Little Spouse on the Prairie

Airs at 8:35 a.m. CST (During Weekend Edition)

Each week, Valerie Brown-Kuchera brings us Little Spouse on the Prairie, the show where she pokes affectionate fun at her husband, her kids, her home and her rural life, even though she loves them all fiercely.

Little Spouse on the Prairie airs at this same time each week. It is a production of High Plains Public Radio. Written and voiced by Valerie Brown-Kuchera, with music by Kelly Werts, and produced by Ron Rohlf, with assistance from Angie Haflich.

More Little Spouse on the Prairie episodes can be found online at hppr.org.

Want to learn more about the show? Hear her interview with Jenny Inzerillo on High Plains Morning!

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

As listeners know by now, I like stuff.  Little figurines, doodads, knick-knacks, and tchotchkes of all kinds are special to me.  Maybe this fascination with collections stems from my childhood when I didn’t have many extras.  Maybe it’s an early symptom of a hoarding disorder.  

Whatever the reason, I like to sort similar items and display them all together.  My inner self seems to be saying, “Look!  I couldn’t afford a rolling pin 20 years ago, and now I have 19!”  Never mind that I’ve never rolled out dough in my life.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

I’ve never understood the point of denying one’s age, especially among people with whom I graduated. I mean, one of the main reasons I attend my class reunions is to gawk at my decrepit former classmates and thank the dear lord I’m holding it together so incredibly well. 

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

Joel recently retired.  This well-earned rite of passage coincided with a few life changes for me as well.  After much discussion, we decided the time was right for me to enter a new job and start a rigorous degree program. Having Joel at home to walk Clementine to kindergarten, do a few repairs around the house, and importantly, do the cooking and housekeeping, would make it possible for me to achieve some personal goals. 

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

Joel either eats or saves every morsel of leftover food.  And, though I much prefer that he simply pops the last three tater tots in his mouth as we carry the dishes to the kitchen, if for some odd reason, there is even one crumb left, Joel will keep it.  I try to surreptitiously throw away the two shrimp and three macaronis left in the dish before Joel preserves with the idealistic dream that someone will eat these items for lunch tomorrow. 

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

Alexander Graham Bell famously said, “When one door closes, another opens, but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”  We don’t have this problem in our house, because no doors are ever closed.  Cupboards, drawers, toothpaste tubes, toilet seats, milk jugs, toy chests and mouths -- all are fated to remain ever gaping.

One parenting article I read said that people who constantly leave doors and drawers open may suffer from attention and memory issues.  Not shutting doors could also symbolize a deeper difficulty in bringing closure to more serious situations.  "I may be going back to that drawer or cabinet later for something, so I'll leave it open for now," is evidently the subconscious thought.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

Listeners, you already know that I have a bit of a time quieting my mind.  I race from one topic to another, trying to quickly jot things down before I forget.  I have a list app on my phone, I carry a small notepad, and I’ve been known to write on my own skin.

If someone is yelling, singing, or conversing with me while I’m making a list, that distraction causes . . . glitches.  I’ve opened up my little notepad to find the following to-do list: “Get milk, iron slacks, don’t eat that – it will make you sick, buy Joel’s birthday gift, and scratch my back.”

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

We scheduled our family vacation during county fair week this year, in hopes that an exciting trip would distract from the annual expensive foray into the deep-fat-fryer of rural tradition.  My kids have never been involved in 4H (we have more than enough aitches in our lives as it is without adding four more), so we have no obligation to attend. 

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

Some people take using the restroom in peace for granted.  Before I had kids, I never gave much thought to expelling my own waste.  In fact, multitasking was often a natural pairing with using the restroom.  I could mentally compose a grocery list, for example, while simultaneously doing my business. 

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

I’ll never understand the content of modern kid videos.  Maybe it’s the fact that I grew up without a television, and I’m just out of touch with video media in general.  But seriously, what’s the deal with these “unboxing” videos? 

