Am I the only one who doesn’t take their kids back-to-school shopping? Friends have been posting about the horrors, tears, gnashing of teeth, and enormous money they’re spending these last couple weeks.

Here’s the thing… my kids already have clothes. They wear clothes every day until they’ve grown out or ruin them. Except for church clothes (he has a suit, she has a couple dresses) and camping clothes (grubby jeans, stained sweatshirts, and crappy shoes), we don’t have separate school/play clothes.

We buy as we need, look for deals or clearance racks, and peruse the local thrift shops when we are out and about. My kids aren’t huge fans of clothes shopping so breaking it up works for us.

Luckily, our kids are great shoppers, always have been. I only have two kids, so that gives me a slight advantage over someone who juggles more (to whom I bow and honor for their valiance because I could not do it, which is why I stopped at two).

The main reason my kids behave angelically in public is largely due to managing their sleep and hunger. A sleepy and/or hungry kid (or mom, right?) does not make a fun shopping companion. I’m a stickler about bed/nap time and won’t take them out if they aren’t well-rested because that would be miserable for me. Yes, it’s all about me (said tongue-in-cheek).

If momma ain't happy ain't nobody happy.

The second reason is making sure they get to see something that makes them happy, not just getting dragged around from store to store only looking at what I want. We usually stop by the toy section after I’ve plowed through my stuff. That’s their payoff for behaving. They don’t ask me to buy them toys. Instead, if they really like something, they ask me to add it to their Wish List or watch for it to go on sale so they can buy it.

In a couple weeks, after school starts, we’ll probably get a list of items we could donate to the elementary classroom and I’ll send some in (we already received a bill for $99 worth of fees for the junior high kid; I couldn’t imagine paying that AND for new clothes, yikes!) Other than that, my kids use their backpack’s until they’re shredded, lunch boxes until they don’t work anymore (we LOVE the Pack-It because it keeps their cold stuff cold), and binders until they fall apart. I buy folders, paper, pens, and pencils when they’re on sale and store them in my office for when they need more.

Countdown has begun… one week left until school starts!

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31 Days of Head Shots #25 Blue

by Lucky Red Hen on October 25, 2012

I’m pretty sure this beauty isn’t named Blue, but since I don’t know her name and I’ve got to give this photo some kind of title I think Blue is fitting.

The children at this wedding were all so well behaved (which I find shocking because kids are, well, KIDS!) This sweet girl was sitting on the blue, front porch swing visiting with a friend when I spotted the perfect condition to snap this photo. Absolutely adorable and accommodating.

I love when that happens.

And this gal… her smile was infectious and I couldn’t resist the sparkle in her eye. The photo is a bit soft on the focus, but sometimes a soft focus photo like this can give you warm fuzzies in a way you may not get with a super sharp picture.


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Las Vegas With Kids at Techatticup Gold Mine

by Lucky Red Hen on September 17, 2012

As I mentioned in my previous post about taking kids to Las Vegas, you must not miss the El Dorado Canyon Tours at the historic Techatticup Gold Mine that’s 45 minutes outside of Vegas if you dig that sort of thing.

You must call ahead to reserve a spot for the one-hour tour: 4 person minimum (can be combined with other groups/people), adults $12.50, kids <12 $7.50, open seven days a week.

Billy, our tour guide, is well-informed on the folklore and history of the mine and surrounding areas (and his mustache is for reals, not a fad). He also runs the river tours on kayaks and the desert tours on horseback.

Kurt Russell acted in two movies there; Breakdown and 3000 Miles to Graceland. Both films left parts of the set (like a half-crashed plane) on site for photo ops! As a side note: use the restroom inside the main building for several laughs (and see if you catch the typo).

Part of the drive out to the mine is looong and flaaat, like this photo shows. The dust storm that happened by while we were on our way was the only thing to look at. Well, other than the guy walking his pack burro on the side of the road; but I don’t have a picture of him.

Part of the building (why I didn’t get a whole photo is beyond me) where you check-in for your tour, buy souvenirs, or pay for a photography permit. The tour starts outside the front door of the main building. Billy’s showing the kids something fascinating.

