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#1 of 36 Old 09-26-2007, 11:56 PM - Thread Starter
 
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We are going to the ILs' for Christmas and my MIL asked for my input on traditions. I wrote back about how I wanted to focus on traditions/crafts/cooking together, etc. instead of gifts. I gave a bunch of suggestions we could try including:

- drawing names for gifts
- having gifts just for the kids
- having a dollar amount / theme
or
- exchanging wishlists of some kind

I explained that ds lately seems to not appreciate things if he has too much of them. For example, if he has quite a few of something, he starts worrying about the ones he *doesn't* have, kwim? He's actually happier when he has like one car and doesn't know that there are 40 more out in the world that he doesn't have.

I also mentioned our preference for open-ended toys. I suggested we do more crafting/cooking/other family activities and try to take the focus of gifts. I also added that they could (of course) give them what they wanted and the kids will enjoy everything no matter what.


Well, MIL writes back something along the lines of "that's interesting, but I'm not in charge". She apparently forwarded it to my SILs (for some reason the guys are not involved in these decisions!). The older SIL (who is hosting the holidays) responded very nicely, but in the end her answer is that nothing is going to change. Even the wishlist thing was basically turned down! The only thing that they agreed with was having some crafts for the kids to do while we are there. At least that might help a bit!
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#2 of 36 Old 09-27-2007, 12:01 AM
 
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oh, i'm sorry that your family wasn't more receptive.

you can give them all a copy of this book for their gift.

























(i'm actually reading it right now, and has some really great concepts for creating family traditions without all of the consumption/consumerism )
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#3 of 36 Old 09-27-2007, 01:43 AM
 
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you can give them all a copy of this book for their gift


::
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#4 of 36 Old 09-27-2007, 10:04 AM
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well, at least one thing got through!

i think it's tough when you have family with very different ideas of what makes christmas special. for a lot of mainstream culture, that means consuming like crazy.

and, as we know, anyone thinking outside of that box is seen as being judgement for wanting something different.
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#5 of 36 Old 09-27-2007, 10:09 AM
 
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Well, there is always another way to get them to back off...you just stop buying them gifts, or cut back.

For example, if you are concerned about buying things that won't get much use, buy everyone gift cards and be done with it. Tell them since you didn't know what everyone really wanted and didn't want to buy things htey didn't, this is the best way.

Or if you are concerned about the montetary aspects, buy everyone one fairly inexpensive gift - eventually they will cut back on what they buy for you too...

Mightymoo - Mom to DD (6) and DS (4)
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#6 of 36 Old 09-27-2007, 10:31 AM
 
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Holidays are tough. I send a wish list to everyone. Under the guise of making sure a child does not get 2 of the same thing. Then my list has things I would rather the kids get like crayons and other crafty things. I also include links
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#7 of 36 Old 09-27-2007, 11:38 AM
 
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This is why I'm taking over the holidays. If they don't like it, they can go eat a turkey!

After last year's last minute "We cancelled Thanksgiving" (seriously, MIL called at like 10 that morning to let us know she cancelled the reservation at the nursing home cause gpa was in the hospital) and then "Crazy Christmas" at my grandparents (we really walked out in the middle, it was mayhem, especially w/ a 4 day old baby!) - they can do it my way or do it w/o us.

Maybe you can be in charge of Xmas next year? Put it under, why don't we rotate years? so it's not to much of a burden on any one family...etc...etc..

I would just go about creating your own traditions w/ your core family, and be as unhelpful as possible w/ their commercial christmas. Make them gifts, wrap in brown paper w/ real ribbon, and be done w/ it!

Good luck, momma!
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#8 of 36 Old 09-27-2007, 12:19 PM
 
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We had a christmas "organized" by my SIL but held at our house last year... this year we've told everyone we're doing our own "no more than 5 gifts each" holiday and they can come if they want. Honestly last year was so miserable I cried for hours and that's not the way I want to spend a day! My in-laws are very well off and their idea of a clebration is literal piles of gifts covering a room... then everyone starts ripping off paper in an orgy of "MINE!" (my niece actually laughed at my dd who was unwrapping her gifts "too slowly..see? just rip it off!"). It was rotten.

