Wintering in Chicago

As keen as the Keenans are on Asuncion, this year we will be wintering in Chicago.  Brian and I haven’t lived in Chicago (or any cold winter climate) in ten years.  Danny and Patrick, both born in California, have never lived in a cold climate.  Dan has never even been to Chicago in the winter and Patrick has only spent a few days in a Chicago winter during Christmas 2011 not long after his first birthday.

While Patrick has at least seen snow up close, it was during a ski trip to Lake Tahoe when he was only four months old.  

The closest Danny has ever come to snow was on distant peaks while visiting Lake Tahoe in the summer and Yosemite in the spring, both before he was seven months old.   

Needless to say, the boys have had minimal experience with cold and snow and have lots of questions. Our nannies in Paraguay dress them in long pants, layered shirts, hats, and jackets when the temperature dips below 70. The preschool director, concerned the kids would get sick, scolded Brian and me for sending the kids to school with no jackets when the temperature was about 68.

In preparation for our Chicago winter, Brian has told Patrick all about snow, snowmen, snow angels, and of particular interest to Patrick, snowball fights.  Brian explained to Patrick that he’ll be able to pack snow together in his hands to form it into a ball, then throw it, and it’ll likely fall apart on impact.  Patrick is fascinated and has shared these details about snowballs with our nanny Maria who, having never left subtropical Paraguay, has even less cold and snow experience than Patrick.  After hearing this information from Patrick, Maria asked Brian, “Sir, what kind of exploding balls do they have in Chicago in the winter?”  Brian clarified to both Patrick and Maria that snowballs do not spontaneously explode but rather fall apart on impact.  Patrick also asked if the trees will have leaves on them in the winter.  Brian said no – the leaves fall off in the autumn and we have to rake them.  What’s “rake” Patrick asked.  These boys have a lot to learn!

Last weekend, Patrick and Danny and I said goodbye to Daddy at the Asuncion airport (he’ll be joining us in Chicago in a few weeks) and started our trip to the U.S. with a two hour late afternoon flight to São Paulo, Brazil.  

In Brazil, I was briefly accused of trying to kidnapping the kids.  Crabby, tired kids who wouldn’t tell the agents their names didn’t help.  We were finally permitted to board the plane for our 11-hour overnight flight to Chicago and we took off right on time.  Patrick and Danny were up way past their bedtime and Patrick asked me several times, “Shouldn’t we be in bed by now?”  Once we took off, the boys watched about 20 minutes of a movie and then fell asleep for nearly the next nine hours.  The flight was not very crowded so we each had our own set of three seats and were able to spread out a bit.      

As soon as we landed, the boys excitedly began looking for snow. 

They were thrilled that our arrival to Chicago came one day after a large early season snowstorm dumped a few inches of snow across the area.   

Once we got to my parents house, the boys couldn’t wait to play in the snow with Grandpa.  They had fun knocking snow off the trees and bushes. 

After, the boys warmed up inside with a little hot chocolate.   

The boys and I spent two nights in Chicago seeing the sights.  We took a train to the city, which the boys loved.  With Aunt Nora, we visited the Field Museum, where the highlights were seeing dinosaurs (especially Sue the T-Rex), pretending to be dinosaurs, and visiting various animals.  

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We kicked off our visit to the Art Institute with Aunt Michele by visiting and imitating the lions in front of the building.  

Inside, we saw the Thorne miniature rooms, knights’ armor, famous paintings, and the Chagall windows. 

At Millennium Park we visited the bean and watched the ice skaters. 

The boys liked seeing giant Christmas trees at the train station and in our hotel lobby. 

They had great time playing in the hotel pool.    

We ate waffles for breakfast and Portillo’s for lunch, the boys pretended to be horses (riding in each other or on the couch), and watched the lake, trains, and Michicagn Avenue traffic.   

 One of the boys’ favorite activities was picking up snow.  Patrick usually looked for the biggest piece he could carry, while Danny was happy with a small piece.  

Thanksgiving highlights at my mom and dad’s house included 22 guests, two turkeys totaling 35 pounds (one oven roasted, one smoked), a puppy named Piper, the confiscation of all cell phones (by my dad’s order), nine of my 11 siblings, a delicious meal, and a very fun night.  

Our time in Chicago is off to a fabulous start!

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