• Take Me Back To My Parents’ Wedding

    My parents are married and all of my siblings are from the same parents. I’d just like to get that out of the way because I get asked a lot if my parents are still together and if my siblings and I come from the same parents since there is such a big age gap between us. It is uncommon for people in my parent’s situation to still be married and there were times where they almost weren’t, but they have come a looooong way. I am a firm believer that no one has the whole marriage thing down because the truth is, life is constantly changing and we have to change with it. My parents have overcome many obstacles, but now that all their children are grown, it will been fun to see what their life will be like sans school aged children. My parent’s obviously did things a little backwards, but they did do things like other couples did. They got married, had kids (one before marriage, obvi), and bought a house. Their wedding wasn’t grand, but it was special.

    Weddings have been around for a long time and even though weddings have evolved over time, the gist is about the same. Family and friends come together to celebrate the union of two people and eat and drink and have a heck of a time. In most weddings, the father of the bride walks down the aisle with the bride or groom and “gives them away”. This is all usually done in a fancy environment and your kid is usually not in attendance because first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage (for the record, I don’t believe you have to be married to have kids). Certainly, at most weddings, guests do not show up with their half naked baby in tow…because it is a wedding…but someone did just that at my parent’s wedding. I understand that styles change, and to each their own, but in the case of the wedding of my mother and father, some standards were thrown out the window for some people who were in attendance (but did they even have standards to begin with? Probably not). Maybe it was because some guests thought, “Oh, they already had the baby so this is just a formality”. Or maybe it was because the wedding was being held in a backyard and not a fancy reception room. I don’t know. What I do know is that it was the most exciting day of my life because my mom and dad were getting married and my mother looked beautiful in her dress. My dad, while he was handsome as ever, wore black dress shorts and a penguin tail suit jacket (please see the below photo). I was five years old when my parents got married and thought it was normal to be at their wedding. Looking back at it, I probably thought all little kids attended their parents’ wedding. I think I may have just started school, or was about to start, so I had no little kid friends to compare lives with.

    The coolest part about my parent’s wedding was that I got to give my mom away to my dad (and one of the guests gave me a Precious Moments doll). I got to wear a pretty dress and flower crown (I was obsessed with both), and I was able to walk down the aisle with my mom like a grownup. I think my childhood dream was to be a grownup. Most kids probably wanted to be things like a firefighter or superhero, but I just wanted to be a grownup and walking down the aisle with my mom allowed me to feel like one. She didn’t have a relationship with her dad, so it was my responsibility to fill that part. I think that as I write this, I am just now realizing that I wanted to be her protector because she didn’t have one. She was my protector, and I was her’s. Yes, she had her mom, her siblings, and my dad, but in my eyes she was my responsibility just as much as I was her responsibility. Sounds strange, but it makes perfect sense in my brain. I think those kind of emotions are pretty heavy for a five year old and it shows.

    Like any adult in a wedding party, I got to stand at the altar with the bride and groom. In reality it was more like, “You’re our kid daughter so ya, duh, you are a part of this as much as we are,” but I didn’t feel like a little kid. At times I felt so grown up, and when I wasn’t included in things, I got offended. Those aren’t really feelings that a five year old usually has, but I did. I also thought about things like how people were going to get home safely if they had been drinking, and I consciously thought about what to and what not to say in front of certain people. To me, that is a ludicrous skill to have at five years old. People might have known or might not have, but I was ALWAYS listening. Not that I was being nosy, I was just taking mental notes of how to be an adult. This is why I tell my friends to watch what they say around their kids because it could potentially stick with them for their whole life and impact how they make decisions. I am glad the adults in my life growing up weren’t dumb dumbs because I would be royally screwed.I think as a kid I was always in my own thoughts and analyzed things way too much, which is where some of my anxiety comes from. I was never that kid who would go off and play with other kids, partially because I was the only kid around, but also because I was more interested in what the adults were doing.

    Someone once asked me if I always knew my childhood was different or if I had to be told it was different and the short answer is yes to both questions. One thing that you have to understand about having teen parents is that I didn’t know any different, just like you didn’t know any different about your upbringing. I knew that my parents were young when they had me and I knew that we were not a typical traditional family, but what is typical anyway? To be honest, I dislike when people talk about what should be “traditional” or “typical” because we live in a world where things like that shouldn’t matter. You should do what is best for you and your family and do what is ‘traditional’ for you. I was always treated like an adult while growing up, I was never lied to and my parents never fabricated stories to hide things from me. I am sure they told me sugar coated versions of some things to keep my child brain safe, but for the most part, they told me anything I wanted to know. I always knew that I came from a complex situation and that my upbringing was different from other children, but I was and still am proud of my upbringing. I was the luckiest five year old because I got the honor of walking my mom down the aisle and witness my parent’s marriage to one another. Most people can’t say they got to participate in something so special. My parent’s marriage wasn’t and isn’t perfect, but whose is?

