“I love you, Mom & Mom loves me. Here is how I know.”

Dear Readers,

Thanks to those of you who answered our Mother’s Day survey.  It was a first and we learned

  • from our mistakes
  • about your challenges
  • how you, mothers, are deeply loved (play with the interactive image below)

As a reminder, we are developing tools to help parents’ life be easier and more fun.  I’ll share how your insights help us move forward.

From bloopers to blooming: learning from mistakes

More than 175 of you began the survey and only 50 of you finished it!  We tried to make the survey cute and pretty…it ended up being complicated!

K.I.S.S.  Keep It Simple Sweetie works at home as well as with surveys.  Good to remember.

[bctt tweet=”K.I.S.S.  ‘Keep It Simple Sweetie’ works with every audience of any age. Valuable & respectful philosophy.”]

Home Organization & Chores is ONE BIG PAIN

Even with our small response group, you CLEARLY indicated the challenges of getting life done.  You also indicated that children are not often part of the solution…yet 🙂

We are working on how to help alleviate your challenges in the couple (2nd most stressful) and those with the kids through ways to encourage children to help at home.

“I Love You Mom & I know you love me.”

Enjoy playing with the image below which depicts the ways kids know they are loved and the ways they share their love for you.  These answers are weighted.  Some highlights:

  1. Your son and daughter LOVE going out on outings with you and spending special time with you.
  2. They feel loved (and love Mom back) when they receive your attention.  Being listened to and being seen ranked high in importance.
  3. Love is recognized though smiles and joy-filled expressions.
  4. Kindness ranked higher than hugs!
  5. Wild cards
    • As the mom of 4 boys who spent inummmmmmerable hoooooouuuurs in the kitchen, I loved the tykes who appreciated mom’s cooking 🙂
    • This answer generated a reaction deep in my soul:  when kids knew they were loved because mom trusts them.  Only a sprinkling of families mentioned this.  May our SoSooper tools build mutual trust chez vous and chez moi too.

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Discover the kids’
loving thoughts


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Download these loving thoughts

…and post them on your fridge.   Click here.

They’re a great discipline and encouragement tool.

For Discipline

Try it with humor when your child misbehaves.

“Remind me, darling, which way are you tell me that you love me?”

For Encouragement

Let the image be your reminder to share how you feel.

“When you smile and dance, I know you feel loved and THAT make ME feel absolutely marhvelooos dahrling!!!”

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With many thanks and deep appreciation for your time on the survey.

Love, love, and love. Enlightening ways to spell L.O.V.E.

My husband and I celebrate 25 years of marriage this year!

What has enabled our union and our boys to thrive?  The glue is called love, in its many spellings 🙂
love love love and laughLove as L.A.U.G.H.

My husband has an amazing sense of humor.  When tension rises, he brings humor into the situation which enables us to communicate respectfully and productively once again.

Laughter gives us just those nanoseconds needed to let steam diffuse before we explode.  Phew.  It’s nice to be nice.  I hate myself when I act and look like a raven pecking at my kids (or something worse)

Learn to laugh at yourself:

What situation gets you M.A.D.?  Imagine you just landed from Mars and saw someone in that exact situation, what would they see, hear, and smell?  Could there be something funny about that?love love love and listen

Love, love as L.I.S.T.E.N.

Soooo much easier said than done.  Through my parent coaching I have become more aware of my own TOTALLY FLAWED behavior.

My most common blooper is to “listen” with my mouth open.  The children call it “giving lectures.”  Yet as tots become teens, connecting with our kids means giving them space to grow.  When I speak less, they share more.

[bctt tweet=”When I (parent) speak less, the children share more. Love is spelled L.I.S.T.E.N.”]

Learn to listen:

Write down some of the words you tell your partner and children.  Hand the list to them and ask them to read these words out loud to you.  Stand 2 meters (2 yards) away from them.  Step forward if those sayings motivate you to closeness.  Step back if those words aggravate you.  Compare your ending position to where you started out.

Invite your loved ones to add to the list and try this again.

ONCE you have shown your loved ones how you listen, invite them to “hear with their feet” too.
love love love and learn

Love, love, love as L.E.A.R.N.

