Wednesday, August 29, 2012

You're a bad parent if your kid walks to school?

We've been walking Zari to and from kindergarten. It seemed the most logical of our three options (walk, ride the bus, or drive) since we only live 1 km away. If Zari rode the bus, she'd have to leave the house almost an hour earlier, and she'd get home 1 to 1 1/2 hours later. That adds up to over 2 hours on the bus per day. Driving was out of the question; why drive when our legs are perfectly capable of getting us there?

So far we've enjoyed our twice daily walks. Eric and I switch off walking duty depending on who is teaching that day. We get time with Zari and we get extra exercise. Sounds like the perfect scenario, right?

Yes, except that we have to cross a Death Trap road on the way. It's a state highway that runs through town, and there are no stop signs or stoplights in probably a mile either direction. There's a flashing light that goes on during school hours. This means that cars are supposed to slow down to 25 mph, but no one does. Every time we cross the street, it's like we're inside a giant game of Frogger (this totally dates me!).

I first contacted the school transportation department to inquire about crossing guards. After all, the road where we're crossing is the main entrance into the elementary school and to the county fairgrounds. The reply? They used to supply a crossing guard at that intersection, but not any more. They told me to talk to the police department.

So I met with the chief of police and explained my concerns--that the school no longer provided a crossing guard and that I was having real troubles getting us safely across the street, especially during the morning rush. He sympathized with my situation and said he'd send some patrol cars out in the morning, but otherwise he coudln't do much else. He suggested talking to someone in the state transportation department, since traffic signs on that road are regulated by the state, not by the city.

This morning I spoke to a woman at the state transportation department. I explained our difficulties crossing the road and asked if they would consider doing a traffic survey to put in either stop signs or a stop light. I told her I'd already met with the school transportation coordinator and the police chief, and they both told me they couldn't do much else to help me. Her response:

"You really should have your daughter ride the bus."

I explained that this option made no sense in our situation. We live close to the school, and riding the bus would take an extra 2+ hours out of my daughter's day. Her reply:

"Well, you're the one who's choosing to put your daughter in danger. You're choosing your convenience over her safety. She has a safe option, and that's to ride the bus."

Excuse me?! When did walking your child to school mean that you're a bad, selfish parent? I abandoned any niceties and dropped my polite tone. I said that it was not just a choice between convenience and safety. After all, we're facing major obesity and pollution crises in this country. I feel very strongly that it's an irresponsible choice to put my child on a bus for 2 hours a day, or to drive her to school (as many parents at this school do), when we're perfectly capable of walking. The solution isn't just to put my daughter on a bus; it's to help us find a way to safely cross the street.

Her reply:

"In my town, I have several friends who live across the street from an elementary school, and they all have their children ride the bus because it's safer than crossing the street."

The then told me that she likely couldn't do anything to help me, and to talk to the school and the police again.

Can anyone else see what's wrong with this picture? Is there anything else I can do? (I do have something really subversive up my sleeve...more on that later!)
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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Brazilian women rebel against cesarean births

This article made me want to stand up, raise my fist in the air, and sing something about solidarity and the power of women. If you think that you can't change things, that your voice is too small and too insignificant, remember that huge changes in maternity care have come about from regular people like you. Power to the people!

Here's an excerpt from the article by the AP: Brazilian women rebel against cesarean births.
More women are pushing for more of a say in childbirth — whether by C-section or naturally, at home or in a hospital, with a midwife or a medical doctor. As patients in doctors' offices and street protesters reject the pressure to have surgical births, the federal government is investing billions of dollars into a natural childbirth campaign, including the building of hospitals devoted to maternal care.

"We need to have a serious discussion in this country to see what can be done to change this culture," said Olimpio Moraes Filho, one of the head doctors with the Brazilian Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. "Women are starting to rebel, and they should."

A tipping point came in July, when a medical regulating agency in Rio de Janeiro forbade doctors from doing home births and labor coaches known as doulas from helping out in hospitals, saying "there are many complications possible during labor that require immediate medical attention."

