Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Overwhelmed....Again

Last week I was on a high.  We just finished a wonderfully successful Retreat and then headed out on a family trip for spring break that was fun, adventurous, educational, bonding (and exhausting).  I kept up with lots of work during all our car time and thought I'd come home ready to roll.

But today everything's crashing in on me.

I came home to a dirty house that's crying to be cleaned, several loads of laundry from the trip, larger-than-expected bills that need to be paid when money is tight, the realization that the May Retreat is coming up more quickly than I'd really anticipated and that Mother's Day (when we plan to put out some exciting new fun stuff on our website that still needs work and when we hope to release the eBook version of our Power of Moms book which still needs more editing) is coming up even more quickly.  Then the lovely hotel where we're planning to do our New England Retreat again this fall said they want a contract by tomorrow and there are lots of details to be finalized there.  Then I realized I've got a post due for our Deseret News column tomorrow.  Then I got an email reminding me that the May Learning Circles article needs to be put up by the end of this week.  Then we got several new trainer applications which I LOVE but which requires time.  Then we've got some excellent new Board members who need quite a bit of instruction and guidance so they can thankfully take some more stuff off the heaping plateful that April and I are trying to manage.  Then there's Isaac's book report that's due on Friday and Eliza's dance recital practices and the Cub Scout pack meeting tomorrow where my Bears are supposed to do a skit at the same time as my dear cousin's baby shower...

Last week I was speaking at a Retreat where we offered great tips and ideas to help moms take care of the person inside the mom and find more joy in motherhood and create more margins in their lives.  I'm afraid I'm not doing a great job of practicing what I preach.  I didn't quite manage to find time to eat breakfast or lunch today - but I did work out.  And I didn't find a lot of joy in motherhood today - but I spent tons of quality time with my family and felt great joy in motherhood on the trip we just finished.  And I'm seriously lacking in margins - but how am I supposed to keep from filling up my margins when I always seem to have so darn much to write?  

I think I'd better just go to bed.

Or wait, I don't know if I can get in my bed because there are 3 loads of clean laundry on my bed waiting to be folded.  Hmmmm....

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Flash Back

In polishing up another post, I just stumbled across this old post on my blog.  Tears came to my eyes as I read about the cute things the kids used to do and as I saw the roots of who they are today in their actions and words of a few years ago.  I'm so grateful for my sweet kids.  And I'm so glad I took the time to record who they were and what we were doing on this blog.  Blogs are good things.

We're home now and after being gone for the Retreat for several days then taking off on Spring Break right after that, it sure feels good to be home.  I'll post great photos from San Francisco and Easter at some point.  We drove for 14 hours yesterday from San Francisco and fell happily into our own beds at 1am.  We drove through a SNOW STORM on our way home - a serious one with slippery roads and huge flakes that made it look like we were driving through a galaxy of stars.  And now it's snowing outside my window and the 10 day forecast doesn't look great.  Will it EVER be spring???  Feeling the sun seems like a distant dream...

Jared just realized that he's flying out for a boys' trip to Cozumel with my dad and brothers at midnight tonight.  Never a dull moment around here!  Given this weather, I sure wish I could tag along with him but he sure deserves this little vacation.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Adventures with Jonah and Aja

My brother Jonah and his wife Aja are uniquely wonderful. They don't buy stuff. They trade stuff and grow stuff and do without a lot of the frills that really don't matter. They drive cars that run on used vegetable oil (and make a nice little income from buying old diesel Mercedes, converting them to greasels and selling them). They live in a simple but quite lovely little house that they paid for outright and remodeled with ingenuity and almost no money. It was so fun and educational to jump into their life for a couple days. To read more about the lifestyle they've chosen, check out this great blog post by Aja.

We had so much fun exploring the beautiful area where Jonah and Aja live (the Washington coast – almost all the way to Canada). We reveled in the amazing greenness of everything and loved hiking in the Olympic National Park with them – and seeing the gorgeous Olympia Mountains right out their window. We loved heading out on Jonah's boat to exlore a beautiful old lighthouse across the bay near their house (and had some exciting adventures when the tide went out very quickly and we had to push the boat through some frigid water for a bit!). The kids loved camping out in their yard for a fun sleep-over, riding their four-wheeler, shooting clay pigeons with Jonah's guns, hunting for eggs (every day's an Easter egg hunt around their house) and getting to know their lambs, chickens and horse a bit (my neice Ana has always loved horses with all her heart and she earned every penny to buy her own horse a few months back). The kids LOVED getting to know their new cousin, Poem who was born right there in their living room and adored the chance to be with their super cool aunt and uncle and play with some beloved cousins (we used to live by them in St George so they've really felt the lack since our families went our separate ways a couple years ago). 

