Friday, May 29, 2009

Shifting Gears.

Its upon us. That time of year. Its when the temps rise. When humidity starts to prevail. And where the words hot, heat and stifling start rolling off our tongues, instead of frigid, cold and bitter. Its about fishing and boating. Bonfires and baseball. Hockey camp and swimming lessons. Golf and bike riding. Mosquitoes and sunburn. Its summer. I love it.

summer Pictures, Images and Photos

And I dread it. While the boys become carefree, unburdened from their school routines and schoolwork loads, I am picking up the slack. I am gearing up for my "busy season." Its where I pull duty, 7 days a week. I'm the scheduler. The meal maker. The enforcer. The boredom buster. The driver. The fight breaker-upper. On any given day, I wrangle between 2 to 7 boys. And I've discovered my best plan of attack, is lots of activities. We won't sit still or be in one place for long.

It isn't that I don't love being home with the boys, that I don't appreciate the opportunity to be with them, because I do. Its just that shifting of gears. Of putting my game face on and tossing aside myself for awhile, in the name of all things boys. A week or two into summer vacation we hit our stride. It will fly by like always. I'm just not there yet. So I'm shifting and gearing up. I'm stocking the fridge and cupboards with snacks. I'm getting the bug spray and the sunscreen. I bought the big case of Gatorade. I've got beach towels, goggles and new swimsuits. Its all ready.

But there is still a week and half left of school. So for the next few days? I'll be soaking up the quiet. Reveling in my (relatively) clean house. Steeling my nerves. And getting a few things for myself. I'm stocking up too... on Advil, earplugs, and alcohol. I'm not even much of a drinker, but I am prepared. I'm a professional people, trust me, its all in being prepared.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dairy Queen Shenanigans


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The boss man


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Willard and his new "Wheels."


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Don't take my picture... giggle... giggle.


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You again?


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Oh, oh. Power-ranger evil eyes... you've crossed the line.


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*sigh* You're still there...


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I'm trying to ignore you, but my face is about to crack.


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Busted!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Going Home.



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I went home yesterday, to my childhood home. I deposited Nolan for mowing duty and Colton went along to help watch out for Grandpa. A trip to mom and dad's house is more of a mixed bag of emotions these days. You can't help but notice the deteriorating house. The peeling paint, the cracked driveway. The house that is too much upkeep for the aging owners who are unable to bare the thought of leaving. I pull the mower out of the jumble of anitquated stuff, too old for use anymore, but too riddled with memories to throw. My old rusty and moldy stroller, with only patches of the aqua blue seat still discernible to the trained eye. The remnants of dad's tools, collected from years of making cabinets by trade, waiting for my brother to claim one day. My eyes quickly skim over the boxes of unknown content sitting in stacks and piles, as I tug on the mower and escape.

I grab the camera, to shift my focus, to clear my cluttered mind. I don't have to look far to find the trail leading back to my youth. The streets are still adorned with crabapples trees. We had an enormous one in our backyard. But mom grew tired of the mess from the crabapples and it was pruned one day, into an anorexic jumble of bare limbs, no longer suitable for climbing.

Before crossing the street I am saddened to find the "Ok" in blue on the stump left over from the elm tree on the boulevard. There used to be two, each lost only in the last year, to dutch elm disease. The city of Moorhead stamping approval to chisel the last of the stump and roots from their home of over 40 years. Across the street you can see the majesty of these giant elm trees that once adorned the neighborhood. Just north on this street, is where many of these trees remain, forming a canopy over the streets when the leaves are at their fullest.

But in the other direction across the street, I find a crabapple tree in all its pink glory. I lose myself shooting up through the bottom branches of the tree playing hide and seek with the sun. The rainbow bursts of colors through some of my pictures, my reward for catching the sun trying to sneak away from my view. I'm transported back in time. To the crabapple "wars" we used to have. The potions and concoctions we would make of smashed apples and dirt and water. The hours spent climbing the branches and hiding in the leaves from one another. I can almost hear the voices of my childhood friends, yelling to one another over a heated game of kick the can in the alley. I notice the mower has stopped now.

