Sunday, March 30, 2008

Minnesota Trip

I just got back from an awesome trip to see my friend Jeff in the Twin Cities. What a great way to end my spring break!

I left on Thursday morning. It was just spitting a little rain, nothing major. Then, right outside of Ottumwa... thunder! lightening! sleet! I've never seen anything like it. The sleet was about two inches deep on the road, and traffic was going along at about 30 mph. It royally sucked. This happened at least two more times before I even got to Des Moines. Of course, no road crews had been out. When I got north of Des Moines, it turned into a whiteout. The roads, thank goodness, were much better, but, you couldn't see a darned thing! Ironically, when I crossed the boarder into Minnesota, things were fine. This is weird, because it's usually the other way around.

I drove right to Jeff's school. He's the media specialist at Kaposia Educational Center (why it's not just called Kaposia Elementary, I don't really understand... I have to remember to ask Jeff about that one). Look at the cool display he made for the wall of one of his computer labs out of black takeout containers!I got to see him in action with two first grade classes, and he even let me help. They were discussing authors whose last names start with T, so here's me reading a Mark Teague book to the second group. It was really fun seeing his school and meeting his colleagues. So many people seemed to know me. I thought, "Wow! Jeff must talk about me a lot or something." Actually, it turns out that Jeff has a picture of me on his screen saver. Is it an adorable, flattering picture of me? NO! He chooses my Abigail VonSchtarr picture from Musical of Musicals, the Musical! It's from THIS that people recognize me!!! So embarrassing!!

That night we had the best pizza at Italian Pie Shoppe, and then we went to Trader Joe's. Why can't all of America have Trader Joe's? Hmmmm???? It's one of the best places ever, and I just don't get how it can be so cheap! My new favorite thing from there is the Thai Lime Chili Cashews. WOW!

Jeff took a personal day Friday, and did we cover some ground! We took the Light Rail downtown. It's so fun and so much easier than driving there and messing with traffic and parking.

We practically ran to this great restaurant called Hell's Kitchen so we wouldn't miss breakfast. I tried the Lemon Ricotta pancakes... mmm!!! But, I was intrigued by and completely fell in love with the Wild Rice Porridge with dried cranberries and dried blueberries in it. I wish I could have that every morning! The decor in the restaurant was interesting... all red and black with a whole wall of Far Side comics about Hell. Here's me avoiding raven poop.Jeff posed as well, forced of course. We have to make each other do these crazy things with pics. It's just our thing, I guess.After breakfast/lunch (we ate enough for 5 meals, at least), we went to Macy's where we shopped and enjoyed the flower show going on right in the store. Here's Jeff with a chicken. He collects chicken stuff, so of course, he needed his picture by this one! :)

We walked around downtown, exploring and shopping. In front of the well-known Murray's Steakhouse, we staged Jeff eating the big steak on the front of the building... hee hee.

We ended our downtown excursion by touring the new Guthrie. Wow, wow, wow!!! This place is amazing. I can't imagine going there to see shows. The outside has all these HUGE pictures of famous playwrights. From the outside of the building, you can walk under the Bridge to Nowhere (or something like that). When you're in the theatre, you have no idea that nothing is underneath you. The pointed end of the above picture is where you can go outside and look out over the river. This view below shows the Stone Arch Bridge behind Jeff. I didn't take a picture of it, but if you look off in the opposite direction from the Stone Arch Bridge, you can see where the I35 bridge collapsed into the water.Inside the Guthrie are all sorts of windows looking out, focusing on various points of the city. This wide window has a reflective surface that gave us some great photo opportunities.To get back down to street level, you have to go down this REALLY LONG escalator. It made my stomach feel a little weird and my legs a little wobbly to look down... that's how long and high it is. It didn't do wonders for my wobbly legs turning around for this photo either! ;)
After the Guthrie, we rode the Light Rail back to the Mall of America. We shopped for a couple of hours there, and by that time, I was tired of walking! The funniest thing happened in Coldwater Creek. Jeff was holding stuff up, saying I should try it on or it would look good on me, etc. This lady looked over at us. She said she couldn't even get her husband into the store at all. She asked how I did it. I told her she just needed to get a gay friend. She asked how. I said, "Well, I recommend the theatre. It's not going to get me a husband, but it's great for gay friends!" Just then, I held up a shirt to show Jeff and he emphatically said, "NO." I looked at the woman and said, "See? He's even honest!" She asked Jeff how much he charged! :) Maybe that should be his second job! When I saw her later in the dressing room, she asked, "Where's your friend?" I told her that he didn't actually come in the dressing room with me! Funny!

