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Are We There Yet?: Hungry, Hungry Weekend

By Rebecca DravisSpecial to iBerkshires
As I write this, I am having my first taste of turkey this fall. This early Thanksgiving treat came courtesy of my mother, who cooked a 16-pound bird for the potluck dinner for the residents of the apartment building she lives in. When she offered me some of the leftovers, I eagerly accepted, not only because it was my roasting pan she had borrowed to prepare it in so I felt entitled but also because I just love turkey. It's my favorite part of Thanksgiving ­ and the weeks that follow. Turkey soup, turkey tetrazzini, turkey and gravy... yum!

Speaking of food, I also am a big fan of milkshakes. (Nice transition, huh?) So my top family pick of this weekend is a concert at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams on Saturday, Nov. 23, that features the Grammy­-nominated band Milkshake, which claims to be "on a mission to create great rock music for kids." Led by singer Lisa Mathews and guitarist Mikel Gehl, formerly of the indie rock outfit Love Riot, the band has appeared everywhere from PBS Kids to Nick Jr. to the Emmy Award­-winning cartoon "Todd World." The concert is at 11:30 a.m. and tickets are $8. Click here for details.
Keeping on the food theme on Saturday, you will find lots of Polish treats at the annual St. Stanislaus Kostka School Bazaar, which runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Adams. In addition to the food, there will be auctions, crafts and more, with all proceeds benefiting St. Stanislaus Kostka School. For more information, call Lorry Delomolino at 413­-743-1091. 
While I'd love to keep the food theme going, I just can't figure out how to tie in trains with food. That's right, trains. The Norman Rockwell Museum is hosting a family day from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 23, titled, simply, "Trains." Visitors are invited to celebrate trains and the wonders of rail travel during this afternoon inspired by the museum’s current exhibit, "Wendell Minor’s America." Activities especially geared toward families include "Songs of the Railroad: Music by Gordon Titcomb" at 2 p.m. and the opportunity all afternoon for kids to design their own locomotive with educator Beverly Thompson. All of the activities are free with museum admission; click here for details.
One last food note (yep, going back to food here): This weekend marks the fifth anniversary of the Berkshire Grown Holiday Farmers Markets. Everyone is invited to celebrate and buy locally grown and produced foods, including fruits and vegetables, cheese, eggs, meat, poultry, bread, pies, pickles, jams, and more. There also will be lunch food vendors, live music and children's activities. The market runs Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Monument Valley Middle School in Great Barrington and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Williams College Towne Field House in Williamstown. Click here for details.
I bet you will be able to buy a local turkey at one of the farmers markets. If you do, and you have some leftovers, let me know!

Berkshire County native Rebecca Dravis of Williamstown is a former journalist who now works for the Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts. She can be reached at rdravis@verizon.net.


Are We There Yet?: Raking Leaves, Crafts and Dancing

By Rebecca DravisSpecial to iBerkshires
We are approaching one of those weekends that I love to embrace: one with very little to do! I mean that on a personal level, though I do have to work a little on Sunday, but I also mean that on a public level. There are not a ton of family events this weekend, a kind of break between harvest and Halloween festivals and the upcoming holiday season offerings. I am hoping for a nice Saturday where I can rake some leaves, watching my daughter jump in them, and then rake them some more.
What says fall better than that?
But if the kids are aching to get out of the house, I have a couple of suggestions for family fun this weekend.

First, on Saturday, Nov. 16, is the chance to have the kids do something creative while you shop — at Micheal's in Berkshire Crossing in Pittsfield, a store near and dear to the hearts of many parents, teachers and Scout leaders. Between 10 and 11:30 a.m., kids can join in a "Rudy the Reindeer Craft" session every half an hour for only $2. That's right, $2 for half an hour of "I want that"-free shopping time. Resist the temptation to hover over your child and embrace the alone time. Really, your child will be OK without you. (Of course, that last time I said that was to a friend of mine as we let our about-to-be-second-graders go down the Lazy River at Six Flags without us this past summer, only to moments later watch her child being pulled by lifeguards back to "shore" terrified and in tears. So maybe I'm not the best judge of that kind of thing.)
Then, on Sunday, Nov. 17, if your child is a fan of dancing, you can take her (yes, being slightly sexist here and assuming the majority of interest for this will come from girls) to a "Nutcracker" tea at 2:30 p.m. at the First Church of Christ at 27 East St. in Pittsfield. A benefit for the Albany Berkshire Ballet's annual "Nutcracker" tour, the event will feature a silent auction, "Nutcracker" excerpts, sweet treats and more. The cost is $15 for adults and $10 for children; call 413-445-5382 for details.
Want to put the dates of the actual performance of "The Nutcracker" on your calendar? Here are the Berkshire County dates (visit berkshireballet.org for all the regional dates): Sunday, Nov. 24, at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. at Bard College at Simon's Rock in Great Barrington; Saturday, Dec. 7, at 2:30 and 6:30 p.m. at The Colonial in Pittsfield; and Sunday, Dec. 8, at 1:30 and 4:30 at The Colonial.
If raking leaves says fall, "The Nutcracker" says Christmas. Embrace that!
Berkshire County native Rebecca Dravis of Williamstown is a former journalist who now works for the Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts. She can be reached at rdravis@verizon.net.

