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Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Text in the City

People who've known me since college might be shocked to know that I do not text.  That right now for another few days, I have a dumb phone that doesn't even have a web browser.   If it even does texting, I'm not sure how. I'm borrowing my Dad's old cell phone until my new one gets here.

I've always liked being an early adopter.  Heck, I took my own answering machine with me to summer camp (pre-voicemail days!).   I've carried a cell phone since 1996.  I've had an email account since 1992, a web page since 1995.  I had a Palm pilot in 1999, from there, went to the early Palm Phones and never looked back.    I've had Trios and Samsungs and I don't even remember what else.  Let me tell you, nothing out there now is as cool as my first Palm phone was to me, back in 2001.  It meant I didn't have to carry two devices.  So my phone from 10 years ago was better than the phone I have now! 

But from having a phone with internet access, it always seemed silly to text.  Why would I want to get a text when I could get an email instead?  Which someone could type out from any computer without hurting their thumbs to do?   Since I didn't text other people, it was always surprising when I would get a text out of the blue.  My friends Jason and Lisa liked to send "Happy New Year!"  "Happy Arbor Day!" etc. messages.  While it was nice that they were thinking of me, I had to pay 20 cents for the privilege of hearing from them, like a collect call.

Then the spam texts started.  Somehow my cell phone # got onto some list of people looking to refinance, and I got many messages a day and worst, in the middle of the night, barraging me with "rates have dropped!" etc.  I contacted Sprint and they set up my account to block all texts except for a special list of friends' numbers which I manually added one by one.  I added my friend Steve, who is really not the type to do "Happy Arbor Day" messages, and Jenna and Jill, who I would frequently meet in loud public places where we couldn't hear our phones.  And one other person (is it you?  did you make the cut?!).  And that's it!  

So from now on, anyone who is trying to text me, well, they might THINK I got their message, but I'm blissfully unaware of the attempt.  And this block has been set up for YEARS, but every so often, people will mention that they texted me and act hurt that I never got back to them.  So occasionally I wonder what I am missing out on.  But I get every single email, Twitter message, Facebook posting, LinkedIn mail, etc. and I don't pay 20 cents each to read them.  If someone spams my inbox, I hit delete and move on.  It doesn't rouse me out of a deep sleep the way texts do, or cause me to pull the car over to see who needs to urgently reach me (oh!  rates have dropped again!).




Monday, December 05, 2011

Food pantries

Quick little post!  Last night, I went to the MomsLA Holiday party, where we were asked to bring food for Westside Food Bank.  I went through our cabinets and came up with a whole box of stuff, which I then promptly FORGOT on the kitchen table, and showed up at the party empty-handed!  Whoops! :(

But all is not lost because I remembered that UCLA is still doing their food drive until December 14, and they've made it very easy for you to donate.  There are several locations around campus and some of them don't even require getting out of your car! I will be heading to parking kiosk #2 this morning with my box.  Here is more info if you are a Westsider and want to donate there:

Map of drop-off locations:
http://map.ais.ucla.edu/go/1003466

Of course, the food banks are in need all year, not just now!  But let's take this holiday season of excessive shopping and merriment, to especially remember those who are struggling just to get their next meal, and would not care if, say, the Annie's Organic Macaroni and Cheese was accidentally the green box instead of the purple box.  (Ahem, Lauren!)

Oh, and even without me, MomsLA still managed to fill 3 bins of donations, what generous bloggers!

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Guest Post from my Dad: Christmas Hints 1 Through 10

This is from an email my dad sent to the family:

Coming from a large family, I picked up a few helpful hints for saving money at Christmas over the years. I thought I would share them with you...
 
    1.  E-mail each of your relatives individually and tell them that we had a drawing of names for Christmas gift-giving at Thanksgiving. Then tell each one that they got your name.
 
     2.  If you are sending Christmas cards, address them to yourself and write the name of the intended recipient on the return address part of the envelope.  Then don't put a stamp on it.
It will be returned to sender for postage and you'll save a lot in postage.
 