That night, we grabbed supper at Red Robin (they had Galaga, so Duane, Jeff's wonderful significant other, and I HAD to play!) and had awesome gelato at this cute little place... I don't remember the name. Mmm! They had a ton of different flavors!

On Saturday, Jeff and I got up and went to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. I loved it so much. I loved the celadon glazed Asian pottery (reminded me of the Newbery Award winning book A Single Shard), the replica of the Japanese tea house, the artistic Judaica artifact exhibit, and the Egyptian tomb door, just to name a few. Here's Jeff at lunch.Looking across the way from our table, we saw this sculpture called Sunburst, or something like that. Instead, I renamed it Tena's Hair. It's kind of strawberry blonde, don't you think?After lunch, we met Duane for a movie in Edina. NOTE: WHATEVER YOU DO, DO NOT SEE SUPERHERO MOVIE! I SERIOUSLY THINK IT IS THE WORST MOVIE I'VE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE. Having to watch 10 minutes of Marion Ross farting is not how I enjoy spending my time at the movies. Life for "Mrs. C" certainly has deteriorated since Happy Days!

After the movie, luckily, things picked up because we walked over to the Galleria and went through the new two story Crate & Barrel. And, we ate at Big Bowl!
We went back to Jeff's for a bit because then it was time for karaoke. I know it may shock you all to read this, but not only do I hate karaoke with the fire of a thousand suns, I really suck at it. It's something about how loud it is... I just end up screaming through every song. It's really not attractive. Jeff, unfortunately, had no idea of my loathing of karaoke when he set this all up. He and I made it through "I Got You Babe" and "You're the One that I Want." For me, "got through" is the best thing I have to say about it. Luckily, I got to meet some more of Jeff's Minnesota friends, and they were fun and really nice. So, things balanced out. Here's a picture of Jeff & me and Jeff & Duane before the humiliating karaoke.

I got up and left on Sunday morning. The weekend was over way too fast, but it was so much fun. For Jeff's take on events of this weekend, see his blog at Now back to real life, I guess. Boo hoo. Actually, I'm not bummed because we started Godspell rehearsals last night. I think it's going to be so much fun!!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Spring Break... everyone should get one!

Could there be anything more wonderful than an entire week off, smack dab in the middle of the school year? I slept late this morning, and it was fan-freaking-tastic!

I had a great day yesterday. I used my gift certificate to the Honey Baked Ham company (thank you, McLeods!) to treat some friends for Easter dinner. The flash-frozen ham arrived Thursday, and it was amazing. My friend Gay is this dutch oven cooking genius (would my Grandpa Sutherlin have loved that, or what?), and she had three dutch ovens going to go with the ham. One had green bean casserole, another had cheesy hash browns, and the last one had a pineapple upside-down cake. It was a FEAST! The best thing is that I'll be having delicious ham sandwiches all week. Gay kept the ham bone, and I gave her my mom's recipe for Black Bean Soup that is best with a big ole ham bone. It will be the gift that will keep on giving!

Easter at church was fine. I had to be there at 7:15 for bell practice. The 8:00 service had the children's program. This is where my dad had to play my husband... ick... but it went very well, except for the fact that my dad didn't realize he was performing at the 8:00 service. He thought he was in the 10:30 service. He got there right in time to go on. Thank goodness I called! We had a nice breakfast between services, and the kids had an Easter egg hunt. Then choir sang at the 10:30 service. I was tired, but it was nice morning. After the big dinner at Gay's, I went home and had a nice long nap. Great day!

Now, I have three days to get grades done, do laundry, etc. Also, I'm watching Jack & Emma for awhile tomorrow while Suzanne gets her hair cut. Then on Wednesday, I'm ushering for a traveling company of The Lion , the Witch, and the Wardrobe that's coming to the Sondheim Center. I'm slacking today, which I'm totally OK with :), but I really need to get busy tomorrow. I have to work now so I can play at the end of the week. On Thursday, I'm headed up to the Twin Cities to see Jeff. I haven't been up there since two years ago on spring break, so I'm really looking forward to it! I have to get there more often, that's all there is to it.