With a fresh perspective I traipse back over to the house across the path of my adulthood. Next to the big crack in the driveway, I now notice mom's peony bushes, bursting with buds about to blossom. I find her in the back yard watering the juicy red gerberas we got her for mother's day. The kids are eating ice cream and hot fudge, dipping their spoons to the bottom of the container to get the last few yummy drops.

I go to put the mower back in the garage now, maneuvering through those same remains of the past. This time I can't help but think, this is also my future. I'll be back one day, I know, cleaning and sorting through it all. My "inheritance" of sorts. I still want to turn a blind eye, not ready to sort through the past, and incapable of looking too far ahead to the future.

Friday, May 22, 2009

A few of my favorite things.








Are you tired of me saying how nice it is outside? I assure you the novelty of beautiful days like today hasn't worn off. While my flower budget is a little thin, I still managed to scatter a few about. I bought wave petunias hoping they will indeed grow in waves and provide some color by the front of the house. And my father-in-law was kind enough to get my tomato cheater starter plants in the ground along with a strawberry plant on Mother's day. With any luck at all I'll be able to make some strawberry-rhubarb jelly. I laughed when I saw the picture of my feet in the last picture, but I decided to leave it in. Bare toes just so happen to be another one of my favorite things.

As a child I had to wear corrective shoes. All day. Every day. Including summer. They were stiff, heavy, and difficult to walk in. They were expensive to buy and ugly to wear. And then the summer I turned 4, I dropped a brick on my big toe, on my birthday. They had to remove the big toenail. I got several shots in my toe and they took it off. I remember every second of it. But the best part of the whole deal? No shoes. All summer. Barefoot. The doctor said. Let it heal in the air. In the meantime, I got a new foot doctor. He made me walk down the hall a few times. And then said "Hmpff. You're right, she needs new shoes. Take her to JcPenney's and find her the cheapest pair of tennis shoes you can find. She does not need corrective shoes for being a little knock-kneed."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Running.

I think its a theme in my days lately. I'm running off today to finish my tests at the clinic. Yesterday I ran at the clinic. I'll update later this morning when I return, although its a sunny and warm day, I may just have to run... away.

Its later now.

I guess "away" wasn't really very far, because here I am back home again :) I wasn't sure I was ready to go back to the clinic after my workout yesterday. I had to fast all day and they took away caffeine. I am not an all day caffeine user, but I do enjoy a strong cup of coffee in the morning. So by yesterday afternoon I was starving and sluggish and cold and heahache-y. It was 59 degrees when I drove over to the clinic. Inside it felt closer to 50.

First I had an echocardiogram that took ultrasound images of my heart. Not a painful test by any means, but a lot of holding my breath and laying really still while shivering and laying in an awkward position. Then it was off to my stress test. I see why it gets that name. I was a little surprised at how very much they are willing to "stress" the very organ that is supposedly not working very well. It starts off like normal walking, but every 3 minutes they raise the incline and increase the speed. The average person lasts 9 minutes. At each interval they ask you if you can last for the next 3 minutes. At nine minutes I knew I was about done. I lasted for 12. I was dizzy by 11 and we quit at 12. I felt like I hadn't done very well, but then they told me I finished at a speed of 4.5 (not very fast) but an incline of 16. That is pretty steep for me.

Next, after being injected with cardiolite dye, I was taken to the heart scanner. 20 minutes later I was done. It felt so good to go home and finally get to eat. I would be the Worst. Survivor. Contestant. Ever.

But this morning, I actually had a lot of down time at the clinic. They injected me with dye and then told me to go and eat. Plus they took away my caffeine restriction. Happy, happy, joy, joy! The hospital boasts not one, but two coffee shops. I settled on a Mounds Bar latte. I savored every bit of it after going without for several days. I then curled up with a book and waited for my turn to have another scan. I was in and out in 15 minutes this time.

I zipped away in my summer car. The sun was shining and it was 72 when I left. And I felt really relieved. I felt like I had done everything, now, to know. To know where my health is at. To know how to best proceed to take care of myself. I'm hopeful nothing much is found. And I'm really thankful, regardless of the outcome.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Love...














