Mama in the City since 2008 and blogging since 2009!

The Baby

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March 28, 2017 // Parenting

You know that moment when you see a photo of something and it completely changes your perspective. That happened to me the other day when my husband showed me a photo he’d taken of our youngest girl. The two of them had been out on an outing and in the photos she looked so big. All of a sudden I saw her as a total toddler, probably the way everyone else sees her, and less of the baby that I  think of her as.

In my mothering world my youngest is still ‘the baby’. Since she’s always been on the tinier side it’s quite easy to keep thinking of her as a baby. Compared to the older kids she still has a lot of basic needs that we need to take care of and when we talk about her in our family we legit refer to her as ‘the baby’.

Where’s the baby?

Awe, look at how cute the baby is!

The baby just did this super adorable thing today…

Shhhh! The baby is sleeping!

Careful! Watch the baby!

The list goes on and I totally get how completely ridiculous and maybe a little endearing it is at the same time. Today while the big kids were off at school I let her get busy with the paints. Then she danced in the living room to some Raffi and sang Baby Beluga. Like, she actually sang the words and you could understand what she was saying. Babies don’t do that.

In about two weeks time we will have an official two year old. Not a baby. She’s having a birthday party at a farm and she likes to talk about how she will ride a pony, see a goat and eat cake. I’m trying my best to not be too ridiculous with my emotions over realizing that I no longer have a baby.

While I’m all for celebrating my toddler’s new milestones, I will still be secretly be calling her ‘baby’. I just can’t help myself.

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Hawaii definitely has my heart ever since our first trip there as a couple. I feel like as soon as you arrive on one of the islands you’re transported to this total sense of tropical bliss that gives you that feeling like you’re home. There’s that warm thick air that greets you as soon as you get off the plane to those island birds you hear chirping first thing in the morning. It is a true love affair.

It turns out that my kids also have a bit of Aloha fever and loved every minute of our family holiday. Each kid had a different favourite and I love hearing what they had to tell me. At the end of each day I’d ask them, ‘what was your favourite part of today?’. We often do this at home but I felt like being on a family holiday invites this question even more. Plus, it encourages them to learn how to be reflective and also grateful.

My oldest, eight and a half year old Ben, wasn’t so sure about doing a snorkelling trip with his dad. We had talked about it before we left and practiced in our indoor pool with the snorkel gear. When the time came closer he said he was nervous about swimming in the ocean. So, off we went to Baby Beach to practice snorkelling in some calm waters. However, even after a day at the beach he still was not sure about going on the trip.

Later that day he told us that he was now excited to go. Phew! I was really glad he changed his mind as we had bought the tickets ahead of time and they were non-refundable. My two boys left before 6 AM and were gone all day. They came home utterly exhausted and filled to the brim with tales from the ocean.  Ben was able to use a wet suit and the guides worked with him so that he felt really comfortable. I love seeing my kids conquer their fears! He saw so many amazing animals; schools of fish, dolphins and turtles were just a few of what they saw. He said it was his, ‘best day ever!’ and I believe that.

Alii Nui Maui– snorkel boat trip

Josie is five years old and the last time she was in Hawaii she was just a toddler, so this time around everything was still very new to her. She loved saying ‘Aloha!’ to people and was interested in absolutely everything that we did. She loved meeting new friends at the pool but her ultimate favourite experience was swimming in the ocean and sailing in a boat looking for whales.

This girl is such an ocean lover and her zest for catching waves made me feel like an overly cautious mama at times. She definitely loved every moment that we spent at the beach and would have stayed even longer if it was up to her.

Pacific Whale Foundation– Family friendly whale watching

Te Au Moana Luau in Wailea – Kids five and under are free (yeah!)

You might wonder what a not yet two year old can even get out of going on a trip like this. Lizzy, who turns two next month, loved hanging out at the beach. Another vote for Baby Beach! It is seriously perfect for families that have mixed levels of swimmers.

