• 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?


    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!


    Krystal Renee

  • Take Me Back to Christmas Part 2

    Since both sides of my family are crazy cheesy fanatics for the holidays, I experience every holiday like they are straight out of the movies, or so it seems. Growing up on my dad’s side of the family, we would get together with the WHOLE family. I am talking 2nd, 3rd, and 4th cousins, maybe even 5th. It was crazytown, yet fantastic.

    First and foremost you have to understand that my dad’s side of he family is huge. My immediate family on that side is probably average in size, but when you take into consideration the extended family, it grows exponentially. To this day I still have not met the entire family.

    Since my parents had me so young, I was fortunate enough to know my great grandparents on my dad’s side for a very long time. We would spend a lot of my childhood Sundays and holidays at their house. Christmas time on my dad’s side of the family was always an adventure, more so when my three other siblings came along because it was always a fun time trying to get everyone ready to go. When my great grandparents were still alive, everyone would venture on over to their house in Azusa, California for a fun filled day of activities. We would also go to a Knights of Columbus dinner around Christmas time and Santa, who looked a lot like my grandpa, would come all the way from the North Pole to Visit our clan. The Knights of Columbus dinner was always held at the Knights of Columbus Hall and fortunately it was big enough to fit our family and close friends. Santa would bring us candy filled mesh Christmas stockings (do these still exist?) and he’d magically have enough for my entire family. Back then no RSVP was needed so how the hell did Santa know how many stockings to bring? As an adult, I feel as though I still do not have my shit together, even when requiring an RSVP. What kind of witchcraft is that? Anyway, Santa would patiently sit there and listen to what every one of my cousins wanted for Christmas and send them on their way. When I was old enough to know that it wasn’t the real Santa, I would crawl up on to his lap, lean over and whisper, “Hi Papa”. He would then smile and give me some nonsense about how he wasn’t my Papa, but the actual Santa. I loved him more for that. He would then give me a mini candy cane with my mesh stocking and send me on my way. I am not sure if he remembers this like I do, but I didn’t realize how special those moments were until I was a little older. I will cherish them until the day I die.

    Santa (Papa & Me) circa 2003-ish

    Around the same time as the Knights of Columbus Christmas dinner, we would go over to my great grandparents house to do a gift exchange with my extended family. Throughout the entire day, approximately 50 people (give or take a few) would come and go. My extended family includes my great aunt and great uncle’s families. I thought that getting together with extended family was a normal thing, but as I got older, I realized that my friend’s family’s didn’t do that. I am not sure how the gift exchange was organized, but it always worked out. I always remember being shy when initially getting to my great grandparents house, but eventually I would start to play with my cousins. I think I was intimidated by the amount of kids that were there since I was used to being the only child.

    As soon as I would walk into my great grandparents’ house, I would be hit with the smell of menudo and I would start to salivate. To me, the smell of menudo is like a security blanket because as soon as I smell it, I feel comfort and safety. I would be greeted at the door by my great grandma with a big hug and my great grandpa would be either sitting at the table or in the backyard doing something with the family (because they got there on time). Our family (my dad cough* cough*) would tend to arrive a little late, but surprisingly we weren’t always the last ones to arrive. By the time everyone got there we would start the gift exchange. It was the 90’s and my family is Latino so you can probably guess the wicked cool things we got.

    After the exchange was finished, us kids would go play among ourselves and the parents would drink and be merry. It was amazing that we got home safely because it was a full day of drinking and eating for the adults.

    I will always have a special place in my heart for the memories I have of the Christmases spent at my great grandparents’ house and the Knights of Columbus because of how much time I spent there. Once my great grandma passed away, the family rarely got together anymore. She was like a magnet that we were all pulled towards. She was definitely the matriarch of the family. As a matter of fact, both my parents families are matriarchies. Boss lady’s all around and for that I am thankful.

    Happy Holidays!


    Krystal Renee

  • Take Me Back to Christmas Part 1

    Who really remembers the last moment or time they believed in Santa Claus? I think for most people that is a tough question because as we get older, our memory fades or changes. I have many memories where I remember being excited about Christmas and the lore of Santa Claus, but there is only one time that I explicitly remember thinking Santa was a real person, but before I share that memory with you, let me give you a glimpse into my life during the holidays when I was a child. I had to break this into a two part post because I will be describing memories from when I was extra young and from when I was a little bit older. Either way, both deserve their own post.