I started off my pre-weekend with a surprise in the mail... a pretty, springy, green necklace and earrings from the giveaway I won over at Just Jules. I love the fact that Jules, makes such pretty Jule-ry and gives it away at unsuspecting times. I had barely put it on and walked out the door and had someone comment on it. Got to love a statement piece!

I did not, however, get to wear it the next day. Instead I wore layers and layers of clothing, including a hoodie for my head and a blanket over my legs and mittens on my hands. Nolan had his baseball jamboree. They took their team photos and then played 3 different hour-long games against, 3 different teams. Honestly, you would have thought we were at a hockey game, for the way we were bundled. The sky was blue and it was sunny, but NOT WARM, due to the strong wind blowing the chilly air.

But the team had fun. You can tell there is a passion to play baseball amongst these kids. And the hero of the day for our team? I think it would have to be Sami, who smacked the ball out of the infield and got a triple out of it and then Nolan hit her home. Yeah, thats right, Sami is a girl, but if you asked Nolan, he'd say she's just one of the guys! So the Titan Machinery Volcanoes went 2-0 and tied 1. I love watching a good baseball game!

By the time we got home in the afternoon, it was warmer. Nolan got his first mowing of the season under his belt. Nolan loves to mow. He has been obsessed with mowers since he could walk. His favorite were the plastic 5 dollar red ones we'd find at Kmart. He'd mow the whole front yard with his little pretend version of a mower when he was three. As he grew, he started taking the real mower out. We wouldn't let him mow, but he'd push it every chance he got. At nine, he has finally earned his stripes and does a decent job.

So after playing in 3 baseball games, and mowing the front and back yard, guess what the boys did next? Went golfing. The boys love golfing! But that is where it all crashed and burned. Or I should say, Nolan crashed and burned. He was a walking zombie and came home early and put himself to bed.

My project was tackling a rhubarb cake. Look at all of my rhubarb above in the pictures. The recipe I used called for a dash of ginger to be added to the rhubarb and I can't say I liked it. Plus it had a lot of steps to it, so I'll go back to some of my standard recipes next time. But it felt good to bake with something out of the garden. Have I mentioned how much I love this time of year? How about you... what do you love this time of the year?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Update and ramblings.

In case you missed this little bit from yesterday I thought I'd re-post in a more visible way.

I went to the cardiologist yesterday. The first thing Dr. Pierce asked me about was if I knew Rick Westra, as Rick used to pitch and he would always throw the baseball hard at him. He said he always thought Rick would get picked up by the Minnesota Twins some day. So I told him that Rick was indeed my husband and that despite a couple of tryouts for the Twins, that fast ball of Ricks was only in the 8o's (mph) and you need to throw 90's for pro baseball.

And then with small talk over, I got a thorough exam! He asked copious questions about my health history. Ironically, I used to have a history of fainting, which was always dismissed as being anything related to my heart. But he said that could be a good indicator of something amiss and that needs to be checked. He then said I had 4 significant events of tachycardia during my holter monitor test. However, the rhythm of the beat was normal. Overall, my heart rate though was higher than what they would consider normal.

So before he prescribes any kind of beta blocker to slow my heart rate down, he wants more tests. He also noted my liver function tests are elevated and I need to go back to Dr. Twedt for that. *sigh*

He asked about my preference for the tests and I said since we're paying out of pocket, I preferred the "cheap" ones. He laughed, but he also carefully explored the options with me before we proceeded.

So next week I will have an echocardiogram to look for any enlargement of the heart and for the shortness of breath and lightheadedness I'll do a stress test. I felt like he listened and asked a lot of questions, and he didn't make it seem overly serious, but he wasn't dismissive either.

Have any of you had a stress test? Does anyone take beta blockers? Anyone want to weigh in with their experience, I'm all ears! Thank you all for your prayers and concern :)

On another note, we've officially ended Birthday week. Colton really enjoyed his day yesterday. He oohed and ahhed over his gifts. He opened his card from Uncle Matt and Aunt Julie and was so excited to see a 10 dollar bill, but then he quickly saw there were a couple of other bills in there and he went crazy jumping up and down. He also got a cool Pittsburgh Steelers super bowl champs shirt from his cousins Madi and Alex and a cool book filled with things that boys like! Thanks everyone!

