Since the central heat in Moscow is controlled by the government (we do not even have a thermostat in our apartment), there is usually a space of several weeks or more where the temperature outside has dropped dramatically, and therefore the temperature in your home has as well. But, you must wait for the heat to get turned on by whoever is in charge of that. I read somewhere that the temperature outside must stay below some point consecutively for few days before the heat gets turned on, but I’m not really sure if that's it or if it just gets turned on a specific day each year. Whatever the case, it gets COLD in the apartment! We make soups and baked goods to attempt to warm the house a little, but it’s never good enough.
We put off using a space heater for few weeks, only because I have heard how dangerous they can be, but in the end, we plugged it in Bruce’s room in desperation. His room is the corner bedroom and is on two outside walls. Not only does it get very cold in his room, but I also hang up the laundry in there to dry, and when it’s so cold, they DO NOT dry very quickly. Sometimes it takes two days for things to dry, and when you have a large family and lots of laundry to do, it’s very inconvenient!
The space heater worked well for a week or so, and we would occasionally switched rooms, but it was still unbearably cold in the rest of the apartment. Unfortunately, one day the space heater started smelling really badly and it seemed it died on us. When we contacted our landlord about it, he said he remembered it from his childhood. So, apparently it has lived a good life as a space heater. Our landlord consented to let us replace it.
Jon and I both grew up in central Utah and winters are quite mild, especially compared to here in Russia. I don’t think we were very prepared, then, with the knowledge of how to dress appropriately for such extreme cold. We fumbled a lot with dressing us and our children properly this fall, and we believe that when our children got sick, their symptoms only worsened because they were not dressed warm enough. I’m sure the boys’ teachers thought we were idiot parents. In the fall, children in Moscow dress like children in central Utah do during the winter.
I won’t go into detail about the extremes of our children's congestion, pink eye, ear infections, and fevers, or all the many, many doctors visiting our apartment and our visits to doctors clinics, plus, all the medications, but all I will say is that it was, in a word, PAINFUL!
I usually have a very sensitive nose, but I was surprised that when William was so sick and full of infection, I could actually smell it and it was a sickening scent! Poor baby!
In the very beginning of all this mess, when the illness seemed like a simple cold, a local friend (whose husband is Russian) had mentioned to us that her in-laws had gotten her son a pair of tights. Apparently, it is common for Russian boys to wear tights. The following week, when we took the boys to kindergarten, we noticed the tights on the other boys along with the girls. At first, I thought the idea of boys wearing tights was a little funny. Later, I thought it was fine, just not something I would have my boys wear. However, when the apartment got so bitterly cold, and the children were so very sick, Jon and I decided we needed to do anything we could to keep our children warm.
We were not able to bring many blankets with us to Russia, but every blanket we did have was on someone’s bed. We began to get proficient at layering clothing day and night. At its worse, William wore a long-sleeved onesie, tights, socks, two pairs of pajamas (one cotton and one footed fleece), and was zipped up into a SleepSack, and I still worried about him being warm enough. In the morning, his fingers and nose were still like little ice cubes.
Jon was teasing William one cold morning and wrapped him tightly in a blanket to help keep him warm.
We obviously couldn't leave it on long because if he'd fallen, he would have landed flat on his nose without his hands.
(Don't worry, we only left it on long enough for a picture.)
That’s right, we ended up getting our boys tights! One afternoon, after visiting the doctors, we stopped at the mall and an outdoor Belarus market and purchased each of the boys their own tights. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that boys tights are not feminine at all. William’s tights had cars and lions, and Bruce and James got grey, and blue striped from the mall, and (at the Belarus market) we found some Spiderman tights. Bruce and James were especially excited about their Spiderman tights!
Besides, it was a good thing that we purchased tights especially for William. When we were out and about and William was in his stroller, several babushki (Russian grandmas) would point out as we passed by that some of his ankle, between his socks and pants, were exposed, however insignificant, because his pants would ride up while sitting in the stroller.
The boys' tights line drying
I was hesitant at first at the idea of my boys wearing tights, but I have become fully converted! I love those tights that help keep their little legs warm! And, guess what? On another visit to the doctor’s, we mentioned our surprise over boys wearing tights to Jon’s Russian aid from the University, and he admitted that when it gets bitterly cold outside, even Russian men, just like Russian women and children, will wear tights under their pants. Winter in Russia is not for woosies! I don’t think it’s such a bad idea that everyone wears tights. I would say they would be better than long underwear anyway.
Cute little bum!
Thankfully, the heat in our apartment has finally been turned on, and our family is feeling much better now. There must have been a problem with the residential heat in our area because our heat was turned on much later than other people’s, but it’s on now and we are grateful. I have been able to go without wearing a jacket inside for week! Yay!
With how cold and miserable our apartment was for so long, Jon and I have decided that we will not complain this winter when the central heat is blazing uncontrollably in our apartment and we have to crack some windows for relief. Oh, wonderful, blessed warmth!