We love Jo and Aja so much. They showed us a fabulous time and we're so priviledged to know them.  Here are some photos of our time together:

 Getting to know new cousin Poem was a big highlight.  She is such a fun baby - so smiley and full of cute little noises.  The kids were totally enamored with her!


Collecting eggs. 

Learning about gun safety and shooting clay pigeons was a big highlight for Ashton and Isaac
Learning about chickens - very friendly and pretty chickens

Headed across the bay to see an old lighthouse on Jonah's little fishing boat.
See the lovely Olympic mountains in the background?
They live in such a pretty area.

 

(yes, I was cold)

 Ashton at the top of the old lighthouse.


The kids loved collecting shells and rocks and bits of crabs and we saw all these crabs scuttling around under the water. 

 At Crescent Lake in Olympic National Park

Ana and Isaac were born just a month apart.  So fun to have them together again!
the twins and best buddy Camden were so excited about the waterfall they found that went right under a tree!

Serious rain forest on a hike to Mary Mere waterfall  - green covering everything - so gorgeous!
Finding awesome hide-outs with super cute Elsie
Huge old growth redwood trees - amazing
Those are some BIG trees!
At Mary Mere Falls in Olympic National Park - GORGEOUS hike and waterfall!

Hello Seattle


So we thought we'd get all the way to Jonah and Aja's house in Washington state on Monday but we got a bit of a late start. By the time we got to Yakima, we were pretty tired. As we drove, I was emailing back and forth with one of our new Power of Moms Trainers who'd just been at our Park City Retreat and in glancing over her information, I realized she lived in Yakima. She invited us to spend the night at her house and with a car full of cranky kids and our droopy eyelids, we took her up on the offer. It was so fun to get to know Kelly's family and our kids enjoyed playing together so much. Always fun to make new friends!

Tuesday morning, we headed to Seattle and had a great couple hours there. As we came through a tunnel and Seattle came into view, Ashton had “Hello Seattle” by Owl City all cued up to start blasting and it was perfect to come into the city with all the kids dancing around in their seats to the song. I've got some fun kids.


Here's some of what we saw in Seattle. Aja emailed us a perfect little walking tour of some of the most fun sites. Such a great city.

The Gum Wall.  Wow - that's a lot of gum.  Who thought of this?  
And how did it grow in size and fame?  So interesting.  Sort of gross.  But quite artistic.


I love the snippets of human creativity tucked into the spaces of great cities.


 Riding the pig at the entrance of Pike Place Market

 We loved the beautiful flowers and vegetables in that market


Then we got on the Bainbridge Ferry to head towards Jonah and Aja's house. The ferry ride was beautiful – the views of Seattle were spectacular. The kids were soooooo excited about driving our car onto a boat and when we got to Bainbridge, one of the ferry workers let them help tie up the ferry and prepare to get all the cars off which was a huge bonus.


After the ferry ride, we had a beautiful drive to Jonah and Aja's house near Port Angeles (and Forks – yes, they live right in the middle of where Twilight was set...).  Adventures with Jo and Aja in the next post!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Driving and Driving- Spring Break Part 1

Washington and Oregon are big states.  We've been driving through them for a long time.  But they sure are beautiful!  We started yesterday morning from Jonah and Aja's home right up near the Canadian border and have been driving along I-5 through gorgeous forests and hills, over rivers with lovely bridges, past lakes and fjords.  We've seen spring unfold as we've driven south - great to go from bare trees to beautiful new leaves and blossoms everywhere in the course of a day.  We stopped in Olympia and Salem for a bit - checked out the state capitols there and ran around to get our wiggles out.  I've decided that visiting state capitol buildings is a great way to learn quite a lot about an area in a 1/2 hour or so - nice murals, lots of plaques with interesting tidbits of information, lovely grounds to run around in. We were all excited when we spotted a Trader Joe's in Olympia and stopped there for lots of our old favorite treats - used to frequent that place when we lived in California - why can't it come to Utah???  We stayed in Medford, Oregon last night - the kids were thrilled that we found a hotel with a big indoor pool and free breakfast.  All the sugared cereals, bagels, juice, waffles, sausages, yogurt, etc. was super exciting to my kids who are used to the healthy boring breakfasts we usually have around our house.