Our tour group was small enough that we all could hear Billy at the same time, even though we had to walk single file through the narrow mine shafts. As a tip, the mine is cool enough that we could’ve used a light jacket in there (but you’re not in too long if you don’t have extra layers.)

If you happen upon a snake, you’re welcome to kill it and stick it in their 7-Up freezer. Or Billy will let you pose with one of the several that are already in there :) How cool is this picture?!? It’s the current owner’s grandfather and he’s NOT posing for a professional photo shoot. This is a candid shot of him after he hunted the cougar with his bow and arrow. I wish the mine would make/sell post cards of this photo. It’s captivating!

You’ll find the answer/winner to the previous post in the comments section.

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7 Things We Did With Kids in Las Vegas

by Lucky Red Hen on September 12, 2012

My husband suggested we take the kids down to Las Vegas.

Images of drive-by boobies and booties (stripper ads on top of the taxi cabs); inappropro text on t-shirts, g-strings, and shot glasses; and the creepy sidewalk card clickers flashed through my head.

He insisted there’s plenty kid-friendly activities in Las Vegas, we just have to look for them. After scouring endless Google suggestions, we settled on the seven following activities (Get it? Seven is a lucky number!):

[something’s wonky with the picture captions, forgive me]

1. Circus Circus for one night because it was supah cheap (I want to say $25/night). But, folks, you get what you pay for; it was gross and I don’t recommend it (unless, of course, you like gross). Parking is confusing and getting around the place isn’t easy. Checking in with an English-is-my-second-language clerk was frustrating, even though he was very nice (as far as we could understand; maybe he wasn’t but we couldn’t tell). We waited 20 minutes in the stinky hall for a replacement room on a different floor that had chunks of drywall missing from the walls AFTER we were sent to a dirty room. The beds weren’t comfy and the walls are thin. The arcade where kids can play carnival games wasn’t like I remember as a kid. There are random, fun performers throughout the carnival area, and even less people to multi-player against. I so hoped it would be memorable for my kids like it was for me (it was, just not for the same reasons.)

She spied a stuffed animal her sweet friend has and asked me to send a picture to her. (We miss you, Lily!)

2. Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay $18 adult, $12 kids. Look for the round entrance that’s not near the main hotel & casino entrance (it’s to the left around the corner next to a giant parking lot). You may think it’s weird that I’m explaining where the entrance is, but we drove ’round and ’round looking. The one cool thing about asking an old security guard was his accent. I swear he used to be a huge mob boss and is using the mall-cop job as a cover up. He was adorable (so maybe drive around a bit and maybe you will run into him and enjoy listening to him give you directions.) It’s smaller than you think it’d be, but well done. You get to cruise through a tube surrounded by swimming creatures, mostly sharks. We liked the gift shop where the kids selected a reasonably priced stuffed animal skin and got to watch them stuff it.

The kids had their own camera devices and had a blast taking pictures of all the cool stuff they saw.

3. The Bellagio (super expensive hotel and casino) has several free things to see. The outdoor fountains, visible as you drive by, erupt to music and lights every 1/2 hour or 15 minutes depending on the day/time (I’ve added a video at the end of this post so you can see a snippet for yourself). Inside the main entrance above the lobby is the colorful ceiling of blown glass by Dale Chihuly (shout out to the fellow Seattleite, WOOT) and  just beyond that space is the Conservatory and Botanical Gardens that changes theme with the seasons (by one hundred and forty (!) expert horticulturists). Down the hall to the left is a chocolate fountain wall at Cafe Gelato where they serve delicious frozen treats (and crepes, meh). We like to take our treats down past the water wall at Sensi (exquisite dining, but not too stuffy) where there are small seating spots.

Inside the Bellagio Botanical Garden Exhibit and the GIANT SWAN!

He saw the orange watch in the window and wanted to know how much it is (the kids had spending money). So I kindly asked a salesperson if she’d tell him about the watch and how much it costs. It was a wee bit out of his price range. You should take a guess and leave it in the comment section :) I’ll send something to the person who gets closest without going over.


The chocolate fountain down the hall from the Botanical Garden exhibit.


This work of art is made up of live flowers and plants (much more amazing in person, I love all the picture taking.)