Together time gets a boost during vacations.  Our family thrives on physical exercise and some kind of discovery.  It’s one of our values to embrace diversity, to move beyond our comfort zone, to choose being wonder-filled.

We ask our children all the time to stretch their knowledge (learn at school), to stretch their effort (one more bite of dinner, please), to stretch their patience (just one minute longer….)

Discovery as a family enables me to model the attitude we hope to grow in our kids.  As I struggle through my own learning, I also gain in empathy with my kids.

Learn to encourage:

It is also encouraging to cheer someone on while at their side.

Haven’t you done or been in the situation where well-meaning people act like this:  they advance faster than you and turn back to encourage.  With the distance between you, they have to scream at the top of their lungs, “KEEP IT UP.”  Their words shouted in the distance sound fumbled.  Their body language looks angry (we shout better with feet apart and a certain facial grimace!)

When we are learning we are vulnerable.  Encouragement through proximity truly passes on the message, “We’re together in this.”

Which L.O.V.E. will you apply today?

love love love many ways

Enjoy Kids NOW. Oh so speedily, they grow up.

Dear SoSooper (and previously Home Is Fun) readers,

For eight years I (Denise) blogged on Home Is Fun and shared photos and life in a diversity-filled couple with four energetic boys, all born within seven years.

Time has flown. As Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, shares, “The days are long, but the years are short.”

[bctt tweet=”The days are long, but the years are short. @Gretchen Rubin”]

Boy-and-baby
“Fragile? What’s that mean?” Welcome home, tiny tot!
Terrible (and terribly funny) two's.
The terrible (and terribly funny) two’s.
Family-vacation-small-kids
Is this “vacation” or “extra work”?
Boy-guitar
When the guitar is bigger than they are…and nonetheless, the sound still rings out loud and strong! “Do you like my song, Mommy?” “I love you, darling. :-)”
Family-first-ties
First time wearing ties. Mixed responses…like to most novel experiences. Throughout Mom & Dad still put their best face forward.
Boy-electronics
When the generation gap stops being a concept but a daily reality.
"You can do it, darling."
“You can do it, darling.”
Kid_powder_skier
When finally all that practice pays off. After innumerable falls (and try-overs) they assert, “It was hard. And I did it!”
Family-pyramids
When the family encourages seeking adventure together…
Boy-extreme-sports
…and Mom & Dad worry when the children seek their next challenge to overcome.
Graduation
And in a few short years, they fly on their own. It’s what we hoped for them all along. Bye bye baby. HELLO NEW RELATIONSHIP!!!
Brothers hug
There was a time when I was in the energy-management business: expend theirs & conserve mine…
Boys grow up
…now the future’s so bright…they take the shades off for the photo 🙂

May YOU enjoy YOUR children NOW.  Before they grow up.

(And take pictures, no matter how bad a photographer you are. I did!)

Try spending 5 minutes this week simply observing one child without à priori. Just watch him/her.

Better yet.  Admire him/her.  

(Choose to do this for your “problem” child.  It’s transforming 🙂 )

This works for teens as well as for tots. They might engage you and ask you to join in a game. For these five minutes let them know that you are admiring them and will join them in a few moments. You can even invite them to put on the timer!
Parents who have done this exercise marvel at their children. They are indeed beautifully and wonderfully made!

For more family news, we celebrate 25 years of marriage! (Read about the glue that keeps us together.)

Boost Confidence Tips from Driving in England (on the left)

We just dropped off our rental car at The Southampton, UK airport.

In England, they drive on the left side of the road.  I live in France and in the US where we drive “normally” (!!!), that is on the right side.

I had been apprehending this automotive experience, imagining the trail of accidents I would leave behind due to being in the wrong lane at the wrong time.

To add further spice to our adventure, we rented a manual shift car…and stalled while exiting the car-rental parking lot.   “Mom, are you SURE you can handle this?” my sons inquired.

Driving in England on the left.
Building confidence by driving out of my comfort zone…in England where cars ride on the left!

23 hours later, I glided into our allotted car-return spot and breathed freely once again.  Family and car were safe and sound.  Our memories and confidence shine with robust.

