Vacation Day Eight

So Disney is still popular. And crowded. Florida in late June is still hot. And humid. And as luck would have it, we picked a day that had no discernable breeze whatsoever.

But we did luck out by getting front row spots to the show in front of Cinderella’s castle. The girls and my nephew are absolutely convinced beyond any reasonable doubt or rational explanation that Cinderella actually lives in that castle. And with equal vigor they pointed out to me that Snow White and Aurora do not live there with her. So we’re all straight on that now.

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After that we headed to Liberty Square. Liberty Square is my favorite spot in the Magic Kingdom. It has a replica of the Liberty Bell and looks like the town square of an old colonial town. If a mega-billion dollar corporation were around in the 1770’s to build a town square. Anyway, the Hall of Presidents was closed. I’m fairly certain the White House is responsible. I mean it’s supposed to be realistic and there’s no way the O-ministration is going share the stage with 43 other presidents. Heard a rumor that they were renaming it the People’s Hall of Soviets too but I can’t prove that.

The Heritage House gift shop next door was closed too. Which made me a little mad because they have replicas of old presidential campaign buttons and I was going to buy a Calvin Coolidge button.

We headed to the Haunted Mansion next. It was hilarious. You remember going on this ride. You get herded into this little room and this spooky Orson Welles voice tells you not to be afraid then that hanging skeleton in a noose appears at the top of the room. Bails was all excited about going on the ride, even boasting about how it wasn’t scary. She saw that skeleton and says, “Maybe I don’t want to go in the Haunted Mansion.” She was holding onto my arm so tightly it’s possible I may have future circulation problems.

There’s still some cool effects and the girls all thought it was great, especially the floating head and the ghost that hitchhikes a ride with you out of the mansion. Bails comment on the way out? “That was awesome Dad.”

Then we headed over to Pirates of the Caribbean. We stopped to get some pics with Captain Hook. He’s pretty tall and has funny shoes for a pirate.

Anyway, I had never been on this ride before. And it was pretty cool. They’ve completely redone it to resemble the three movies. Capt. Jack Sparrow is all over the place. The pirates look pretty real too including the one who was down in the muck, sitting with the pigs and drinking rum. Someone, might have been me, made a comment about how it looked a lot like Ted Kennedy. No confirmation on that yet.

Then we ate some lunch and rode on the Liberty Belle riverboat through the River of America where you see the old flatboats, a US Cavalry fort, lots of wildlife from the old west and even an Indian settlement. Provided me a chance to give the Riley a quick history lesson on Manifest Destiny. She wasn’t impressed.

We cruised through Frontierland, which by the way is a lot different from my first visit back in 1980. Back then you could buy Civil War replica hats with a USA or CSA flag on it. Can’t do that anymore. I think that’s a good change despite my interest in Civil War era history. Anyway, we headed to get the kid’s faces painted and from there to Minnie’s house and Mickey’s house. Despite the rumors, they aren’t living together. But they are right next door to each other. Everybody knows what’s up with the two of them so I don’t know why they don’t just stop the charade, take the vows, and move in together. They could rent the other place to Donald and Goofy and use the money to get a better paint job.

Kids were running pretty close to empty by now so we took the Walt Disney World Railroad back to Main Street USA, attempted to walk through some of wonderfully air conditioned shops, but just called it a day and headed back home. Luckily for me Bailey pretty much collapsed in mid stride and I got to carry her around Main Street USA for a little while, then to the monorail and finally to the parking lot tram. It wasn’t hot or sweaty at all. And her sparkly rainbow stars and flowers from her facepaint didn’t rub all over my neck either. So I wasn’t all colorful and sparkly for the walk out at all. Really.

One other observation about Disney World. Evidently if you are a Red Sox or an Alabama fan, you have to wear all your gear to the park. Because the only group representin’ better than Bosox faithful were the Tide fans. I don’t think those people actually own any article of clothing that doesn’t have an “A” on it.