4. The Blue Man Group was highly entertaining (and family friendly) for our kids. Next time I’d like to see one of the Cirque du Soleil shows (check out the O preview here). If you know a local Las Vegasite that is willing to pre-purchase your tickets for you, you’ll save about 1/2 price (thanks, CB!)

5. The Aliante Station Hotel is waaay off the strip (NW Las Vegas) and totally worth the drive and the extra room rate. It was as if we had the place to ourselves, the pool was deserted (and clean), and the accommodations were top notch. The buffet is VERY nicely done and reasonably priced for breakfast, or sign up for their Player’s Club (it’s free) and you get two breakfasts free each day (I think; don’t quote me on that, so check first). They have other specials that make it worth the few minute extra drive and getting off The Strip calmed my overprotective motherly nerves ;)

Breakfast buffet at the Aliante Station Hotel is delicious, nicely decorated, staffed with friendly servers, and includes reading material for you to stay current on world events.

6. Have wonderful friends to visit, play in their pool, enjoy a meal together, and lounge in their back yard oasis while your kids entertain each other. Alright, maybe you can’t fulfill this one. Maybe you should MAKE a friend who lives in Las Vegas so you can :D


7. And the piece de resistance… El Dorado Canyon Tours at the historic Techatticup Gold Mine that’s 45 minutes outside of Vegas. You must call ahead to reserve a spot for the one-hour tour: 4 person minimum (can be combined with other groups/people), adults $12.50, kids <12 $7.50, open seven days a week. Other than the Blue Man Group, which was pretty amazing for kids, this was the favorite activity. Billy, our tour guide, is well-informed on the folklore and history of the mine (and his mustache is for reals, not a fad). Several movies were filmed in the area, leaving parts of the set (like a half-crashed plane) on site for photo ops! As a side note: use the restroom inside the main building for several laughs (and see if you catch the typo).

[This activity was so awesome that I’m saving photos for a separate post dedicated to the mine COMING SOON!]

The trip was complete with a chance encounter with Spongebob Squarepants (in a smokey casino, of course.)

AN EXTRA TIP: If you’re driving to Las Vegas via I-15 southbound (out of the Salt Lake City area), swing into Sonny Boy’s Barbecue in Cedar City for my favorite (I just salivated thinking about it)… Fried Cauliflower. Their BBQ is delicious, too, but the cauliflower… OH BOY!

P.S. Don’t forget to leave your guess of how much the orange watch costs!

And the Bellagio fountain video…

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What’s That I Smell? MOMMY!

by Lucky Red Hen on April 20, 2012

The other day my son came to give me some squeezes, and he smelled something.

Wait. I need to back up.

A while back, I finally got my prince to agree that sugar cereals are like eating dessert and that’s the opposite way we should be starting our day.

He’s gotten on a healthy kick after starting a Navy Seal workout program (Your Body is Your Gym, or something like that; he works out at home with household items like the broom over two bar stools, a towel on the back of a chair, pull ups on the pantry door knobs).

After finding out how important it is to eat healthier, lower your glycemic intake, and cut processed foods and drinks (he used to have pop/soda/cola regularly), we’ve all been eating more fruits and veggies as well as enjoying healthier meals together.

Because of this new eating situation, we eliminated sugar/dessert cereals from our house. We don’t make the kids eat granola, bran, or muslix stuff, but we don’t buy Cap’n Crunch, Cocoa Puffs, Sugar Smacks, or Frosted Flakes anymore. Except for holidays; birthday’s, Christmas, etc.

Then recently we decided not to torture our kids completely and changed the rule to Saturday mornings (which is kind of like a holiday in this house.) After they eat their one bowl, we note the amount left and put them up super high (the shelf would break if they tried climbing them to reach; so far we haven’t had to worry about that).

Back to the squeezes… it was a weekday (definitely not a Saturday or holiday) and my son bounded over to me in the afternoon and snuggled up close.

Then he backed his head up and said, “What’s that smell?” O_o

He came closer to my face and sniffed like a dog. Sniff. Sniff sniff. Sniff.

“That’s,” sniff again, “dessert cereal!” Sniffsniffsniff, “That’s… TRIX!”

