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I’ve regurgitated this post from one I wrote over at HDYDI.com. Because I can.

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As mid-August approaches, I join a few million other people in my city as we brace ourselves for the onslaught of School Traffic. In the meantime, I’ve noticed an uptick of posts in both my neighborhood parents and my Mothers of Multiples group forums related to school issues and childcare. And I guess it’s because I have kids now that back-to-school has me thinking about more than just highway congestion and school zones, but also about developing our parenting/education philosophies and future intentions.

And though what I’m about to say surely is full of sweeping generalizations and un-unstudied opinion on education systems, I feel that public schools have become all about teaching-to-the-test with a visible reduction or elimination in subject matter such as physical education, art, and music. Do I think any and all public schools are horrible? No. But I do think that public schools focus on one, maybe two types of learning styles.

So what are the alternatives? Well, there are private schools with expanded curriculum. Yet for us, by virtue of tuition, there’s the…Cost Of Tuition. How the heck do people afford it? And with more than one child? Though to me, the bigger cost of private education is limiting access to the demographic and socio-economic fabrics that make up our larger community. The ones we’ll turn them loose on in twelve years, expecting them to live and work together.

There’s public and private magnet schools, but goodness, so many Labels and compartmentalization and boxing like “the math kid” or the “health careers kid” or the “performing arts kid”. I was lucky (that’s not the right word), to have been labeled Gifted from an early age. (Clearly, somebody screwed up!) I say “lucky” because I have been witness to kids being treated differently depending on if they are “regulars” students or “honors” students. Though I can’t quote directly, I do know there are studies that prove this to be true. In my experience, it meant that I was encouraged to think freely, more easily forgiven when I didn’t conform, and given more say in what courses I took. The very type of individualization that would be beneficial to so many, but is often limited to not enough. Gifted kids are excused their ‘genius’ when the same actions by an underperformer merely gets them labeled as trouble. That kinda didn’t have anything to do with magnet schools, but I’m thinking out loud here anyway.

Oh, and homeschooling. At its best, kids get immersed in their environment and learning is a natural process with appropriate amounts of structure and double doses of discipline from both the parent and child to make it work. Backers say kids are smarter, do better in college, and know better how to deal with all kinds of people and situations. Detractors say they don’t get socialized appropriately or that the parents are granola wackos and religious extremists. With unlimited financial resources, and should I notice either of my children to have learning styles that don’t correlate with the more traditional auditory learning and/or reading/writing preference-learning, we’d lean more towards the option of homeschooling rather than the current local public school system. And I consider myself pretty middle of the road.

Speaking of which, being that our kids are ONLY SIXTEEN MONTHS OLD, our ‘middle of the road’ will be Montessori school, probably entering sometime between 18-24 months. At this age, with two working parents, we’re still in a situation where we have to pay for childcare, so I’m less inclined to get worked up about shelling out money for ‘schooling’ at this time. We like Montessori because it fosters self-directed learning, but still offers some structure. And more importantly, encourages independence, respectful treatment of others, and integration as respected individuals in the environment in which they live, and PLAY. It’s a lot of work and a lot more messy, but we strive to do things in a “Montessori way” at home, too. Once we hit Kindergarten or 1st grade age, I’m not sure what we’ll do, or even what our finances will allow.

No matter which educational methodology we approach and ultimately choose, there are pros and cons to all of them. None of them are perfect. And we as parents have equal (if not more) responsibility to continue their education outside the walls of any school. I mean, I find it to be Jennifer’s and my responsibility to teach things like manners and learning that there is a world outside ourselves, and a sense of community, and spiritual development, and fostering self-confidence without self-absorption. I suppose in the end, we are required to do what’s best for us and our child(ren), studying them for their learning styles, getting involved with educators without becoming that parent. After all, we have to be the change we want to see. I just wish the process didn’t come with so damn many variables! And wait lists! And residential zoning requirements!

If your kids are young like mine, have you begun considering what’s important to you and what’s not as it relates to education? If you’ve hit the Kinder/1st grade era, what kind of environment are your kids in? What was your thought process? Are they thriving or have you had to tweak things? If you have older kids, say upper junior high or middle school, have you been pleased with your choices? Would you have done anything differently?