It was hard.

WE MADE IT!!!!

Enjoy these precious parenting tips gleaned from our exotic automotive adventure:

  1. Enlist Help. My weakness contributed to our combined strength.
  2. Our focus determines our action plan. Look to the problems leads to fear-full measures.   Aim for the goal stimulates a solution-finding approach.
  3. Overcoming challenges builds, rather BOOSTS, confidence.

[bctt tweet=”My weakness contributed to our combined strength.  Asking for help boosts others’ confidence.”]

Boost Confidence:  Be weak to let others be strong

I made NO pretense about confidence.  I had a teeny amount.

If we could each contribute our small portion of confidence to the common pool, we could have enough…

“Boys, we can include a special adventure in our trip which would require driving.  I’m scared and would need your help.  Are you up for it?”

Warmed by the children’s encouragement, I reserved the car.

We then created two driver-assistant roles:

  • The navigator who would help identify the route to follow so that I could focus on the road.
  • The left-side driver coach who would remind me to stay in the correct lane!
Beautiful sky with fluffy clouds
“Yes, Mom, the clouds are beautiful…but could you keep your eyes on the road, PLEASE?!”

Both guides proved vital.

Of course I still missed multiple turns and took us on detours.  Some scenic detours.  Some traffic-filled delays.  No big deal.

An unexpected difficulty superseded what I had anticipated as the greatest challenge.  I had feared swerving into the wrong lane.

Instead ended up driving off the road, sometimes barely missing cars parked on the left hand side!  This dilemma, the problem that had not even occurred to me, ended up being our greatest challenge.

We sure benefited from those warnings:

“Mom, careful of the parked cars!  You almost ran into it!!!”  How embarrassing.

“Mom, you’ve passed the white line and are driving off the side of the road…That was the sidewalk you hit.”  Oops.

“When they drive on the left, aren’t the slower traffic lanes on the left too?  At your speed, are you where you should be…?”  Feeling like beginner driver.

None of these comments bespoke, “Shining Star.” or “Wonder Mom.”  They all communicated, “Mom, we love you AND we are with you.”

Boost Confidence:  Focus on the Goal, not the Barriers

Courage, willingness to take risks, and foresight are qualities I seek to encourage in my children.

This driving adventure created an opportunity for me to model these qualities for my children.

They hear about them all the time.  This time, I could speak of their importance through actions, not merely with words.

One of our sons gets discouraged by academic challenges.  When he encounters a difficult math problem, he stops.

“Did you ask your teacher?  Could you get help from a friend?”  I inquire with the most positive intent.  He senses my concern and it feels like pressure to him.

My attempt to encourage backfires.  Instead my child returns to his math homework, repeats his mistakes, and gives up anew.  It’s like he reinvests in his losing strategy.

I wonder if he believes “Smart people don’t ask for help.”    It’s an incorrect belief.  And it’s bringing him down.

[bctt tweet=”Does my child believe that “Smart people don’t ask for help.” It’s false.  And it’s debilitating.”]

He and I converse about this.  And there is a time to stop talking (Now!) or I too would be reinvesting in my losing strategy!

This driving challenge provided the opportunity to model the behavior I seek in him.  I could speak through actions instead of with words.  Through a fun adventure I showed how

  • To set a worthwhile goal that reaches beyond the comfort zone
  • To identify potential challenges
  • To secure help to overcome them
  • To celebrate victories!!!

Boost Confidence by Overcoming Challenges

While standing in line at the airport, I smilingly confessed, “I’m proud of myself.  I did something difficult”…

In unison, the boys interrupted me to complete the sentence: “AND YOU SUCCEEDED!”

In fact, we succeeded together and, thanks to the rented car and the additional flexibility it provided, we were able to visit Stonehenge, one of the great prehistoric sites…located deep in the English countryside.

Stonehenge English heritage site
Stonehenge: one of the wonders of the world and the best-known prehistoric monument in Europe.
Teen at Stonehenge
“Yes, it is worth the visit. :-)”
Teen having fun at Stonehenge
Looking pretty confident now! Fly high, darling. You can do it.
Countryside and cow by Stonehenge
“What’s the big deal about old stones? Meuhr of the same old, same old.”
Propeller plane
The REAL travel adventure: our flight back to Paris on a propeller plane!