So maybe just make a token appearance or let faily members know in advance that this year you are going to give home made gifts/one gift each and you "wouldn't mind" something similar in return? You could even mention all the toy recalls and say you're concerned about your little one or theirs getting a toy that will be recalled a month later so you're giving gifts you know are safe?

hugs mama... holidays can be tough!

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#9 of 36 Old 09-27-2007, 12:30 PM
 
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It seems to me that you can make some of these decisions unilaterally.

For example, you have every right make your own decisions about the gifts that you will give. As long as everybody knows ahead of time, I see no reason why you can't announce that you and your husband will be giving gifts only to children, or to children and you'll give a single token-gift Christmas ornament to each family otherwise, or whatever you choose. If people want to still give you gifts, that's their choice.

And you could bring craft materials for your child, to give you and him something to do if there's a hour-long gift-opening orgy. If you want to try to influence others, you could bring extras and see if you lure the other kids in.

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#10 of 36 Old 09-27-2007, 02:08 PM
 
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I like Crayfish's approach, which is very similar to what occured in our family a few years ago. We were down to no gifts at all but since our son was born, we will get him one or two gifts this year (he is only 2 years old) and Nana will get him a few things. There is no stopping her and at least she is reasonable about cost, utility, etc.

Mom to DS, born fall 05 after ,,, wife/best friend to DH We have
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#11 of 36 Old 09-27-2007, 02:34 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you for all your advice so far! I'm sure they would all love the Unplugging the Christmas Machine book. I actually read that a few years ago and really enjoyed it.

It is even harder since it is my ILs. I don't think I could just not get them gifts without damaging some relationships. Especially since they all live on the east coast and see each other a lot more often. We would probably be the topic of a lot of gossip sessions.

Next year, we will have our own Christmas at home. We have been taking turns each year between home and out east. Last year my mom & stepdad came here for Christmas. The year before, we went to the IL's. But then ds was only about 2. He pretty much ignored most of the toys and spent most of his time playing with his cousin's train set and this one little wooden orange that had a wiggly bug inside. But now it seems like he is in a different place. Having a sibling now adds the possible dimension of "she has more than me" or "I want the one she has" etc. We shall see...

When we were there two years ago, the gift thing was insane. During the gift opening, someone had to be opening a gift at ALL times. No time to enjoy your gift, just get it open so we can move on to the next one, kwim? If you aren't keeping up, people bug you that you are "behind". Not exactly the message I want for my kids (get a new gift, toss it on the pile so you can open another one!).

I recommended the dollar amount idea because 2 years ago we bought MIL and FIL inexpensive mp3 players. Then BIL gave them an ipod. Actually, that year that BIL gave everyone expensive stuff because they were about to buy a house and this was their last chance to spend big money on people. :
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#12 of 36 Old 09-27-2007, 03:13 PM
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i feel really lucky that we can be open with friends and family. for example, a couple of years ago a lot of us were hard up for cash (friends) and we all agreed on 'no gifts'--it was great. now, gifts are "consumables only" between our friends. it is SO great.

for family, i try to buy experiences or utilitarian objects. for example, i buy personal training for my parents and my sister. they love this as a gift. for my ILs, we buy things while we're on vacation, usually things that are utilitarian (slippers for FIL, earings for MIL). we tend to give gift cards to my SIL (ones that can be used anywhere).

we ask for experiences or specific gifts that are on our 'needs' list. and, we talked about future children and setting it up so that there are 'seasons' of buying which kinds of 'things.' we came up with four categories: art supplies, toys, educational (books, etc) supplies, and experiences. then, there's the fifth category of "the investment fund." in each category, we've come up with examples of what we feel we want/need, and we've talked about things like "no plastic toys, etc."
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#13 of 36 Old 09-29-2007, 02:25 AM
 