The nanny wrote that the kids liked the frozen apple bits.

Did she? Good!

Right? When did you freeze the apple slices?

They were already in the freezer.

Really? I haven’t frozen any apple slices. Did you?

No, they were already in there.

Show me.

It’s these.

Those are the fresh pear cubes I froze.

Oh. Then they liked the pears.

Day 6 of Stomach Bug

This is the first smile we’ve seen on him in over 96 hours. He’s lost 2 1/2 pounds. Pedialtye is our new best friend. And the godparents are godsends for picking it up along with the prescription for Zofran.

I cannot express how heartbreaking it is to hold a near-listless child whose pleading eyes look up to you as he cries out in pain for you to relieve him in some way. And that you are doing all you can. And it is not enough. It isn’t even scratching the surface of his comfort.

He’s off solids, and the pediatrician suggested this morning that we pull him off formula until he can hold something down. It’s been 4 days. He’s hungry and you give him Pedialyte, but small amounts at a time to trick his system into thinking there isn’t anything going in, and thus preventing the trigger that makes everything come out. I got the bug on Monday and threw up more times than I can count. The next morning, my abs were sore like I’d done 300 crunches. So I cannot imagine the cramping and discomfort our little guy is enduring.

Though the Zofran and incremental hydration is working on the upper valves, his intestinal tract cannot be fooled. Anything ingested makes it’s way out, only to burn his raw bottom. Over, and over again.

Yesterday morning at 7:30 a.m., I was at Home Depot along with a whole bunch of construction workers – to purchase a large tarp, plastic disposable gloves, and two 5×5 drop cloths. Had I included a shovel at checkout, there is no doubt that the cops might have met me at the car or followed me home.

His poor butt looks like he went sledding down a mountain of heavy duty sandpaper. And then scooted along a gravel road for good measure. All the gear is down and we are keeping him diaperless or wrapping his bottom parts lightly with a loose cloth diaper. Our washer and dryer are earning their keep.

What does he have? On the heels of ear infections #4 and #5, he got a stomach virus, probably picked up his first day back at daycare last week. Harper has miraculously remained oblivious to the bug. Having her at daycare these last three days has helped us manage caring for Mateo one-on-one while essentially quarantining her. I’m a little nervous, however, about the next several days.

We’re interviewing nanny’s and as soon as we find someone we’re pulling them out of daycare. Mateo has been some version of sick since late August, except maybe 15 or so days. I’m all for getting them exposed early on, but the expense of daycare plus the additional caretaker expense when they can’t go to school is tipping us over and throwing us down the stairs. Concrete stairs. With metal reinforcements. Made worse when the sitter no-calls/no-shows and Jen has to cancel two lessons to take Harper to school and I now have to stay home from work. Translation: loss of income x 2.

My hope is that he is on the mend, and that we don’t end up at the hospital to rehydrate. And that Harper stays healthy. It seems like a lot to ask for in a season when we should be giving thanks instead of asking for mercy. But be there no doubt, we are so grateful for the blessing in our lives – especially in these tough economic times. We hope you and yours have a Happy Thanksgiving, surrounded by as much or as little family – chosen or given – and friends as your hearts can take.

reposted with my own permission from over yonder.

My mother and I were talking the other day and, maybe because she lives 180 miles away, she couldn’t imagine how I “manage” to get the kids into daycare without leaving one in the car. And I told her we DO leave them in the car, but only when we go to Wal-Mart.

As for all the other times, it looks a little something like this:
Going To School

I had all these plans to dress the kids up this weekend in something cute (which is like ANYTHING because HELLO? they are friggin’ adorable!) and take a little family picture in a patch of grass with all of us smiling and eyes looking into the camera.

But that thought was cut short when they called me from the daycare on Friday afternoon that Carpet had a fever of 101.3. And how she seemed fine, but that she had a fever. A fever. And I’m all “ok, but I’m not sure what that means. Are you saying I need to come get her?” And they’re all “oh, yes, that is definitely a FEVER.” OHHHHKAAAAAY.