He found me out. I had a bowl as a snack about four o’clock (it was a hard day, don’t judge) and thought I’d get away with it.

I pulled the, “I’m an adult and the rules don’t apply to me,” but felt guilty as I said it because it’s definitely a rule that should apply to me. It’s not like I was driving a car and telling him he couldn’t because he’s not an adult.

Shame on mommy. Shame. But look how pretty they are in the bowl!

I’m not the only one who’s been a bad mommy like this, am I? What’s YOUR shame on me story? Go ahead, you’ll feel better getting it out :)

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Santa, Wishbones, & Chocolate

by Lucky Red Hen on January 1, 2012

Santa thought I was a GOOD GIRL this year because he gave me a new treasure (pictured above)! No, it’s not the blue and green floral couch, although it IS a gift to the eyes. Aaand he knew I wanted to take an Adobe Illustrator class from so he gave me a class for the end of January! I’m SOOO excited!

Maybe I wasn’t a good girl but he was smitten by my delicious cheek last year…

The image on the left was circa 1979 (the sweetest orange bell bottom jeans, am I right?!?) and last year (in an orange hoodie) on the right.

Yeah, Santa and I had a moment that will last forever. LOVE YOU, Santa, thank you!

And this blondie got the surprise of her life from Mr. Claus… FIVE GIGANTIC POUNDS of pure milk chocolate :p I tell you what, if I were Mrs. Claus, I would’ve explained to my husband that there’s NO WAY this little tiny girl needs THAT MUCH chocolate! No matter if it was (which is was) her first word as a baby. Okay, it was more like chaw-at, but she knew what it was, knew what she wanted, and this girl ALWAYS wants chaw-at… I mean, chocolate.

And tonight, if you’re reading this December 31st, please be careful on the roads and don’t drive if you’ve been drinking a-a-a-a-a-alcohol or consuming mind/body altering drugs.

Happy New Year, I hope you all DON’T drop a 5lb bar of solid milk chocolate on your foot. Not that I would know what that feels like, but I’m sure it doesn’t tickle.


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Parenting is Hard: Well, For Me It Is

by Lucky Red Hen on October 16, 2011

[written earlier this year, but thought it was a good follow-up to yesterday’s post…]

This isn’t what I’m supposed to be doing right now. I have errands to run and a wok to hunt down. Writing takes up so much time, but somehow I feel like I should be doing this right now. If not, then I might start bawling again.

I’m a cry-er. I wish I weren’t. What good does crying do anyway? It makes my eyeballs red, eyelids swollen, nose is both plus runny and I get a headache. This is NOT how I want to look when I leave my house. Not that I’m vain in the regard that I need to be perfectly coiffed, manicured, and fashionably diva’d, but I don’t want to look like I just got slapped with the ugly stick (not saying I’m ugly, but after the Ugly Cry it looks like I am). Maybe I should time how long it takes to un-swell, de-redden, and get to a presentable point so I can stop crying soon enough to de-swell.

The gist of why… ack… it’s making me well up again… inhale, exhale, mentally step out of the sad place…

Maybe I’ll try being a reporter. If I tell myself I’m just stating the facts then maybe my emotions will calm down a spell. (I wanted to say other words, because I’m feeling strongly, but gotta keep this PG.)

For the last three years I’ve heard about the 5th grade 3-day camp. And for the last three years I’ve told my oldest that there’s no way he’ll be going on an overnight excursion (I’m against sleepovers, but that’s a whole other topic that I won’t get into right now) for 3 days and 2 nights with a bunch of kids and parents from our school that I don’t know. (I only recently found out that there are two other schools involved which means two of his buddies will be there also.)

He’s not signed up to go. The camp is next week. This morning was drop-off for sleeping bags, etc. I haven’t seen paperwork on it because he knew he wasn’t going so no need to show me. I have NO IDEA what goes on at this camp, physically where it is, how it’s organized, who’s in charge, what they do, how sleeping arrangements are decided and executed, etc. Granted it’s my fault for not becoming informed, but it wasn’t an option because it’s overnight (and $150) so I didn’t think I needed to be informed of something not pertaining to me.