The kids also have a pretty solid routine down of swimming in my folk’s pool in the morning, and then again when we get home from whatever it is we’ve done during the day. Cannonball contests have gone well. Yesterday we played “Loch Ness Monster” and I was the monster. It got a little tough to catch the kids when every time I was about to capture them, they made up a new rule about how I couldn’t reach out of the pool or grab them if they touching the edge, etc. I chose to ignore them and test their ability to land in water upon conclusion of a short trip in the air.

Anyway we’re headed home tomorrow morning. Hopefully everything goes as smoothly as the trip down. We’re flying into O’Hare so I have lower expectations than Broncos fans do of Kyle Orton. And that’s pretty damn low.

I’ll post some pics into the three vacation posts when we get home tomorrow.

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Vacation Day Five

Florida Trip 2009 022Tomorrow we’re headed to the Magic Kingdom. The girls are excited. Yesterday we went to the beach. They were equally as excited about that – despite the fact that it was almost 100 degrees. The ocean was pretty calm and that helped get the girls into the water. I was a little surprised at how much time they spent in the water and how little time they spent building the sand castle. Especially since they made me promise I’d help build it.

But they ditched me. So I built most of it. Bails helped a bit as did my nephew. It was really pretty cool. We faced it towards the water with two tall defensive walls brought together by a point in the middle. In front of the walls and the point was a moat. Far out in front of the castle was the forward observation post connected to the castle by a series of trenches. The trench line was laid out as to maximize our ability to deploy interlocking fields of fire. We also had gun emplacements on the ends of the forward wall and on top of the tower we built in the center of the castle. The gun positions allowed us to enfilade any enemy position that tried to flank our trench lines. We also built built a chain of tank traps arrayed around the castle to force any armor the enemy should land into three different approaches all of which were zeroed by our anti-tank positions.

We were tested almost immediately as the enemy deployed one of its crab vehicles to probe our defenses. The moat proved useless as it couldn’t hold water. But the trench lines and tank traps confused the crab to the point that it retreated. And it scared the crap out of the girls once it started moving. Riley almost stepped right on it.

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After the beach, we ate at a place right there near the water. I recommend eating there. After all, they displayed Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame defensive back Rod Woodson’s jersey. With that kind of sense, it’s probably the best place on the beach.

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Before we left for the beach yesterday I noticed a number of small pieces of paper taped to the walls around Grandad’s and Grandma’s kitchen. Upon examination they weren’t just paper, they were signs. Wanted Posters to be exact. My nephew, evidently fed up with Bailey’s antics, had posted throughout the kitchen – “Wanted. Bailey. By the Law.”

If Bailey is lucky he won’t bring along his sidekick the baby harp seal stuffed animal that my folks still have from when my little sister was a kid. Evidently they’ve made some modifications to it since we’ve grown up. According to my nephew, and I have no reason to doubt him, the seal now has electrified whiskers that delivered a powerful shock along with eyeballs that shoot laser beams and a nose that has dual machine guns and a grenade launcher.

Yeah, it’s one helluva seal.

So tomorrow we’re headed to see the Mouse. My prediction is that it will be hot, we will be tired and the lines will be long. And at fairly regular intervals throughout the excursion we will question our judgment in relation to our decision to have children.

Vacation Day One

I was wrong. I can admit it. The barbies on the plane was a good idea. I thought Mom was, to paraphrase Rocky Balboa, mentally irregular for suggesting we bring barbies on the plane to occupy the girls. The worked brilliantly. Each of the girls had a barbie – Summer, Teresa and Barbie herself. Plus each barbie had a small carry on that resembled a plastic sandwich baggie. Three wardrobe options each. But no shoes. Again, brilliant. Worked far better than my idea of coloring books and math worksheets for Kinz.

Other things I learned: Kinsey likes ketchup on her eggs. Which is interesting because normally she’s not that big of an egg fan. But you put some ketchup on them while your inhaling the classic breakfast at Chili’s in concourse C in the St. Louis airport and it’s like she was eating ice cream. If the ice cream was egg and ketchup flavored.