And so we went home early and I’d tell you how Friday went, but I have no recollection. All I remember is by Saturday, Tato started to fuss and so out of curiosity, I took his temperature and he’s got 101. Carpet’s hasn’t gone down, but you wouldn’t know it because she’s eating and playing just fine.

And the rest of the weekend went something like this. 99.9. Crying. 101.1. Tylenol. 100.0. Crying. Whining. 101.5. Tylenol. Sleeping for 30 minutes. 100.1. Tylenol. 102.3. Tylenol. 99.9, 103.3 Tylenol. That was Tato. And because I am someone who at 12 years old got a scratch from a nail on a picnic table and it got infected and abscessed and I didn’t think it warranted telling my parents about it until I had a high fever and it almost turned to a bone infection. And then only because I was at the dinner table and wouldn’t eat and I looked ill. And after a trip to the ER, I was dangerously close to a bone infection and ended up with a hole an inch wide and an inch deep in my calf. So I kinda don’t trust myself on when to take action because my tolerance is a little high.

That afternoon, I consulted my local Mother’s Of Multiple group to see if I should call the doctor and the general concensus was HELLO, ARE YOU A MOTHER? BECAUSE A MOTHER WOULD HAVE CALLED ALREADY AND IT’S PROBABLY AN EAR INFECTION.

I called our pediatrician’s on-call number and he called back within 15 minutes. With the doctor’s consultation over two days, Tato crying unconsolably, lots of lukewarm baths, two babies with fevers that would drop and peak, and VERY. LITTLE. SLEEP. we finally got found out the reason this morning:

Tato has DOUBLE ear infections, and one perforated, probably sometime last night. Carpet has one ear infection. And they BOTH have blisters on their throat, a virus, according to the doctor. That part was a surprise to all of us. Hopefully, we’re on the mend of this twINFECTa. Our doctor thinks we’re through the worst of this round. That would be nice. So now it’s on to a round of oral antibiotics for both kids. And ear drop antibiotics for Tato’s busted eardrum. I miss my smiling, happy kiddos as evidenced by this video of Tato in their new jumparoo.

As a side note, we got their new weights today (19w6d) and Tato is weighing in at 16lb14oz and Carpet is at 15lb1oz. At their 4 month appointment (17w6d) on Aug 19 – did I communicate these stats already? – Tato was 26 1/4 inches (90th%ile) and 16lb3oz (75th%ile) and Carpet was 24 1/2 inches (55th%ile) and 14lb11oz (75th%ile).

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Waking up at 5:00 a.m. isn’t too bad. Particularly since they both sleep through the night1, 2. One day this week, I snapped this photo just after we got them dressed and ready for school. And the fact that they are both in orange was not intentional. Well, it was sort of intentional because orange is my favorite color but it wasn’t intentional in the way parents can intentionally coordinate twins’ outfits.

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1“Sleep Through The Night” is defined, for us, as from the time we put them down (usually between 6:45 p.m. and 7:15 p.m.) through 5:00 a.m. with maybe a inserting-pacifer-will-buy-us-another-hour-of-sleep incident around 4:00 a.m.

2I can now add “can superscript in HTML, acquired skill August 2008″ to my resumé. Oh, and that accent thing above the “e”, too!

Out of an (over)abundance of caution, and probably some post-traumatic stress from Hurricane Rita and Katrina, many businesses in the area decided yesterday that they would be closed today.

INCLUDING THE MONTESSORI SCHOOL.

And NOT including my office.

I drove to work this morning in a light drizzle. Through very little traffic. And since the kid’s were not with me, I listened to my radio very loudly. And at a traffic light, I realized my very loud music was Baby Einstein.

Even before the “storm”, Matou had today off. So the RJBs are home with her.

As inconvenient as it may be to have the school closed today, I would imagine this part of shuffling our schedules to deal with non-illness stay-at-home days is a piece of cake. I have a more difficult time imagining how we’ll address after-school childcare issues in a few years. And summers. But we’ve got some time. For today, I’ll be leaving the office around noon to take lunch home and spend the afternoon with my family.