My son will watch Youtube videos of 35-year-old guys taking their latest Lego purchases out of a shipping box, and saying things like, “Dude, this is the latest iteration of the Millenium Falcon.  Unlike the 16th and 17th versions, which contained only 4726 and 4728 pieces respectively, this particular box contains 4732 pieces!

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

Joel does the dishes.  Always.  I’m ashamed to admit this because Joel works all day – as do I – and it doesn’t seem fair that he’s then left with the household chore that I despise most of all. I do struggle from time to time with the old-fashioned idea that doing the dishes is the wife’s job. As a big proponent of equal rights, I’ve decided to deal with the guilt. 

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

You’ve heard about Joel’s hard-working side.  You’ve heard about his bumbling husband role.  You’ve heard about how sociable he is.  But you haven’t heard, unless he’s cornered you at the coffee shop, about his mischievous bent.  Joel is wont to play practical jokes.  And since he’s mastered the well-intentioned -- but forgetful -- guy part so convincingly, he’s ideally positioned to trick people.

The butt of his jokes might, initially, feel mild skepticism: Surely Joel can’t really think this travel-sized tube of toothpaste is Clementine’s prescription skin cream, can he?  Surely, he hasn’t been applying this for the last week instead of the cream from the drugstore.  And yet, the rash is still very angry . . .

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

I’m starting out today with a shout out to the Kansas City musician, Kelly Werts, who composed the theme song for this show, “The Little House Rag.”  I’d like to thank Kelly for writing such a catchy little ditty.  You can hear more of his folksy music at wertsmusic.com. 

While we’re on the subject of music, I may as well fill you in on how different Joel’s and my musical tastes are.  A person who doesn’t like country music on the High Plains is practically committing sacrilege. 

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

Recently, I began to notice that purveyors of print material and packaging designers have started using much smaller fonts than they used to.  This annoyed me, as any consumer study will clearly show that people don’t like to have to squint to make out instructions, recipes, and article content. 

One evening, as I was trying to read a major national newspaper, I made an offhand comment to Joel about this disturbing trend. 

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

We’ve been talking about fears the last couple of weeks.  I’ve shared some of the phobias my teenager and my middle-schooler have inherited from their mother, who has more than enough to go around.  I’d be remiss if I left out my littlest child, Clementine.  I would say the jury is still out on her, since she’s only five.  But that wouldn’t be true.  I don’t think she fears a single thing.  

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

Last week, I talked about how maternal fears impact offspring, even when those children haven’t been specifically conditioned to be afraid.  It’s almost as if they absorb their mother’s abject terror or ingest it in her breast milk.  It’s funny -- I’m not afraid of this program -- but they seem to be.  I would have no idea where they picked up that fear.  Surely their stepdad doesn’t fear it. 

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

I have many fears - probably more than most people, I’m afraid.  Do I have more than most?  I do, don’t I?  I hope my kids don’t inherit this flaw.  They will.  Won’t they? 

Hey, my anxiety is justified!  Research shows children really do inherit phobias from their mothers. 

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

Last week, High Plains listeners got an analogy about how weight gain is essentially like compound interest – as you add kids, you actually have more surface space upon which to pack the pounds, which grows your bottom line more quickly.

Little Spouse On The Prairie: Compound Dieting

Jun 2, 2018
Valerie Brown-Kuchera

As listeners know, Joel loses weight simply by hearing other people talk about their diets.  I, on the other hand, have to muster all my willpower, work out at least an hour a day, and cut my calories to under 500 per week to see progress.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

I’m prefacing today’s sketch, “Fearful Symmetry,” with a couple of disclaimers.  First, I am an incredibly lucky person.  I understand that to be able to poke fun at minor everyday problems is a luxury few people are allowed.  And second, in this episode, names have been changed to protect the asymmetrical. 