If you are a 5 year-old or a 7 year-old and you are ascending to your cruising altitude or descending into your destination you have much to fear. Because, unbeknownst to me, changes in altitude don’t just do some weird things to your ears, they actually cause large spears to be driven into your eardrums. It was either that or Ricardo Montalban showed up and used the same bugs he used on Chekov in Wrath of Kahn.

In all seriousness, we had a pretty good trip. We were saved by the nicest lady in the world who agreed to switch seats with Mom which allowed Kinz to move up and sit next to me and Mom and Rye to sit behind us. Which made Kinz really happy and me really busy. Here’s advice to anyone flying for the first time with your kids; somehow win the discussion about which kids you are sitting next to with your wife. Bails and Kinz were, for the most part, really good – I mean except for the spear in the ear episodes. Barbies kept them entertained and Bails even zonked out over part of Tennessee and most of Georgia. But don’t make the mistake of pointing out that Florida is actually physically below them. This is a fact that is difficult for them to process quietly.

But we’re on vacation. And the girls are officially flyers now which is pretty cool.

It’s Almost Here

At lunch time tomorrow we’ll be in Florida. We’re flying. With the girls. They’ve never been on a plane before. We’ve never been on a plane with them before. The first time my folks took my sisters and I on commercial airliner was in November of ’79. I was 9. I am what Mr. Webster would describe as experiencing some trepidation about the trip.

I’m trying to be positive but I don’t like to fly. I like to fly less than General Pickett likes charges, less than Ted Kennedy likes bridges, less than Assistant Principal Vernon liked John Bender. But my gut still tells me that the girls will be pretty good on the flight down and pretty horrible on the way back. And I’m willing to take that trade as of now.

They don’t quite understand what they are about to do however. For example, when we’ve driven to Florida, and we’ve done it three times, they can bring their pillows, blankets, a stuffed animal or doll and plenty of travel activities. Last night as we were getting some things ready to do they were approaching the plane trip the same way they’ve approached car trips.

Riley: Dad, where are we going to put all our sleeping stuff?

Dad: What?

Riley: My blanket and pillow and Patrick?

(Note: Patrick is a stuffed dog about the size of a two year-old kid but he’s soft and furry and doesn’t smell like pee every few hours)

Dad: You’re not bringing Patrick. Your pillow is staying here and your blanket is going in the suitcase.

Riley: Wait, what?

This led to a conversation about how much room is available to each person and what they are allowed to do. All of this information was a great shock to her. Add this to the fact that all five of us aren’t sitting right next to each other on flight into Orlando and this is a lot for her to process. Thankfully, or maybe not, Bailey doesn’t seem to care and Kinsey just took it in stride.

My sister has flown to Florida with my nephew a few times. And my nephew is not a kid who relishes stillness. So she’s given me some pointers on what to bring along to keep the girls occupied. We’re loading up on the coloring books, activity books and tranquilizers potent enough to knock out a small bear and require a license from the DEA.

I Hate Geometry

Getting up at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning to move everything off the deck so you can pick up the power washer at 8 a.m. in order to get the full 3 hours of rental time sucks.

You what else sucks?

Geometry. It’s the study of properties of, and relations between, points, lines, angles and surfaces in space.

I powered washed the deck this morning. It has lots of angles and surfaces that don’t always line up with the point of the power washer. And I got wet. Plus it was only about 65 degrees. So I was cold. But the deck looks good. And it only took a full day for my shoes to dry out.

I feel kinda manly for having operated something that had a motor and required me to hook things up and use a choke and a pull starter. Plus it looks a like an oversized phaser from Star Wars. Like the M-60 of phasers. Here’s what I looked like operating the power washer:

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Although after dinner last night, Riley and I were walking by a white Chevy Z71 Tahoe and a navy blue Honda Odyssey mini-van. I mentioned that I liked the Tahoe especially since it had a Steelers hitch cover. Riley added her approval and asked when I bought a new car would I be getting a Tahoe. I said actually I was thinking about a mini-van like that nice navy blue one because we need lots of room.

Riley deadpans, “Dad you need a more manly-ish car. The mini-van is more womanish.”

That made me feel a bit less manly.

