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

Last week I talked about how my teenaged daughter thinks she needs a hedgehog despite the fact that we have a perfectly nice dog.  I thought I had better give a little backstory to how we acquired Juneau, our nine-year-old husky.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

We have a perfectly good dog.  She’s a nine-year-old Siberian husky named Juneau.  Her arrival in our lives coincides with my last weak moment.

What I love about Juneau is that she is long past the puppy stage.  She has settled into a quiet, late-middle-aged dog who calmly patrols the backyard.  This is a huge improvement upon the digging, ripping-open-trash, nipping, yapping, chewing, tearing-off-her-collar, barfing, jumping, running away, yanking the leash, wetting on the porch stage.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

This month on Little Spouse on the Prairie, we are sharing funny stories of pranks and tricks in honor of April Fool’s Day.  Continuing with the theme of ornery teachers, I have a story about one whose birthday is actually on April 1st.  I still haven’t forgiven him. 

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

I don’t respond well to practical jokes.  Typically, I have a pretty violent response.  My hope is always that, when these pranksters see how startled I am by their shenanigans, they will feel remorse and apologize and cease making me the butt of their jokes.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

When Joel and I got married several years ago, he had never attended an estate auction.  Weirdly, he wasn’t even interested in digging through other people’s old junk! Like the good wife that I was, I immediately began conversion therapy. 

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

Miscommunication can provide some hilarious moments in marriage. Frequently, Joel and I can have entire conversations, make detailed plans, and agree on solutions to problems, only to realize a few days later that one participant (or at least I thought he was a participant) in the conversation has no recollection of the exchange at all.  And he claims the only time I really tune in to his vocalizations is when he’s snoring.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

Speaking of board games, why do 12-year-old boys love Monopoly so much?  After a 30-minute negotiation about whether the kids have to play a board game with their parents, our family then spends another 30 minutes trying to decide which game to play. Invariably, my son Dashiell lobbies for Monotony – I mean Monopoly.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

My world works better if things are in their places.  My anxiety is considerably less if the items in the junk drawer are alphabetized.

I did not, however, choose to alphabetize our board game storage. Initially, I did alphabetize, but all of the boxes are different sizes, and that method of filing resulted in haphazard, wobbly stacks.  Incidentally, why on earth don’t game companies band together, for the betterment of humanity, and make all game boxes the same size?

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

Although I talked about nicknames a few episodes ago, I have an update. Joel’s new nickname for me is Large Curd.  I’m just about as impressed with this one as I was Val Movement from back in grade school.  Let me explain.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

The desk chair in our study is vintage.  It’s one of those old oak banker’s chairs with the vertical slats on the back, a scooped seat, and four casters.  It’s a beautiful piece to look at, made even more attractive by the fact that I paid ten dollars for it an auction.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

The third project I tackled during my winter break was by far the largest, and one that I knew was going to take at least two full days.  I wanted to organize our DVDs.

When I told my brother of my plans, he remarked, “You still have DVDs?” 

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

Remember how we discussed the snowballing strategy for tackling debt and long lists of projects?  Despite my initial difficulty with the first sewing task, presumably the smallest job on this list during winter break, I was determined to make this January one of the most productive ever.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

Listeners know, I am not domestically inclined, but I am organized and thrifty.  So, I do have a few redeeming qualities. Optimism, however, isn’t one of those. Weirdly though, the one thing I do usually overestimate is how much I can accomplish in two weeks of winter vacation time.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

Nicknames come about in interesting ways. I have relatives who have received nicknames based on the color of their hair, something funny they said as small children, and, unfortunately, their size.  My very tall and imposing grandma was called Tiny, a name she despised.  A great uncle went by Sauce.  I thought it was because he drank a lot. When he died, his obituary revealed his real name, which I had never heard until then: It was Alfredo.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

Lately, I find myself so busy that I am neglecting my husband. Guilt plagues me.  In an attempt to assuage some of it, I have taken to typing in bed.  That way, I am spending quality time with Joel in one of his favorite spots. 

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. 

Pages