In response, women organized marches in 13 cities. In Sao Paulo, they bared their breasts and carried posters reading "Our Children, Our Decision" while chanting "Brazil, don't follow Rio's example." They enacted natural births using dolls covered with Portuguese words reading "Born Free."
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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Something to make you laugh

This is what happens when my toddler skips her nap...

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Time to shut down?

I've been making ring slings for about 8 years now. At first it was just for friends and family, then I got so many requests that I started collecting fabric and opened a website at Second Womb Slings. I keep plenty busy, even though I don't advertise at all.

My infant scale slings have proved quite popular. I'm one of just a few sellers out there, and I think my fabrics kick butt on my competitors'! No cutesy nursery flannels on my site; instead, you'll find a colorful array of hand-dyed cotton batiks.

But I am feeling ready to close up shop. I have enough things going on in my life, and making slings is one thing I'd be happy to let go. Plus the only fabric store in town closed this spring, and now I have to drive 40 minutes to buy a spool of thread. The problem is--I have a huge stash of linen, batik, and silk fabrics that I need to get rid of!

So I'm considering my options:
  1. Stay open until my fabrics sell out. Resist the temptation to buy any new fabrics!!!
  2. Close and find another use for my fabric stash. 
  3. Close for the semester and re-open for the Christmas season, staying open until I sell out. 
What do you think?

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Friday, August 17, 2012

My favorite breastfeeding DVD

David Stark, producer of the BabyBabyOhBaby Infant Massage DVD that I reviewed a few years ago, recently came out with a breastfeeding DVD called BabyBabyOhBaby: Nurturing Your Gorgeous & Growing Baby By Breastfeeding. I've been meaning to review it for months ever since David sent me a copy...but I like it so much I keep lending it out! (In fact, it's currently a few thousand miles away at my sister's house, helping her prepare for her first baby.)

But I can't wait any longer. I love this DVD. It is short, beautifully filmed, and covers the most important topics in a light, warm, engaging tone. It focuses on right-brained learning via images, narration, and emotion, rather than overloading the viewer with facts and technical jargon. The BabyBabyOhBaby Breastfeeding DVD covers all the essentials, including breast crawl and newborn attachment behaviors, latch, positioning, laid-back baby-led breastfeeding, and feeding cues. It leaves the viewer with confidence in themselves and trust in the process.

The DVD was filmed in high-definition. Mothers, fathers, and babies are all simply dressed in white on a clean, white background, allowing your focus to be on the mother-baby breastfeeding duet, rather than on hair or clothing or background decor. This keeps the film from feeling dated or too tied to a particular location.

The mothers and babies come in a delicious range of colors, sizes, and shapes. And so do the breasts! We see lots of breastfeeding, and it's very much out in the open. So useful for a mother trying to figure out this new dance.

And the best thing about the DVD? It's only $26! If you want to buy the infant massage DVD too, the pair is just $39. Click here to purchase. Running time: 28 minutes.

Other reviews of the BabyBabyOhBaby Breastfeeding DVD:
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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

First day of school

I sent Zari off to kindergarten this morning--still with some strong reservations about full-day school. She was really excited to go. On the way home she told us all about the stories and songs and treasure hunts they did.

I also wanted to wish a warm welcome to a baby born less than an hour ago in our master bedroom...a planned vaginal breech birth! Baby and parents are resting, and I am all smiles. More details when/if the parents want to share.

It has been a crazy day.
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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Food, squared

Tonight we had simple but extraordinarily delicious dinner: Dijon chicken with new red potatoes (from our garden!). I went back through the steps that created the flavor for the meal. Between using a concentrated broth made from chicken bones & vegetable peelings, caramelizing onions, cooking the chicken legs in a cast-iron skilled on high heat to get a Maillard reaction, using strong French mustard, and then reducing the cooking liquid to a thick sauce, I created a dish with out-of-this-world flavor. Peter Kaminsky, author of Culinary Intelligence, would note that I had created maximum flavor per calorie (FPC).