A couple weeks ago we started looking for alternate arrangements for childcare for the RaJenBabies.  This was because the other place we had planned to put them, THE PLACE WE SECURED TWO SPOTS FOR IN FEBRUARY, flaked out again, delaying our entry date.  Plans for their expansion were on hold pending city inspections and no one from the infant room had become mobile enough to move up to the next class BLAH! BLAH! BLAH!  

Change of plans?  The thing you planned isn’t what will actually happen?  We said we’d be there at 10:30 and didn’t get there until 10:50?  WITH TWINS, CURVE BALLS ARE SO PREDICTABLE.  

We got on the phone, made a couple calls, and suddenly, two places that had waiting lists a year long in January had two entries available.  A lot can change in seven months. The third place, the one we really wanted, wasn’t open so we got on a waiting list there.  Could be one month, could be ten, but that’s ultimately where we’ll move them. And let me go off on a branch of tangents here and say that, unlike what I previously thought, Waiting Lists are not just for those rich New York people, the one’s whose nannies are banging the unfaithful husband’s on Law & Order SVU.  No, those waiting lists happen for regular people like us, middle of the middle-class typical two-mom family in a urban area, trying to get into what I’m pretty sure is your average school.

One of the two places that had availability was a Montessori school. It took some reading up on, but, for example Montessori schools don’t use sippy cups. As soon as the babies are big enough to sit on their own, that they teach the little ones to drink from a regular open-topped cup and eat at a little table instead of on high chairs.  As I weighed aloud the pros and cons of the two schools with my mother, she said it sounded like the Montessori school wasn’t going to let the babies be babies. My thought was any inkling of order and self-confidence and independence would be beneficial in our household.  So guess where we enrolled them.

Monday, July 28, was the first day at Montessori School for the RaJenBabies.  I started preparing on Saturday.  Picked their clothes out for the week to make mornings easier.  Packed blankets, towels, burp cloths.  Extra clothes.  Bottles.  Formula.  Water.  Labeled everything.  Monday morning, with the help of our night nanny, they were dressed and fed and ready to go at 7 a.m.  Matou and I got everything in the car.  I brought my camera.  

OF COURSE.  

And we even remembered the babies.  

We got to the school and took them to their new room to meet the teachers.  Then we did all our security paperwork, pictures, and paid the monthly mortgage on the 5,000 square foot summer home on Lake LBJ tuition through September 1.  The babies were smiling and happy.  Which in turn made us smiley and happy.  So leaving them there wasn’t terribly emotional. It helped that Matou and I were both there together.

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At 9:30 a.m., the phone in my office rang and I could see from the caller-ID that it was the school.  And my immediate thought was Oh, Shit, They Threw Up Again And We’re Getting Kicked Out.  I picked up and said “is everything ok?  The kids are ok?”  And the teacher said “Oh, they are fine.  But….ummmmm….did you pack them any diapers?”

That’s right, Internet. I remembered the Camera but forgot the diapers! I had prepared a box with 50 diapers, a big ‘ol bin of Boudreaux’s Butt Paste, and ten bibs. AND LEFT IT BY THE GARAGE DOOR.

No, we usually just keep them in the same one all day is what I didn’t say because I figured they didn’t know me well enough to be subjected to my Smartassitis condition. MAYBE TOMORROW.  

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Early on, I used to dread those few hours per day when I would be alone with the RJBs. Not because I didn’t want to be with them. Not at all. My biggest fear was that they would be hungry – AT THE SAME TIME – while I was by myself. Why? Because babies with reflux need to be fed upright, and remain upright for a period of time after eating, lest they throw up. And for us, feeding them in car seats or bouncy seats didn’t negate the issue. Their anti-gravidational reflux could launch rockets, I kid you not.

Holding one baby off could sometimes work. Most of the time not. In not feeding one while I fed the other, I felt they thought I was neglecting them, abandoning them to a swing or boppy to cry alone with no security in their young lives that someone was there to care for them.

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In feeding them together, it often initiated a cycle of feeding, throwing up, and crying. When they would throw up, it seemed more made its way up than went into them. Not only out of their mouths, but out of their nostrils. And then the need to suction them, to get the milk and mucous out of their airways. While they are scared and crying. While the other one is crying because you took the bottle out of their mouth. For which they would then cry themselves into throwing up. Because they weren’t sitting upright in your lap. All of which served to fester the wound of feeling like a parental failure.

