Sometimes I wonder if it’s possible that there are past lives, that maybe we all have lived before and maybe we will come back again once this round is over. I guess I don’t really believe in that, but I do believe in energy and something I know about energy is that it doesn’t just disappear, it transfers. I’m certain that some of the energy, some of the life that was enveloped into the body of Laura Ingalls Wilder was transferred into me when I first opened up the book Little House on the Prairie.

My mom had a shelf built into the wall next to her bed. It was full of Harlequin romance novels and a blue boxed set of books on the top shelf. They were at the top of the shelf waiting, being saved for when my mother’s children were old enough to read. I know this space well now that I’m a mother, little places in your home that you set things aside for “someday.”

1992 de smet south dakota indianapolis kids laura ingalls wilder homestead

Like Mother, Like Daughter: My friend Marlene and me all dressed up with our handmade covered wagon. Fast forward: My Lulu & Scout on Laura’s homestead in South Dakota.

There aren’t enough stories about Laura to fill my soul. There isn’t enough information out there to explain a lifetime, but I’ve learned to make do. My sister and I would rush outside every day after school, bringing our dolls along. We played in our family garden, we picked plants and leaves and made “dinner” fit for prairie girls. The tomatoes were harvested (sometimes too early) and we felt at one with our favorite characters. We build covered wagons and forged rivers and brought our little dog Penny along with us as we traipsed through the yard, preparing our homestead.

Laura Ingalls wilder homestead with kids south dakota #familytravel things to do de smet

I could spend hours watching them run around Laura’s prairie — and I did.

I watched that Laura Ingalls energy rush into the tiny bodies of my two little girls this summer. We made a stop in De Smet, South Dakota and had lunch at Ward’s Store and Bakery, right across the street from where Pa Ingalls had his store. Afterwards, we skipped down to a general store and bought beautifully sewn prairie outfits for the girls, complete with bonnets and coordinating dresses and bonnets for their American Girl dolls.

After this, we set out in our Honda, Odyssey for the homestead. In my heart I was riding shotgun in a covered wagon next to my husband. Like Ma and Pa Ingalls, all of our favorite possessions were in this modern day wagon and the people we loved were tucked safe inside.

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The school bell rang and it was time for school in the little old schoolhouse.

I could tell you so many things about Laura’s Living Prairie, but I’d rather show you. I’d rather you go have your own adventure and see what I saw in my children. Let me also tell you that my tiny, little, just turned six year old has been barreling her way through the Little House on the Prairie series this summer. You should see this girl read. You should feel the connection she has…I’ve felt it too.

indy with kids prairie laura ingalls wilder south dakota de smet

We spent the afternoon making our own jump ropes, corn cob dolls, doing laundry and other “chores.”

Last month, shortly after we returned home from South Dakota, I heard sobbing really late at night and into my room ran my six year old, Lulu. She was red faced, eyes swollen, tears pouring out of her eyes. “Laura’s bulldog Jack is dead!” She had been reading. Unsure how to proceed, I sat there wide eyed, looking at her. “They had to leave him behind when they crossed the river. He can’t swim! He’s gone! She’ll never see him again!”

Laura Ingalls wilder homestead with kids south dakota #familytravel things to do de smet (1)

Lulu is in her element in the school house.

Why?! Why couldn’t I recall what happened here. Telling her that prairie life is hard and that things happen didn’t feel good enough so I hugged her, told her I loved her and sent her off to bed. Over an hour later I got up to go to the kitchen and heard the sobbing so I walked in and consoled her as best as I could. This loss was so real, so personal. I understood.

See what types of homes Laura's family lived in, check out the covered wagons and play.

See what types of homes Laura’s family lived in, check out the covered wagons and play.

Three days later I hadn’t heard another thing about it until we were walking inside, carrying groceries and I heard her squeal loudly, “MOM! I forgot to tell you! Jack found them! Jack, Laura’s bulldog found them! He COULD swim and he crossed the river and found them!”

You’ll spend a minimum of two hours if you hurry through but we spent half of our day exploring Laura’s homestead. I wish we had arrived earlier because my children would have loved running around all day long. Admission is $12 for ages 5 and up and includes everything. If you let the staff know, you can even return another day if you want to come back! Activities are offered daily from the end of May until the end of September. When we return, we hope to camp in a covered wagon!

A favorite part of the day was when the girls got to "drive the horses and wagon."

A favorite part of the day was when the girls got to “drive the horses and wagon.”

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