Kaminsky, a food critic and writer, experienced a rapidly expanding waistline due to his job. He finally hit on some key principles for eating well and maximizing the pleasure we get from our food while maintaining a sustainable weight. He discovered that the more you maximize FPC, the more you are satiated with less. In other words, bland, overly processed foods full of sugars, salts, and fats tend not to satisfy us very well. This leads us to keep eating in pursuit of an unattainable taste. However, foods that are packed with flavor make us feel full and satisfied more quickly. We eat less and we enjoy it more because our taste buds are firing at top speed.

Maximizing FPC is like taking the flavor of the meal and then squaring it. Some things that maximize FPC include grilling, creating a deep brown crust on meats, reducing & concentrating sauces, caramelizing, and using high-FPC ingredients such as Parmesan cheese.

Here's an example of two different ways to cook green beans:
1) boil them until they're cooked, then shake on some table salt (ugh boring)
2) blister them on high heat with olive oil, then add a dash of lemon juice and sea salt (amazing)

Or a roast:
1) Lightly brown a roast, throw in the oven, and cook till overdone, dry, and flavorless
2) Salt & pepper a roast, then deeply brown on all sides in oil. Cook on a wire rack in a very low oven (like 200 F or less) for several hours until the middle is rare/medium rare. You'll have a tender roast that's bursting with flavor.

Maximing FPC isn't necessarily difficult, expensive, or time-consuming. You just need to know what to do. For that, Kaminsky's book is a good primer.

Here's the recipe for Dijon chicken, adapted from a French recipe using rabbit.

~ 3-4 lbs chicken pieces, preferably with skin on
2 onions, chopped
2 cups white wine
a few cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard (if you can, buy the strongest French imported mustard you can find. It should read "moutarde de Dijon forte")
salt & pepper

Mustard cream sauce:
2/3 c cream or half & half
1/4 c Dijon mustard

Salt & pepper the chicken. Brown in a cast iron skillet until deep golden on all sides. Set aside. Sautee the onions and some butter in the same pan until golden. Add the chicken, salt & pepper, mustard, white wine, and a few cups of broth. Stir to scape up browned bits. Cover and cook for 30-45 minutes until the chicken is very tender.

Remove the chicken and boil the cooking liquid on high until it makes a thick, concentrated sauce.

While you're cooking the chicken, make the mustard cream sauce by putting all 3 ingredients into a saucepan and boiling until reduced by about half. Salt & pepper to taste.

Serve the chicken with the 2 accompanying sauces over potatoes or rice.
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Friday, August 10, 2012

Labor advice

My youngest sister Brittany just had her second baby last week! (Her first was born 2 days before Inga.) She had another natural hospital birth, thanks to a wonderful doula, a supportive husband, and a fantastic labor nurse who advocated for everything she wanted.

Less than a day after the birth, she wrote this advice to our older sister Diedra. She is expecting her first baby and planning a natural hospital birth. I'm posting her advice here with her permission.

Isn't her family beautiful?

I sent this labor advice to Diedra and Jason while it was fresh on my mind. Jason commented that it was very detailed and long. I told him that labor advice is just like sex advice; if it is too general or filled with euphemisms, then it is not at all helpful. [Rixa's note: so true!]

1. Bring a sports bra or tank top to labor in. Because you won't be wearing pants, and you literally can't see anything below your tummy so you don't feel naked on the bottom. I wore a tank top with a built in bra (very soft fabric) that was PERFECT. Even the nurses loved it. I felt covered up while in the shower, but I didn't have extra fabric on. 

2. Bring juice and snacks for you and Jason. Our hospital had some, but I was so glad I brought juice boxes to sip on. Because a little sugar is helpful. Also, eat early on in labor, because when things really start to gear up, you don't want to eat but you may need the energy. I ate right when I got the hospital (snacked on crackers and cheese). And keeping Jason's energy high is just as important. Encourage him to snack in between contractions and keep drinking fluids.

3. Have a short birth plan. Mine is literally five sentences (I want a natural birth if possible, but I am okay with medication, no IV, no Hep B vaccine for baby, dad wants to be involved and cut cord, I am a modest person). It helps the nurses get to know you without being pushy or demanding. 