      3.  Find a store that offers free Christmas wrapping and buy the biggest item they have.  Have it wrapped for Christmas.  When you get home, unwrap it and return the item to the store.  You will have enough wrapping paper and ribbon for all the rest of the gifts.
 
       4.  Never buy live trees until after Christmas. On Christmas morning, tell your kids or grand kids that Christmas is still a few days away.  Then go out and get a bargain on an unsold tree.
This works really well if you keep them off the phone and away from their friends for a few days before Christmas.
 
       5.  Gather the little ones and read them Santa's obituary a couple of days before Christmas. You will lower their expectations and save on toy purchases.
 
       6.  Drop subtle hints with people for a month or so before the holiday.  For example, I sign most of my e-mails to vendors and colleagues with "Jim S., shirt size 17 X 35" Or "Jim S., who uses Titleist Pro Vx golf balls." 
 
        7.  Whenever a vendor at work asks for my address to send the staff a holiday basket, I give him the name and address of a friend who I want to remember at Christmas.
I simply ask them to write "From Jim" on the card.
 
        8. To get out of assembling that big, artificial tree you store in the garage for 48 weeks out of the year, simply tell the wife that the rats got into it.  Women hate rats.  They hate to have anything in their house that is remotely associated with rats.  You won't have to spend the day putting all those color-coded branches in the stem and fluffing the boughs and spacing the lights.
 
         9.  Gather all the little kids in the house a day or so before the big night and tell them that Santa won't bring them anything unless they leave a case of Budweiser and a roast beef sandwich on rye with lettuce and mayonnaise.
 
        10.  For a really fun-filled Christmas morning, sneak downstairs the night before and switch all of the tags on the gifts.
 
      I hope these suggestions will brighten your holidays.  If not, may a sacred camel leave a holy relic under your pillow.
 
love,

Jimmy who wears size L golf shirts
 

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Homework Help




Willie decides he is tired of all this homework talk, so he's just going to help "Tister" do it himself!

But seriously, I do think she has way too many assignments. When I was in kindergarten, I don't remember having much, if any, homework. And if we did, it was probably something simple like "come back and tell us something in your house that starts with 'A'."

These nights, Lauren usually has to read for 5-10 minutes, practice "high frequency word" flashcards, do 2 pages of math worksheets, 2 pages of "word" worksheets. Tonight's were "circle the pictures that show a short i sound" and "trace, cut out "w-h-y and write a sentence using the word 'why' ". I wish she had written "WHY is there so much homework?" or "Why couldn't I be playing right now or doing anything else except this?".

And don't even get me started on the math homework. Because I did not understand the directions and had to have her skip one of the pages until Ryan got home. Even he had to read it several times before this sunk in: "Have children: 1-2 trace a line from each cube in the first column to each cube in the second column, count and trace each number, then circle the number that is greater; 3-4 repeat and then circle the number that is less."

KINDERGARTEN, people! Can't wait until a few years from now when she comes home and asks me to help her conjugate French verbs. Sheesh!
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Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Obligatory Halloween photos





Didn't get good shots of the kids this year (see yesterday's post) but I am posting these anyway so you can see Dorothy, and William wearing his "Great Pumpkin" T-shirt. He had his beagle costume on in the morning for half a second.

Last shot is something amusing from last week's farmers' market!
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Tuesday, November 01, 2011

You Should See the Other Guy



This is the kind of thing where, if I were the nanny I'd be fired. While watching William today, he crawled over and pulled himself up to stand, using our nightstand like he's done many times before. Should have seen this as a hazard, but all the other times, it was sturdy. Only this time, he pulled the entire thing down to the floor, on top of himself.

He was screaming and when I pulled it off of him, at first I did not even notice the cuts by his eye, I was just focused on his leg being crushed. (The leg is fine.) Then there was that unmistakeable iron smell of blood, and I noticed my shirt was bloodied. I took him to the doctor and at first she thought it needed stitches but upon closer examination, found that it was not very deep. So she prescribed special antibiotic cream that can go near the eye. Probably good stuff to have on hand for future injuries that I'm sure will happen.