    Xoxo,

    Krystal Renee

  • Take Me Back to Coffee In Kansas City

    I know you were all just dying to read a story about how I tried to drink water out of the toilet like my childhood dog, but I thought that I might change things up a little bit this week. I know that the weather is probably nasty all of the united states this week, so let me show you some of my favorite coffeehouses in Kansas City.

    For me, coffeehouses/shops offer so much more than coffee. Good coffeehouses are able to take me to different countries without me having to pack a bag, warm my tummy on a cold day, provide an ambiance of relaxation and serenity, and sometimes coffeehouses simply lend a (silent) listening ear. When I am in a funk, I like to go to a local coffee shop and just sit there and reflect. I like to gather my thoughts and plan out my next steps. Believe it or not, Kansas City has an incredible coffee scene. I haven’t experienced all coffeehouses in Kansas City, but the ones I have tried have been fantastic (except one, but it will remain nameless). If any Kansas Citians are reading this, please leave a comment below with your favorite coffeehouse in or around the city. Even if you aren’t from here, please share your favorite coffee shops.

    Having no kids and not working a full time job can make things pretty monotonous during the week when my partner is at work, especially when he has colleagues in town and he has to entertain them. We have lived here now for about three and a half years and I still haven’t made too many friends. Just this past year I finally began to branch out and have become friends with a couple of people through my internship and other social settings, but I still get a little lonesome. To occupy my time I obviously job hunt, but one of my favorite things to do is to discover different coffeehouses around the city. My partner and I love to try non chain coffeehouses and shops whenever we travel. Some chain coffee shops are good, but most of them taste the same to me. In my opinion chain coffee shops like Starbucks aren’t even that great, they are just convenient.

    Anyway, moving on. The best coffee shops roast their own beans in shop and are small on the inside (although this doesn’t always apply). Because most of the best coffee shops in Kansas City are downtown, they are typically small on the inside, however this does not apply to Messenger Coffee Co., which also shares the same space with Ibis Bakery. Messenger Coffee Co. is located in The Crossroads, which is the arts district, and it fits in perfectly. The building, both inside and outside is beautiful. It is technically a three story building that is extremely appealing to the eyes and is every bloggers dream. Not only can you take beautiful photos of your coffee or tea, but the atmosphere is exuberant and you could spend hours there writing. They offer coffee, food, and baked goods. You could literally spend all day there and work on your computer. You can even watch them prepare their baked goods and roast their beans. It does get fairly busy, so you have to get there at the right time to secure a spot with a power outlet. It is on the more pricey/boujee side, but it is so worth it.


    All images © Krystal Renee

    Quay Coffee is located in the River Market area, which is also a bloggers dream because it is in an older building with exposed brick in the inside and it is located on a street that makes you feel a certain type of way. It definitely has photo opportunities and the coffee is incredible. Their coffee is actually my favorite in town, which I literally just tried for the first time this month. I can’t believe I hadn’t tried it before and I am a little mad at myself for not trying it sooner. It isn’t big on the inside so you get more of an intimate experience and they keep their merch in an old safe that remains open. Parking is fairly easy depending on what time of day and year you go since it isn’t in the heart of the River Market, which makes all the difference when you are in a hurry or don’t want to walk several blocks. The people that work at Quay Coffee (pronounced ‘key”) are so nice and that in itself is a reason for me to keep going back.


    All images © Krystal Renee

    Lastly, but certainly not least, there is Headrush Roasters in the northland. Northland just means north of the city. Native Kansas Citians would say north of the river, but I’m not a native :).  Growing up in California, when someone says going up north, it literally means going to Northern California. Headrush Roasters has two different locations, but the one we go to more often is the one in The Village at Briarcliff, which is a little boujee shopping center in between the airport and downtown. Headrush is very homey and when we don’t feel like going far it is the place that makes us feel kind of like we are home. It is a family ran establishment and almost every time we go in, one of the owners is working behind the counter. Headrush’s location is prime real estate because it has a cute outdoor area the overlooks the city.