Are We There Yet?: Santa Season Starts Early

By Rebecca DravisSpecial to iBerkshires
"Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus."
Those famous words are recounted every holiday season, especially when a child questions the existence of Jolly Old Saint Nick. I myself printed out a copy of the 1897 New York Sun editorial last Christmas when my daughter, having just turned 7, began expressing some doubt. I was beside myself; how can a 7 year old not believe in Santa Claus? I blamed her friends with older siblings. I blamed TV and the Internet and all those silly apps she has filled my iPad's memory with. I especially blamed myself for recounting within her earshot the story of how I purchased something that went into her stocking, which is supposed to be from Santa. ("Sometimes Mommy helps Santa fill the stocking," I backpedaled quickly to her suspicious gaze. "Here, have a cookie. Or another app.")

I thought I was older before I started wondering, but maybe 7 is truly the age of not believing. That's one of the things that drew me to the movie "The Child King," which will be screened this Saturday, Nov. 9, at 10 a.m. at the North Adams Movieplex. In the movie, when 7-year-old Jarret West questions the existence of Santa Claus, his teenage older brother Jeremy, a young man with Down Syndrome, takes him on a quest to the North Pole to prove Santa is real. The free screening is being sponsored by United Cerebral Palsy of Berkshire County, an organization that has dedicated itself to offering supports and advocacy for any individual, regardless of disability, to pursue a fulfilling, self-determined, high-quality community life. The film will be followed by a meet-and-greet reception with Peter Johnson, the young man who played the lead role of Jeremy and who has Berkshire County ties, at UCP's North Adams office, located at 535 Curran Highway; there is a $5 suggested donation for the reception. 
To watch the trailer, click here. The film is made by a crew of Massachusetts residents who wanted to make "an inspirational and adventurous tale that shows us those with intellectual disabilities are not to be underestimated, but rather looked to as examples of how to love unconditionally and transcend the stereotypes in our society," according to Special Olympics International. If the trailer is in any indication, it will put you and your family into a warm holiday mood in this early holiday season.
And it is early, despite that I happily heard the first Christmas songs of the season on the radio on Wednesday and despite the advertisements and store displays and mailbox full of catalogs from stores I have never heard of. But if you attend the screening of "The Child King" and find yourself beginning to feel a lot like Christmas, head south or east for some more holiday cheer.
Head south and you will find the Great Barrington Rudolf Steiner School Holiday Handcraft Fair, which runs Saturday, Nov. 9, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the school, located at 35 West Plain Road in Great Barrington. Highlights include carnival games, maple sugar cotton candy, a photo booth with dress-up costumes, the children's craft room where youngsters can make presents themselves, and the Pocket Lord and Lady, whose many pockets are filled with small gifts.
The Handcraft Room, the centerpiece of the Fair, offers a large selection of warm, soft handmade items, including baby booties, winter accessories, soft toys and classic Waldorf dolls. And at the Little People's Shop, children in third grade and younger can choose gifts for friends and family. Admission and parking are free; visit gbrss.org for more details.
Head east and you will find the Handmade for Kids Holiday Fair at Berkshire Trail Elementary School on Route 9 in Cummington (which I recently learned is technically outside of Berkshire County but interestingly is still a part of the Central Berkshire Regional School District). The event runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., also on Saturday, and features local vendors selling beautiful commercial-free, handmade items for kids of all ages, drop-in crafts for the kids, raffles, lunch and more to benefit the Cummington Family Center. Admission is also free; for information, visit cummingtonfamilycenter.org.
And if Santa should happen to drop in to any of these events, set a good example and embrace him completely and sincerely, no matter what the ages of your children are. Why? I'll let The Sun's editorial answer that: "Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world."
Berkshire County native Rebecca Dravis of Williamstown is a former journalist who now works for the Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts. She can be reached at rdravis@verizon.net.