We just passed crossed into California and we're almost to Mount Shasta where we'll stop for a bit.

I love family road trips.  There was a time when love wasn't really a word I could use for road trips.  Long stretches of time in a car with babies and toddlers is probably not at the top of anyone's list of favorite things.  But the kids are all old enough now to really be great in the car for the most part and we have great times talking about the scenery and sites outside the windows, listening to music (we're listening to the CD from last summer's reunion with all the cousins' favorite songs on it right now and the kids are rocking out), watching a movie here and there (love grabbing a dollar movie from Redbox in one place and dropping it off in another when we're done with it), talking about the history and interesting facts about the places we're headed to or just left, reading the scriptures that go with Easter week (we had a great time the other day comparing the descriptions of Palm Sunday and the cleansing of the temple in the four different gospels).  Ashton's been teaching Isaac about how to edit movies on a computer (he's been making movies quite a bit for the Power of Kids blog - check them out by clicking on the link in the right column).  Eliza's in the way back showing all the cool rocks she's collected to the twins and I hear a little bargaining going on (apparently she's trying to sell some to them - Silas just got money from the tooth fairy...).

I love just being together here in our good old mini van.  I love how we do our individual things for a while - some read, some sleep, I get some work on the computer done during dull patches of road or while the kids watch a movie (Jared's got me hooked up to the internet with a mobile hot spot on his phone - not sure how it works but it's been awesome to do lots of post-Retreat follow-up stuff as we drive along...).  Then we all come together to notice stuff outside the window or read something or discuss something for a while.  Sure there are moments when someone needs a bathroom quite urgently and there's none in sight or when the kids are squabbling and bugging each other.  But these are good times.

We're headed to San Francisco and will have a couple days there with my sister Charity and Jared's sister and brother-in-law, Kathryn and MJ.  It'll be so great to be with Kathryn and MJ for Easter since we were always with them for Easter the 6 years that we lived in San Jose.  We love the Bay Area and want our kids to stay connected to this place where all of them were born so we've tried to come back every couple of years.

We're in sight of Mount Shasta now - pretty impressive.  I'll sign off for a while and check the Internet for any quick hikes near here.  Later on, I'll do a post with great photos of our adventures with Jonah and Aja's family.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Power. Serious Power.

Power of Moms is a TON of work. But last weekend helped me see that all this work really IS worthwhile.

About 8 years ago, as I was chatting with my friend Neylan about how hard and important motherhood was, we brainstormed the idea of professional development Retreats for mothers. We'd seen the value of professional development opportunities in the careers we'd worked at before taking on the profession of motherhood and we agreed that there really ought to be “professional development” opportunities in the field of motherhood. So we put together a couple of very successful weekend Retreats involving learning and growing with some of our favorite mom-friends – and dreamed of the day when many more mothers would have this sort of opportunity.

Last weekend, I had the priviledge of seeing this concept come into full bloom. ONE HUNDRED mothers (including my dear friend Neylan who's since moved on to other exciting pursuits including the Mormon Women Project) gathered at my parents' house in Park City for a Power of Moms Retreat. The power and excitement and energy in that room was palpable. And it brought tears to my eyes to stand there in front of all those great mothers who wanted to lift each other, to learn, to grow, to become all that they are meant to be while embracing all the joy that motherhood can offer. 

We couldn't quite squeeze all 100 into this photo and it's a bit over-exposed - but you get the idea!
There were many photographers there so I'll be gathering in more great photos later.


