Things are changing. For her birthday this year she didn't ask for crafts and kits and something to play with. She asked for cash and shoes and wireless ear buds and one (hail mary, long shot, might as well ask for it) iPhone.
This girl is a full blown teenager.
And not just any shoes, let's back up, but mustard yellow and white checkered Vans. Apparently that's the thing these days, she told me, and all the stores in town and online seemed to validate that by slapping their Out Of Stock signs every place the mustard yellow and white checkered Vans should have been. Fortunately however, the favored Vans aren't quite as favored in Park City at the moment (and also fortunately, Brian and I happened to be in Park City the week before McKenzie's birthday) so when we happened to drive by the Vans outlet store on our way home from dinner one night (by typing it into GoogleMaps and driving 40 minutes out of the way), we were able to pick up a pair.
I might have hugged the box when the store clerk brought them out.
But that was only because I knew it would be the highlight of her birthday. And it was. So even though I don't generally subscribe to brand names in general, it was fun to see her so excited about a pair of shoes.
We let her open them up early in the morning and they went immediately on her feet. And on her way out the door to Seminary I knew that the day was destined to be great because of all the happy energy that seemed to be originating right from those feet.
A few hours later, Eliza and I checked her out of school during her lunch period because somehow through the years, that has become tradition. We didn't have much time, unfortunately, because lunch periods are a joke these days, so she picked the Southwest Diner right here in town and we talked and laughed while she wolfed down her giant burrito.
Later that night I fried up some Fry Bread to make Navajo tacos for dinner per her request and it made me smile because Navajo tacos were my favorite food when I was about her age, too. In fact, I remember sitting down on the grass in the middle of Swiss Days one year as a teenager with a giant Navajo Taco in my lap (actually, they called it a Swiss Taco because, Swiss Days). I was feeling grumpy that I smelled like sauerkraut, and wishing that I could have been working in the Navajo Taco booth instead of the bratwurst and sauerkraut booth because then I could be smelling like a Navajo Taco instead.
Of course, through the years, my adult self has realized that smelling like a Navajo Taco isn't as fabulous as my teenager self once thought it would be.
But I do it anyway, on occasion. Especially for this girl.
This next picture sums up one of the greatest things about McKenzie. She is a protector. She loves her little brothers and, consciously or not, fills her role of being the big sister with passion.
After the above picture was taken, I realized that I wanted Eliza to be a part of it too, but since Eliza was all the way across the table buckled into her seat, I felt it would be easier to ask all four of the older kids to move their bodies rather than unbuckling Eliza and moving hers. (And so illustrates the thought that sometimes she is more of a handful than all four other children combined.)
I don't know if you can tell, but Eliza was not entirely happy to be involved in the picture. It's because Timothy was standing next to her, and she has a little bit of an issue with Timothy these days. You see, she has it in her head that she deserves 100% of my time and attention, and Timothy sometimes gets in the way of that plan. So whenever he gets close to her she reacts unkindly, which is so sad to see because Timothy genuinely has nothing but love and affection for her (which, to her credit, he shows rather boisterously at times), and her unkindness crumbles him. And so we see again the protector in McKenzie, Timothy has no idea about what's going on right next to him because of McKenzie's strong and loving arm placed purposefully around her little sister.
Then I wanted a picture of just McKenzie, but Miles had other ideas.
Neither of us noticed him there until after I'd taken the picture, and then when I pointed him out, we all laughed for much longer than you would have expected.
Eventually the night came to an end and we sent McKenzie to bed with lots of hugs and kisses and glad you were borns. And after she'd disappeared into her room for the night I realized that I hadn't gotten a single picture of her with the number 15 in it (and apparently I felt it was important to do so), so I ran upstairs and pulled her back out of her room to 'sit on the stairs by your 15 so I can get one more picture.'
Brian didn't know I had this on my agenda, nor did he see me run up the stairs to get her, so when he turned around from doing the dishes in the kitchen at the base of the stairs and saw McKenzie like this, meditating, after we'd already sent her off to bed, he was obviously confused.
"Uh, Kenz?" He stared, "What the heck?"
We laughed for much longer than you would have expected.
Eventually she calmed down enough for us to get one 'normal' picture, and then was sent to bed for the final time that night.
A few days later, I packed her and a few of her friends into the car and headed off to an escape room where we all worked together to make our way out of a(n absolutely disgusting) jail cell. (It wasn't actually disgusting, but it was made to look so, complete with a nasty toilet (with dirty water at the bottom (that we had to DIG THROUGH! (and when I say 'we' I mean Jayce (he was our hero.))))
(Do you see the mustard yellow and white checkered Vans on two of the girls up there? I'm telling you, it's the thing.) (Do you also notice that there are boys in this picture? Teenage boys? Like, 'I want to invite teenage boys to my teenage birthday party' boys?! It's cool. Totally cool. I'm not making it a thing, you are.) And then we all went back to our house where a few more people came to celebrate McKenzie with a riveting tournament of Mario Kart.
Eliza was happy to watch everyone play and seemed to enjoy the energy in the house (which isn't always the case).
I watched these kids all night, and it's funny because sometimes I don't feel all that removed from being a teenager myself. And then in other ways it feels like another lifetime. Weird.
They played other games, wrestled (boys), talked, wrestled (boys), ran around, wrestled (boys), and finished the night off playing volleyball.
It was a fun night. And at the end of it McKenzie said, "you know, I used to think that Carson and Miles were so weird for wrestling around all the time, but now I realize that it's just boys!" Her eyes were rolling wide and Brian and I laughed right out loud while she continued, "Those boys were on the ground all night!"
And we laughed for much longer than you would have expected.
Happy Birthday, my love!