Little Spouse on the Prairie

Airs Sundays 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

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.

Little Spouse On The Prairie: Nickers

May 16, 2020
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.

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

Several years ago, my husband went through a beef jerky stage.  Actually, it was more of a preserved meat stage, because he didn’t just eat beef, and he didn’t just eat jerky.   We had beef sticks, horseradish salami, summer sausage, pepperoni, turkey bites, steak strips, garlic infused pemmican, hot and spicy links, Slim Jims, barbecued bacon chunks, jalapeno pickled sausages, chili-mango pork nuggets.  Open our snack cupboard and you’d see the equivalent of Bubba Gump’s shrimp products in dried flesh in there.

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.

Courtesy

Several years ago, my husband went through a beef jerky stage.  Actually, it was more of a preserved meat stage, because he didn’t just eat beef, and he didn’t just eat jerky.  

We had beef sticks, horseradish salami, summer sausage, pepperoni, turkey bites, steak strips, garlic infused pemmican, hot and spicy links, Slim Jims, barbecued bacon chunks, jalapeno pickled sausages, chili-mango pork nuggets. 

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

My son recently had a birthday. Dashiell, a big teenager, had broken three cheap bikes within the last year and a half by taking them on rough terrain and popping wheelies. And now, he was without a functioning bike again. I felt it was pointless to get the kid yet another inexpensive bicycle made for a small person, so all his parents, stepparents, and grandparents went together to buy him an entry-level mountain bike.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

Recently, I underwent a process called “biometric screening.” This process serves as a way to identify health risks and plan preventative actions. Also, it is a way for my insurance company to monitor the overall health of the population it serves. And third, it scares me healthy for a few months following the tests. A side effect is the humiliation I feel during the whole rigamarole.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

I come from a long line of jokesters. I may be the only person in my direct line who did not inherit the desire to prank the people I love. In fact, my family members tell me that their desire to play tricks on me is evidence of their deep and abiding care for me. Nevertheless, I don’t get too tickled when my family members decide it’s time to dust off the ol’ squirting lapel flower just about the time I have my hair styled to perfection.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

I believe every family has its mysteries. Every clan has the old, unanswered questions like, “Whatever happened to Granddad’s ’57 Chevy?” and “Who ended up with Grandma’s peacock brooch?” and “What is the secret ingredient in Aunt Carol’s rhubarb pie?”

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

Due to a technical glitch, Muddin' did not air on Jan. 26, 2020. So HPPR is airing it this week. Enjoy!

One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to spend more active time outdoors. It’s hard to get a good start on a resolution like this because: January. High plains. Wind chill. Need I say more?

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

A few Tuesdays ago, I noticed Joel limping a bit, dragging his right leg. I asked him what was the matter. “Knee’s a little sore. Don’t know what I did,” was his response.

“Maybe you should rest it,” I suggested. “Do you need some ice?”

“No, I don’t need ice. Good grief. Geesh. You think I’m a weakling?” he grumped.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

One evening, Joel asked if he should make two packages of cheese sauce for our hot, buttery pretzels. I said, “No. One should do. If we run low, we can always make another one.”

When we sat down to eat, a gigantic bowl of cheese sauce was sitting on the table. “This is only one package of cheese sauce?” I asked. I was impressed with the plentitude.

“No. That’s three. You said we needed another one.”

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

I didn’t become a mother until I was into my 30s. One might think I’d be wiser for having a few extra years on me before tackling the awesome responsibility of parenthood. However, when it came to establishing meaningful, yet reasonable, holiday traditions, this did not prove the case.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

I’ve been thinking about libraries. Even some of the tiniest of towns on the high plains have them. Those libraries may be located in back rooms of city offices, converted church basements, defunct stores, or even former homes. No matter how humble the venue, these places can serve a variety of community purposes.

Public Domain

Joel has a habit of leaving items on the top of the car and driving off.  Most of the time, it has been full cups of Dr. Pepper, but once we had to chase down a stack of mail that contained his paycheck, and another time Joel had to weave through Wichita traffic to retrieve some important registration numbers for the state track team he was coaching.  He even left Clementine’s car seat on the roof once!  Don’t worry, listeners, she wasn’t in it, but it looked bad, really, really bad.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

I am living testament that the cliché about regretting quitting piano lessons is absolutely true. I only took lessons for a short time as kid before my whining succeeded and my mother allowed me to quit.  Determined to push my own children to do better than their mother and understand the lifelong benefits of music, I have enrolled all three in piano from the time they were four.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

Joel has always claimed that I read too much into his facial expressions. He’s insisted that he really isn’t thinking about sexy actresses or plotting how to get out of chores. 

When I ask, “Then what are you thinking about when you get that faraway look on your face?” he is at a loss for a response. I now have the definitive answer to the question, “What does my husband think about during moments of boredom or inactivity?”

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

The older I get, the more aware I am that my sanity depends on my ability to keep things organized. I know that I must always put my purse back on a certain shelf in the office. I must always put the bills yet to pay in the top left drawer of the desk. I must always add my appointments to my calendar immediately and return the calendar to its place on the right side of my desk. And, perhaps most importantly of all, I must always, always, always, place my keys in the front pouch of my briefcase.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

My 16-year-old daughter and I were in a neighboring town for a little shopping when the low-tire indicator light popped on in my compact car, Goldie. We looked at the tires and noted that they appeared fine -- just fine. What was that silly indicator light thinking? We figured we could make it the 50 miles home. I called Joel and told him, and he said he would check when we got back. In fact, Joel’s confidence that we could make it home was even more effusive than mine!

Luke Clayton

Autumn agritourism has blossomed in the last couple of decades, and, having discovered the pumpkin patch phenomenon, I gladly traipse my family to one of the several on the high plains every fall.

In previous years, I made a point to dress the kids in coordinated outfits when we went on our fall forage. Dashiell would be decked out in overalls with an orange flannel shirt, and Millie would be wearing a denim dress with pumpkins on the front. One year, Clementine even wore an orange tutu.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

I had just settled into a steaming bath for my weekly 15 minutes of peace. Joel had already showered and was down having his midnight snack, a ritual he must maintain so he doesn’t get too skinny. The big kids were at their dad’s, and Clementine had taken her own bubble bath and was cozy in bed. I was feeling pretty smug about the management of my evening.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

Furka Pass. We started dropping the R soon after setting off. It all began when I printed out maps of two possible routes to get from Leutasch, Austria to the tiny country of Lichtenstein. We had barely recovered from our exhausting experience on Germany’s Autobahn, so perhaps that’s why we chose the route that went through only rural areas in the Alps. The road less traveled sounded like a welcome change. 

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

As we left the city of Mozart, we were tired and hungry. I had to use the restroom, but the line at the museum was long. I decided to wait until we got on the road, as we had planned to stop fairly soon after leaving Salzburg.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

I’ve loved Mozart since I was a teenager when that fabulous movie, Amadeus, came out. I’m not sure about its historically accuracy, but that film sure went a long way toward inspiring me to appreciate classical music.

So, while we were in Austria, I really wanted to visit “The City of Mozart,” Salzburg. Though it was a two-hour drive from the mountain village in which we stayed, the adults in the car all believed that it would be worth the trip.

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