This toddler learned lots of new words while we were away. Which is always a fun milestone, even the third time around. Pineapple, aloha, fish, boat and beach are all new words that she loves chatting about. Lizzy got a big kick out of going to the Maui Ocean Centre. She could have sat at these tanks and watched the life inside forever. We’ve been to this aquarium a few times before and it’s always a fun experience. If you haven’t been before but are thinking of going with kids, plan to spend about 1.5-2 hours there.

Just like that our trip is over! It was a sad moment boarding the plane back to Vancouver, knowing we were trading in sun and sand for raindrops and cold. My kids were in for a bit shock the day after we arrived home when I handed out their Winter coats for our outing.

Until next time Hawaii!

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You’re scrolling through your social media feed and see a picture of someone you follow. Their toes are in the sand and their kids are frolicking in the water and the caption reads ‘Best day ever!’. It’s easy to feel jealous or even have considerable ‘Vacation Envy’.  I know I’ve had my own moments of feeling envious over someone else’s holiday, especially when the weather at home is questionable and the day to day stress is mounting up.

The truth about vacationing with kids, especially young kids, is that it is not a vacation. Instead, I’m going to call it a holiday. It’s a break from routine and a chance to do things together without the usual hustle of the days at home but it is not a vacation. Sure, there’s no after school practice to rush to or the daily struggle of packing lunches and getting out of the door but it’s not a kick your feet up and really relax kind of vacation.

Kids will be kids even away from home and their will still be sibling fights and the aftermath of irregular bedtimes and the change of time zones. There will be meals out where someone cries, hopefully not you, and there will be the usual work of making sure all of your kids are safe in the water or in a new to you area .

You will break a sweat carrying every single item back from the beach because one of your offspring is ‘too sandy’ to help.

I find that changing my focus on what a family holiday actually encompasses helps make it a total success for me. I don’t expect my kids to be completely well behaved every second of our time away and I  expect that there will still be the same kind of melt downs that happen back home. Going away as a family is a great chance to build your family connection and make memories but regular life still happens, even when in Hawaii.

The other day we went for lunch at Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop and the kids were hungry and acting up. We had just done a few hours at the Maui Ocean Centre and we were ready to eat. The space is small and it’s a ‘grab your own table’ kind of place. I had 5 of us sitting at a 4 top and it was squishy to say the least. One kid was saying rude things to an other and the toddler was all grabby with the cutlery and napkins. I did the parenting move of firm words under hushed tones as we waited for my hubby to place our order.

Who would of thought that a local would come up to our table to tell us how well behaved our children were and how impressed she was with our family. Seriously, who would have thought?

One day when my kids are too cool to holiday with us, I’m sure I will vacation with my husband and we will rest and relax and read books at the beach and talk about the good old days when our kids were small. I know that this phase of life is ‘all in’ and it is exhausting and lovely all at the same time.

I’m raising a glass of pineapple wine to making memories on family holidays and celebrating the little things.

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I’m sitting here on an airplane at about ten o’clock at night. Two out of three of my kids are actually fast asleep, amazing, and I thought I’d share three really great travel products that we stumbled upon while gearing up for our trip to Hawaii. We’ve done a bunch of air travel with all three of the kids and the trickiest age that I find is the toddler age.

Babies can be lulled in a baby carry or nursed to sleep and worse case, if they do cry, it’s a tiny baby. People don’t hate you as much when it’s a tiny baby crying. Unlike toddlers, tiny babies don’t wrestle you while you try to get them to sit still during take off. Toddler cries are a lot louder and much more persistent in an angry ‘LET ME DO IT’ way.

If there is anything that will make traveling on an airplane with kids easier I have read it, seen it, reviewed it and put it into action. Here are a few things that we found to make traveling a little bit easier.

This great car seat luggage strap from Go-Go Babyz is designed to tie your toddler carseat to your suitcase. Your toddler can literally be seated in their carseat and you wheel around your case. Making hauling around that big car seat much easier, plus you can contain your little runner in a busy airport.

We found this worked best in just hauling the big car seat in the airport but our little lady didn’t actually ride in her carseat. I’d definitely recommend this for anyone that has ever had to haul around multiple car seats. Been there, done that. I love the concept behind this product and I think the design is really solid. We paid under $20 to buy this product and it was worth the price.