I even got a gift, a wonderful note from his teacher. She said the frogs were great and Colton was so proud to hand them out. She said a couple of other things about his maturity and what a good learner he is. She then closed her note with how much she enjoyed him and that she would miss him next year. And I felt the sincerity. The biggest gift for me is that my son's teacher gets him in the way that I do. And I know its because she really cares about her students and is an amazing teacher.

With 8 graduation parties coming up, I also decided it was time for haircuts yesterday. I took the boys after school. Nolan was adamant that he not lose the length and told the girl exactly what he wanted. He was so excited she listened to him. When it came time to go, Colton was offered a sucker and money for the toy machine and Nolan wasn't for the first time. I didn't say anything, wondering what his reaction would be. We got to the car and I finally asked him how he felt about not getting anything. He said, "Its fine, I'm 9 now, way too old for that kid stuff." Ouch, I thought. Spoken like a teenager. *sigh*

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Happy 7th Birthday Colton Jack!



Complete opposites, they are. Nolan and Colton. Nolan took over two years to conceive. With that knowledge tucked away, when Nolan was 15 months, we stopped birth control. Colton, was the one-trick wonder. So I wasn't on the look out for him. But when September 11th, 2001 happened, I wept for days. I couldn't get a grip. I couldn't eat, feeling sick to my stomach. I felt what I imagined, the rest of the world felt.

Late one afternoon, I propped myself on the couch, one eye on the news, the other on Nolan playing with his golf clubs... and I conked out. I slept like the dead, deeply, soundly, till a I awoke to a small child wiggling my toe. OH MY! How did that happen? I hadn't slept like that since... I was pregnant with Nolan. One test. One plus sign. I did the math in my head... another May baby!

I had done so well carrying Nolan. I was sick with Colton from the start. I started with morning sickness that evolved into all day sickness. By 4 months, I was ready to be done! And Colton decided he was about done too :) So at 26 weeks I started to bleed and cramp and show signs of early labor. Dr. Johnson put me on bed rest and we determined that rest slowed all of the symptoms down. And activity, brought them back. The next few months were 1 part bedrest, 1 part blur. Our office manager became 1 part office gal, 1 part nanny to Nolan. We got through.

Colton in the meantime was growing. At just over a week before his due date, Dr. Johnson examined me and discovered I was already almost 5 centimeters dilated and the baby was already 8 pounds. She felt we should induce. She let me go home for Nolan's birthday, the 11th, but thought very possibly I may not make it through the party.

The day of the party the part I remember the most, is how desperately I tried to NOT go into labor, as if I could control it. But, Colton held off and we went in for induction on the 14th. If you compared the two births together, Nolan's overall was more difficult. But Colton saved all of the drama for the delivery. Just as he was about to enter this world, there was a big deceleration in his heart rate. It went low, and stayed low for almost 10 minutes as we worked to get him the last little bit out. After several pushes, Dr. Johnson said very firmly, I can't set up for a C-section fast enough... YOU have to push with everything you have and get him out! And I did. Between the two of us he came out, grayish blue, and a loop of cord around his neck.

As they worked on him he started to cry, and he pinked up. But as they went to pass a tube through his nose, it was met with resistance. They tried and tried. His little nostrils flared and he turned red in the face. They whisked him off to the NICU to examine him more fully. Over the course of the next few days, Colton was determined to have something called Choanal Atresia. Its a birth defect, where the back of the nasal passage (choana) is blocked, usually by abnormal bony or soft tissue formed during fetal development.

The only treatment for choanal atresia, is surgery, in which they make an opening through the tissue and bone and then try to place a stent in to keep it open. Ideally, the surgery happens when they are 5 or 6. To date, we have not faced having the surgery done. We deal with his breathing when he gets stuffed and can't move air efficiently. We know how to reposition him when he starts snoring and has apnea in his sleep. And the only part truly visible to the average person is the stringy discharge from his nose that most often he tries to just ignore.

