more) but we had such a sweet time with everyone and I'm looking forward to the next gathering sooner rather than later! I'd say our first married Christmas was a success!