A few weeks back I was out shopping and found this neat silicone lid and straw set from Silikids called Siliskin Straw Top. I started to get tired of Lizzy always dumping smoothie everywhere or going to a restaurant and having to be on high alert because of an adult size open glass. Apparently as the third child you do not want to be that different and have a ‘baby cup’ when your siblings all have regular cups. I’m always learning in this parenting gig!

This stretchy lid seemed to be the answer. We took it with us in our carry on and it worked great. Before we took off we dined at the airport and they brought our toddler an open glass. The silicone lid just fits on top and voila, toddler approved. I definitely recommend this one, its easier than bringing your own cup and can be stored without taking up hardly any room. We just gave it a bit of a rinse in our water cup before we packed it away.

If you’ve ever traveled with kids then you know the whole pain, physically and literally, of bringing carseats and booster seats. They take up a lot of room while you are navigating in the airport and it makes for one parent to be on ‘car seat duty’  while pushing the big luggage cart full of precariously placed kid seats.

Image from One Smiley Monkey Blog

We found the ‘mifold the Grab-and-Go-Booster’ and after reading what it was all about and checking out the safety of it, we eagerly snapped one up. It’s exactly what it promises and I’m so surprised this idea hasn’t come out years ago. It is revolutionary in how we think about booster seats for our big kids. Plus, your kid can actually car the MiFold themselves. It is that compact.

I’ll be sharing about our family travels as we go and I’d love for you to follow along. Catch us on Instagram as we explore the sights of Maui. Look for #MamainMaui!

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I’m really excited to be part of this year’s 4th annual Healthy Family Expo as a blogger ambassador. I only collaborate with events that I actually would attend and this one is up there at the top of my ‘Go To’ list of local events.

After I had my second baby I became more aware of purchasing greener products and making healthy decisions for my family became increasingly more of a priority. We swapped out most of our old household products for Seventh Generation and I started to pay more attention to reading food labels. Rain or shine, I thought of ways we could be active as a family. For us this meant less driving and a lot more walking, something that city living definitely makes easy.

Five Reasons I’m Excited To Check Out The Healthy Family Expo

  1. It is located right downtown! I love when events are so close by to us. I’m pretty sure we will walk there and if it’s raining we will take transit. Perfect fit for this Mama in the City!
  2. I can’t wait to take my kids to the Active Zone. So often it is hard to find events that all the kids can enjoy. However, I can already picture the two oldest kids getting excited for the big hamster ball race track and testing out the rock climbing wall.
  3. The littlest can feel safe and confident exploring the TumbleTown play area. I’ve been interested in TumbleTown for awhile and I’m looking forward to checking out their play area.
  4. After being introduced to the television show SuperWhy back when my oldest was a preschooler, I’m looking forward to seeing my kids faces when they get to meet some of the CBC SuperWhy characters.
  5. I’m a sucker for samples and I love samples that I get to eat. True story. So, I’m looking forward to finding a few new healthy snacks that I can try out with the kids.

This year at the Healthy Family Expo you can be guaranteed to find the following family fun:

  • Meet popular CBC Kids characters Daniel Tiger, Super WHY!, Bookaboo & Scout;
  • Enjoy Bobs & LoLo and Jessie Farrell concerts featuring songs celebrating the natural world;
  • HUGE Active Kid Zone with rock wall, giant hamster ball race track, Tumblebus & TumbleTown, Springfree trampolines, Sportball & Pedalheads play areas and more;
  • 200+ exhibitors with healthy food sampling & eco-friendly products & services;
  • Whole Foods Market Zone, London Drugs Health Zone, and brand new Toyota Canada Outdoor Living Zone, West Coast Kids Healthy Baby Zone, and Green Living Zone;
  • Science World fire show and ninja & tumbling demonstrations on stage;
  • Vancouver Aquarium AquaVan interactive zone for kids;
  • $15,000 Grand Prize Showcase including a 1-year lease on a Toyota Prius c;
  • Baby feeding & changing lounge with complimentary diapers, wipes & comfy seating;
  • Family Rest Stop courtesy of Love Child Organics and lots of stroller parking;
  • First 500 adults through the door receive a gift bag full of healthy product samples;
  • First 200 adults through the door receive an adult pass to Science World; and
  • Partial proceeds of ticket sales support Canucks Autism Network sports programs.