Here are just a few of the kind things people wrote on their evaluation forms in answer to the question, “What would you tell a friend about this Retreat?” 
  • This Retreat gave me new perspective on what kind of mom I want to be. I felt so empowered and supported in my efforts. I loved being among like-minded women who want to make a difference in their families. I felt like I was given very useful tools to accomplish great things in my family. I feel energized and have a new focus on what is truly important and what I am trying to do and why.
  • Awesome! When women plan a retreat every detail is perfect! The venue, the structure, the schedule, the food, the speakers etc etc. I could go on! (After 1000 hours of logistics planning – this little comment sure made me feel good!)
  • It felt like being back in college attending a full day of back to back classes on the most important topic in my life. The notetaking and evaluating felt very invigorating--wow, I do still have a brain that works?! The format allowed a wealth of topics to be covered, and each one had value and application for me. It deepened my resolves, opened my mind to new ideas, and granted me the broader perspective to see how I want to use my todays to nurture and influence our family's tomorrows. Love it and so recommend it!
  • A wonderful professional development seminar where I learned practical tools based on strong principals. A room full of 100 equally intense and deliberate mothers who are taking their job seriously and are anxious to learn and share ideas.
  • One of the biggest "a-ha" moments for me at the Retreat was looking around the room and realizing that roughly 500 children's lives were going to be impacted by what was being said; that 100 mothers wanted desperately to create successful, strong families. As I sat in that room and realized that there are people all over the world just like these women who really care about the future and who want to raise responsible, caring, hard-working children. I was overcome with optimism for the future. 
  • This was the parenting class they forgot to give you in the hospital before you left with that brand new baby. I'm going to pay for my little sister to go to a Retreat because it is an experience I wish I had been able to have as a young mother. That way I could have implemented the ideas and practices I learned earlier in my "mothering career".
  • I would say that this Retreat gave mothers a chance to discuss things that we all worry about. A place to gather ideas that work and can be tweaked to fit our family. It's given me perspective and the last few days at home have truly been delightful. I love my imperfect kids and know that we are working together to make something special here - something that I don't feel I got as a child.
  • Well, I have told about a dozen friends about the Retreat and I guess the main words I've used are "Life Changing", "Inspiring" "Motivating" and "Full of true principles that I can implement" 
  • There truly is power in motherhood! It is so apparent when you gather together with other like-minded moms, even if at times we feel alone or lonely in our work in separate homes. 
  • This retreat obviously couldn't change my reality at home right now. It did, however, give me the mental tools to handle the things I cannot change and the practical tools to change the things I can change.
  • Life changing, I came away with a new view of myself and motherhood. The days since are full of excitement, contentment, and the kind of joy that comes from being present.
I guess all this hard, hard work for the past few years is really worth it! I'm so glad this new full-day Retreat model has proven to work so well and look forward to rolling out more Retreats now building on all the work that went into this one and the previous Retreats.

I'm SO grateful for all the amazing moms who “caught the vision” and signed up to come to this Retreat and those that preceded it.  And I'm extremely grateful for my amazing Power of Moms partner, April, and for all the great moms who've jumped in to help as volunteer members of our Power of Moms Board. They are amazing.  One of my favorite parts of the Retreat was meeting face-to-face with many of our Board members for the first time and actually having an in-person Board meeting. We can do a lot via email but it's so much more fun and effective to meet in person! Sadly, several of our Board members couldn't arrange their schedules or finances to join us as they live far away (Canada, Japan, the East Coast, etc.). But we'll get with them in person one of these days!

Here are our wonderful Board members who helped SO much with this Retreat (we just had to do a "power" pose). 



And here are my amazing sisters and parents. It was a dream come true to be able to present this Retreat with them. Often, I get to present with one of them – but somehow, this time, the stars were aligned for all of us to be able to be at the same Retreat.  Shawni, Saydi, my mom and I presented and Charity was the fabulous Retreat Manager who helped make the magic work from behind the scenes.








April did a fabulous job presenting her whole Mind Organization for Moms program on Friday. Even thought I've heard her present this program many times, I always enjoy her great presentation style and come away with new ideas that can help me be more effective with how I use my time.

And now Jared and I are celebrating a long long couple months of website re-launch work and Retreat preparation with a Spring Break trip with our kids to visit family in Washington state and California. We're driving through Oregon as I type this (lots of car time - but the kids are old enough to be really great in the car these days). I'll post updates on our fun trip when I get a chance!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Easter Week Ideas

I've had quite a few people ask if I'll repost my stuff from a while back about Easter traditions.  So here goes!