    All images © Krystal Renee

    There are plenty of other coffeehouses in Kansas City that I haven’t tried yet, but I hope to try all of them! There is so much to discover in Kansas City and I love living here. I definitely miss the California weather and food, but Kansas City has a pretty incredible food scene as well. Coffee places are special to me because we like to visit different ones in each city we travel to. We get to learn a little about the city we are visiting and we get to experience the locals. I think that Kansas City coffeehouses and shops are a great representation of what the city is all about so if you ever find yourself in the city, let’s get some coffee!

    Xoxo,

    Krystal Renee

  • Take Me Back to the Arcade

    Having teen parents seems all fun and games until someone gets in trouble for taking a baby to an inappropriate place. I was born at the end of the fabulous decade of big hair, arcades, and rock concerts, so naturally I had some kind of experience with all three. My dad’s sister would put my hair in curlers (the foam kind), my first concert would be The Doobie Brothers and The Steve Miller Band, and my first experience in an arcade would also be me watching my mom and aunt get busted by my Grams. Granted, I don’t actually remember watching them get busted because I was probably only a few months old, but I have been told the story time and time again.

    Before I get into my story, I would like to briefly mention that I know first time parents don’t know what the heck they are doing, regardless of how old they are, but my parents would never intentionally put me in danger’s way. Considering that my parents were young teenagers when I was a child, I met countless people throughout my childhood and was never kidnapped or abused. I think that says a lot about the people that my parents were friends with because I have heard so many horror stories of abductions and sexual abuse, especially in the 90’s (circa JonBenét). Whether I was being looked after by a grandparent, a friend of a parent, or relative, I was always in good hands.

    My parents and family members would take me everywhere with them. I used to go with my mom to watch my dad play football at his high school, I would go with my uncle and aunts places, and I even went to high school with my mom. I joke all the time that I went to high school twice because technically I did. I believe I even graduated from my baby class when my mom got her high school diploma. The only problem was that sometimes I was taken to places I probably shouldn’t have been. As a child I would go to some parties with my parents and be at home when they had parties at our house. The guests at my first birthday party were nothing but teenagers. In fact, I wasn’t even a year old yet when I got to experience my first arcade adventure. I wish I was old enough to remember it for myself, but second hand stories will have to suffice.

    When I was born, I would spend time between both my parents homes, but my primary home was with my mom, her sister and brother, and my grandmother in a mobile home park. The town I grew up in wasn’t as developed as it is now so everything was within walking distance. My mom and her best friend (whom I call my aunt) decided it would be fun to go to an arcade that was about a mile or less from where we lived. Not thinking twice, they loaded me up in a stroller and took me along for the ride, no big deal. If I remember the story correctly, it was a little chilly outside and I wasn’t exactly dressed for the weather, which was strike number one. (Side note: When I think about the 80’s, especially when it comes to my life stories, I imagine a cheesy 80’s movie on loop). It must have been such an adventure to walk to an arcade with your mom and aunt and to see all of the wonderful neon colors, but I remember none of this. My aunt told me, “We didn’t think anything of it taking you to a smoke filled arcade, I mean gosh, you were with your mom after all.” She was being totally sarcastic though because knowing what they know now, I never would have gone to that arcade with them, but they didn’t know any better. Strike number two was that it was a smoke filled establishment, but because I was with my mom, everything was peachy. However, they were so incredibly wrong. My Grams stormed into that place and confiscated me (my aunt’s words) and exclaimed, “You took a damn baby to the fucking arcade?!” Strike number three: They took me. To a fucking. Arcade. Arcades were not like how they are today. They were smoke filled, teenager and adult filled, germ infested places. Less kid friendly, more cool place to hang out when there was nothing better to do. I can only imagine the looks of the other people that were close enough to hear my Grams scold my mom and aunt. Were other people interested that there was a baby at an arcade? Were they concerned? Did they even care? Short answer, probably not. The 80’s was a time for some weird shit.

    Everytime I hear this story I imagine all of it happening like reverse Donkey Kong where Donkey Kong is the one trying to rescue the princess. Mario and Luigi take Donkey Kong’s precious princess out for a walk when they all of a sudden have to escape Donkey Kong’s wrath and to find safety, they seek shelter in an arcade. Donkey Kong discovers where they are and comes stomping in, demanding that the princess be returned to him. The princess was precious cargo, after all.

    We should all just be thankful that I turned out fine and I don’t have too many quirks. Just kidding, I have a lot of quirks, but that is what makes me, me. Growing up was a lot of fun. I got to hang out with adults all the time and I got to hoard their cash (without them knowing) for future McDonald’s purchases. I learned how to read people and how to be stealthy. Most of all, I learned where NOT to take a child.