If you have a backyard and haven’t yet heard of Springfree Trampoline then you need to come to the Expo on March 26th and experience it for yourself.  Spring free Trampoline is a new addition to this year’s Active Kid Zone at the Expo and is family friendly fun that makes being active enjoyable and safe.

One lucky family will be taking home a Springfree Trampoline through the Expo’s early bird ticket draw, and another one as part of the Expo’s Grand Prize Showcase (visit the Healthy Family Expo website for terms & conditions for those giveaways). That’s a prize valued at over $3000!

If you like to win prizes then get involved in the pre Expo fun by heading to the Expo 2017 Facebook Event page and RSVP to win thousands of prizes at the March 23rd pre-Expo Facebook party! The on line party runs from 8 to 10 PM.

To kick off the pre-Expo celebrations, we’re giving away a $200 Healthy Family Expo 2017 shopping spree! One lucky winner will get to shop at their choice of exhibitors at the event on March 26th! This online giveaway runs from March 6 – 22, 2017, and the winner must be a British Columbia resident aged 19+ able to attend the Healthy Family Expo at the Vancouver Convention Centre between 9 am & 5 pm on March 26 to pick up and use the prize that day.

Enter for your chance to win through Rafflecopter below.
The winner will be announced at the pre-Expo Facebook Party on March 23rd, 2017!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Adult Expo tickets are $15 each online, cash at the door, or at London Drugs from March 1-26.

Kids under 16 get in FREE and ALL ATTRACTIONS are included with admission!

Buy tickets early to qualify to win a Springfree Trampoline!

Grab 2-for-1 adult tickets online using limited time promo code MMITC241.

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Finding an activity that is engaging and fun to do with all three of my kids can be a bit of a challenge. It has to be interesting enough for an 8 and 5 year old and safe enough for our not yet 2 year old toddler. What excites the older kids doesn’t always work for a toddler.

We had been talking about heading to Richmond’s Kidtropolis for awhile and finally a day happened where we could all go! The kids loved the idea of being able to play in a little city made just for kids and I liked that it could be fun for all of them.

Pros of Kidtropolis

  • Toddlers under 2 are free!
  • Engaging play for a range of ages. I feel like the preschool crowd would be the age group that benefits most from Kidtropolis but my 8 year old boy had a great time. At first it took him awhile to warm up to being there but by the end I had to drag him away.
  • A jungle gym area encourages physical activity. This was the area my oldest wanted to hang out in the most. He loved climbing around as well as the thrill of the big slide.
  • Lots of staff around cleaning up and keeping things sorted and safe. I liked that the staff were easy to identify in the mix of all the other adults.
  • There is no time limit and you can easily spend several hours here.
  • The cafe has high chairs (that are clean!!!) and they will bring you your tray of food and drinks to your table. So much easier when you are the only adult with three littles!
  • Paid off site parking was covered up to two hours.
  • Creativity and imagination is definitely a huge part of going to Kidtropolis. My creative preschooler loved visiting all the different buildings and her favourite was the airplane.


Cons of Kidtropolis

  • Parking is seriously terrible during the week. Meaning, do not count on parking anywhere near the actual site. There are a handful of designated spots out front but the rest of the parking is reserved for other businesses. We had to park off site in the Olympic Oval and with 3 kids it was actually a huge hassle and I almost turned around to go home. Walking with a toddler is a special kind of parenting test. If you go there with another adult, drop everyone off at the door and let the other adult park the car. 
  • You can’t bring your own snacks in. The cafe is decent and serves a variety of food but all purchased food and drink is restricted to the cafe, so there is no slow sipping of your coffee while your kids play. During peak lunch times it can be hard to get a table.
  • The mix of ages means you can have a big group of older kids roughhousing around small kids. No injuries for us but I definitely had to be on top of watching big kids wrestle around the toddler.
  • Not all parents are actively watching their kids. Sigh, I hate to even say that but it does cause for a little bit of a headache at times. Most big kids were going around by themselves, which was fine but it did create a few ‘sharing is caring’ moments.