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This might be OT but I thought since it had to do w/the simplification of the holidays I would mention….
Many years ago, pre-children, my husband and I found ourselves ‘missing’ the holidays; caught up in the stresses of work, shopping, etc. we would realize they were over and we never really enjoyed them or we placed so much importance on Christmas eve or day we were disappointed. We started doing what we called ‘holiday nights’. For example, one night we would put on Christmas music, mix drinks, and write out cards, another night we would watch Rudolph while wrapping presents, or invite over a couple on a Wednesday night for simple appetizers and drinks, or walk the neighborhood with the dogs to look at decorations. We really tried to enjoy the simple parts of the holidays so the plans were normally not elaborate. It wasn’t so much making plans as celebrating the things we needed to do anyway. The holiday nights changed now that we have kids but it is still fun savoring the holidays. Plus if you enjoy all the days leading up the actual holiday, a disastrous day with the IL’s doesn’t really affect you as much.

I would love to hear ways other people enjoy the simple tasks and include their children.
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#14 of 36 Old 09-29-2007, 03:27 PM - Thread Starter
 
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That's a great idea. I was thinking of doing something along those lines. Like have an advent calendar where every day we do some holiday-related activity (pick out a tree, decorate the house, make a gingerbread house, etc.). That way we can stretch it out the whole month and create a bunch of holiday memories - and we won't be relying on that one day to turn out well. My son is really interested in the calendar right now, so I think he would really like it!
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#15 of 36 Old 09-29-2007, 08:35 PM
 
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The calendar is a good idea. I think it 'forces' you to go through with the plan without over-scheduling and stressing. My kids are also three, I wonder if they will get the whole calendar concept.
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#16 of 36 Old 09-30-2007, 02:51 PM
 
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You might also look into celebrating the whole 12 days of the traditional Christmas Season. We've found that to be hugely liberating for our family, even though we've only been doing it for a few years and are still building up traditions surrounding the different days. It's so nice not to feel like Christmas is made or broken on the one day and to have an excuse to continue celebrating for a while.

We're also very lucky that DH and I are the only people in our generations to have kids. We were able to put our feet down with both sides of the family and point out that for us to travel with a toddler and a baby and their associated diapers and equiptment is a FAR bigger pain than for able-bodied, independent adults to fly or drive to visit us and therefore we'd be happy to host Christmas but weren't planning on flying ANYWHERE until our kids were substantially older. There was a lot of fussing on MIL's part, but we've managed to carry the day so far.

Spending all of my money and time on this wild, wild life.
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#17 of 36 Old 09-30-2007, 05:26 PM
 
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The last couple of years our family has fallen into the "consumables" gift exchange too, except for the kids. It's really lovely, and no guilt, no sweat. 'Course, I still try to give my Mom something quite "nice" because she just really loves receiving gifts.

I think the idea of wishlists are great.

This year I'm proposing that we all list our kids favorite things and coordinate to help the parents buy one really special thing, or all buy pieces of sets. Our families all have slightly different ideas of what we want most for our kids, and it seems so much easier to have the presents kind of pre-approved, ya know?
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#18 of 36 Old 09-30-2007, 05:43 PM
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Don't go.
Simple as that.
I don't so much get along with my MIL or my two SIL's, FIL and BIL are okay. So, it really doesn't bother me to not see them.....
They're my kids, too, and if I don't like something, I let my hubby know (I'm SO over arguing with MIL - I prefer to spend my energy on happy things ) and he has the option to let MIL know or not. We discuss things and many times (not always) he sees my side and we just don't participate.
Start family traditions of your own - do things your own way - MIL shouldn't run your family - I figured that one out EARLY and put a "stop" to it within our marriage/family. There's no reason to hold that resentment when you wanted to do something new and had to do it MIL's way.
If they're not willing to listen to you about your own children, they don't really care and want to things their way, anyway... that sends a really negative message to your children - it's scary how much they pick up on - and at an early age!