Encourage Appropriate Behavior in Kids: Parenting Tips inspired by Snow!

It has been snowing all week.  Every day.  All day.  Every night.

We go to the mountains to have snow, but deeeeep down, here is my real wish:  I awake every morning to optimal ski conditions.  Abracadabra.

Snow fall, ski slope grooming, and snow plowing would have all happened during my sleep 🙂

Do parents have a similar wish for their children’s good behavior?

Mom or Dad ask for a clean room.  Like magic children’s toys are put away, the floor in spotless, the books are neatly stacked on the bookshelves, the bed is made, and the desk is cleared and ready-for-work.  “Aussitôt dit.  Aussitôt fait.”  Say the word, and it’s done.  Just to our liking, no less!

No need for any teaching, training, or follow through!

We moms and dads must have received our parenting tips straight Mary Poppins and Nanny MacFee.  Or maybe our children were born with an innate understanding of what parents consider appropriate behavior…

Ski cabin "Shelter" in snow
“Abri” means shelter

Children skiing and falling in snow

Cars covered in snow

Appropriate Behavior – Down to Earth Parenting Reality

Just as we adults benefit from training in our jobs, children benefit from training in order to be able to behave well.

[bctt tweet=”Like adults who get training in our jobs, children benefit from training in order to  perform well. “]

Think about it.  Did our sons and daughters clean their room in the womb?  Did our babes learn proper table manners at the breast?

We parents often teach through discipline.  We tell our kids what is wrong.  “Your room is messy.”  “Elbows off the table, please.”    

How do they find out what is desirable behavior?  Is there a more appropriate and encouraging way than through trial and error?

Would you like your boss to keep on telling you, “NO,” until you get it right?  How motivating is that?!

Snow Inspired Parenting Tips for Teaching Kids

1. Enjoy the magic of NOW

Earth stills when snow falls. 

Sounds are muted.  Senses are chilled.  Worries from the office seem faaaaaarrrrrr away.

These extraordinary apprenticeship years of our kids are precious and last such a short while.   Sooner than later our kids graduate and move out.

What life skills and talents do our children take with them as they go out on their own?  THIS is our parenting vocation.

My mother is celebrating a BIG birthday and we are writing her letters of thanks.  I realized that I have many more memories with her AFTER having left home than while I was a child.

The birthday parties I recall through photos.

Here is what I remember through experience and which lives in my soul:  the ambiance of love, the assurance that she had time for me, and her belief in my potential (especially when I acted out of line).

These qualities are communicated by savoring the present.  The magic of small successes.  Noticing appropriate behavior.  Appreciating hard work.  Encouraging me to persevere.

Aren’t those life skills you wish to pass onto your darlings?

Happy grandma cuddling children

Loving grandmother keeps grandkids coming home

 

Admiring grandmother taking photos

2. Slow down before crashing

I love skiing FAST.

Except when there is no visibility and I wonder if I am about to speedily crash and plant my face into fresh powder.

When it snows, it is time to slow down.  Just a tad.

When your child misbehaves, might it be an invitation to shift into a lower gear? 

  • What is the cause of the inappropriate behavior?
  • Do the children even know exactly what is expected of them?
  • Do they have the capability of carrying out those tasks?
  • What could help them succeed even better?

In manufacturing circles, we refer to a bottleneck: THE operation that slows the entire process down.

No matter how much we improve other aspects of the manufacturing cycle, the process will only improve when we address THAT critical juncture.

Where is the weak point in your child’s ability to carry out your request?  Slowing down helps you observe your sweethearts and identify their appropriate behavior “bottleneck.”

Are they not listening to instructions?

That’s a sure guarantee of misbehavior!  So, the parenting issue to address is getting their attention before giving instructions.

Bend down to their level, make eye contact, smile, and THEN stipulate, “Honey, it is time to clean your room.”

Do the toys not have a home?

Playthings are tumbled into a box.  To reach that one desired game, your child rummages through the entire stack (a.k.a. dumps them all over the floor).  The issue is too many toys or finding a better way to store games.