And guess what? Inevitably, they WERE hungry simultaneously. Because you can’t schedule-feed babies with reflux. And the cycle happened. And I got through it – sometimes barely. But not without tears and that anxiety that tingles warm through your body and makes your heart race. You know that near-miss car accident feeling? That’s how it felt, the anticipation of this situation.

Now? This whole three months of their lives later? Totally do-able. But it is not solely due to my experience as a parent, IF AT ALL. And not because Bruiser’s reflux, cross my fingers, seems to be going out with the tide. It is because we’ve had lots and lots of help from nannies.

There it is. I admit it out loud. You want to know how I’ve had time to post? It’s because someone was sitting with the RJBs while I had ten minutes of sanity. How it is that I’ve managed to gain 5 pounds in the last three months? Because someone has brought us a meal while we do tummy-time with the kids. How we’re not completely exhausted? Because someone gets up with them most nights so we can sleep. How I haven’t run out of clean underwear? Because someone is doing most of the laundry.

We’ve had a night nanny since the RJBs were nine days old. Not every night. But probably five nights a week on average – 10pm to 6 am. We’ve had a day nanny slash housekeeper five to six days a week – 8 am to 6pm. Gulnoz. Ann. Regina. Jenny. Marisol. Our house has been a revolving door of hired help. We might as well leave the front door unlocked.

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This three months later, we’re weaning the RJBs ourselves off. The kids will start daycare in August and we’ll keep our day person for Saturday’s so I can run needed errands and Matou can go to work. We’re down to 3 nights per week with the night nanny and that will discontinue entirely by mid-August because she has another family she’s committed to. And because the RJBs are, for the most part, sleeping through the night – 7:30pm to 5 or 6:00 am. which means we’re just paying for a co-dependent relationship. Well, that, and I don’t have any more internal organs to sell to finance the expense.

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I’m back at work now, full-time. Matou has been back at work for two-and-a-half months. And we’ve discovered that the bittersweetness of having kids is the imbalance it creates for working parents. It’s counterintuitive to me, this two-income household for the purpose of paying for someone else to spend 10 hours a day with our kids. And yet, neither of us make enough for one of us to stay home.

The result is, I sense the RJBs feel loved and secure and like their needs are met, but I’m not sure they know WE are their mom’s. Just last Friday, I rushed home after work to find Bruiser smiling and laughing with the nanny. And when I went up to him and said Hello, he looked at me with the expression of “Who the hell are you?” And then there was a sense of connection, a connection that said “Oh, yeah, you’re the bath, bottle, bedtime nanny.”

Which is about what it feels like five days a week. We get home at 6pm. Take a short walk in the neighborhood. We each take a baby and give them a bath and feed them, alternating babies each night so we have equal time with them. Put them down to sleep at 7:30. Leave the next morning oftentimes before they wake. That’s TWO HOURS A DAY WITH MY KIDS. Deflating. Oh, sure, we could wait longer to do their bedtime routine. But that would be selfish of us, and fussy of them because 7ish is their internal bedtime. As it is, they usually end up alseep by the time we get home from our walk.

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Jen stays home Mondays and Tuesdays. She called me the other day and said someone wanted to talk to me. She put Bruiser and Birdie on the phone and they were cooing and squeaking away. Me? I was at the office reviewing operating agreements and writing formulas for a spreadsheet.

My mom said it’s the quality of time we spend, not the quantity. But this time it is taking to wrap my head around that reality and do so without immense guilt is expansive. All the more reason that I look forward to the weekends now more than ever.

We had daycare tryouts today. And when I say “we”, it isn’t conscious, except for when I’m thinking about. Like now. But now is after I typed it. And going back and deleting it wouldn’t fairly subject you to my brain melting at 11:12 p.m. which is what time it is as everyone in the house is sleeping and my mind is debriefing itself.