    I was incredibly lucky to be born into two families who love the holidays. Being the first child and grandchild on both sides of my family was pretty cool because I got to reap the benefits even more during the holidays. I was the only child around so I received double the attention and double the love. I was a very well mannered kid who rarely asked for anything so when Santa Claus came to visit, it was a real treat because I felt like Santa really understood me since he gave me everything I asked for. I miss the magic of Christmas that I once believed in as a child. I still wholeheartedly believe in Christmas magic, but it just feels different as an adult. The excitement of knowing the stockings would be magically filled in the morning and we would be eating papas and chorizo for breakfast was elating. The anticipation of christmas was and still is a gift in itself. Maybe some of that magic will come back once I have kids of my own. Growing up, I never knew what to expect at family gatherings and to this day I expect the unexpected. Getting together with family as an adult can be incredibly fun and harmonious, or it could be a complete nightmare. Either way, it was and is always a surprise.

    I lived in Southern California growing up and believe it or not, it wasn’t hot as f*** in December like it sometimes is now. We were actually able to wear simi heavy winter clothes and the ski resorts got actual snow and didn’t have to make their own (and they say global warming isn’t an actual thing :p). It was actually cold enough to put our heaters on. As silly as it sounds, the sound of the heater actually triggers happy thoughts for me during Christmas time. My Grams used to live with us for a while and she had this gigantic entertainment center that was in the living room. During the holidays, the entertainment center was home to a lot of Christmas decorations. Among those decorations were our stockings which hung from the shelves instead of the fireplace. Red, green,orange, and blue Christmas lights intertwined with the decorations and stockings on the shelves, while fake cotton snow was shoved in between ceramic Santas. The reflection of the Christmas lights on the entertainment center and Christmas tree would bounce off the ceiling and twinkle all over the room. We would leave them on all night so we could hold on to the magic as we slept. I was a weird kid who liked to occasionally sleep in the living room anytime of the year, but I especially enjoyed it during the holidays. The heater would kick on and the smell of the heater and christmas tree would find its way to me, and I would open my eyes to find the bright reflection of the christmas lights dancing in front of me. I couldn’t see anything else but the lights and couldn’t smell anything else but the heater and christmas tree. It was an amazing thing to experience and it is what I think of today to remind myself of what the magic of Christmas is. When I had those moments as a child, I knew that Christmas was coming and with that came the claymation movies, Alvin and the Chipmunks (record, not movie), the music, the food, and so much more. Those were some of the things that made up the Christmas season in our household and those are the things I look forward to and hope to share with my children someday.

    Most people would probably agree that the best thing about Christmas is getting together with family. While I agree that this is awesome and fun (and I definitely cherish my family and time together), one of the most special things to me about Christmas is my stocking. My Grams made all of our stockings from scratch and each one with a different pattern. Not one of them is the same. In fact, my dad’s stocking is extra long because he is extra tall. The stockings are so special to me that when my Grams was still alive, I asked her to make a stocking for Justin even though at this point in time we hadn’t even said ‘I love you’ yet. It was a big risk to take, but I am glad that I did because it was also at this point in time that her health began to decline rapidly. Because her health was failing, she gave her stocking pattern to my aunt and had my aunt sew them for her, but it is still just as special. So now Justin and our dog Juno (and subsequent dogs) have their very own Grams stocking. Why is it that we cherish things more when the people we love the most are gone?

    Now that you know part of what makes Christmas so special to me, I will share with you the one memory that sticks out in my mind of the last time I believed Santa Claus was real. It was before my parents were married and I split time in between both grandparents houses. When I was with my mom, we lived with my Grams and during this specific Christmas, I was probably about three or four years old. My Grams was opening her gifts and there was a beautiful small package that was meant for her from Santa. I remember being excited for her to open it merely for the fact that my relatives were embellishing that the gift was from “Santa”. If I remember correctly, it was a beautiful pair or ruby earrings. They may have not been ruby, or even red, but I remember her getting earings and everyone was in awe. Maybe I am remembering this incorrectly because I was three or four years old, but it has stuck in my mind ever since. I couldn’t believe that Santa loved my Grams so much that he would bring her a pair of such beautiful earrings. We weren’t well to do and literally everyone on both sides of my family worked their asses off to provide, so I was surprised at such a fancy gift. The love and thoughtfulness behind such a special gift is part of the magic of Christmas I miss so much.

    Live and love well this Christmas, Zoo Fam. Stay tuned for Part 2.


    Krystal Renee