“Sweetheart, you like a comfy home.  Your toys want to be more comfortable too.  Here are two boxes: toys-at-home and toys-on-vacation.  Do you want to choose which toys go on vacation this week or should I?  YOU can change every weekend!”

Slowing down helps identify your child’s unique bottleneck.

3. Break down the big job into smaller steps.

When it snows, visibility is reduced which renders many skiers less comfortable on the slopes.  That’s when we CONSCIOUSLY rely on ski technique:  bending down further to propel us through the turns in heavy snow, maintaining supple knees to  absorb obstacles we no longer see, keeping our body weight correctly balanced over the skis…

Many of these gestures we do without thinking…until it snows and we once again recall and apply our technique.

In a similar way, when training the kids, why not break down a large task into its many smaller bits.

If our initial instructions (ex. clean your room) seems foggy to the kids, let us help them return to their comfort zone by reviewing the individual steps required for success of the total “project” (and securing appropriate behavior can seem like a PROJECT).

A clean room means

  • Nothing on the floor
  • The bed is made…and nothing is hiding under it
  • Clothes are put in the appropriate drawers
  • Toys and books are placed their assigned home
  • The desk has space to be able to work correctly

Appropriate room cleaning behavior: make bed

Appropriate room cleaning behavior: stack books

Appropriate room cleaning behavior: clear desk

Think of our children’s tasks like a gourmet dish.  There is a recipe to follow.  Step by step.

If it’s good enough for the best chefs in the world, I’ll give it a go in our home too 🙂

4. Specify the criteria for “acceptable behavior” and “very well done.”

After snowfall, some slopes get plowed and others are left virgin.  Different strokes for different folks.

A good skier can master the smooth surfaces even with minimal visibility.  An excellent skier dances through the powder.

“Sweetheart, a cleanish room is when the bed is made and the clothes are off the floor.  A super-dooper-totally-awesomely-amazingly-clean room is when you also put your socks in the sock drawer, your shirts in the shirt drawer….”

5. Celebrate performance

A steaming hot chocolate and warm (greasy) fries taste especially delicious when coming in from difficult ski conditions.

“Darling.  Well done.”

Teen boys and kids warming up from skiing

Upon leaving our mountain chalet, we clean up.  Kids help with the chores.  During one vacation with my sister and her family, our Make-A-Loud-Fuss son resisted doing his job:  to clean the bathroom sink & mirror.

She taught him the secret to super-shiny-bathroom-cleaning (Spray the chrome with window cleaner.  It sparkles!) and off he went.

He made the chrome sparkle.

My sister rounded up the crew of siblings and cousins and they ALL marched to the bathroom to recognize a job well done.

Since that day, Mr.Fuss REQUESTS bathroom cleaning.  He is the recognized family expert on appropriate bathroom cleanliness.  We have delegated to him the responsibility of coaching his brothers on quality control.

That’s a win-win situation!

Children parade to congratulate appropriate behavior
Ready? Set. Go! checking out the spotless bathroom.

Children parade to check out clean bathroom

Proud teen and admiring brother
Our cool dude still takes pride in “clean.”

Helping our Kids Learn Appropriate Behavior

How would you and your family’s life be different if you took a fresh look at a “bad news” situation?

  • What one special thing can you appreciate about this time of life right NOW?
  • What is REALLY happening? Slowing down enables fresh observation.
  • What behavior do you, the parent, desire? What are intermediate steps?
  • How can you help your children differentiate between good and great?
  • How will you encourage REPEATED excellent behavior?

Parenting Insights from Baking

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There IS a flip-side to flops.

I re-learned this lesson during our annual family fundraiser where our boys bake LOTS of cakes. Catch a whiff of the parenting lessons learned through our baking fiascos. They’re delicious!

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Beat Too Fast Leads To Messy Clean Up

Baking Scene:

The boys are adding flour to the batter. On our three speed beater, the boys only know of “High.” The flour flies all over the kitchen :(.

Cooking Tip:

Moistened flour stays low. Before switching on the electric beater, manually swirl the beater through the batter and flour to start incorporating the dry ingredients. Then, when you turn on the electric beater, the mixture blends smoothly and tamely.