4. GET IN WATER. Nothing helps labor more than being in water. Jocelyn [my next younger sister who has 4 kids, the last 3 of them in an independent, in-hospital birth center] loves to soak/float in a tub. I don't like to sit on my bum, so I stand in the shower with my back in the water while Ben [Brittany's husband] is in front of me holding my arms and supporting my body during a contraction. Have Jason bring swim trunks so he can get a little wet if need be. It was so nice to have Ben in front of me holding my hands/arms and my doula to the side massaging my hips during each contraction. Also, standing has great benefits of using gravity to your advantage and you can wiggle/sway your hips the entire time, which helps the baby move down and readjust to get in place. I would stand in the water during the contraction, then step out in between to cool off and wiggle and take deep breaths. 

5. Practice breathing now. Breathing is something you can't fake and can be the difference between keeping calm and starting to panic when things get really really intense. I do Pilates breathing (deep breaths in through your nose, out through your mouth). Essentially you want to have deep, long breaths and you want to do this automatically. You could even just practice doing those breaths during a workout or while walking so you just do it. If you start to take shallow breaths, everything goes to pot. You need to breathe well in order to stay calm.

6. The most helpful things that Ben did for me are (this is really for Jason's benefit):
  • stand by my side the entire time
  • hold my hands/arms gently just so that I knew he was there
  • talk to me during each contraction kind of like stream of consciousness (you are doing great, you are strong, relax, etc)
  • gently rub my arms during contractions (soft touch feels great)
  • breathe or make groaning noises with me
  • hold my body weight between contractions when things get intense so that I don't have to hold up my own body
  • kiss my forehead occasionally between contractions
This is Ben's advice in his words: Jason has three jobs in the following order: 1. cheerleader, 2. lawyer/advocate, 3, butler.

7. Things that were helpful that my doula did: first off, you need to find a doula that you are instantly comfortable with. When I met mine the first time, I just felt we were friends already. She was warm and easy to like and very easy to talk to. You also want someone who was seen lots of natural births or done it herself. My doula adopted her kids, but she has seen lots of natural births and loves natural birth. The most helpful thing that my doula did was counterpressure (you essentially massage your hips/back/butt during a contraction to alleviate some of the pain). Yes, my doula would just massage my naked hips and butt and the only thing I thought about it was, "Oh, that feels really good." It was so helpful and took away some of the pain, which is priceless. You also want a doula who is more proactive and not shy, just so they will step in with suggestions for you and Jason and really take charge to help. 

8. The biggest helpful thing I learned from my previous doula was to say the word "out" emphasizing the T during the crazy painful contractions right near the end (when you are going from a 7-10). Near the beginning of labor you can just breathe through contractions, keeping your face and entire body relaxed. Then things hurt more, and it helps to buzz your lips or moan a little (like saying "aaaahhhh" gently) during contractions to keep yourself from tensing up. Then after awhile that just doesn't cut it. You start to want to tense up, push when you can't push yet or just yell in pain. So have your doula and Jason say "out" over and over and over again as fast as possible emphasizing the T. It doesn't have to be loud, just calm and quick. For some reason it is hard to say that T and tense up at the same time. It helps you focus on something without tensing up your face or body and keeps you from just clenching all over. I was so amazed that saying out really helped me keep my cool as I was going from a 8-10.

9. Bring a swim cover up or stretchy dress to wear instead of the hospital gowns for after delivery. I hate the gowns, because they have ties, never stay on well, and are just uncomfortable. Just bring a little dress to wear for the first day or two that is easy to pull down to nurse in. 

10. Feel free to say "wait" or "not right now" to the nurses or doctors. Often they want to check you, but they don't know that you are still trying to recover your breath or relax your body. So I would say wait, take several breaths and then tell them when I was ready. Or I would tell them to wait two more contractions. At first I was a little tentative about saying wait, but it was so nice to have them check me when I was relaxed instead of hesitant. And when a nurse or doctor made a suggestion (like "do you want me to break your water?"), I would say, "talk me through it and tell me all the pluses and minuses," because they don't always tell you that all at once. 