Final verdict is: Definitely have a visit to Kidtropolis! We will be back for some more pretend play fun!

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It’s Love Baby!

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February 14, 2017 // Parenting

I was busy working last night and after midnight I was excited to be able to meet all of the new little bundles of love that were born with February 14th as their birthdate. I always wanted to have my own Valentine’s baby, it never happened and never will, but there’s something extra sweet about having a birthday on Valentine’s day.

I wasn’t always a big fan of this day. In fact, for the longest time I thought it was just an over rated commercial holiday and for many years went out of my way to not acknowledge it’s existence. Then I had kids and I saw the sweetness that a day just for l.o.v.e brought out. It was the pinks and the purples and the happy little hearts that totally sucked me in and the idea that after a bleak January there was a little bit of festive fun to look forward to. Heart shaped everything!

This year we decided to have a little ‘Friendship’ party to celebrate love day. It was low key afternoon at my sister’s place spent icing sugar cookies and getting entirely too many sprinkles on the floor. If you want to make a bunch of kids happy just let them go at it with a container of sprinkles. Seriously.

We made a batch of our favourite chocolate play dough and spent time rolling out the dough and pretending to make even more cookies with it. This chocolate play dough recipe is my all time favourite and it lasts for so long in a container. My kids can’t get over the chocolate fudge smell and honestly, neither can I. I’ve made this play dough many times and highly recommend you giving it a try.

While I’m not big into the romance side of Valentine’s or the pressure that people feel to make it an amazing date night, I am definitely going to keep seeing the pink and purple and celebrating L.O.V.E.

Count me in for celebrating Valentine’s Day!

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This year Josie decided she wanted to do a pet adoption theme for her birthday party. We had already decided to do a small at home party and this theme sounded like something I could manage! The idea was to have guests select a puppy, care for it and adopt it and take it home.

We thought it would be cute if the guest of honour was ‘Dr. Josie the veterinarian’ so we pulled out our old doctors costume for the occasion. She was thrilled to dress the part and took her role very seriously!  We had a box of different puppies for the guests to choose from, along with these adoption certificates that they would later help personalize.

Each child picked out one puppy and were given a puppy house too. We had spray bottles with misty water, a dryer, a measuring tape and our assorted doctor tools from our doctors kits. The kids had a blast measuring their puppies but the big winner was washing our pups!

We set up a station with towels so the newly adopted pups could get a light wash and a supervised dry. The kids took turns using the instruments to give pretend immunizations, check for fleas and asses the overall health of their new pup!

You could go on and on with this theme as it lends itself to so many different party ideas. We did do a pin the tale on the poodle as one of our planned party games and to help get the party started! Turns out kids of all ages love to play pin the tale!

At the end of the party the kids put their puppy into the paper box house and signed their adoption certificate but not before choosing the perfect name for their pup. This was a super sweet birthday party and was low key and simple on the organizational side.

Plush puppies: Oriental Trading

Dog house paper favour boxes: Oriental Trading

Adoption certificates: Etsy

Pin the tale on the poodle: Etsy

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The other day my sweet spunky Josie turned five years old. She was so excited for this day and we had plans to host a small at home birthday party in our apartment. A couple of friends and our little cousins were on the guest list for an old fashion birthday party with games and cake.

My sister introduced me to the idea of hosting ‘five dollar parties’ back when my oldest turned five. The basic idea is in the invite  you tell guests that in lieu of gifts you will be hosting a ‘5 dollar party‘.

Instruct your guests to bring a total of ten dollars and briefly explain that five dollars will be going to the birthday kid and five dollars will be donated to a special charity of their choice. Both of my kids chose to give to the SPCA and they loved the idea of helping out the animals. Other ideas for charities include something special to your family or the local Children’s hospital.

We really love the idea of hosting this type of party for a few reasons.