I had heard that there were about 5 students not going but found out today that mine is THE ONLY ONE not going O_O

Does that change things? My mom says no. She said there are hard decisions we parents need to make and stick with because that’s what we feel is right (she also said she supports my decision). Another mom friend comforted me with support that it’s our family decision and it doesn’t matter what other parents/students think.

The trick here is that my husband is all for it but he supports my position because I get the final say when it comes to the kids. If I say no, it’s no. He tells me not to beat myself up over it because I’m only wanting what’s best.

But what if I’m making the wrong decision? What if it’s the right decision? How do I know the difference?

Some will say, “Pray about it.” What if I’ve prayed about it and a clear answer hasn’t come to me? Maybe that’s an indication that my Heavenly Father wants me to stretch and figure it out on my own. Maybe there isn’t a right or wrong. Maybe it’s right that he doesn’t go and also right that he does. Yikes.

This isn’t a case about giving in to peer pressure either (well, you may think so but I don’t). I’m not pressured by my (or his) peers but I AM pressured with the responsibility of doing right by my kid.

He didn’t come with a manual or warranty. I am not skilled in parenting. I haven’t studied, been taught, researched, or absorbed how to be the best parent. I’ve picked up on things here and there from my parents, my in-laws, and other parents but I am by no means well versed in raising a child. This does NOT come natural to me like it does other women (and men, for that matter).

Food, shelter, and clothing are the only things I feel I can do without outside help. The safety, education, and the rest I’m just winging.

And I don’t have a problem with admitting when I’m wrong (which isn’t often, I assure you, haha, tongue in cheek) or taking responsibility when I need to (I think… I don’t know, you tell me). So if this whole thing turns out to be a giant mistake, whichever way it goes, I just hope it’s not to the detriment of my child(ren). Yeah, I guess this whole thing is going to trickle down to the other kid too. (sigh)

From the school… “When students don’t go to camp they are expected to come to school. The teacher has work for them and they will go into another classroom. If they don’t come to school they are counted “absent” and it is added to their school record. Please let me know what you decide.”

I asked if he’s the only one not going and what work he’ll have and what classroom he’ll be in. I was told… “At this point, he is the only 5th grader not planning to go to camp. If he doesn’t go to camp, we will place him in another classroom for the day. We have not decided for sure which classroom for which day, but it may not be the same room every day. He will attend specialists with whichever class he’s with for the day. We will give him some work to do while he is at school so that his time is not wasted. The work we give him will be additional practice on things he’s worked on before. The other students will not be expected to do the same work because they will be busy at camp.”

It sounds kind of willy nilly and like he’ll be punished for not going to camp. The other kids are out having a good time (because their parents can afford it and/or are better at this than I am). I’m torn and exhausted considering all the possibilities.

I wish parenting was easier.

EDIT: At the last minute, I changed my mind and let him go. He had a fantastic time, didn’t get hurt, wasn’t scarred for life by an inappropriate event, and has memories that he’ll look back on fondly. Hopefully he won’t realize the anxiety that was behind it all by his over-protective mother who’s just trying to do her best.

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Kids: I don’t like them.

by Lucky Red Hen on October 15, 2011

See? This baby thinks I'm the BEST (and I think he's the bee's knee's), but read on to hear more about the title of this post.

New Person, extending their hand:
Hi! I’m so-and-so. Nice to meet you!

Me, shaking their hand:
Hello :) I’m Shannon and I don’t babysit.

Everybody who knows me is aware of my distaste for children. They are not the first people I want to hang out with if given the option. I prefer teenagers, adults, old folk, animals, and inanimate objects before children.

“That’s an awful thing to say!” Yes, I guess it sounds bad but I’ve heard people say that they don’t like being around old people (they drool, have trouble keeping food off their face, stare at you blankly, move funny, smell funny, sound weird… hey, wait a minute, that sounds like children!), hippies (too loosey goosey), punk rockers (unpredictable!), teenagers (spazzy), quiet people (Una-bomber?), bikers (scary), men (they’re not women!), women (so emotional!)… you get the picture.

So, yeah, I’m not a fan of kids. Other people are fans of kids… YAY! At least I’m honest and you know up front why I’m ignoring your kid every time they stick their toy in front of my face or clutch onto my leg, waiting for a horsey ride. Some people aren’t dog people, some aren’t cat people, I’m not a kid people.