11. Sway your hips between and during contractions. Kind of like you are hula hooping or slow dancing with your husband. 

12. Tell your doula and nurse that you are modest by nature and don't want strangers or students to walk into your room. Some hospitals don't allow this, but others have students come in regularly. If they know you don't want it, then they will ask first or not do it at all.

Great advice! What would you add?
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Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Kindergarten starts in a week, and I still haven't decided what to do

I've written about my indecision about home school or public school. (Very short version: I don't have a burning desire to home school, but I am not thrilled about sending her to all-day kindergarten either.) Public school starts in a week, and I am still feeling terribly conflicted and undecided.

I live in a smaller town, so the possibility of finding other charter schools, getting together with other like-minded parents, or forming some kind of hybrid co-op is close to zero. And I just don't have time to start a charter school (nor would this community likely support one).

A few months ago, I learned that my state has now adopted the K12 program, which is administered as a public online charter school through a state university. I was really excited and thought that this might be the answer to some of my schooling dilemmas. If I was going to home school, I knew I'd need a pre-made curriculum. There's no way I have time to research and plan--as well as teach--a whole year's schooling. Registration was only open for a 2-week window, so I signed Zari up and felt good that at least we had that option.

Fast forward to now: we received all of her supplies a few weeks ago. The K12 program has officially started, and we've done several full days of lessons. But...but...

I still feel really unsure of what to do with Zari this year. While I can get through the full day's lessons in about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, I am worried that it's still adding too much to my plate. Eric is quite unenthusiastic about home schooling, even with the K12 program, and I would need his support to do it well. I am teaching again this fall, so he'd have to take over teaching 3 mornings a week until I get home.

To give you an idea of what I have going on in my life:
  • I am raising children ages 1, 3, and 5
  • I am teaching one class per semester at the local liberal arts college
  • I usually travel to one academic conference per semester
  • We are renovating our house
  • We own and manage 3 other properties: our old house, a triplex, and a 5-plex
  • I make and sell slings
  • I do the majority of housework, errand-running & cooking, since Eric teaches full-time
  • I blog here!

Because of my concerns about overburdening myself, I've still been open to public schooling. We brought Zari to school registration this Monday. Public school starts in a week, so I have time to get a feel for the K12 program and lifestyle before I *really* have to make a decision. I talked to the elementary school principal, and there is absolutely no flexibility on doing half-day kindergarten. None. Lots of talk about "how much work there is to be done" and "academic achievement" and "rigorous standards." I have to admit--I'm old-school. I grew up doing half-day kindergarten, and I have a really hard time accepting the need for full-day schooling for 5-year-olds.

It looks like Zari will be placed in the accelerated classroom, which has slightly smaller class sizes and works at a faster pace. I think that would be good for Zari, since she does better when something is challenging than when it's too easy and boring.

But I still have strong reservations. I have an anti-institituional streak in me about a mile wide, in case you haven't noticed. It's not that I'm anti-education. I have 2 master's degrees and one PhD! But I still resist the idea of giving my child over to an institution, with its rules and policies and culture.

On the other hand, Zari is a very talkative, active, outgoing child, and I think she would love being in public school. I am not sure that doing the K12 program this year would provide her with enough interaction and fun experiences. (And no, I can't add more to my plate and do extracurriculars on top of my schedule and on top of homeschooling. Simply too much.) That brings me back to public school.

So there you go. I can only delay this decision for another week, and then I really, truly have to commit to something. At least for a year, since I don't think you can go back into the K12 program until the following school year.

If I do choose public school, we've talked about implementing a few routines into our day:
  • Eric or I will walk/bike to and from school with her. It's exactly 1 km away, so it would give us some one-on-one time with her every day. And more exercise and outdoor time for all of us!
  • As soon as Zari gets home, it will be outside play time for the whole family to make sure she gets plenty of exercise and unstructured play. There are 2 short recess breaks at school (~15 min) plus 30 minutes total for lunch & recess. It's some, but not enough for an active child.
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Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Anyone in the Seattle/Tacoma area?

