Valerie Brown-Kuchera

Host and writer, Little Spouse on the Prairie

Host of Little Spouse on the Prairie, a regional comedy feature that airs Sundays at 8:35 a.m. during Weekend Edition.

Find out more about her program here!

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.

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.

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.

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? 

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.

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. 

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.

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.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

One of the lessons we’ve been learning through this long, long, long, long, loooooooong time at home is the difference between assertive, passive aggressive, and flat out aggressive. When a person is cooped up with family 24 hours per day for months on end, one hopes the best and noblest of intentions may rise to the top. A person’s mettle – a deep and abiding strength of character – could manifest. Trying circumstances should bring out a sense of community and make us all truly appreciate our loved ones at a visceral level. Or not.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

In the first weeks of what I assumed would be a month-long shut-down, I was determined to be one of those “use-the-pandemic-to-enrich-my-life types.” I firmly committed to transfer all of my teaching to an engaging online platform, write the best essays ever in my PhD program classes, read meaningful books to expand my horizons, build unforgettable family experiences (and document those experiences in a colorful scrapbook), and do some household projects that we had been putting off.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

I remember a time early in my teaching career – this would have been in the early 1990s – when a particularly virulent strain of flu shut down our local schools for over a week. I have fond recollections of that bonus time. Since I hadn’t gotten sick, I caught up on projects, cooked special meals, and wrote letters to my grandparents and friends. Back then, I didn’t have children.

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

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.

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

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 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.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

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.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

We have trouble with pronouns in our house.  Oh, we are past the pronoun – verb agreement issues that plagued our early courtship.  Once I explained to Joel that I couldn’t, in good conscience, allow him to continue to say, “He don’t,” and “we was,” he eagerly eradicated those problems.  It’s only when he’s engaged in a particularly virulent argument that he regresses.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

We have trouble with pronouns in our house.  Oh, we are past the pronoun – verb agreement issues that plagued our early courtship.  Once I explained to Joel that I couldn’t, in good conscience, allow him to continue to say, “He don’t,” and “we was,” he eagerly eradicated those problems.  It’s only when he’s engaged in a particularly virulent argument that he regresses.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

Teenagers can level a person, especially if that person happens to be their mother. Any time I start feeling a little self-assured, a bit smug, or even relieved that I made a halfway decent parenting choice, I can count on one of my teenagers to pull the smug rug right out from under me.

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