Published in: on June 14, 2009 at 8:25 pm  Comments (2)  
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Summertime Top Seven

Now that the girls have been out of school for a week and we’ve instituted summer bedtime changes and are getting ready for our first trip on a plane with the girls, I was thinking about my summertime memories. So here it is – The Top Seven Things About Summer You Could Do As A Kid That You Can’t Do Anymore:

Games of Run Down. Also known as Hot Box if you’re from Iowa. I think this was the game we played when we ran out of other stuff to do. Two of your friends play catch and you run between the bases. Borrrrrrring! Well not if you add the element of full contact baserunning. But not even adding a little hockey could make this fun because we’d still stand on the bases until somebody screwed up. Think about that. It’s like waiting for the substitute teacher to leave the room so you can write “poop” on the chalkboard and giggle with your friends about it. You can’t win this game. It’s a time-killer. Like anything Joe Biden says between gaffes.

ThompsonPlaying Guns. Not only can’t you do this as an adult, I think it is illegal now for kids to do it too. Since your imagination goes dormant as you become a grown-up, we’ve invented Paintball. This is the grown-up version of playing guns. Except you have real guns, with real projectiles, resulting in real pain and costing real money. None of that is as much fun grabbing your plastic Thompson submachine gun, taking cover under your Mom’s lilac bushes and pretending to mow down the make-believe Germans.

The Sno-Cone man. Is there even a Sno-Cone man anymore? We had this guy who drove a 1973 Chevy Bronco that was metallic green and had carpeting on the walls and ceiling. Come to think of it, I can’t believe our folks let us near that guy. He had that long shaggy 70’s hair complemented by the 70’s ‘stache. Kinda looked like Pau Gasol of the Lakers. Geez…that guy was probably selling more than sno-cones…

Ghost in the graveyard. I played this with the girls a couple years ago. Once. I so thoroughly scared Bailey that when we were over at a friends house for Cinco De Mayo she walked inside and sat down next to me at the mere mention of the game by the other kids.

“What’s up kiddo?”

“They’re playing ghost in the graveyard out there.”

“You don’t want to play?”

“No way Jose.”

The best thing about Ghost in the Graveyard was you played it at night. Outside. You don’t get to play outside at night all that often during the other three seasons. In the summer, it’s like one of the commandments.

firefly-closeupLightning bugs. I’m amazed there are any lightning bugs left. Back on Cork Drive in the mid 70’s we engaged in the systematic capture and relocation of countless innocent lightning bugs. After their detainment, we callously displayed them in glass confinement units that many times had just recently housed mayonnaise. So not only were we heartlessly incarcerating scores of lightning bugs, we were forcing them to ingest mayo fumes. Now somebody would report you to the feds.

cheetosSwimming. All day. How lucky were you if you had a friend with a pool? There are a couple things I remember about going to the pool. 1) It usually meant we had swimming lessons and I still can’t do the damn butterfly. 2) Snack bar. 25 cents for a bag of Cheetos? Too cheap not to eat. 3) Cannonballs, bellyflops and the Nes-tea plunge. Here’s a tip: Don’t jump off the diving board pretending like you’re going to do a bellyflop and convert into a cannonball unless you get enough height on the jump. A failure to execute properly can result in you being know as “bellyflop kid” or “redbelly” for the rest of the summer.

Capture the flag. It taught teamwork, strategy and how to avoid stepping in dog poop while running at top speed. Is there a more universal rule in the kid world other than speed kills? I mean other than the “do-over” rule. We’d take over our yard and our neighbor’s – whether they were home or not. Your kids do that now and you’ll up with a lawyer at your door asking you about your liability coverage.

One thing I distinctly remember is the flag hiding strategy. Once you hide the flag you have to yell out to the other team that you are ready to go. The key was not to give away the location of your flag while informing the other team. If you yelled from the geranium pots near the front door the other team would undoubtedly look there. So we’d employ deception and obfuscation. Like the White House and it’s health care plan. We’d hide the flag and then run to an alternate location and then yell that we’d hidden the flag.

Genius, I know.