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

You already know that, like me, Joel’s a bit sentimental. He likes to hang on to things.  It’s not just his favorite pair of decades-old shoes, either.  In fact, when we first got married, we had a bit of a quandary.  Let’s just say Joel’s preferences in matters of style were, initially, a bit different than mine.  Luckily, his taste has become incredibly similar to mine throughout our marriage.  In fact, it’s remarkable how quickly it has evolved, although I’ve always tried to be respectful of his man cave. 

I want to build up my collection of valuable items to leave for my children.  Though they won’t inherit millions of dollars, I think my children will be even more appreciative of the meaningful items I have been saving for them.  There are several very special doilies that great-grandmothers have made, along with some heirloom salt and pepper shakers. 

Little Spouse On The Prairie: In Sickness And In Health

Apr 28, 2018
Valerie Brown-Kuchera

I saw this meme last week: “During childbirth, a woman’s pain is so intense that she can almost imagine what it’s like when a man has a cold.”  I am very, very lucky.  Joel is rarely if ever, sick, and when he is, he actually retains most of his humanity.

No, Joel is tough when it comes to the common cold or the odd bout of stomach upset.  It’s when there’s an injury involved that he tends to overreact. 

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

I think I’m losing my romantic touch. The other evening I was attempting to flirt with Joel, and I said, “Hey baby, can you do that thing I love so much?” 

He looked up from his newspaper and replied, “The dishes or the laundry?”

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

Welcome to Little Spouse on the Prairie.  Last week, we donated one dollar to HPPR for every new follower on the Facebook and Twitter pages. We’ve extended the promotion because I still haven’t searched the cushions on the basement furniture for loose change.  I’m very externally motivated when it comes to keeping house.  So, if you didn’t follow last week, be sure to go to one or both of those social media sites and pick it up this week so I can get started on the basement.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

Joel’s a saver to the point that he will continue to wear shoes until they are not much more than a few strips of worn leather clinging to a sole.  I’m as budget-conscious as the next person, but when the bottoms of Joel’s work shoes are slicker than snot on a doorknob, as a friend of mine used to say, the hospital bills when he falls off a roof he’s shingling outweigh the cost of a new pair of shoes.  Besides, I’m not a fan of seeing his big hairy hammer-toes any more than I have to.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

I don’t like to cook.  I’m so glad there are people in the world that view cooking as an art because I do love to eat.  My husband, given the opportunity, would enjoy experimenting in the kitchen.  Joel loves to peruse cookbooks and magazines, and about every few months, he grandly announces that he’s going to start making one new recipe per week.  Not only that, he says going to eat healthier.  I guess along with the butter and syrup, he’s going to start putting fruit on his pancakes.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

I live among thieves.  My teenaged daughter, despite regularly commenting on the utter hopelessness of my “old lady” wardrobe, sneaks into my dressing room and pilfers mascara, face cream, and hair accessories. Don’t even get me started on the criminal behavior that she exhibits now that she wears my shoe size.

My middle school son isn’t quite as bad, only occasionally giving in to his baser instincts to filch a few choice pieces of his little sister’s candy hoard. At least he has the decency to show remorse when caught in the act.

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I never camped out as a kid.  My parents weren’t campers.  We didn’t even own a tent.  At the time, I felt righteously indignant.  What kind of childhood doesn’t include sleeping in a tent at the lake?  I swore, when I grew up and had kids of my own, I would never, ever, ever, put them through the human rights violation of NOT camping. 

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

To be honest, I may put on a show of indignation about my husband’s old-fashioned ways, but secretly, I am glad that Joel feels it is a “man’s job” to gas up the car, change the oil, and complete basic maintenance on our vehicles in preparation for family vacations.

Other men swear they will never drive a minivan.  Other men, as they add children to their lives, progress from a tough, extended-cab truck on to a four-wheel-drive SUV before succumbing to the humiliation of the dreaded van.   Other men, especially out here on the plains, where men are men and trucks are trucks, sure as hell don’t need some foreign-made vehicle parked in the garage.  Not my Joel.  Joel has harbored an unfulfilled longing for a minivan since he was in his early twenties. 

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