Bambino Adventure: Alisal Ranch

Our daughter (a/k/a Finally Five) has not been herself lately (as in whiny, kvetchy, bratty, and quick to melt down). If I had any hair, I’d be inclined to pull some out.

Of course it is easy to automatically assume that her errant behavior (she is normally an agreeable, easygoing, albeit energized kid) is an accumulation of the pressure of having a Momma with FBC. However, fortunately I have my Master’s degree in Child Development which helped me also quickly recognize the fact that between the ages of 5 and 7, there is a HUGE developmental shift.

When identifying forward-moving shifts in a child’s development, we professionals consider physical, emotional and cognitive changes that occur.

Physically, Finally Five is changing before our eyes.  Not a day goes by that I don’t mush and caress her fat pads because I know they won’t be here for much longer (boo! hoo!).

Emotionally, adjustments in relationships occur as a child moves  from preschool to grammar school at which time she develops a broader circle of friends and is exposed to various expectations from teachers and the education system. The child’s concept of self, feelings of competency and industry are influenced by associations with teachers, other adults, and especially peers. Finally Five is still finishing preschool, but “graduating” and the subsequent transition from preschool to kindergarten are a big deal at her school.  I can’t help but think that this upcoming change is weighing on her emotions (as evidenced by her daily discussions about her “new school”).

Cognitively during this period, adjustments in thinking and reasoning occur as a child moves from preoperational thought to concrete operational thought. Preoperational children make decisions and judgements of reasoning based on perceptual skills (how things look or feel) rather than logic. The concrete operational child will make these same judgements based on logical knowledge.  The child in the 5-7 shift is often in a state of confusion when making judgements. For example, a child will often state the correct answer, but when asked to explain the reason why may say “I’m not sure” or “because” or “I don’t know.”  This happens ALL THE TIME with Finally Five.  This state of confusion can be very challenging and frustrating for a child, as evidenced by say a ginormous propensity to meltdown.  Heaven knows my constant state of confusion and bewilderment frustrates the bejesus out of me, so I can only imagine what it’s like to Finally Five!

The other important thing to keep in mind about developmental shifts is that prior to growth, there is a period of regression.  With Finally Five, the grandeur of her impending growth is commensurate with the magnitude of her regression.

SO, that led me to think that she has some combination of both:  she’s fed up with my FBC (aren’t we all?) and she is on the verge of a big developmental shift. Either way, she’s having a hard time and (completely appropriately) demonstrating it through unsavory behavior.

I decided that we both needed a jumpstart…something special to share between the two of us, especially since I am feeling an inkling toward humanity.

When I was originally diagnosed, I adopted the philosophy of an “Energy Bank.” An Energy Bank is a place that holds emotional and physical energy. I decided that now was as good a time as any to make a withdrawal from the bank and go on an overnight Mommy trip with Finally Five to the Alisal Ranch in Solvang, California.

The idea for a Mommy Trip was inspired by the HOTY (a/k/a Husband of the Year). You may remember that the HOTY took Finally Five  on a “Daddy Trip” on New Year’s Eve. Daddy trips are a long-held tradition for the HOTY, started when the boys were very young.  They are one-on-one  adventures in which the kids drive the agenda. The adventures do not have to be fancy.  The sole focus is on being together (should I have said “soul” focus?).

As an example, on one Daddy trip, the HOTY made all kinds of reservations but all his son wanted to do was sit in the lobby of their hotel and wait for NBA Basketball Players to return from a game.  That’s it.  So, the HOTY cancelled all of the plans he had made and they sat in the hotel lobby. And waited.  For basketball players.  The coolest part of that is that they were together.  Hanging out.  Just the two of them.

So, aside from having made plans to stay at the highly-recommended Alisal Ranch, I had no agenda.  On our way through Solvang (a unique and quirky Danish town plopped in the middle of the Santa Ynez Valley), we stopped first for ice cream at an old-fashioned ice cream and candy shop. Then, she wanted to wander around town. Fine. I had no agenda.  We walked into an adorable antique shop, where she promptly told the salesperson that “We are not here to buy anything.”  Hilarious.