Hope you all had a nice Easter too!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Pink Cloud Moment

I'd love to post the picture I just took of my entire group of 8th grade GOAL students, but you never know what kind of crazies are going to be scoping out pics online. Instead, I'll post a picture of one of my favorite things (yes, insert Sound of Music tune here)... pink clouds. When I see pink clouds, I'm happy. Now, happy doesn't really describe my current pride, joy, and wonder... all caused by watching my students on stage tonight, but it will get you to the general idea. I even got teary, and I'm not sure why. This was much less involved than the play, and I didn't get teary with that. Maybe it's because these are my 8th graders, and I know I'm not going to have them next year. Oh. That's it... because I just got teary again when I typed it. They're just really special kids... every one of them. There were some so afraid to walk across that stage tonight. I was proud of their guts, going outside their comfort zone . There were some who forgot their words a little and had to pause to think. I was proud of their poise, not crumbling under pressure, regaining their composure and going on. There were some who I just saw in a new way... so grown up and confident... Oh jeez, I'm tearing up again. There were some who had the audience in the palms of their hands, delivering their words with humor, passion, and emotion. I was proud of their comfort and stage presence, moving their audience to laugh and even cry. I am blessed. I am their teacher. I am honored to know them. Man, I love my job. It doesn't get any better than this.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Fun Quiz

I am a

What Flower
Are You?

This quiz was kind of fun. I found it on a random blog. Sometimes I just like to keep hitting the "next blog" button to see what's out there. It's a little voyeuristic ;) but you can see some really cool sites that way. I'm not a gardener, so I had to fake one of the questions, but I love daffodils, so I agree with the outcome.

Big night at church, getting bells and choir ready for Easter Sunday. Then tomorrow night my 8th graders present their Images of Greatness. Rehearsal did not go very well today. Hardly anyone has his/her part memorized. Eek! But, I guess this will be like most of my endeavors of this year... trial and error. I'll know much more about the process after tomorrow night. It won't be fancy, but hopefully it will be functional. I can work toward fancy next year. ;)

If I make it to Friday afternoon, I have two fun parties to attend. The first one is bittersweet because it's a going-away party for friends Scott & Christina. They are such a fun couple, and I've come to know them through Fairfield Area Community Theatre productions. They are also Hawkeye fans (well, one is... the other is a Cyclone fan, but we don't speak of that in public) and have their tickets in the same section as ours, but much closer to the field. :( Anyway, it feels like just as I was getting to know them, they're moving away. Sigh. The other party is a housewarming party for Kevin & Alicia, and well, you can never go wrong with a party at Kevin & Alicia's!

OH!!! And I almost forgot! Last night I saw the trailer for Mamma Mia! I absolutely cannot wait to see it, and it doesn't come out until July! Check it out! I really wanted to hate this show when I went to see the touring company in Des Moines. However, it was intoxicating... I love love loved it! I've seen it again since then too. Now, the movie is coming out. Can you say Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, and COLIN FIRTH?!?!?!?!?! How much more can a person take? I repeat... I CAN'T WAIT!!!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Successful Day!

Out of the 5 entries we took to History Day, 1 is going on to state. There were 12 exhibits in their category, and the top 2 go to state. I think that's pretty good, considering it's the first time I've done the competition with my students. They are so psyched. I am too... good day! :)

Monday, March 17, 2008


The first press photo came out today. I wanted to share. Rehearsals start April 1... I can't wait! BTW, all three of the tie-dye shirts you see in the pic are mine... gotta love that lady at the Iowa State Fair!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Weekly Preview

1 week until spring break!!!! It's so close, I can practically taste it. I have a crazy week to get through first. On Monday, I'll be getting ready for a sub (this will require me finding the top of my desk which I haven't seen since parent/teacher conferences at the end of February) and working with my 7th graders to make their last minute adjustments to their projects, because... Tuesday, we'll be at History Day competition all day. I have no idea what to expect. It's all new to me, so it will be a learning experience for all of us.