However, there are times where I, gasp, put aside my dislike and help a kid/parent out. I’d rather take your noisy/distracting kid out of a meeting and entertain them in the hallway than sit in there frustrated that I cannot concentrate on what is being said by the teacher/speaker because you think nothing of letting your little one wander the room (Hey, it’s a curtain! Hey, it’s a piano! Hey, look what’s inside this lady’s purse! Hey, I’m walking across the front of the room!) and babble/giggle noisily. (But, if we’re being honest, and I’m all about honesty, that’s your fault not the kid’s so I can’t blame them and that’s why I’m trying to be nice to them.) If you ARE the kind of person who tries to keep your child/baby quiet or occupied so they’re not disruptive and they happen to make some noise then I appreciate the effort and I’m not blaming you. It’s the people who believe (here I go making someone mad) that it’s OK for the baby/kid to do whatever they want and are inconsiderate to others around them.

Oh, you say I’m crotchety and should get over it because babies are beautiful and should be revered as such? (If you don’t say that, ignore the rest of this paragraph, it’s not for you.) How about you get over that I’m crotchety about this and don’t agree with your view on something. This is my OPINION, just like you get to have yours. Because we have differing views doesn’t mean one of us is right/wrong.

For instance, my children got into a fight a while ago. The 8yo, on purpose, threw a glass magnet at her 11yo brother, so he chucked it harder back at her putting a decent welt on her foot. At first, not knowing what happened, I was mad at the 11yo for hurting his little sister. But when I learned that he was retaliating (not that he should have, I don’t condone violence unless it’s in self-defense), I had less empathy for her pain. They both got in trouble for what they did (he CERTAINLY shouldn’t have retaliated, and she shouldn’t have chucked it at him in the first place), and I gave my daughter an ice pack (minus sympathy).

Yes, they’re kids, and kids will be kids… that’s what they do… I did the same thing when I was their age… they don’t know any better… they’re figuring out life… this is how they learn to deal with people… they’re JUST KIDS!

I know all the arguments but I just don’t have a maternal instinct to put up with all that. I am paranoid about my kids safety, yes. I worry about what they’re doing, choosing, seeing, hearing, etc. But the part where people get warm fuzzies being around kids isn’t innate to me. I wish it were… really I do!

Kids are hard for me. Making the right decisions for them isn’t easy. Knowing what to say when they need me to is almost impossible. I don’t have pearls of wisdom like I know other people do. We don’t have activities planned, crafts to create, outings scheduled, or bonding time checked off. I try to love them as best as I can and hope that makes up for the lack of warm fuzzies.

So if I have so much anxiety about my own kids, you know I’m going to have less patience for other people’s kids.

But I’m not a meanie (all the time) and I have been known to be nice (sometimes). And I’m BEYOND grateful for people who ARE kid people to my kidlets and are nice to my kid’s even though I might not be :) They certainly need to get it from SOMEWHERE! So, thanks :)

And a lot of kids, especially babies, seem to be drawn to me. I’m like a beacon, saying, “Hey, you child, I would rather you NOT be near me so come on over here and sit on my lap so I can read you a book!” Wanna know a secret? I will admit, I’m really good with babies. Which is weird because I don’t care for babies. You can’t REASON with them.

“Hey, baby, why are you crying non-stop?” I’ll ask. And they’ll respond with, “Waaaaaaaaaahaaaaahaaaahaaahaa!”

I don’t know what that means. O_o

P.S. I find it ironic that I happen to have babysat this morning… and it was (gasp!) MY IDEA! O_O See, I’m not crotchety ALL the time ;) To prove how good I am with babies (she’s in the midst of I-only-want-mom-or-dad mode), here’s a before and after photo…

BEFORE: she didn't cry and had fun playing with me

AFTER: she was so calm and happy that she laid down and fell asleep in the middle of the toys

In case anyone gets the idea that they should ask me to babysit… this was framily (friend’s who are like family) who came to town for a wedding and didn’t have ANYONE ELSE to watch the baby. So there. Don’t ask (or you can and I’ll just say NO so why bother?)

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