But that aside, Colton is a pure joy. He spent his whole first year of his life sleeping in my bed so that I could suction his nose every couple of hours and we have been attached ever since. He is more contemplative and quiet. He is a good student and has a propensity for learning. He makes friends easily. Plus, depsite some harsh treatment from big brother on occasion, he remains loyal to him and always wants to play with him. Yet, he can play imaginary games alone for hours. He is a big mommy's boy and is such a little friend to me. I even see the resemblance he has to my side of the family, especially my younger brother.

There is something so pure about him. So refreshing and understated. He centers me. He grounds me. He delights me.

Happy 7th Birthday Bubba Jack! We love ya to the moon and back!


(I'll be at the cardiologist in the morning. I'll let you know what I find out when I return.)


*****update*****


I just got back from the cardiologist. The first thing he asked me about was if I knew Rick Westra, as Rick used to pitch and he would always throw the baseball hard at Dr. Pierce. He said he always thought Rick would get picked up by the Minnesota Twins some day. So I told him that Rick was indeed my husband and that despite a couple of tryouts for the Twins, that fast ball of Ricks was only in the 8o's (mph) and you need to throw 90's for pro baseball.

And then I got a thorough exam! He asked copious questions about my health history. Ironically, I used to have a history of fainting, which was always dismissed as anything related to my heart. But he said that could be a good indicator of something amiss and that needs to be checked. He then said I had 4 significant events of tachycardia during my holter monitor test. However, the rhythm of the beat was normal. Overall, my heart rate was higher than what they would consider normal.

So before he prescribes any kind of beta blocker to slow my heart rate down, he wants more tests. He also noted my liver function tests are elevated and I need to go back to Dr. Twedt for that. *sigh*

He asked about my preference for the tests and I said since we're paying out of pocket, I preferred the "cheap" ones. He laughed, but he also carefully explored the options with me before we proceeded.

So next week I will have an echocardiogram to look for any enlargement of the heart and for the shortness of breath and lightheadedness I'll do a stress test. I felt like he listened and asked a lot of questions, and he didn't make it seem overly serious, but he wasn't dismissive either.

Have any of you had a stress test? Does anyone take beta blockers? Anyone want to weigh in with their experience, I'm all ears! Thank you all for your prayers and concern :)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Super cute snack idea or birthday frogs.


Through 5 years of preschool, and now 3 years of elementary school, we have had the tradition of making frogs for our birthday snack. They are a compromise when it comes to what is acceptable to bring to school. Since no real baking or cooking is required, only assembling, I haven't met with any objections to the boys bringing these for snack. In fact, they seem to be a huge hit!










I usually make enough for two per classmate and several extras for teachers. So I made a batch of 62 frogs and here is what we needed. We used two packages of Oreos, and Nolan picked out the double stuf, but the regular work fine too. And one package of everything else you see above in the photos, plus I tablespoon of butter per square of chocolate you use.

I melted 5 squares of the semi sweet chocolate with 5 tablespoons of butter. (However, I think you could just use premade chocolate frosting or plain melted chocolate too. Its a very forgiving recipe.)

Next, on wax paper, Nolan set out the pretzels for the legs. Place them with the widest part or the two bows of the pretzel facing outward so that they have a small space in between them.

Then we take about a teaspoon of the sunbutter or peanut butter and spread it on the bottom of the Oreo cookie. Then dip the sunbuttered side of the cookie in the melted chocolate. Place the dipped cookie on the center of the legs (pretzels) and press down.

We leave the eyes for the last step. I use a toothpick to put two small dots of chocolate on the front of the cookie and place two mini-M & Ms on for the eyes. We leave them sit and harden and then carefully package them up for school!

The frogs this year were mostly done by Nolan. So they perhaps look a little messier than usual, but he was so proud of his work. He said he left a trail of frogs everywhere he went yesterday in school. The bucket came home empty, much like it does every year!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Happy 9th Birthday Nolan James!



In the nine years since Nolan first graced us with his presence, one thing we can all agree on, he has a flair for the dramatic. His arrival into this world could not have been any more of a cliffhanger than it was. I am convinced my grueling labor and delivery fraught with emotional turmoil was symbolic for the unexpected rollercoaster that is our son.