But not as brilliant as our strategies for busting teammates out of jail. Generally speaking we really only had two strategies. The diversionary raid and the ion cannon.

The diversionary raid consisted of a couple kids running deep into enemy territory to draw the other team’s attention as you make a dash for the jail to tag your buddies. Kinda like Don Strock hitting Duriel Harris in the ’81 playoffs on a quick hook only to have him lateral it to Tony Nathan for touchdown. Or sending a small strike force into the Aleutian Islands to divert attention away from Midway.
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Planet_DefenderOr you use the ion cannon. After rebels remote base on the ice planet Hoth was detected by an imperial probe droid, they use their ion cannon to blast a path through the Imperial Fleet’s blockade so their transports could escape. In Capture the Flag, you send most of your team on a charge toward the jail with a couple kids trailing. The trailing kids tag their teammates out of the clink. Sure you sacrifice a few teammates but that’s the price of victory. And you are essentially in the same boat you were in before. But we were 10 and a lot of our strategies centered how to finish the game before the The Dukes of Hazzard began.

Let me know what I missed…

Published in: on June 13, 2009 at 6:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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Small Towns

Tractor TrophyYou know why I like small towns? Because only in a small town can you win the Great Gobbler Pedal Pull trophy. My niece got 2nd place. Anyway, she carried around the trophy all weekend at Grandma’s and Grandpa’s house. But who wouldn’t?

Another reason I like small towns is that it only takes a little over 2 hour drive to get there. If the girls are tired, they’ll sleep for most of that. It doesn’t require us to do very much in-car activity planning. Although it might have been more pleasant had we done that this time. We are at the stage in the continuing evolvement of the girls’ relationship to each other that if you remove Riley from the equation, the other two generally will get along pretty well. And Riley was removed all day Friday and Friday night because she was at a birthday party. She wasn’t in the car Saturday morning for 13 or 14 seconds before they started fighting with each other. Without Riley around, Kinsey and Bailey can forge a successful partnership. Not Hall and Oates successful but they can cooperate with each other long enough to produce passable results. Like Steve Perry and Kenny Loggins with 1982’s Don’t Fight It. You add Rye to the mix when she’s a little crabby, well then you have Axis of Annoyance, the Triumvirate of Trouble. It’s like sticking Shaggy and Scooby with Scrappy. They become the Central Powers in World War I – a loosely allied group of nations beset by supply problems and not enough tanks.

Plus it gives Mom and I a chance to discuss interesting topics. For example, why is it that 1985 and 1986 had some pretty cool songs but 1987 didn’t? The subject came up while we were listening to And We Danced by The Hooters. This is a good song. As is another of their hits, Day by Day. 1985 had Everybody Wants to Rule the World, Voices Carry and Don’t You Forget About Me from the soundtrack of the equally awesome The Breakfast Club. 1986 had Throwing it All Away, Higher Love and Take It Easy by Duran Duran alum Andy Taylor. But 1987 was dominated by Expose’, Pretty Poison and Tiffany. For every Living On A Prayer or Here I Go Again, you get a Rock Steady from The Whispers or Luka from Suzanne Vega. I don’t care what that song is about, it was like being forced to watch Nancy Pelosi until she blinks. Although, I have to toss in there that Midnight Blue from Lou Gramm is one of my favorite songs from ‘87. But it’s tough to overlook the fact that you spent that whole summer singing to Whitney Houston and Madonna on the radio. I Wanna Dance With Somebody? Really? That’s horrible. Shockingly annoying. Everytime time I hear Who’s That Girl it makes me think of caramel corn. Why? Because I spent that summer working at the Copper Popper making popcorn and Icee’s. And that’s not a cool job. Even if you get to eat a lot of Nacho Corn. Do you know what goes into caramel corn? Well, I do and I haven’t eaten any since Oliver North was on TV more the Oprah.