Meanwhile, this little bruiser is getting extra snuggles from his parents and "Lo", as he calls Lauren. I was supposed to go to my office this afternoon for an important meeting with my boss and her boss, but I had to cancel. If ever a baby needed his mama, this was the day. He's been pretty happy with all of the extra attention, and I even let him stay up late and took him to Trader Joe's in the Ergo, so he fell asleep nestled against me. Which was pretty nice.

Probably does not need to be stated, but Lauren never toppled furniture before. At least I can't remember any times that she was rushed to the doctor with injuries, other than the one time she cut her wrist. So William's living up to that stereotypical boy energy.

The funny thing is, yesterday was Halloween, and he had his beagle costume on for about 5 minutes, kept trying to pull it off and was generally miserable.  So I let him wear his "Great Pumpkin" T-shirt and that's about as dressed-up as he got.  But I could not take pictures of either outfit because I was holding him and the camera.  When I set him down to get a shot, he crawled into some dirt and got filthy.  So under pressure from the grandparents wanting to see his first Halloween, I was going to secretly dress him up again this afternoon and reenact it for the camera.  But now I  will never get a believable shot because yesterday his eye looked just fine.
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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Warm Pasta Salad



We have this quite a bit around here. The recipe is more or less this:

Ingredients:
1 pound of whole wheat pasta
1 bag of organic broccoli crowns
1 clove of garlic
1/8 cup olive oil
4 oz. asiago, parmesan blend shredded cheese (or can use other grated cheese-Romano, etc.)
1 can of olives
1 pound of cherry tomatoes
handful of fresh chopped basil
sprinkle of smoked sea salt
sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:
-Make the pasta according to package directions. While that is boiling,
-Steam the broccoli crowns in water for 2 minutes
-Chop the garlic, saute it in the olive oil and smash it up a bit in the oil to release the flavor. (Be careful not to burn!)
-Drain the broccoli, then add it to the frying pan so that the oil/garlic mixture coats the broccoli, throw in mixing bowl

-Open up the can of olives, and slice them in half. Add to mixing bowl
-Chop the cherry tomatoes in half, add them to mixing bowl, along with cheese and freshly chopped basil.
-Pasta should be done right about now. Drain it, add to mixing bowl.

-Toss everything together, sprinkle with smoked sea salt (Trader Joe's has it) and fresh black pepper

We eat this hot but also cold the next day! And there are a million variations depending on what I have in the fridge & cabinets. The above is the variation we had last night. Also try: sundried tomatoes, feta cheese, kalamata olives and oregano with the pasta & garlic broccoli.
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Monday, October 10, 2011

Guest Post from my Dad: Timeshare


For the past few days I have received numerous calls about my time share.

The people on the phone knew my name and were courteous, then apologized when I told them I didn't have a time share.  They promised not to call again.

However, the calls from this management firm escalated until last night was the last straw.  I finally said "Ok, ok, I have a time share.  What can I do for you?"

The rep said she wanted to find out if I was interested in letting it go at a reduced rate this winter. 
"I guess so," I said.  "Quite honestly, I haven't had much luck getting any return on that investment."

"Would you be willing to drop it down to $1,200 a week?" she asked.

"Sure, if you want I'll drop it to $500 a week if they rent it for more than a month." I said.

"Great, we'll post that right now!"

"Good, what is the website where I can see it?" I asked.

So a Mediterranean villa time share is going at a discounted rate this winter.

 I just hope whoever rents it in December remembers to clean up when they leave.  I have rented it for the month of January. 

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Chuck E.Cheese fun

Until last month, I hadn't been in a Chuck E. Cheese since the 80's. Some things are still the same-the arcade games, ticket for prizes system, gleeful children running in endless circles, and Chuck E. himself pressing the flesh. But one big thing has changed-they've improved the pizza. To encourage people to try their new offerings with real mozzarella cheese and a crispier crust, they invited me and my family to come and check it out and write about it.

