Our Own Little House

This week, at the library, I checked out some illustrated Little House on the Prairie books for my daughters.

It’s been a long time since I read the series or watched the Michael Landon + Melissa Gilbert episodes on TV, and reading the stories as an adult, it struck me that Laura’s perspective must’ve differed vastly from her mother’s.

To Laura, living in their Little House in the Big Woods (in Wisconsin) was a grand adventure, and then Pa felt that the land around him was becoming too crowded and set off for Kansas in a covered wagon.

The children’s book illustrations are exquisite, depicting Mary’s and Laura’s rosy cheeks, smiling faces, and bouncy, clean hair. But I am sure the reality was far from this depiction. The Ingalls were traveling by wagon, after all, and the dirt and the dust would’ve inevitably blown up around them, lodging like sand in their hair, mouth, and eyes. Plus, Caroline had a third daughter at this point, a baby named Carrie.

As I sat there on the couch, with my blonde and brunette daughters on either side of me, and another daughter hiccupping in my womb, I could picture Caroline out there in the prairie, making pancakes over an open fire like she did in the book.

She must’ve been tired. Bone-tired to the point where all she could think about was a warm bath and sleep. So the fact that Laura, as an adult, wrote about her childhood with such nostalgia is an incredible testament to Caroline’s perseverance and ability to make even one of the most trying times in their family’s life appear like an adventure.

After reading these stories, I jokingly told my husband he is a lot like Charles Ingalls. My husband dreams about moving and mountains like some men dream about buying a three-story house or a speed boat.

I wish I could be more like Caroline and just pack up our wagon and head out into the wild blue yonder with my husband, our three girls, and a dog named Jack. But the reality is often far removed from the dream. There are moments—so many moments—that I miss our own Little House in Wisconsin.

I miss the creak of the windmill, and the harsh division of the seasons, so that they didn’t tumble all together but clipped by like images on a screen. And yet sometimes I honestly felt like Caroline flipping pancakes in that open prairie, desperate to make a trying time into an adventure.

I don’t often talk about my husband’s surgery anymore, because enough time has passed that my husband and I try to forget that it even happened, though we will always be grateful it did. But I do remember the insecurity I felt, knowing our family was twelve hours away.

We had so many wonderful family members and friends around us, but there’s something about moms and dads, sisters and brothers that allows you to take a deep breath, knowing all you have to do is reach out, and the people closest to your heart will circle their wagons and hem you in until you and your family can get back on your feet.

And this is where I am: I yearn to homestead. I want six hens that I can spoil with kitchen scraps and gather, in return, their smooth brown eggs. I want a garden that is small enough not to be overwhelmed by weeds but large enough to provide food for my family. I want to learn how to make sourdough bread that doesn’t have to be fed to the chickens (like my rolls last week) and pick up yogurt-making again.

I want a simple life. I want many of the things it seems we left behind when we moved back to family, but I want my family as well. I want adventure and familiarity. I want cooking over an open fire and a hot bath; homesteading and a night on the town.

Perhaps these two viewpoints are mutually exclusive, but I’m hoping they are not. I guess, eventually, our story will tell. Or maybe one of my three daughters will tell it. And I hope they perceive our life as a grand adventure, even if sometimes I make those pancakes on a griddle in the kitchen rather than over a spider skillet in the open prairie.

Do you yearn for a grand adventure? If so, how do you pursue it?


Jolina is a wife, mama, daughter, friend, and oftentimes stubborn child of God who loves dramatic soundtracks, old books, new places, abandoned trails, people-watching, telling stories, pulling weeds, and petting chickens. She's glad you're here.

12 thoughts on “Our Own Little House

  1. Your writings are an inspiration to me! I used to have dreams like yours! I had a garden & learned to can; I took a hunter’s safety course & learned to use a .12 shot gun–My 4 kids grew up on venison & fish, & home canned food; I have a motorcycle endorsement & have been white water rafting…then the kids’ dad walked out when they were 6,9,10½ & 13– I’m 66 now, still working full time, not able to retire until my house is paid for (yes, I’m paying extra on the mortgage, and I want to do a Debt Free Scream on the Dave Ramsey show!: ) There’s a saying, Enjoy your kids when they’re little, b/c they grow up so fast…It was a long haul as a single parent, but now I have 3 precious grandsons, 12½, 9 & 11 months!& time has flown by! GOD is faithful in every season! It is ok to be homesick for WI–I still miss MN after being in OH for 33 years! I try to find the blessings for today! (“try” being the operative word some days!)

    1. You ARE a pioneer woman, Ms Barb, even if you don’t live on the prairie. A pioneer woman exudes resilience, independence, and determination. After reading your story, I know that you would make Caroline Ingalls proud. 🙂

  2. You are so right, Jolina. Ma was the unsung hero of those books. I imagine she longed for her old Wisconsin home, too, that first time she laid eyes on the soddy.

    It says so much that Laura, looking back, saw both her parents in such a loving light. Only rarely do we see Ma more upset than a mild, “Charles. You’re scaring the girls,” and, chuckling, he picks up his bow and whisks them away to the land of Old Grimes. (LISTEN to this song! You will love it! https://open.spotify.com/track/5A4KDD5lbZl6lY7z5Bj1qM)

    So much richness in there beyond how to make cheese and trump Nellie Oleson. You make me want to go dig it back out and read it for the kids!

    Why, oh why, did we not talk about books when we were younger? Girl, in heaven, we got some catchin’ up to do! Make sure to ask me to tell you about the first time I butchered a chicken! And your chicken time will come. David got me six baby pullets, and after over four years without them, it’s all the more sweet. Love you!

    1. I know! Here we were both book nerd neighbors and didn’t even know it! 😉 I got the Little House series for Adelaide two Christmases ago, and I think she’s ready for me to start reading them to her now. She loves playing “Mary, Laura, and Carrie” with her baby dolls. It’s so sweet. 🙂

  3. Call me nutty but I think you can have both. I think you can bring your homesteading spirit closer to a city/home/family. I think you can have a little patch with chickens, outdoor skills, an old world way, and live simply.

    1. I agree, Judy! There are people who “homestead” on a tiny patch of land in Florida. I think it’s all about one’s mentality. We actually have 40+ acres here, but my husband isn’t a fan of TN’s heat, so it’s hard for him to imagine actually homesteading. But he’s already planted fruit trees, and I am going to get chickens (he doesn’t know this yet), so slowly but surely we will get there. 😉

  4. It makes my heart SO happy that new generations of children are becoming acquainted with Little House on the Prairie. I worked in a grade school that allowed us to use this as a reading unit every year. To watch those student’s faces as they became engaged in hearing the words of the Ingall’s simple lives was so wonderful. Then to see it in their eyes, as they truly understood how happy children could become over such simple gifts at Christmas, the joy in simple meals & games together, and their pleasure in Pa’s fiddle … it was magic for me too! I can’t help but feel that you are making wonderful memories with your girls too, Jolina. “Life is an Adventure” is as much an attitude as it is actions … and every time I open your blog, I read ADVENTURE in big, bold letters!

    1. Oh, Nann, how I love this depicting of you reading to your students in the classroom. I fell in love with words because of my second grade teacher, who understood my struggle to read and helped me overcome it. So thank you for teaching other students to love stories as well. I bet many writers will come from such a group! 😀

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