    Xoxo,

    Krystal Renee

  • Take Me Back to My Origin

    Happy New Year, Zoo Fam! I am sending all of you good health and well wishes in 2019! As we ring in the new year and work on our resolutions, let us also remember the difficulties we may have faced in 2018. Life can be difficult sometimes and that is perfectly fine.Bounce back and own 2019. I for once had an amazing year filled with accomplishments. I snagged a badass internship with an organization that cares deeply about sexual and reproductive health, I finally received my bachelors degree, I turned 30 years old, and I started this blog! To some people those might not be huge accomplishments, but to me they are and I plan on having an even more accomplishing 2019. It has taken me a long time to get to where I am today and for that I feel grateful and accomplished.

    Today’s blog is about new beginnings and what better way to start the new year off with the story of how my mom found out she was pregnant with me and my quick arrival into this world. Without getting too deep into the conversation of “when does life begin”, I will start my “life” off as when my mom found out she was pregnant with me because that seems like a fair place to start.

    My mom never wanted to have kids. Granted, she was only 16 years old when she had me so who can say 100% that would have been the case when she was older, but we will never know. She went on to have three more children after me so, yeah. Anyway, back to me!

    I was the biggest “oops” that could probably happen, but I was the most loved “oops”. I was never actually seriously referred to as an “oops” (maybe as a joke), but we all know that no one has their shit together at 16 and doesn’t plan on having a child at that age so an “oops” is an appropriate description. My mom kept complaining about stomach pain, so naturally she and my Grams assumed it could be appendicitis. My Grams took her to the hospital and had some tests done. This is where the details get a little fuzzy because I don’t exactly know how the doctor ended up talking to my mom alone, (because she was a minor) but after the exam was finished, the doctor asked my Grams if she would like to go in and see my mother. Once she was inside the room she noticed my mom was crying with her head in her hands. As my Grams entered the room, my mom sobbed into her hands, “they said that there are two heart beats,” meaning my heart beat and my mother’s. My Grams immediately hugged my mom and started to laugh. Laughing in a crisis must run in the family because my aunt (mom’s sister) had the same reaction when my mom told her about the pregnancy. My mom didn’t really have any other symptoms of being pregnant because she still had her period and she grew sideways instead of outward (her words, not mine). It was at this same doctors appointment that she found out she was FIVE months into the pregnancy.

    My mom waited a whole week before she told anyone else about the pregnancy because she wanted to seek out alternative options before making a decision that would ultimately change her and my dad’s life. My mom visited a clinic almost immediately after she found out she was pregnant with me to see about an abortion, but she was too far along and the procedure couldn’t be done. She then weighed the option of putting me up for adoption, but she couldn’t bear the thought of me being in a home where she would have no idea if the people were good people or not. So, ultimately she decided to keep me.

    Now, all of that information that I just shared might sound harsh or cold, but I never once hated my mom for the options she weighed. I don’t blame her for telling me about them either. If I were in her shoes at 16 years old, I probably would have weighed the same options. It also blows my mind that she, as a 16 year old, had the smarts to think of my future when considering putting me up for adoption. She could have said “fuck it” and given zero fucks of where I ended up, but instead, she thought about my future and what kind of home I might be placed in. Yes, she did consider abortion, but she was thinking of my future life. She had no idea what kind of life she could provide for me and we all know that at that age (and era), a majority of the time the responsibility for taking care of a baby as a teen parent falls on the mother. That was a lot of responsibility to consider and it wouldn’t just affect her. The responsibility would fall under anyone who was responsible for my mom and anyone who was responsible for my dad. That is a lot of people’s lives to have to consider.

    She obviously decided not to put me up for adoption because if not, you would probably be reading a completely different type of blog. I was born premature at 7 months gestation. My mom and dad had a whole whopping two months of knowing I was coming and to prepare, but I didn’t even make it long enough for my mom to have her baby shower.

    I was fortunate to be born into two families who valued my life. Life for everyone was altered once I was born and everyone put all of their efforts into making sure I had the best of everything. My birth affected both sides of the family and it was a huge adjustment that was not resolved over night. Not every child born to teen parents, or any parent for that matter, is as fortunate as I was. I’ve lived an incredible life thus far, and it only continues to get better. I am a huge believer in fortuity and all of the decisions my mom and dad made for me has lead me to where I am today in some way or another. I am my future.

    Xoxo,

    Krystal Renee