We went to the location on La Tijera, (a few exits before LAX off of 405) We ordered the fresh olive pizza and hit the arcade. After we had been there a few minutes, Ryan said "This is more fun than I thought it would be." Lauren said "Wow, this is EVEN more fun than I thought it would be!" And William said "goo".

Chuck E. Cheese has a package where for $29.95, you get a large pizza, 2 soft drinks and 50 game tokens. If you buy more game tokens, they are 25 cents or less (cheaper if you buy more of them at once). Every game takes one token. At the end of play, the game spits out prize tickets which you can redeem for toys. If you don't earn enough tickets to get the toy you want, you can buy the difference for a penny per ticket. When Lauren fell short of the tix required to got her coveted rainbow slinky, Ryan discreetly made up the difference from his wallet.

Lauren had her bucket of 30 tokens which lasted quite awhile. She especially liked the old-fashioned Skee Ball, Whack-a-Mole and cheering for her dad in basketball. Lauren even said that she might like to turn six in the company of Chuck E. Cheese. I don't think there will be an unsmiling face in the house!






Disclaimer:I was not compensated but was provided a gift card from Chuck E. Cheese to facilitate this review.
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Monday, October 03, 2011

Mixed Emotions on the first day of Kindergarten



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I saved this to drafts a few weeks ago.  Those are two shots from the 1st day of kindergarten and we're now a few weeks in.   For the most part, Lauren loves school and dislikes homework.  I can't say I enjoy it either, sitting with her and reading each line of direction, thwarting her stall tactics ("I have to go to the bathroom again.  It's just that my throat is SO DRY.  This is NOT the best pencil.  Could I maybe do this LATER?").  But we're managing!

Still, I see why "homework clubs" and tutors for little children are so popular.  I'd put helping with homework in that category of "things I'd love to outsource", along with scrubbing the toilet and installing car seats...What would you pay someone else to do if budget was not a concern?  Comments, please!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

My, how they grow!

My baby is off to kindergarten this week, and I'm feeling a little bit nostalgic.  Her last day of nursery school was in July.  Here are 2 pictures of the same entrance, same kid, 3 years apart (It looks like a bad paint job covering up some tagging but that's just because I did some down & dirty 30-second photoshopping to take the school sign out!)
July 2008, first day of nursery school
July 2011, last day of nursery school

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Almond Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe: A Lauren & William Creation

Lauren and I were making Spinach Souffle, so I had the almond meal out, and decided it might be good in the chocolate chip cookies we were going to make next.  William, in his cabinet perusal, kept waving the almond extract.  So we experimented and came up with these yummy, crispy cookies!


Lauren & William's Dark Chocolate Chip Almond Cookies:

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 cups almond meal
1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 large eggs

2 cups (12-oz. pkg.)  Dark Chocolate or Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
optional: 1 cup chopped almonds (we did not try this but we might next time!)

Directions:

PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

COMBINE flour, almond meal, and baking soda in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and almond extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in dark chocolate chips (and nuts if using). Chill dough for 10 minutes in the fridge.  Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets

BAKE for 9 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Please leave a comment if you make these, especially if you make any tweaks that make it even yummier!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Take 10 Seconds and Do this One Important Thing

Hopefully you will never need the #, but take 10 seconds, anyway, grab your cell phone and program in this contact: 1-800-222-1222 for POISON CONTROL.

Yes, my baby swallowed nail polish remover today.  He's fine, but I had to call 411 and get transferred to poison control because I could not think of the # and couldn't remember where near the phone I had put it. 

Here's what happened:  The kids and I are home sick today with head colds, so I was feeling feverish, lethargic and out-of-it anyway.  I was on the floor in Lauren's room reading her a book, William was playing with Duplos at our feet.  I got to a long page, looked up and noticed he wasn't there anymore.  In that minute, he had crawled over to the bathroom.  I share a bathroom with Lauren, connected to her room, so I have all of my makeup, etc. under the sink.  He'd never had access to explore it before since I don't usually keep the door open so it hadn't been on my radar yet for baby-proofing.  I also hadn't thought about the beauty supplies as poisonous the way I do, say the Clorox or aspirins. 