Good luck with this! We've definitely broken away from our family's "traditions" so I understand.... It feels so much better to do what you feel you need to do with your family (it sounded right in my head! ) instead of what everyone else wants you to do.
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#19 of 36 Old 09-30-2007, 07:45 PM
 
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It took my family a few years to agree to a 'lesser' christmas. We now get gifts for all the children and we each get a gift for one adult (kris kringle) and set a price range. It was my sisters who didn't want to give up on the gifts but they finally were able to see how crazy it was the way we were doing it.

I love the holiday nights idea. We do it on the weekends (cutting down a tree, making glogg, wrapping presents) but it always seems to go so fast that way.
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#20 of 36 Old 09-30-2007, 08:40 PM
 
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I love the holiday nights idea. We do it on the weekends (cutting down a tree, making glogg, wrapping presents) but it always seems to go so fast that way.
Yes, we started the holiday nights because we were trying frantically to fit it all in on the weekends. Or I would wrap present in front of the TV while my husband was in another part of the house - no fun! Even the small stuff is fun now.

About your glogg...My dad used to make 'glugg', I'm assuming it was the same thing but we were probably saying it incorrectly. I never got his recipe - he passed away last Nov. Could you PM me with your recipe? Thanks
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#21 of 36 Old 09-30-2007, 08:41 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Belleweather View Post
You might also look into celebrating the whole 12 days of the traditional Christmas Season. We've found that to be hugely liberating for our family, even though we've only been doing it for a few years and are still building up traditions surrounding the different days. It's so nice not to feel like Christmas is made or broken on the one day and to have an excuse to continue celebrating for a while.

Belleweather, if it's not hijacking the thread, can you elaborate on what you do for these days? We're planning on doing this ourselves but I don't have a good feel for how to "spread Christmas out" or what kinds of traditions are associated with each day (aside from eight lords a-leaping so forth!).
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#22 of 36 Old 10-01-2007, 04:15 PM
 
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One idea I've had, and we'll see if we have the guts to implement it, it to move away from the personalized gift orgy at Christmas. What I'm envisioning is my dd, dh and I spending time together making some crafty gifts that we can give to everybody (hand-printed note-cards, home-made canned applesauce, home-made maple syrup, fresh-baked zuccinni bread, hand-made ornaments, that sort of thing). While I love the idea of celebrating each person individually with unique gifts, it is just TOO crazy at Christmas to do it all at once. SO, what I want to do is make a fuss of individuals on their birthdays, so that the larger, more expensive/personal investment gifts are spread over the course of the year. This frees up Christmas to be a time to focus on family, sharing with those in need, hospitality and spirituality. (I'm a Christian, so this is the biggest religious holiday for me, and it's signifcance gets lost in the shuffle!)

I love many of the ideas on this thread so far--let's keep 'em coming!
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#23 of 36 Old 10-02-2007, 10:15 AM
 
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I like the idea of doing special things together in the run up to Christmas. It got me thinking, we have an advent calender which you put your own treats into (there's a little stocking for each day). I'm thinking about putting notes in for some of the days for things we can do together

Ideas so far
Go to see the local lights
a couple of sessions of baking different treats
wrapping up presents
putting up the tree
reading a christmas book or two

I'm still a bit undecided, it feels a little more structure than I usually like.
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#24 of 36 Old 10-02-2007, 10:23 AM
 
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One idea I've had, and we'll see if we have the guts to implement it, it to move away from the personalized gift orgy at Christmas. What I'm envisioning is my dd, dh and I spending time together making some crafty gifts that we can give to everybody (hand-printed note-cards, home-made canned applesauce, home-made maple syrup, fresh-baked zuccinni bread, hand-made ornaments, that sort of thing). While I love the idea of celebrating each person individually with unique gifts, it is just TOO crazy at Christmas to do it all at once. SO, what I want to do is make a fuss of individuals on their birthdays, so that the larger, more expensive/personal investment gifts are spread over the course of the year. This frees up Christmas to be a time to focus on family, sharing with those in need, hospitality and spirituality.
I love this idea, but my DH's family doesn't make a big deal out of birthdays, for some reason, and my father, dd's, MIL's and my own birthday are all w/in a month of christmas, so I'm not sure how curtailed our spending around then would be.