I think Easter is the best holiday - the most meaningful and the least stressful. I get out the couple of little Easter decorations we own (I'm just not that into cutesy bunnies and pastels so I've never found much I really wanted as far as Easter decor) and add some fresh spring flowers and a bowl of pretty dyed eggs and voila - the house is all decorated for Easter. Then we have special (but very simple) activities we do each day of the week leading up to Easter - and this year all 5 kids have been old enough to really get into all this so it's been especially fun. Here are our basic traditions for Easter week as they've evolved over the last couple years (thanks to great ideas from books and friends and some trial and error):

  • On Palm Sunday, we read about and re-enact Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem (using weeds for palms and Jared for a donkey...). The twins were really into yelling "Hosana!" this year.
  • On Monday we re-enact Jesus cleansing the temple (and this year we went to the temple grounds to feel the peace there and imagine how it must have felt to Jesus to see people showing so little reverence for the temple - I think we'll have to make a trip to the temple a part of our regular Easter week traditions).
  • On Tuesday we dye eggs (the first one has to be red according to Bulgarian custom - I went on my mission to Bulgaria - the red represents death and the egg represents new life - great symbol of death and life coming together).  We talk about how eggs represent new life.
  • On Wednesday we talk about Christ's parables and miracles (the movie "Finding Faith in Christ" and some good books we have help with this).
  • On Thursday we're supposed to have a simple passover supper with lentil stew and pita bread and talk about the Last Supper and the Garden of Gethsemane (but this year Jared and I had our own little passover supper on Tuesday night since our schedule worked out better that way and we just talked about the sacrament and the Last Supper and read about the Garden of Gethsemane.  The kids get the most beautiful looks of empathy on their faces as we talk about Jesus bleeding from every pore as he took the sins of the world upon him.
  • On Friday we watch "The Lamb of God" and talk about the sadness of Christ's death (the wanted to do a reenactment but that seemed a bit sacreligious).
  • Saturday is for the Easter Bunny and egg hunts and all that fun, silly stuff. We make deviled eggs and gorge ourselves on candy. This year it was great to have Mom, Dad, Tal, Anita, Julie and Eli with us for our egg hunt and deviled eggs as well as lots of other fun stuff on Saturday.
  • Easter morning we watch a clip of the resurrection (from the internet or one of the DVDs we have - the old mini-series "Jesus of Nazareth" has some really nice clips of different parts of the last week of Jesus' life on earth and the resurrection) first thing when we wake up and do an egg hunt for plastic eggs filled with symbols of Christ's last week on earth accompanied by scriptures that go with them (a piece of bread for the Last Supper, a rock for the tomb, a little cross, some olive leaves for the Garden of Gethsemane, some nails, some thorns...) plus they find their Easter baskets filled with a few treats and some new Sunday books as well as new Easter clothes. Then we eat eggs benedict and get ready for church.
Our traditions are still evolving - and probably always will be. But it's great to see the kids really starting to understand the real meaning of Easter - and it's great for me as a mom to spread things out over a whole week and do something little every day rather than all the big stuff all at once like at Christmas. I hope my kids will always think of Easter as the best holiday - a great combination of fun and meaning and treats and tokens of the first Easter.

Easter baskets and new clothes - everyone got a little toy, two new books (one "regular," one Sunday-themed church bag book or coloring book), a chocolate bunny
and a handful of little chocolate eggs and jelly beans
Easter outfits - orange and blue theme this year - got to go with
what's on sale combined with what's been handed down from cousins, etc.!

What are your favorite Easter traditions?  

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ancestor Wall

Growing up, we had this wall of old photos right inside the front door of our home.  There were photos of our parents as little children, photos of grandparents, great grandparents and even a couple great-great grandparents.  There was a portrait of my great-grandfather who looked remarkably like my dad.  Everyone said the sister of my great-grandmother looked a lot like me.  We could see a bit of each of us in so many of those faces on the wall.

As a little girl, I remember loving that wall. I liked the old-fashioned clothing and remember my mom marveling at the work the mothers must have done to have all those children dressed in crisp white shirts and dresses with no washing machines or modern irons involved. My parents often told us stories about our ancestors and about themselves in their youth which made the pictures all the more interesting.  And I liked thinking of all those ancestors watching over us as we went in and out the front door every day.