Anyway, we were down at Grandpa’s and Grandma’s house over the weekend because Mom’s grandma had her 80th birthday. We had it in this little community center that had to have been a church at some point. They converted part of it into a community wellness center. Cool idea. Even cooler was that two treadmills now sit where the altar would have been. Normally that would have been odd but it’s not the weirdest thing I have ever seen in a former church. Last fall when we went to Pittsburgh we ate at The Church Brew Works which is a microbrewery in a converted Catholic Church. And the brew kettles were right there where the priest would have been blessing the Holy Eucharist. So, there’s that…

You Know What Today Is?

You know what today is?

It’s the 65th anniversary of the fall of Rome in 1944. It’s an important but forgotten piece of history. Like the move to dump Abraham Lincoln as the Republican nominee for president in the summer of 1864. Or that the Steelers won a coin flip with the Bears in 1970 to determine who was awarded the first pick in that year’s NFL draft. The Steelers won and took Terry Bradshaw. The Bears lost and traded the pick to the Packers who took some defensive tackle from Notre Dame named Mike McCoy. I’m sure Mike McCoy is a good dude. Even if he was sentenced to play for the Packers in the 70’s.

Actually today is the last day of school. So in honor of that, here are the coolest things about the last day of school:

No backpacks. Holy Crap I’m looking forward to three months of never having to remind anyone about getting their backpacks ready for school. I think kids have some type of kill switch that they hit the moment they enter the house after school. Homework? Can’t remember. Gotta bring something into class tomorrow? Can’t remember. Perishable food item in your backpack? Can’t remember. It’s Jason Bourne-like amnesia.

Nobody argues about clothes. Kids love summer. Our kids love it a little more than what would normally be expected. And it’s all because they get to wear tank tops. They love tank tops the way Godzilla loved radiation. The way Montana loved Rice. Like Guns loved Roses. I mean before Axl lost his mind and broke up the band.

Routine. The last day of school means the last day of, “oh, hey Dad, I forgot, I need to bring a sack lunch today and $5 for a field trip and a white shirt for an art project and a rock to decorate and a couple pictures of me when I was a baby.” None of that. Occasionally, we’ll have to remember it’s water day at day care and they need a swimsuit and a towel. That’s it. So that’s a lot memory space I can clear for fantasy football statistics since I drew the 5th pick in our draft this year. Too bad Matt Forte will be gone by #5.

The bus isn’t going anywhere. So I don’t have to hear them whine about how I dropped them off at daycare too late and they only have 15 minutes to get the Polly Pockets out and build their Frank Lloyd Wright inspired split level lake house complete with closets the size of Albania. Speaking of Albania, anybody else still catch themselves singing this?

Anyway, tomorrow I’m staying home with Kinsey and Bailey and we’re going to see Up. No way I’m making the girls go to daycare on the first day of summer vacation. They’d only make you do that in a communist republic, a red regime…

Riley is headed to an all day birthday party at the amusement/water park. Then she’s sleeping over at her friend’s house. I like summer but there’s no way I’m taking a bunch of 3rd grade girls to the amusement park, then bringing them back to my house to have them spend the night. That’s a bullet I’m not willing to take.

Awesome Ark Art

A couple weeks ago the girls made me a bracelet from the bracelet making deal Kinsey got for her birthday. It says “Dad is awesome.”

So now I have proof.

Parenting Tip of the Week: Look through the clothes you drop off at the dry cleaners before you actually leave them there. Why? Because if you don’t you’ll end up dry cleaning this:

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So that’s nice. I don’t even know what it is but it’s clean. And pressed.

DSC00557Here’s Kinsey doing an impersonation of Tom Hanks in Castaway:

It’s the last week of school. As a matter of fact, tomorrow is the last day of school. And our trusted public schools are doing what all schools do at the end of the year. Nothing. Kinsey spent some time drawing. She evidently wants to be on an Ark. Or be a zookeeper. Here’s a sampling:

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It’s a lion. I think. Or a happy sunflower with five legs.

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Five-legged horse. Maybe she has an untapped reservior of talent in the field of animal genetics.

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The rare and elusive unspotted giraffe. Or a brontosaurus.

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Canis familiaris stovepipis neckis.

If she adds to her collection, I’ll let you guys know.

Published in: on June 3, 2009 at 8:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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