Parenting Insights:  Connect before you Correct

Next time you learn bad news about your child’s behavior, refrain from rushing into his presence and whirling in on him. Chances are emotions will sour and you’ll be stuck picking up scattered sentimental debris. Besides, is he the real opponent? Give yourself a chance to find out. Prepare the way for a discussion that won’t fly off the handle.

Think wet. Invite him to have a glass of milk while you sip tea. “We need to talk. Let’s do it comfortably.” Be prepared to cry…to be sorrowful (i.e. not angry) about the bad behavior and its impact on your child.

Challenges are chances in disguise.

I pray that my children will get caught when they are doing something out of line SO THAT we can address vital issues like respect of oneself and others, responsibility, obedience,  and appropriate ways to question those in charge.
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Heat Too Hot Makes the Cake Fall

Baking Scene:

The recipe instructs to bake at 180°C but since our oven is unique (yours too, n’est ce pas? J), we baked at 200°C! The cake looked splendid coming out of the oven. Five minutes later, it fell flat.

Cooking Tip:

Baking is a process where liquids (batter) are changed into solid (cake) releasing gases (think airy & light). When was the last time you savored a divine, holey (crater filled) cake? An eternity ago. Light and airy cakes have a multitude of tiny air pockets evenly distributed throughout the cake. Too high cooking temperature over stimulates the gas formation and the size of the air pockets…which empty out leaving the cake flat.

Parenting Insights:  Ground Rules

Too much too fast. The plant grows tall and we’re delighted. It flowers. Hooray! The thin stalk cannot support the weight of the blossom, and the stem breaks. No flower, measly plant.

In our desire to grant happiness (immediately visible benefits), we parents may be undercutting the root structure (Big Rules). In our home, this approach created mini-monsters. Let them have a late curfew one night (“Mom, you’re SOOOO nice!”), then when it’s earlier the next time I become Mrs. Mean. The same goes for chocolate at whatever time of the day, the latest electronic game, friends over, the clothes budget….

The absolute, utmost, primordially effective way to help the children build strong roots through ground rules is….to know them.  No kidding.

If your family Big Rules aren’t slipping off your tongue in a jiffy, chances are your kid forgot them too.

Click to find out about our favorite family grooves (rules to dance to the same tune).
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Heat Too Long Burns

Baking Scene:

“Did you get the cake out when the timer went off?” “What buzzer?”…”Did we have an order for burnt cake?!”

Cooking Tip:

It’s more effective to add increments of cooking time than to subtract them!

Parenting Insights:  Discipline when Calm

It’s not just for Solomon and the Byrds.

There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven. That includes discipline. There is a time to give the children a break…and for them to give moms and dads one too.

Easier said than done! At Home Is Fun we aim to create fun and easy-to-use tools to help communicate delicate yet vital messages such as “Lay off.” Check out the Gift of Respect and download it for free. Alternatively, try these tips to cool down.
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Heat All Around Bakes Beautifully

Baking Scene:

The recipe reads to cook for 45 minutes but your cakes take over one hour!

Cooking Tip:

It’s called a convection oven. The hot air is circulated throughout the oven and the evenly diffused heat reduces cooking time.

Parenting Insights:  Let the Love Flow and Flow

How do you and I distribute love? Is it always in the same targeted fashion? What if your child understood love better if it were expressed differently? Find out about love languages and how they can change your relationship.
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Lick Beaters While You Can

Parenting Insight:  Enjoy NOW

Make time to enjoy the kids. My eldest son taught me this when he was six years old. He had been badgering his younger brother which created havoc. I took him aside, and asked not too kindly, “What do you want?!” “Maybe a Rendez-Vous…” he whimpered. A Rendez-Vous is our term for a one-on-one time together often reserved for play. His words stopped me short. Of course!

Personalized attention does not happen automagically; it is purposefully carved out of the day.

Read up about including one-on-one time in the bedtime routine.

Still hungry for ideas? Home Is Fun devised 101 ways to tell your kids “I love YOU.” Go satisfy those cravings!

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