  1. As a parent ten dollars total is a pretty nice amount to give for a kids birthday party. Often buying a present would cost more than ten dollars.
  2. Parents don’t have to run out and buy a present that would be appropriate and appreciated by the birthday kid. Picking out a good present gets trickier as kids get older and you don’t always know their school mates personally.
  3. The birthday child gets to buy one great toy that they love instead of accumulating a lot of little toys.
  4. Kids get to learn about the act of charity and supporting something important to them.
  5. Families don’t get a huge influx of stuff to add to their kid’s collection. This was really nice for us as this party was right after Christmas, especially as space is limited for us.

We thought it was cute that for a five year olds birthday she was doing a 5 on 5 kind of theme. As kids get older the amount can change and you can choose to do a ten dollar party instead. After doing two of these parties we have had great feedback from the parents of the party guests.

Josie enjoyed browsing for a special toy with her money. She picked herself out a toy sink (with actual running water!) and donated the other half to the SPCA.

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Despite being a specialized perinatal RN working at the bedside supporting new mothers learning to breastfeed, I still struggled deeply with feeding back when I had my first baby. In the early weeks post partum I found breastfeeding to be beyond hard and found nothing enjoyable about it.

We struggled with having our preterm baby try to learn the same feeding tricks that a term baby would and I struggled with the utter exhaustion from an induced labour and an assisted birth. Once baby is here the hard work continues with little reprieve.

I remember waiting and waiting for things to click and when they didn’t come naturally I knew that I needed to call for help. I sent a SOS to a friend who was an international board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) and she came to me and gave me the support I needed on how to make things work.

Post partum I had so much extra IV fluid floating around my body that every part of me was ridiculously swollen, including the breasts that were meant to nurse my baby. It all seemed kind of impossible.

When we were ten days post partum we went to the paediatricians for our scheduled check up. He measured and weighed my baby and asked me how feeding was going to which I quickly replied with a short, ‘its fine’. Then he said something that helped me hold things together at a moment where I felt really vulnerable.

“You are doing a really great job Andrea!”

It was the first time someone told me I was doing a good job in motherhood and the difference that those simple words made were unforgettable. I didn’t even know that I needed to hear them until he said it.

Three babies later and I can tell you that learning a new skill, like breastfeeding a baby, when you are beyond exhausted is like having an out of body experience. It really feels kind of ridiculous.

So much information from well meaning health care professionals went in one ear and out the other. I was too tired to hear what they were telling me.  I kept hoping that things would just naturally come together and had no idea of the learning curve that was involved for me and this baby.

Over time my body recovered from the long induction and birth and I let myself commit to breastfeeding one feed at a time. I wasn’t commiting to breastfeed exclusively for six months or going for a year and I wast even thinking about the two years that the WHO guidelines recommended.

I was just going to try this one feed and see how it went. If it went somewhat okay then I was going to try it again just once more.

My lactation consultant friends showered me with the support I needed, continually checking up on me as the days went by. My sister, who had had babies, told me all about her nursing experiences and those sisterhood secrets of the early post partum weeks. My husband brought me snacks and made me dinner while I sat firmly in one spot on our couch focused on latching the baby or expressing milk to give.

All together they helped mother me, the new mother. I was never expected to return to normal or pick up where I left off. I took this new role one day at a time and I was allowed to grow into motherhood.

While my village took care of me, I was able to take care of the baby. When I’d spent those newborn nights night cluster feeding, my partner would wake up early and take the baby so I could have some extra sleep. Breastfeeding wasn’t just my issue that I had to learn to deal with on my own. It was a shared supported experience.

My youngest sister, who had no kids at the time, would come over in the afternoon and take the baby so I could have an afternoon nap. Catching up on sleep helped my mental well being and my ability to take on one more breastfeed.

This was my post partum experience and I feel very fortunate that as a new mother I was able to be so well cared for during the transition into motherhood. I wish all new mothers could get the chance to adjust to this new part of their lives while surrounded by people who care about them.

Let’s mother the mother. Let’s take care of her and give her the support she requires so that she can flourish in  her new role. 

***I wrote this post inspired by the tragic and upsetting loss of fellow nurse and mother Florence Leung. You can read more about her story here.***

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