He is intense, persistent, kind, unrelenting, demanding, loving, spirited, loud, smart, abrasive, caring, passionate and has boundless energy. He woke his grandmother up at 6 this morning. By 8 he begged his dad to take him golfing and they golfed 18 holes. We went out for a late lunch and then came home for a family birthday party. But he was convinced Colton blew out some of HIS candles on the cake, and drama ensued. He stripped down to his underwear and crawled under the table, wounded and upset, convinced the world was against him.

We're getting used to it. Its his M.O. His signal. When he has had too much stimulation, too much noise, too much of a lack of structure and routine, he lets us know by falling to pieces. Its taken us many years and much trial and error. But with the help of some good parenting books we have come to understand him. And the cure for him when he is tempermental and out of sync, is to get him to bed. Then we pray for a better day the next day!

But you can't help but love him. He has many friends. Many. He does well at school. He is a really good athlete. And he has a soft heart. Last year he came home wanting to invite "Taylor" to his party. He kept asking if it was okay. I kept saying yes without understanding what he was asking. So I asked his teacher. I'm not kidding when she teared up. It just so happens that Taylor, is the girl that sits in a wheelchair. She can't talk although she does make vocalizations. She clearly would not have been able to bowl.

Nolan didn't care. His reasoning was that if he were the one in the wheelchair, he would want someone to invite him to their party, so why shouldn't he invite Taylor to his? She could watch and just be part of it, couldn't she? So I called Taylor's mom. And she was both excited and disappointed. They were going out of town. But she was thrilled that Taylor had been asked, and she thanked me. I set her straight, it was all Nolan's doing, not mine.

I have an entire journal filled with "Nolan" stories. If ever there were a book to write, it would be about my journey with Nolan. No story however, comes close to topping his story about God and the sunburn.

When Nolan was three he had gone to play the Sunday golf game with his dad one April day. It was unusually warm that day and got up into the mid 60's. It was just warm enough to catch us off-guard and Nolan experienced his first sun burn. Oh did he howl when I gave him his bath that night. He could not fathom how that red had gotten on his skin. We put some ointment on it and put him in bed and he was much better in the morning.

A few days later after his bath he came to me. We'd had one of those days. I was in bed, emotionally drained and exhausted. Its hard to be three. Its even harder to be a parent of a child who is three. I was startled to see him creeping into my room. His eyes were downcast. His voice was somber and serious. "Mom, he said, his voice filled with resignation, "I think I'm dying." I got up from the bed. My mind started to spin.

I said "Nolan, what is wrong?"

"My skins coming off," he said. "I must be dying."

I said, "Nolan, what have you been doing? Did you get into something? DID YOU PUT SOMETHING IN YOUR MOUTH?"

"Oh mom," he said, "Every day I do. You tell me not to, but I do. I just can't help it.

"What Nolan, tell me what you put in your mouth?"

"I ate grass once," he said. "I eat dog food all the time. Oh, and I licked the bottom of my shoe. Yesterday I tasted the side of the car and its pooey mom, don't ever put your tongue on it!"

By now I am trying to hold my sides that are jiggling from the laughter trying to escape.

"Now my skin is coming off. Mom, I'll probably be going to heaven tonight. Don't be sad."

I am leaning over inspecting what I realized is the peeling sunburn now and hugging him at the same time.

"Oh Nolan" I managed to choke out.

As I go to get some lotion he tells me he has to use the bathroom. I holler at him to close the door and wait for him to return. As he comes around the corner he is smiling. "Mom! I've got it," he says. "Do you think God goes potty? Because if he does, and he closes the door, I'll just sneak down from Heaven when he isn't looking and give you a hug so you won't miss me too much."

And with that he ran back to bed.

He is a keeper that one. He tries our patience, and manages to find our last nerve. But the joy he brings, the laughter, the unique way of being in this world. He is more, and with that, we are more too. I can't wait to have the rest of this journey with him.

We love you Nolan! Happy Birthday Peanut!

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