The Week of the Polar Vortex

I should’ve known The Week of the Polar Vortex would go down in the record books. But, in our case, it wasn’t for snow.

We woke up on Monday to a world gone white. I bundled Miss A—our toddler-age daughter—within an inch of her life, and we went for a walk outside.

It was so bitterly cold that I called my husband when we were on the half-mile lane and asked him to please pick her up. Then I continued walking, snapping pictures until my fingers grew numb and the sun was a golden egg, balanced on the horizon.

1545954_622131193412_341915100_n 1536449_622131258282_1936365629_n 1525272_622131238322_2078462621_n 1522208_622131323152_2085256948_n 1512642_622131303192_924068763_n 1422415_622131168462_2040065255_n

I started to think that maybe I was made for the artic tundra. I was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, but moved to Tennessee when I was three. Still, my father’s stories–about the great blizzards layering everything with snow like pillows of down–were alluring and whimsical.

I imagined snowshoeing across the lowland with my wolf-looking dog at my side and a heavy wool hat pulled over my pigtail-braided hair.

Then our pipes froze and burst, popping my fantasy bubble.

The day before it happened, my husband showed me how to turn the water off down in the basement. He had worked for hours upon hours the previous day, thawing the outdoor faucets until the bathroom’s hot water gushed into the tub.

I thought we had surmounted the obstacle until I heard a sound like a shower running. I put on my muck boots and trudged outside. The outdoor faucet was just dripping.

I came back inside and touched the carpet. Wet.

Heart pounding, I grabbed Miss A and ran down to the basement. I shut the water off and called  my husband. He came home early from work and started tearing out the wall to reach the pipes.

This was on Wednesday. By that evening—insulation peppering the soggy carpet and a dehumidifier running at . . . er, full steam—I noticed that Miss A was unusually grumpy and the glands of her neck were swollen.

By Thursday, she was obviously coming down with something. Around ten o’clock at night, she started crying and coughing and did. not. stop.

My husband—having ingested something foreign earlier that day, which we still cannot pinpoint—broke out into hives that gradually grew so severe he could barely walk.

Meanwhile, I sprawled on the couch with our daughter on my chest, watching the fans on our front porch clip shadows over the moonlight and counting the milliseconds until dawn, when I knew her breathing would grow less labored.

My husband’s hives and my daughter’s bronchitis both grew more severe. On Saturday, my husband drove to urgent care while I drove to get our daughter’s prescription filled for a form of steroids. She was wheezing so badly by that point the pharmacist thought she had asthma.

I’d planned to keep the prescription on hand, just in case her lungs locked up that night, but the pharmacist’s concern alarmed me so much that I found myself administering the medicine in the parking lot.

Then, a sunbeam pierced our felt-gray clouds.

My precious husband—doped up on his own dose of steroids (at urgent care, they had rushed him back and put him on an IV)—agreed to take the midnight shift so I could sleep.

At five, I crept downstairs to check on my family. My daughter and husband were both sleeping in our bed: though feminine and beautiful—with her fever-sweated curls and long lashes—her features are an exact replica of his.

It almost brought me to tears to watch them both finally getting some rest. Instead, I crept back upstairs and slept some more.

By the time the sun rose, we were all on the mend.

How about you, any stories about the Week of the Polar Vortex? And the above video is just for fun. Isn’t the little girl adorable?


Visit with Jolina at

The following two tabs change content below.
Jolina Petersheim, bestselling author of The Midwife and The Outcast, and her husband share the same unique Amish and Mennonite heritage that originated in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, but now live on a solar-powered farm in the Driftless Region of Wisconsin with their young daughters. Visit with Jolina at

Latest posts by Jolina Petersheim (see all)

Subscribe to the Newsletter

Get emails about new blog posts, new book releases and more!


  1. Lisa Wingate says

    Oh, Jolina, what a week! This reminds me of the time we all had the stomach bug at once when the boys were little. “Endurance test” doesn’t even begin to describe times like that. They do make for good stories afterward, though 😉

    Love, LOVE the video of the first walk on the ice, and this brought tears to my eyes, too: “At five, I crept downstairs to check on my family. My daughter and husband were both sleeping in our bed: though feminine and beautiful—with her fever-sweated curls and long lashes—her features are an exact replica of his.”

    Your little sweetie has a great mama who’s also a great writer. I’m so glad we have you on the porch!


  2. Melanie Backus says

    Oh Jolina, what a time you and your family had. One of those dreadful things would have been bad enough much less all of them. I love Little A’s experience on the ice. Priceless! Have a great day!

    • says

      Hey, Melanie! Good to “see” you here! We made it through the crazy week, and though the wall isn’t fixed, we’re physically on the mend. :) Hope you’re staying healthy and happy wherever you are!

  3. says

    Oh, Lisa! I cannot imagine taking care of TWO sick children! And then, of course, once they’re feeling their perky little selves again, the parents are dragging around the house. So grateful to be here on the porch, too, and the sun is shining! :)

  4. Julie Cantrell says

    Jolina, Jolina, Jolina….I am SO sorry to read about your incredibly scary slope of events…but I love the way you captured it all so beautifully and cannot stop watching and rewatching the amazing little video clip of Miss A. Reminds me so much of all our little bundled up days living in colder climates.
    Hugs to you and happy healing to you all.
    The best thing about cold weather…more snuggle time!

    • says

      Hey, J! We all got through it, and it was an excuse to light some candles, drink tea, and cuddle her on the couch all day long. Those days don’t come around often enough. And I feel that I’ve stolen credit for this cute video! Karen Watson shared it with me last week, but that little girl looks a whole lot like Miss A–chubby cheeks and all! :)

  5. Shellie says

    I almost spit my coffee on my new laptop when that precious child tumped over. And no, spell check I will not change that unidentifiable word. Tumped is exactly what she did. Bless her heart! Glad everyone is on the mend, Jo– including those blasted pipes!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.