I always planned to have an ancestor wall in my home when I had my own family.  But even though my mom was kind enough to give each of us a whole sheaf of copies of old photos for Christmas a few years ago, my ancestor wall didn't happen.  Until last month.  

The entryway of this beautiful old house was just begging for photos of our ancestors so I did it.  I looked through the photos from my mom, picked out my favorite ones, took a quick trip to the store, found some fairly inexpensive frames that would work, came home, stuck photos in the frames, hung them up on the wall in the entryway and voila!  I've got my ancestor wall.  And it only took a couple hours once I just decided to do it and stopped waiting for the time when I'd get around to making enlargements or better reproductions of certain photos or finding the very perfect frames or getting copies of all the Loosli family pictures so I could put up both sides of the family at once.  It's amazing how easy projects can be when I give up on doing them perfectly and decide to just get them done!
   

I've loved telling my kids the stories of these ancestors and I like thinking of them watching us in our comings and goings.  I'm excited to get photos of Jared's side of the family so I can really finish this project - I've got a wall saved for the Looslis.  It'll happen.

I also put up this collage of cool letters that Eliza and I found when we visited Boston last fall and that I framed as a Christmas present for Jared.  Liza and I had so much fun making it and I love how it combines architectural elements from some of the places Jared and I loved in Boston - the place where we met and where we began our family - with our family name.  There's a clearer photo of the letters if you scroll on down.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Dinosaurs and Trains

Last week we got a couple days of springtime and decided to make the most of it.  It's pretty weird looking back at these photos of  8 days ago when it was in the upper 60's and then looking at the snow outside my window!

The kids and I explored the Eccles Dinosaur Museum and had so much fun learning together about dinosaurs.  I think one of my favorite things about motherhood is that I get to experience the excitement of learning and discovery with my cute kids who are all at such fun ages right now.  They're all old enough to get things and have great questions but young enough to still be thoroughly excited.

The kids loved pretending the huge dinosaur replicas were coming to life.


And they liked reading the plaques about each dinosaur on display - great having all the kids able to read now and really talk about what interests them and what their favorite facts were that they learned.  Most of these dinosaurs actually lived in this area and it was fun to imagine what the world was like back then.

The sunshine felt so wonderful!  I sat on a bench with my face turned to the sun while the kids enjoyed the playground at the museum.  Maybe I've been a bit down because I've been lacking that vitamin D the sun provides.  Wow, does the sun feel good!


Then we wandered down 25th Street, got yummy samples at Great Harvest, and decided to visit all the cool trains at the old train station.  The kids were so full of imagination and excitement as they climbed all over the trains and acted out little plays involving train robberies and train crashes.

I think my great grandpa Howard was watching from Heaven with a smile.  He used to be a train engineer and took great pride in operating massive steam locomotives like the one above.

The kids were so excited when they saw that the "driving room" of the engine was open and it was fun to tell them what little I know about my great grandpa and his trains.  Grandpa Howard would have known just what to do with all those knobs and faucets.


The diesel engines were pretty awesome too.  Plus you could climb up on top of them and pretend you were in one of those movies where people are running around on top of moving trains.


The sun and the fun and the putting aside of work for a while was so wonderful for me.  What a joy it is to be a mother of such fun, curious, imaginative, sweet kids!

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Seriously?

It's been snowing and sleeting for 3 days without stopping.  It's April.  Come ON!  Hopefully this'll stop before the Retreat next weekend in Park City.




This is the weekend that we used to do our annual "cactus flower hunt" in St George.  Here's what April used to mean to us:

And here's what we get this April:


We planted new flowers and plants last weekend along with doing tons of work to level out the backyard and put down new top soil and grass seed.  The ground is supposed to stay wet.  I guess we've got that covered.  But I'm not sure those little seeds or the new plants will survive this!

We went to the rock and gem show here as a great indoor activity today.  Isaac went there earlier this week for a field trip and begged to take the whole family.  Now all the kids are happily trading the rocks they got there and everyone is marveling at the amazing designs and beautiful stuff that you can dig out of the ground. I love all the nature has to offer.  Even this darn snow, I guess.  I'll appreciate springtime all the more.
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