Wednesday (besides getting choir and bells ready that night for Easter Sunday), I'll be repeating Monday's panic with my 8th graders who will be putting the finishing touches on their Images of Greatness projects. Their big night is Thursday night. They'll be portraying the person they've chosen by presenting their memorized (hopefully) bioriddles and showing their displays.

The kids have Friday off, but we teachers will be working all day on our Backwards Design units. This is a different way to think of lesson planning that our entire district is studying this year. If I can make it until Friday afternoon, I'm FREE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

OK... so cute moment of the day... during church this morning (during which I endured the worst headache of my life, surprisingly NOT caused by the fact that in the Easter program next Sunday, I have to play my dad's WIFE... therapy, anyone?), Pastor Suzy was sitting with the kids on the steps during the children's time. She was talking with them about Palm Sunday and what it means, etc. After much prodding, she finally got the key points out of the kids about shouting "Hosanna!" and waving the palm branches as Jesus rode by. Then Pastor Suzy asks, "And do you know what Jesus was riding?" Little Ella, age 3, shouts out, "A bicycle!" So darned cute. Plus, it painted this really vivid picture in my mind of Jesus, pedaling along a dusty road in Jerusalem in his sandals. Out of the mouths of babes... :)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Lessons in Life

I hope I never stop learning. I love learning, and maybe that's why I'm a teacher. But some lessons in life are so hard to learn. Warning: MANY RAMBLING THOUGHTS AHEAD!

Within minutes of each other this morning, I was writing to a student and talking to the new teacher I'm mentoring about this very issue of life lessons. There was a passage in the classroom management book that we're reading as part of mentoring that directly pertained to what's been on my mind lately. "...the single defining characteristic of greatness in this world - one's willingness to stand up and hold one's ground with the noise in one's head, and the people in one's world, while assuming the best, in ways that invite cooperation."

Wow. That really says a lot. I guess that's what I'm working for... to be able to be myself and stand up for myself, while blocking out the crap and getting the best out of others by assuming the best about others.

That passage also talks about greatness. Greatness is a term I struggle with. I aspire to be great... a great teacher, a great performer, a great friend. I think I'm more of an all-around "good" person, not really "great" at any one thing, but good at lots of things. A persistent wondering in my brain questions if a person has to give up being good at lots of things to be great at one thing.

I guess one thing the passage leaves out is about growing. I struggle with perfectionism and wanting to be the best at things. All I can really do be the best I can be and not worry with others. I know I need to model that for my students, but it's hard when I'm a competitive person. I'm grateful that I'm aware of this in myself, but it's hard to take the next step... to be able to see greatness and appreciate greatness in others without being jealous and while continually striving for greatness in myself, growing and changing, and loving the process of getting there.

I warned you about the rambling thoughts, didn't I? Feels good to release them though. TGIF!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Pics from Trip

Just wanted to share some pictures from my California trip over Christmas break. I was just thinking about it today. I'm blessed to have such a fantastic family... all over the world! :)

Fort Mountain Ranch

Indian summer camp site at Fort Mountain Ranch

Another view at the ranch

The lodge at the ranch

Morning at Lake Tahoe

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Good Laugh from Kevin

My friend Kevin sent me this website, and I totally loved it and wanted to share. So funny!

Spring break is in sight. History Day with my 7th graders is one week from today. Images of Greatness is one week from Thursday. After Friday, I'M FREE!!!!

I'm watching Suzanne's kids tonight while she runs the Iowa Reading Association's Author Spotlight. Jason had sinus surgery yesterday and is still feeling a little tough. I hope it's nice enough that we can go to the park. I've been really good about walking this week, and I want to walk a couple of laps at Chautauqua tonight... the kids don't mind riding in the stroller as long as playing at the playground is an eventual part of the picture!

Monday, March 10, 2008


I made it!!!! I'm so excited to be part of the cast of Godspell at the Sondheim Center during the last two weekends of April and the first weekend of May. Even though I'm the granny of the group, it's going to be especially cool to be on stage with one of my super talented students, who also started her own blog ( I would have listed it with the other blogs in my previous post, but it's new!