It’s like that bucket we keep in the half-bath, the one with Biz detergent and cold water for placing the Major Blowout Clothes, be that of poop or pee or throw-up. No shortage of freely flowing orifices in this residence. Not even the dogs, who managed to unzip The Beloved’s backpack and eat two large Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate bars. THE ONES THAT WERE FOR AFTER-THE-KIDS-HAVE-GONE-TO-SLEEP-MAKE-IN-THE-TOASTER-OVEN-SMORES.

But back to the bucket. Seems every other day the clothes in it get rinsed out and tossed into the washing machine. And then we rinse out the yeasty smelling water from the bucket and start over. And that’s what writing is sometimes like for me, this changing out of the water in my head.

But back to the daycare. We gave a dry run today. Half day. The general target was to be out of the house by 7:00 a.m. And when I say “general target”, I mean like how it seems nowadays where every kid in the everybody-plays-fair-for-fun or whatever league makes the team because as long as the parent pays some registration fee the kid never has to try out for anything and never learns a healthy dose of rejection since they got a trophy just for showing up and when they graduate from college they can’t figure out why their new employer doesn’t worship them for getting to work at 8 a.m. And so despite rising at 5:30, we still didn’t get out of the house until 7:40 because it’s hard to anticipate Birdie having a stubborn air bubble that doesn’t want to release or Bruiser having a bowel movement that squirts out the top of his diaper onto his outfit and then he smiles at you because Hey Mom, Wasn’t That Awesome?

But back to tryouts. We wanted to see how we’d do getting ourselves dressed for work, babies fed and dressed, diaper bag and bottles packed and how long it would take to do all that while I’m still not due back at work full-time and they’re still pretty forgiving of me working part-days. Well, that, and we wanted to see how the RJBs would respond to a completely different daytime routine rather than going cold-turkey. Oh, and we wanted to see how much time it would take to do all that, and to do it in one trip, factoring in the time for maybe putting dogs in the car instead of babies, or forgetting to close the garage door, or bringing the bag of leftovers instead of the bag of bottles.

But back to thinking we’d be kicked out before we even started. Have I mentioned Birdie and Bruiser have reflux? What, what’s that? Oh, only a thousand times? Well make it a thousand and one. It is generally agreed, once exposed to the explosions, that people underestimate their reflux. Oh, I warned the daycare workers this morning, assured them that whatever they were about to experience was their normal. But I don’t think they got it. It wasn’t until 10 a.m. when I called to check in with the kids that upon being asked “How are Bruiser and Birdie doing?”, one of the ladies responded with “Oh…they’re o.k.” but with the inflection of defeat that translated to “Holy shit these kids throw up more than that kid from that horror movie back in the 80s.” So with a nervous laugh I say “That didn’t sound convincing.” And she says “Well, Bruiser just threw up A LOT. He didn’t keep anything down at all and we’re kind of concerned.” “No,” I assure her, “really, that is his normal and it can happen a couple times a day. He’s on medication, and the doctor says he is fine. That he’ll grow out of it.” “Oh, ok,” she says, “it’s just a lot.” I hadn’t told them about using a towel for a burp cloth, but I needed them to let me drop them off, you know?

And so at 2 p.m., the Beloved and I went to pick them up and as we pulled up THE OWNER WAS WAITING ON THE PORCH. Granted, it may have been coincidental, but I don’t know. We walk up to her, tails between our legs, but doing our best to appear normal. Small talk ensues. I burst into how it’s normal for them to spew the way they do. She tells me that yes, the daycare worker called her concerned. And then she says…”I have some bad news. They can’t start when I told you they could.”

………

………

………

We sat there as still as those mimes that hang out in front of Cafe Du Monde in the French Quarter, Silence, for what seemed like a slice of forever. And then she said “the family with the twins that was moving in June is not moving until July 21 now so those two spots aren’t open until then.” And then we took a breath of air.

We talked a bit more and then went in to get the RJBs and as the door closed behind us, the Beloved turned to ask “Are you sure we aren’t having to wait because Bruiser threw up today?” “No, no, no,” she said, “We’ve had far worse.”

And as we buckled them into the car, I searched their belongings to make sure there was no trophy.

More Photos!

The Aforementioned

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