Next, at her suggestion, we popped into a few other shops and ended up at wonderful independent bookstore called The Book Loft. (Have I mentioned that I am a total book nut? It’s true.  And nothing gets me more excited than an independent bookstore!) Prior to going in, I told her the she could pick out one book as a special treat. She proceeded to tell me that she needed privacy while picking out her book and spent 30 minutes shopping.  I literally sat on the floor watching her pull out, peruse and put back books until she found the perfect one (Silver Lining!).

When we got to the hotel, she wanted to play on the playground before dinner.  I was calculating the time backward from bedtime to dinner to playtime. All was thrown off.  So what if she didn’t have a bath today?  I was the one sleeping with her.  Let’s go to the playground.

After playing, we had a wonderful dinner, which went way past her usual bedtime.  So what?  It was a special day.  It’s ok every once in a while to splurge. And today was that day. Full, overflowing with laughter and love.

I put her to bed and reflected on the quantity and quality of the Silver Linings of the day.  We were both happier than we’ve been in a long, long time.  It was heaven.

And an added Silver Lining: The room had a gigantic fan that I propped on a chair equidistant from the open window and the bed (which turned out to be about 6 inches from my face) and turned it on HIGH.  Hot flashes be damned (SL).


The Book Loft in Solvang, California


Finally Five's favorite stuffed animal, Bunny, waiting patiently for her to pick out a book at the The Book Loft


It was such a Silver Lining to watch her figure out which book she wanted!


Because the Mommy trip agenda was driven by Finally Five, we sat at this fountain for a nice, long time. We didn't leave until she was good and ready.


The lake on the Alisal property. Breathtaking.


Horses in the background.


A Bearded Dragon at the Alisal...with a bow tied around it. I can't make this s**t up!


Finally Five holding a parrot at the critter petting (I don't know if it was officially called critter petting. But that's what it was. Because there were lots of critters.)


Finally Five gave me a flower and told me that this was the "happiest day of my life!" Cue the tears.


Thanks, Finally Five


At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities.

-Jean Houston

Leave a comment


  1. says

    It might be just me, but i feel as though this post is really meaningful, i would surely tell my friends so they would read it also. I'll be back to check of other posts.

  2. Melissa says

    So great to read about your night away…so curious to know which book she picked. I saw in one of your photos the book Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel – did you know that Virginia Lee Burton's son lives in Santa Barbara??!! At Thanksgiving my sister and I took our four boys to see Billy Eliott on Bway ages 6-15 – all the boys enjoyed it but my youngest nephew sat still the entire time for his first musical! Keep up the writing! You continue to inspire me and all of us every day!

  3. Catie says

    This is beautiful. I am so sad to be missing little FF growing up, and so quickly too. I miss her terribly, and love every little thing you write that gives me a glimpse into her amazingly beautiful life. I love you all!!


  4. Jools says

    Lovely vacay. Reminded me of some trips I took with my girls. A couple of my favorites being to the Miramar. (oh how I miss that place!)
    Your depth of understanding of child development is a SL for all the mothers who read your blog, and of course for Finally Five.

  5. Meika says

    Love, love, love! I can imagine both of your smiles were ear to ear the whole time. FF is so lucky to have you. When she told me about your special trip, I asked her what you two were going to do, part of her response, "love each other." Mission accomplished :). And bun bun even made the bb cut! I am dying to know what book she chose! Love YOU!

  6. says

    whenever I need to rebond with my 15 year old daughter…we go to nature also! Zaca Lake is amazing as is El Capitan….something about experiencing the beauty and peace together makes the meaning of life crystal clear….no blackberrys or iPhones or TV is key! We both share the love of all unman made surroundings and leave with a refound peaceful shared experience….so glad you decided to do this. Your continuous journey of discovering the true meaning of life inspires me and many others! Xoxo, Sue

  7. Carrie says

    There is nothing more beautiful than child-led days…and being able to slow down enough and be aware of them right before our eyes. I LOVE that she skipped her bath in lieu of playground time. That's what I want tonight!

  8. Jill Nida says

    What a wonderful Mommy/Daughter trip you had. It sounds so special!! I love it! My daughter and I have been going on a Mother/Daughter weekend every years over Mother's Day weekend for the last few years, and we will be doing it again nest weekend. We can't wait!! Love, Jill