For more information on Godspell as it arises, see its page on the Fairfield Arts and Covention Center website (

Haven't heard about Annie yet. I think my audition went pretty well yesterday. There was sure a good turnout with the kids. We'll have a ton of cute orphans! Auditions continue tonight, so I'll know more about that by the end of the week. I think a lot of it is going to depend on how much the director can work around my Godspell schedule. There surprisingly won't be that many conflicts since Annie doesn't go up until Father's Day weekend, but there will be a few.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Other Blogs & Today's Blessings

Here are some of my favorite blogs to read...

The blog of one of my students:
The blog of my best Fairfield friend:
The blog of a Rock Island friend:
The blog of a college friend (she is how I first knew about this site):
The blog of Rosie O'Donnell:

TGIF, everyone! I'm looking forward to finally being able to go to my Centering Prayer group after school today. I haven't been able to attend in so many weeks due to the play. We meet on Fridays after school. I'm the young'un of this group, and I feel blessed to have the friendship of this group of strong, special, spiritual women. I treasure my time with them. To learn more about Centering Prayer (also called Comtemplative Prayer), see This site isn't exactly what we do, but it gives you the idea. This method of praying is so good for me because my brain usually is going a million miles an hour. It helps teach me to slow down and just be quiet.

Thursday, March 6, 2008


This weekend will be full of auditions for me. I have callbacks for Godspell on Saturday afternoon at the Sondheim Center. I have no idea what my chances are with this. They are casting people from 13-35. Well, I'm 35, and I will turn 36 3 days after the show is over. I'm pushing the age limit, so I guess it will all depend on how he wants to cast things and where all the talent lies. I'm not too thrilled with the prospect of being the only 35 in a cast of 18's, know what I mean? I don't think the directors will be up for that either. I helped with preliminary auditions this week, and there were TONS of young'uns. Doesn't look good for me. I'm so old! ;)

On Sunday, I'm auditioning for the FACT (Fairfield Area Community Theater) production of Annie. I've been in this show once (I played Lily St. Regis, and it was so fun), and I've directed the junior version of it here at Fairfield Middle School. Plus, a little of my personal history with the show... when I was in third grade, I got to see the touring show at Hancher. The redhead from the TV show Kate and Ally was Annie. Well, I was hooked! I had the album, and I about wore the poor thing out. The movie came out when I was in fourth grade. I was 10; Aileen Quinn was 10. I was obsessed. If there was any way I could play Annie right now, I would. The boobs would definitely be a problem, but I have the hair... naturally! ;)

But back in reality, I'd LOVE to play Miss Hannigan. I think I could really have fun with that part. With FACT though, you don't audition for a part, you audition for the show. I like that philosophy as a director because it makes it so much easier to cast things, but as an actor, it's a little harder when I know the part I want. It would be hard to watch someone else in that part... I know that from past experience. I guess we'll see what happens.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


1. LCD & Elmo have arrived in room 101! Yes, everything is installed and working perfectly. My LCD projector is mounted to the ceiling and hooks up to my student computer. Also attached is a document camera, also known as an Elmo (I have no idea why). The document camera is about the most fantastic invention ever. It runs through the LCD. I can put books or papers on it, and they project directly onto the screen. Today, my 6th grade GOAL class played Boggle with it. We put the Boggle cubes directly on the camera, zoomed in, and had an enormous, screen-sized Boggle game! The camera also doesn't have to be directly in front of the screen, like with an overhead or an opaque projector. I know this is totally my little world here, but in Teacherland, THIS IS BIG NEWS!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


1. The Fairfield High School boys' basketball team made it to the state tournament. Now, I really don't care a lick about basketball... I'm a football girl. But, in a small town, high school sports are really community events. It's fun to watch my former students excel, and it's fun to watch the excitement of the whole district as they support the team. All the businesses in town have signs supporting the team. It's exciting. They play at 3:30 today, and unfortunately, they're playing the #1 seed in the tournament, who happens to be undefeated. But, crazier things have happened, right? Have you seen Hoosiers?