A reader from the Seattle/Tacoma area of Washington State has a few questions. Can anyone help her out?
  • Are there any online resources to help find a VBAC-friendly doctor in the area who might take a referral on short notice? (32 weeks pregnant) 
  • Is there a consumer-supported database for people looking for natural birth friendly doctors?
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Sunday, August 05, 2012

17 months old!

Before Inga gets too far beyond 17 months, I wanted to write an update. I've probably said this before, but she's filled with sheer joy and exuberance and contentment. Such a contrast from her intense brother! She's added several words to her vocabulary, although they're pretty hard to discern if you're not part of the family: to mama, papa, uh oh, & eeewww, she has added shoes ("oosh"), poop, fish ("ish"), bird ("teet teet"), airplane (zooming sound) and yes ("yeah"). She is adept with signing and probably has a good 20-30 under her belt.

She adores her siblings and mimics everything they do. Including hitting (mostly from Dio). We're working on "soft" to counteract the hitting. She's fearless and will climb far and high. Today I was playing the piano for Primary, my church children's class. She climbed onto the piano bench and took a running dive across my lap. I had to stop mid-song to catch her. I caught up a few measures later and everyone had a good laugh.

She's an enthusiastic eater. I take some pride that my kids eat pretty much anything and everything, although Dio needs more coaxing than the others. Lunch was beets, watermelon, and artisan bread with natural peanut butter & Bonne Maman preserves. Dinner was cantaloupe (free from the farmer's market, since it was almost past ripe!), country tomato bisque with brown basmati rice, and crepes with more of the yummy preserves. Everything went down with gusto. She has been known to fall asleep eating if lunch is late enough...

We've done EC with her, as with the other kids, but the last few weeks we've had no luck. She used to go pee almost every time if I stuck her in the bathtub and ran a little water. But now she's totally forgotten how to pee! Oh well...she recognizes it when she sees the rest of us going. And she'll tell me when she's gone poop by pulling at her diaper and saying "eeewww." But no luck getting her to go.

Some favorite pastimes include nursing, clomping around in everyone else's shoes, wearing her siblings' clothes (usually on top of her head or around her neck), pushing her doll stroller around and around the attic, and pulling books off the bookshelf. She loves to run away when I'm getting her dressed or changing her diaper. "Uh oh, naked bum!" I shout after her as she squeals and streaks down the hallway, her little curls bouncing.

Picture from a recent Freeze family reunion in Alberta. Dio is crying. Classic.
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Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Wet nursing in fairy tales

I've been reading Old French Fairy Tales by the Comtesse Sophie Segur to Zari. I love the Art Nouveau illustrations. The stories are so-so. The beautiful and annoyingly good princess always marries the handsome prince (usually named Charmant or Gracious) and the evil mother/father/sisters suffer a terrible fate. Obedience, goodness, and kindness are highly prized.

But what caught my eye was a little snippet about wet nursing. You may recall that France has historically embraced wet nursing, so it's not surprising that the practice made its way into fairy tales written almost 200 years ago.

From "The Princess Rosette":
There was once a king and queen, who had three daughters. The two eldest were twins--Orangine and Roussette--and their parents loved them very dearly. They were beautiful and intelligent, bu they were not very good. In this they resembled the king and queen. The third princess was called Rosette and was three years younger than her sisters. She was as amiable as she was handsome, as good as she was beautiful....

Some days after the birth of Rosette, the king and queen sent her to the country, on a farm, to be nursed. Rosette lived happily there for fifteen years without her parents coming once to see her. Every year they sent a small sum of money to the farmer to pay Rosette's expenses and asked some questions as to her health, but they never came to see her nor disturbed themselves about her education. 
Rosette eventually returns home to her kingdom, where she outshines her two sisters and gains the favors of prince Charmant. The rest of her family members grow increasingly jealous and finally scheme to kill her by various evils means. However, Rosette's fairy godmother leads Rosette and Charmant to safety. Rosette's family suffers terrible punishments. Voila. Nice clean ending.
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