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#25 of 36 Old 10-02-2007, 05:03 PM
 
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It sounds like the OP was set up though--why did your MIL ask for your ideas if she isn't going to incorporate them. I like my in-laws, but I get weary of them at the holiday, I must admit.

I think this year we're going to give friends and family a basket with a bottle of wine that DH made at his wine group, a package of granola made by me, and an ornament made by DD. Handmade by us.

I'll probably get books for my neice and nephew, as well.
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#26 of 36 Old 10-02-2007, 06:51 PM
 
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I had some small success changing the nature of the gift-giving orgy by making my own one-sided rule that any Christmas gift I give has to support a non-profit. You can get all sorts of very nice things from non-profit fundraisers, and you also get a story about what good cause your gift supported.

I can't control other people's behavior (particularly the fond grandparents) but this strategy has at least made me feel a bit better about Holiday spending. It has had some positive influence on what type of gifts people choose to give me as well.

--AmyB
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#27 of 36 Old 10-02-2007, 07:35 PM
 
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We have done this each year for the past three years - we have a wooden advent box and in each drawer the kids find a slip of paper with that day's activity. Here are some of the ones we have done:

Make gifts for teachers
Buy Christmas tree ornaments
Visit with Santa Claus
Make hot chocolate and read Christmas books
Take food to food bank
Make wrapping paper
Make gingerbread houses
Bake Christmas cookies
Drive around looking at holiday lights
Write letters to Santa
Make reindeer food
Buy gifts for Daddy
Watch Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer
Volunteer at Soup Kitchen
Wrap gifts for teachers
Watch Christmas parade
Decorate dollhouse for Christmas
Make Christmas cards
Make birdseed ornaments and decorate tree for birds
Set out milk and cookies for Santa (Deember 24, of course!)


Have fun! My boys love looking in the drawer each morning to discover that day's activity.

Tanya
Mom to John (age 11), James (age 9) & Katherine (age 5)
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#28 of 36 Old 10-02-2007, 09:03 PM
 
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I'm amazed at how many family's give EVERYONE presents. I just didn't realize it was the "norm" my dads family we rarely saw, my mom's we'd meet not even on christmas sometime withing two weeks usually, and we only got presents from our godparents and each family got a gift from the adults(board games and things of that nature) and usually the adults chipped in for a present for their parents. We had so much fun too! We'd stay up late playing cards and games. I don't get why to so many people it's become giftmas.
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#29 of 36 Old 10-03-2007, 11:09 AM
 
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Plus if you enjoy all the days leading up the actual holiday, a disastrous day with the IL’s doesn’t really affect you as much.
I think that will be my mantra this year! I decided last year that beginning this year, DH, DD and I will have our own celebration OUR way on the winter solstice.

I so wish I could just not go to the ILs but DH wouldn't have that. They have been pretty good about respecting my wishes to avoid plastic toys and such (not completely, but pretty good) and they do have everyone write out a 'wish list'. Still, it seems silly to me - like we're just shuffling around $50 gift cards (or whatever).

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#30 of 36 Old 10-03-2007, 04:43 PM
 
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Hanukkah here, same song and dance. DH's family is huge, and for some reason every last person, ecery cousin, every uncle, must get a CARD and a present. It's just expensive.

I also went to a Xmas party in my family where there was, for ONE child, half a room of gifts. BIG gifts, toys, not clothes or books. Literally 30 or 40 gifts. He just threw them aside and went to the next one, over and over. At the end he said, "Is that all?" :

This is a good kid, normally thankful and kind. But any kid presented (lol) with that situation... how else can you act? It made me feel dirty to watch.
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