Are We There Yet?: Craft Season Begins

By Rebecca DravisSpecial to iBerkshires
The Boston Red Sox are world champions!
I have a couple Berkshire family events to mention this weekend, but ...
The Boston Red Sox are world champions!
The last couple of weeks were very exciting, nerve-wracking, heart-breaking, et cetera, and I feel bad that so many our kids got to see very little of it since most of the games didn't even start until the elementary school-age crowd was getting ready to head to bed. I let my daughter watch an inning or two here or there and I was very excited to tell her Thursday morning that ...
The Boston Red Sox are world champions!
Who would have believed it?
OK, now that that's out of my system, let's talk about things your kids can do this weekend.
First up is an event in Pittsfield that sounds like so much fun - and educational, too! As part of November's Family Literacy Month, the Berkshire Museum will present "WeeMuse: WeeRead Pajama Night" on Friday, Nov. 1, from 5 to 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. Each gallery will feature different stories and storytellers, as well as story walks and family reading stations. There will also be special guests, giveaways and refreshments. Families will receive free books while supplies last. For more information, call 413-443-7171 or visit berkshiremuseum.org. While this may be the most appropriate for the emerging-reader crowd, younger and older siblings should be encouraged to participate to stoke or fan the flames of reading. And may I suggest that if the spark for reading just isn't there, try changing the material. Not everyone loves "The Cat in the Hat" ... though, seriously, if you don't, what's wrong with you? Just kidding. The point is to find something that will engage your own child's interests. Good luck!
Then on Saturday, Nov. 2, head to the Berkshire Mall... wait, isn't that where I sent you last weekend? Indeed, both my Girl Scout event last Saturday and Malloween on Sunday at the mall had large, excited crowds, so apparently, the mall is actually the family place to be! This Saturday, it's the 18th annual Community Baby Shower. Now, you may be thinking, "I am not pregnant so this is not for me." That's OK, bring the kids you already do have! This free event, co-hosted by Child Care of the Berkshires and Berkshire North WIC, will feature agencies from Berkshire County sharing info on topics related to pregnancy and parenting young children. Additional activities at the event include blood pressure screening and craft activities for children and parents. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
One more shout-out: Now that Halloween is over, the holiday craft fair season can officially begin, and begin it does this weekend with a good one in North Adams. St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish, between Mass. MoCA and the Big Y Plaza, hosts its big bazaar Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. both days. The event features handmade candy, fudge, knitted and crocheted items, food and more. My daughter loves this bazaar because of the fishbowl game for kids, where for a quarter they get a scoop of folded paper out of the fishbowl and then spend the next half an hour unfolding every piece of paper to see if there is a star or dot on it to indicate they have won a prize. In the past, Santa Claus has made a very early-season appearance at this bazaar; one of my all-time favorite pictures of my daughter is one I took of her with Santa at this event when she was 3 or 4 that became the Christmas card picture that year. So if you're looking for wholesome entertainment for a good cause, head to North Adams on Friday or Saturday.
And you should be all rested for these fun events because you can go to bed earlier now that the World Series is over ... and the Boston Red Sox are world champions!
Berkshire County native Rebecca Dravis of Williamstown is a former journalist who now works for the Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts. She can be reached at rdravis@verizon.net.

Are We There Yet?: Halloween Fun at the Mall

By Rebecca DravisiBerkshires Columnist
It's not every week I can say the center of the family universe this weekend is the Berkshire Mall.
That's right — this weekend, there are two events at the mall that I want to mention, one that I have been involved in planning through my "day job" and another that my own daughter absolutely adores every year.

On Saturday, Oct. 26, come to the Berkshire Mall for a Funtastic Family Funday hosted by my employer, Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts. This event is for the whole family to come experience what Girl Scouts is all about in 2013. (Yes, even brothers are welcome!) We will have stations with activities appropriate for each level of Girl Scouts, as well as fun camp game, a simple science table and more. We are hoping to bring families to the mall to show them all the fun they can have if they get involved in Girl Scouts, from joining one of the many troops available in the Berkshires to participating in some neat programs to attending one of our fabulous summer camps. The event runs from 1 to 3:30; look for us in center court, outside of JCPenney. For details visit yourtimewellspent.org.
Then on Sunday, the mall will host its annual "Malloween" event, where children in costume can come trick-or-treat at the stores in a safe, warm and dry environment. The kids love the candy, of course, but my favorite is the stores who very savvily hand out coupons to parents, as well. A discount is always a great incentive to come shop there again, and we should all be mindful about supporting the businesses who do nice things like participate in trick-or-treating for our kids. This event runs from noon to 2 p.m. and is always busy, though I have always found the crowd fairly well-behaved. Don't miss the radio station fun in the food court area, too!
After Malloween, there is still time to head north 20 miles or so to the Clark Art Institute, where the museum will host a "Building's in the Air Family Day" starting at noon and running through 4 p.m. In honor of all the building and construction that has been going on at the Clark for the last few years, the event will feature the chance for kids to build a large-scale building of their own using, according to the museum's website, "more cardboard than you’ve ever seen, masking tape galore, and plenty of adults on hand to help with cutting." These Clark family days are always not only fun, but also educational. Visit clarkart.edu for more information.
And, of course, Halloween itself is Thursday, Oct. 31. Click here for the iBerkshires list of trick-or-treating times by town. And click here  for some great tips straight from the government for making sure this Halloween is a safe one.
I'll end on this note: My mother never allowed my sister and I to go trick-or-treating. This used to be a memory I wanted to repress, but now that I am a parent, I can understand her desire to keep us safe inside the house. We always made the most fun out of the holiday by participating in school and Scouting Halloween events, handing out goodies to trick-or-treaters at our own front door (never candy, always McDonald's french fry gift certificates) and then hitting the Halloween clearance sales on Nov. 1 for a little candy selection of our choice. This was in the 1980s at the height of the "needles in the candy" scares, but there may be even scarier things out there in the 2010s. All I'm saying is it never killed a kid to NOT go trick-or-treating. Use good judgment and stay safe this week!
Berkshire County native Rebecca Dravis of Williamstown is a former journalist who now works for the Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts. She can be reached at rdravis@verizon.net.
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