2. My 8th graders are doing excellent work with their Images of Greatness project. Each student has chosen a person that they feel exemplifies greatness. They are researching that person, creating a timeline of that person's life, writing an essay about that person, and making a trifold display with photos of the person and quotations said by the person. They will be creating a riddle, told from the point of view of that person. On the night of Images of Greatness, students will dress as their chosen great people and present their memorized riddle to the audience. The audience will have a sheet to fill out to try and guess all the answers to the riddles. After the presentation, students will stand by their trifold displays and discuss their research to everyone looking at their display. The student will also have some kind of food they have prepared to share. The food will have something to do with their great person... maybe it's something they liked, maybe it's something from their culture or time period. Maybe it's just something that is associated with them. It's a fun way to end. I'm really pleased with the list of great people they've chosen... Dorothea Lange, Babe Didrickson, Benazir Bhutto, Pele, Stevie Wonder, Walt Disney, Rachel Carson, George Harrison, Jane Addams, Rosa Parks, Queen Elizabeth I, Charles Darwin, Theodore Roosevelt, Susan B. Anthony, Jackie Robinson, Bill Gates, and William Shakespeare. Great variety... I'm looking forward to the big night!

3. I feel blessed to have a little more free time this week. We had strike last night and got the entire stage area cleaned off. The set was dismantled and put away. I have drama club with the kids until 5:00 tonight, but with drama club, there is no big deadline hanging over our heads. It's just a time of fun that we all enjoy. I have a little breathing room, and it's nice!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Quote of the Day

I have a brilliant student who is a terrible speller. Today I said, "_____, spellcheck is your friend." He said, "But Timeliner doesn't have spellcheck." I said, "No, not in Timeliner. In life." He retorted with, "And you're my spellcheck." I'm such a softie.

This is the same class as my Templeton from the play. She's blaming her current behavior on "the blow to the head." I think that will be my new excuse. In life.

Weekly Update

What a weekend! Charlotte's Web played on Thursday and Friday nights to packed houses both nights. The kids really pulled it together, and I was so proud of them. It's the magic of theatre because Thursday after school, I was sweating bullets and thinking there was no way they were ready to perform. But that night, everything came together, and the show was great. We had some excitement on Friday night during the show when one of my set crew boys grabbed me from the back of the house to tell me that someone was hurt. It turns out that my Templeton had basically impaled herself on the baling wire of one of the bales of straw. Head wounds are such bleeders, and the blood was running down her face and neck, and it was all over her hands. The puncture was small and she applied pressure while she was still in the scene, so the bleeding had pretty much stopped when I saw her. She was such a trooper. We got her cleaned up and bandaged, and she didn't miss a beat. She hit her next entrance and never broke character. She's such a little pro! It was especially neat seeing all 41 of my cast members strung across the front of the stage for bows. They filled the whole thing. The lamb's parents hosted the cast party on Friday night... almost 60 kids with crew. They played ping pong and foosball, played all kinds of instruments in the band rehearsal room, and played Rock Band on the big screen TV. As a Guitar Hero lover, I really enjoyed Rock Band. I took a turn, singing a little Bon Jovi "Dead or Alive." I really hope that doesn't end up on YouTube!

On Saturday, I took my 6th grade GOAL students to the Invent Iowa regional competition in Oskaloosa. It was a good learning experience for us all. I feel like I have a much better understanding of what they look for now. We took 10 inventions. 3 of those received honorable mention recognition, and 1 is going on to state. So, for my first time participating in the competition, I don't think 4 out of 10 is bad at all. Plus, the kids had a ball on the bus. It doesn't take much to excite them, that's for sure. ;)

Tonight after school, we're striking the Charlotte's Web set, and with that act, I'll feel like I'm halfway to spring break. 7th graders have History Day on the 18th, and then 8th graders have Images of Greatness on the 20th. Whew!

FACT (Fairfield Area Community Theatre) met last night to have a pre-production meeting for our summer show, Annie. This will be the first FACT show to perform in the Fairfield Arts and Convention Center, so we're excited for that step up. No cows mooing in the background, like we had when we performed at the fairgrounds. No 100 degree heat, like we had several years at the high school. Do you know how hard it is to be in Titanic! the musical and pretend like you're freezing in the middle of an ocean of icebergs when you're in 100 degree heat, wrapped in a woolen blanket, and holding a squirming dog? UGH! I'm glad I won't ever have to go through that again!
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