Anyway, he was on the ground, the bottle was in his mouth, he was smiling, his breath smelled like (to my stuffed-up nose) nail polish remover.  There was about an ounce of it left in the bottom of the 6 ounce bottle.  There was a tiny bit of it on the floor.  The top was closed but he must have opened it at some point to spill the little bit on the floor.  I could not remember how full the bottle had been before, other than, I'm sure at least half empty.  I hadn't used it to take nail polish off in months!

I called 411 to get transferred to Poison Control and they told me that he probably hadn't swallowed very much of it because he's so young, it would be hard to get that coordination, he wouldn't be very thirsty, and it wouldn't taste good.  But I was supposed to watch him anyway, not let him lie down for the next hour, in case he vomited.  I also should give him water or milk.  If he seemed lethargic, I would have to bring him in to the ER. 

Ryan walked in the door right as I was finishing up the call.  We then spent the next hour taking turns holding William upright and intently checking to see if he seemed sleepy.   Well, today he only napped for 20 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the afternoon, and it was approaching bedtime, so of course he was a little sleepy!  But then he spilled water on himself, was very alert (and cold!) so we were reassured.  Fingers crossed, so far he seems fine.

Please do learn from my mistakes.  Take a few seconds, stop your blog browsing, and actually do this simple act of putting the Poison Control phone # in your cell phone.  I've also taped it to the back of my house phone.    Better safe than sorry!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Shopping Bargains: Flap Happy Outlet Store

At a friend's suggestion, I'm finally posting about one of Lauren's favorite stores.  The Flap Happy Outlet has moved to Culver City.  It's an actual outlet with the factory in the back.  It's a great place to find deals on their cute boys' & girls' clothes.  (I have gotten hats for $6, T-shirts for $3, etc.) You may know them for their flap hats but they also have bathing suits, T-shirts & cotton pants, dresses, and headbands.  Lots of cotton clothes with bright colors, very much Lauren's style!

Location:
5830 W Jefferson Blvd, Ste 200. Los Angeles, CA
Outlet Store Hours: Tuesday - Friday 12 noon - 4 pm


Here is Lauren in her 4th of July dress & matching hat from Flap Happy

If you are not local, you can often find their line on Zulily.
Disclosure: if you click on the Zulily link and join, I get $15 credit there




Wednesday, August 10, 2011

We Interrupt This Day to Bring You--A Car Accident!

Last Wednesday was already shaping up to be a busy one. I had to get to the doctor's by nine in the morning (routine checkup), then over to Ryan's office to drop off the kids, then back to my office for a meeting with my boss and my boss's new boss, followed by a few hours of writing bio pages and editing photos. Oh and I needed to pack up the family and leave for a trip to San Diego. Phew!

As if that was not busy enough, at quarter to 9, I was sailing along when BOOM! Out of nowhere, I got hit from behind. By a teenager in a Jeep! So the funny thing was, you would think I would be grouchy and irritated that this happened.

The opposite! The first emotion I had was gratitude. Grateful we were all okay, glad the guy pulled over and did the honorable thing, admitted responsibility and apologized. Grateful he had good insurance and that this would all be taken care of.
Second emotion was empathy for the other driver. He was a teenager going through his first car accident, an unavoidable rite of passage here in LALALand. He was worried about the effect that the accident would have on his insurance rates and more importantly on his dad. I agreed to wait a day to report it so he could have time to break the news to his dad himself without it being via a phone call from the insurance adjuster.

I called the doctor's office and rescheduled for an hour later, then relaxed somewhat. It was like someone had given me permission to derail the overscheduled morning so I could take a deep breath and focus.  Instead of leaving in the afternoon, I put off travelling to San Diego until the next day.  I can't open the bashed-in back door of the car to get out William's stroller, but we have another stroller in the garage, so no big deal.  Insurance has been notified.  The proper people will do their job and things will be settled, and for some odd reason, I'm at peace with it.

