There is an art to making mud soup.
My 3-year-old clued me in Sunday at Bridgeport. First, you have to take off shoes and socks. Next, you need to get your clothes wet, despite the cool breeze blowing through the river canyon. Finally, you must squeeze handfuls of high quality South Yuba River mud through your fingers.
I made mud soup as a child. But the details of good mud soup were lost somewhere between adolescence and parenthood. Thankfully, I have my children to remind me again about the important things in life.
Welcome to the first Family Focus section. We have shifted our weekly coverage on Thursdays to take a broader view of the community. It will still include education, but also information and features for and about families.
While local people with children at home are in the minority, according to census data, we still represent a decent slice of the local demographic pie. From parents of infants to those with teens to retirees active in their grandchildren’s lives, it is our goal to make Family Focus a value to our readers.
I was warned that the years start to fly by when you have children, but to experience it is another thing altogether.
In my house, life has become a delicate balancing act between full-time jobs, preschool, child care, children’s activities and our own excursions, when possible. With so much juggling each weekday, weekends spent as a family are a top priority for us. Finding things to do each week that don’t involve a lot of money are also nice.
The Union employs a lot of working parents, in various stages of parenthood — from infants to college-age children.
So I asked around to see what they like to do for free or low-cost with their children.
Going to the local parks was by far the most popular answer. From a quick visit to the playground to a evening picnic at Pioneer or Western Gateway parks to take advantage of the lawns and sports courts, parents recalled hours enjoyment with their children.
Hiking was also fairly popular. One of my favorite family hikes right now is Hidden Falls Trail in Auburn. The path is well defined and easy for my 3 and 4 year-old; the surrounding vegetation is still green and it ends in a waterfall. Empire Mine and Independence Trail are also great for children of all ages. Bridgeport is beautiful right now, with wildflowers in full bloom.
For those looking for a little more adventure with their hikes, there is geocaching — a treasure hunting game where you use a GPS to hide and seek containers with other participants in the activity, according to www.geocaching.com.
One parent at The Union has downloaded an app to her smartphone, so they can spend an entire day out looking for caches, or just randomly find one while out and about in town.
Another parent devotes her family’s summers to finding the lost lakes in the Sierra. They track down lakes they have yet to see and make day trips up to find them.
Our community has so many great festivals and ongoing events that don’t cost much to attend. Each week, my girls love going to the farmers market. They enjoy seeing all the different types of produce available and helping to select what we’ll eat.
In the next few weeks, there are a few great family-friendly events that won’t cost much to attend. Saturday morning the 41st annual Kids Trout Derby will take place at Lions Lake at the Nevada County Fairgrounds. Sign-ups begin at 7 a.m. Later that morning, the Beam Easy Living Center will host its annual Keeping Kids Safe Festival beginning at 10 a.m.
Next weekend The Union hosts its annual Home & Garden Show. Long before returning to work in the newsroom, I brought my girls to the Home & Garden Show. For $5 in parking, they get to see animals up close, build birdhouses (we typically give a little extra to the Nevada Union High School booster club that helps people like me who don’t know how to hold a hammer), paint a flower pot and marvel at the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum display.
I can’t imagine a more perfect place to raise my children than here in Nevada County.
We are fortunate to be surrounded by natural beauty, arts and activities. I only have to count the days until Saturday when I can get out and experience it through my children’s eyes.
Features Editor Brett Bentley can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.