Little Spouse on the Prairie

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

My teenager will piddle around in the kitchen from time-to-time, although it looks as if she may have inherited my culinary skills. Not too long ago, she made a couple of batches of brownies for an event.  When I asked her why she threw the first batch away, she responded that it had a plastic-y flavor.

“Hmm,” I said.  “I wonder if the flour picked up some of the taste from the canister.” 

“That could be,” Millie replied.  “But I’m thinking it had more to do with the spatula that I baked into it.”

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

Nearly every evening, Joel delivers snacks and drinks to our bed.  He has learned that it’s just easier to do it before I start begging and finding excuses as to why I can’t go myself.  Because I am the queen of waiting him out. 

It wasn’t always this way.  Early in our marriage, there was a possibility that I might actually go back downstairs and pop the corn and bring some hot tea upstairs for the both of us.  And to my credit, I did do that – at least twice.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

Spring cleaning often brings a variety of small projects to our yard and home.  Every year, I make a resolution that this spring, I’ll be satisfied with just a little weeding and painting any areas that have weathered during the winter; but every year, that resolution crumbles when I see how much needs done and how very nice things look on Pinterest.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

As the school year draws to a close, my kids are feeling the anticipation.  Indeed, they are almost giddy.  I am too.  Those first joyful nine seconds of having the kids home for three months are some of the best of the year for me. 

One of the many joys of summer is not having to get everyone up, dressed, breakfasted, packed, and out of the house at an absurd hour.  By this time of the school year, we are barely dragging into the building when the bell rings. Our excuses for lateness are as varied as spring weather on the high plains. 

Here are a few:

VALERIE BROWN-KUCHERA

A few weeks ago, I bought a baby grand piano at an auction.  Another one.  I don’t play the piano.  Maybe my kids will.

As a newly converted auction fanatic, Joel was happy to trot along to small towns across our part of the state to attend sales.  We had recently completed our second-story pergola project, and needed some furniture.  This particular auction had several pieces of rattan and wicker that would fill that need nicely. 

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

Last week, I talked about how poor Joel, rather than admit defeat in the face of a broken icemaker, secretly delivered ice from the garage freezer for three years. That takes dedication!  There’s no other trait that Joel displays more than dogged stubbornness, so, while amazing, it’s not surprising that Joel has taken a daily – sometimes twice-daily – sojourn to the garage with an empty bucket and has come back with a full one for three years running.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

I do not like kitchen gadgets.  I never owned an electric can-opener; I never got on the salad shooter wagon; I never bought a set of Ginsu knives; and I don’t own, nor do I plan to own, an Instapot.

Our kitchen is small, as in teeny-tiny-barely-enough-counter-space-to-pile-all-the-vital-snacks-cereal-boxes-ketchup-bottles-hot-pads-small.  Where would I put one of those cool stand-mixers? 

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

Good morning, listeners on the high plains.  We are still talking about April Fool’s Day pranks this week.  My teacher-friends aren’t the only ones who have pranked me.  Over the years, my own children, dear as they are, have played a few tricks on me in honor of April Fool’s Day. 

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. 

However, my friends, coworkers, and family members seem to believe that my outsized reactions are an indication that they should increase the number of pranks they play. What they don’t understand is that they are taking years off my life when they jump out from behind a door and shout, “Boo!” 

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

I spend a lot of time poking fun at my husband Joel.  We have a great time together.  He’s always a good sport.  Don’t assume he doesn’t give as good as he gets, just because he doesn’t talk about his life on the radio every week. 

But the other morning at about 6:00, on about the 379th day of ice and snow this winter, I glanced out of my upstairs window to see how bad the roads were going to be.  I looked down at my car on the street below, clearly visible with our yard light reflecting off the fresh snow. 

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.

In the last year or so, what the chair offered in visual appeal, was being overshadowed by how incredibly noisy the chair was.  It popped when I sat down, it squeaked when I leaned back, it groaned when I shifted from side to side, and it let out a very embarrassing noise when I rolled forward on the casters. 

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?”  Yes, I know that DVDs are going the way of 8-tracks and VHS tapes.  But we don’t subscribe to cable channels, nor have we joined any of those streaming movie services.  I realize this may be old fashioned and silly, but I can buy DVDs for 50 cents at garage sales, and I like, as listeners probably know by now, physical objects.  Even better, I like physical objects that can be alphabetized. 

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

The transition to a new year brings resolutions to change for the better. Our family members typically make a resolution or two, but we aren’t ones to write out our intentions in blood.  Maybe if we did, I’d have an easier time keeping them, but as it stands, apparently, I have unresolvable issues. 

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

 

The Man Diet

Last week, I introduced you to Joel, my much older husband.  This week’s show is two-fold -  “The Man Diet” followed by “Speed Shopping.”

Eight weeks ago, my husband gave up Dr. Pepper. Not entirely, mind you. He simply dropped his intake from unlimited (between eight and 10 per day) to two 12-ounce drinks a day.  I’m happy for him because this reduction allowed him to lose 30 pounds in those two months.  Yes, I said 30 pounds.  In. Eight. Weeks.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

As the classes I am both teaching and taking wind down this semester, 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

With the holidays fast approaching, I’ve dedicated the guest room as a “wrapping room” and have paper, bows, tape, and scissors spread all over the place.  The wrapping room is off limits to other members of the family.  Except for Clementine.  Despite repeated injunctions to stay out, Clementine has wormed her little way in there more often than I realized.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

The Sunday drive: a peaceful, rural tradition in America.  The family loads up in the automobile and meanders through the pastoral landscape, talking quietly about the view outside the unrolled window. If it’s winter, I’ll pack a thermos of hot cocoa.  If it’s summer, we’ll stop and get a cherry limeade as we roll back into town. (Rewind sound effect).

“Hop in, everybody!” I said lightly a couple of weeks ago.  “We’re going on a Sunday drive!”

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

As in many a typical family, everyone at my house has a different level of body heat regulation.  This, coupled with the fact that we live in a large, old, drafty house, can make for some interesting arguments. 

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

I believe my children subscribe to the medieval idea that a good solid layer of filth protects from illness and evil spirits.  I agree to some extent, as my kids are remarkedly healthy.  Based on some of the behavior I’ve witnessed, however, the protection from evil spirits is up for debate.  

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