Well, I won't say I was completely at peace. When I got to the doctor's office, I had high blood pressure...120 over some alarming number.

Oh and P.S. I woke up the next morning feeling fine, no whiplash or anything to report!

Saturday, August 06, 2011

The Elephant on the Playground: Movie Star Parents

As I previously mentioned, Lauren will be attending a great public school in September.  We've already had the orientation and the parents seem very involved and the kids seem like ones she'll become friends with.  It's not terribly far away, so no long commute for us.  Not as close as our neighborhood school, but manageable. We met some of the other incoming families at an open house they held.

Here's the thing, though.  One dad in particular really stood out because he's an actor.  Not just any actor, one of the stars of one of my favorite shows.  Any scene this guy is in, you would watch him carefully.  The plot would be furthered by even a subtle raise of his eyebrow.  So...even if he is just standing around on the school yard scratching his nose, it seems interesting.  I have to make myself *not* look at him because if X [his character's name] was on a school playground, stuff would HAPPEN.  Things would be about to blow up or get veeeery weird.  Waaay more fascinating than the president of the booster club or the principal giving their spiels. 

But back in reality, he's just another parent like the rest of us nodding his head, looking concerned and figuring out the ropes for his son.  And I'm thinking of how many people are in "the industry" and would love to chat with the guy just to get some kind of connection.  And I don't need that connection and I don't want to be that kind of person. But I am a friendly person.  So in trying to NOT look at him, to give him his privacy, I'm then snubbing the guy.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Product Review: Arm & Hammer Whitening Booster

I am down here at BlogHer '11 and already having such a great time!  Went to the Expo Hall tonight and picked up some swag, and am excited to tell you about some of it. 

First up, tonight I brushed my teeth with the Arm & Hammer Advance White and also their Whitening Booster 3x. The Whitening Booster is a separate product that looks like clear toothpaste, and has peroxide.  You put it on top of the regular toothpaste.
It's only been 10 minutes and you are supposed to wait 6 weeks to see the "up to 4 shades whiter" but I think my teeth already look whiter!  It was very easy to use, and I didn't have any pain or feel anything at all using them (as I did back before my wedding, when I tried some Whitestrips and my teeth were too sensitive).  And best of all, my mouth felt really clean afterwards, which is great because I left my Sonic toothbrush at home and am slumming it with a "regular" one for this trip.

Disclosure: I was given this product for purposes of review

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Real Houseguests of New York






We just got back from a week in NY/NJ for a family wedding. Can't even put into words, how great it was to be back. Here are a few photos of the hundreds that I took! I may post wedding photos at some point but want to run it past the now-honeymooning bride and groom. Above, you see Lauren catching fireflies for the first time, playing soccer with cousins, relaxing on Aunt Patty's deck chair, and gamely wearing the Yankees hat Uncle Freddie & Aunt Marguerite bought her, even though she's still a die-hard Dodgers fan!

The one thing we would do differently next time is to stay more than 1 night in a row in one place. Because of different scheduled events-2 BBQs, a rehearsal dinner, and a wedding, we ended up staying in 4 different places,so we weren't even in one town for 2 nights in a row. It worked out that it was Uncle Freddie and Aunt Marguerite's house in NY for 1 night, then Uncle Tony & Aunt Patty's, then a hotel in NJ, then a castle, then back to Uncle Fred's and then back to Aunt Patty's, then Uncle Freddie's, then home. Whew!

We had so much delicious food. Of course, real NY pizza and Jersey bagels. I also brought back 12 potato knishes because I can't seem to find the flat ones around here and the round ones I do find are nothing like the Coney Island/Brooklyn ones from home. Lauren wanted to bring bagels back to share with her class, but they would have been stale by then. So instead, we took anisette toast cookies, which I don't see much in stores around here so they're pretty uniquely NY in my book.
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