Berkshire Family Fun: A New Year in the Berkshires

Neighbors Helping Neighbors in Berkshire County

Packing away the holiday leftovers and looking towards the new year!

After digging my way through piles of holiday leftovers — random boxes, misplaced electronics, stray decorations, miscellaneous family members, and long-forgotten party food — I emerged with the sudden urge to purge, declutter and organize my life. Call it New Years inspiration, procrastination (there’s lots of writing that should have been getting done in that time), or simply a desire to start 2012 off feeling lighter and more energized. Regardless of the hidden causes behind my massive reorganization project, it has resulted in the ability to find things easier. “Where’s my coat?” one child asked. “I believe you’ll find it in the COAT closet hanging on a COAT hook. Novel idea I know, but take a look,” I replied. We have discovered “missing” objects such as my daughters lost Halia bracelet, and the cord to a laptop computer (the cost to replace, had I done that, approximately $90) that the kids had “looked everywhere for.” The piles of mail and paperwork that had begun to take over my island have been sorted and relegated to a small basket in the front entryway, and I feel fantastic! Now if I can just organize my calendars so I will remember deadlines, I’ll be all set.


Besides organizing my home, I have also made a few other changes in my life to kick off the new year. One of the most influential changes is my gratitude journal. Each day on Facebook at Renaissance Mom I post at least five things that I am grateful for. From coffee, to family members, to pellet stoves on cold winter days, it’s amazing how much there is to be thankful and it’s amazing how one’s daily perspective changes once you have taken stock of these things. In fact, I was so inspired by the feelings elicited from writing the journal that I took 30 minutes to write each of my three children a letter telling them five things about their character that I was grateful for. From one’s great big heart to another’s incredible sense of humor, and a daughter who has this amazing ability and courage to always try new things, I let them know, that although they don’t always hear it from me (sad I know), there are far more positives to say about them than negatives.

Each child responded in their own way, a hug here, a question there, and then they each tucked the note away in a secret hiding place where they could find it in the future when a little pick-me-up is needed. I also promised to write them more letters throughout the year full of more gratitude. I’m aiming for once a month, but if I only get to it quarterly, I’ll be fine with that.


I recently bought a new printer and I was browsing through my husband’s iPhone to show him how to print from it wirelessly. I happened upon a list with three brief phrases or thoughts written on it, one of which was “Food pantry/service.” Upon inquiring about the random list, Mark informed me that they were his thoughts for the new year that he had written down while visiting his father in the hospital in Alabama.

Service has always been something we have tried to ingrain in our children, and made a way of life for our family, but we have always wanted to do more, and do more together. We’ve discussed volunteering at a soup kitchen or participating in the construction of a house through Habitat for Humanity, and this year Mark and I have both put it at the top of the list to find the right cause or organization for our family.

Community members in Northern Berkshire are devoting an entire day to community service on Martin Luther King Day, Monday, Jan. 16, to celebrate the “life, principles, and ideals of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.”

The day begins at 9 a.m. at St. Elizabeth’s Parish Hall in North Adams (located between Big Y and Mass MOCA) with coffee and pastries. Families are invited to help partake in community service projects for organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Louison House, Salvation Army, COTY Youth Center, and Northern Berkshire Community Coalitions new Family Place, as well as help weatherize Berkshire Community Action Council homes, man can and food collection sites, and assembling personal kits, meals, or making mitten and scarfs for those in need.

Participants will return to St. Elizabeth’s at 12:30 p.m. for a free luncheon and community celebration of the Day of Service in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. At that time there also will be entertainment, uplifting words and the presentation of the annual Peacemaker Award to Mark Lincourt for his dedicated volunteer work in the Berkshires.

For more information, contact Kathy Keeser at or at 413-346-7196 or Liz Boland at the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition at 413-663-7588.


Saturday, Jan. 14, from 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Matrushka Toys and Gifts in Great Barrington will present “The Gingerbread Man,” a puppet play with puppeteer Christine Pierce Inglis, as part of the preschool “Mornings at Matrushka” series. According to the press release, “watching puppet plays, hearing stories and learning songs cultivates the child’s imagination, strengthens the ability to concentrate and inspires a love of language.” Matrushka Toys is located at 309 Main Street. For more information call 413-528-6911.

Also on Saturday there will be a Wee Reads “Celebrate Winter” event at the Berkshire Anthenaeum on Wendell Avenue from 10:30 a.m. to noon, where Jan Brett’s “The Mitten” will be read followed by a movie and craft. For more information call 413-499-9480, ext. 5.

Stay tuned for more family-friendly happenings in the Berkshires in next weeks column.


Kelly Bevan McIlquham

Kelly Bevan McIlquham writes our bi-monthly column, Berkshire Family Fun, sharing update, events and activities for families in the Berkshires.  Kelly is a freelance writer living in Hinsdale with her husband, Mark, and three children — 12-year-old twins, Max and McKenna, and almost-10-year-old, Shea. She has had her work published in The Advocate, The Family Beat and Berkshires Week out of Berkshire County, and the former Wee Ones E-magazine. She also authors a new blog and Facebook page titled “Renaissance Mom.” — Check out Berkshire Family Fun every other Thursday.

[Photo credit: (ccl) LennyBaker]

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