What We Did on Our Summer Vacation 2018 : The Airstream Adventure

Every summer, in an effort to reinforce the pillars of exploration, curiosity, and independence, we plan an exciting summer adventure with our family. The qualifications for each adventure is that it be a little different than the year before and something that none of us have done previously. Being the extroverted bunch that we are, these qualifiers become more challenging year after year. We were fortunate enough to have some amazing partners to help us, quite literally, pull this adventure together(<<you’ll see why that was such a great pun in a minute). So, before we get too far along in our story I want to say a BIG thanks to Ford, Airstream, Vogt Family Fun Center, and KOA for helping make this summer adventure one that our family will never forget.

When we were dreaming up what this year’s adventure would look like, the travel method was a resounding: “ROAD TRIP!!” In a world full of technology, online reviews, smartphones, we are simultaneously more connected and less connected than ever before. There is just something classic and inspiring about heading out for adventure knowing you have every amenity and luxury of “home” literally right behind you. To be honest, the combined amenities of the Tommy Bahama airstream, East Austin KOA campsite, and the Ford Expedition we were traveling with may just have afforded us more luxuries than home.

Truck and Towing – What the Haul?

Maybe you’ve been secretly been interested in trying this out too but you’re a little nervous?

Never towed anything before? Same here. Put those fears aside you have nothing to worry about.

Being brand new to towing and hauling a home on wheels, I was a little apprehensive about calculating travel time, towing hookups, and setting up the airstream at the campsite. I may have been having flashbacks of the RV scene from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation with cousin Randy outside in his short robe…..which let’s just be honest, is not a good look for anyone. Thanks to the ease of the 2018 Ford Expedition and the great instruction from the crew at Vogt Family Fun Center, it was incredibly easy even for newbies like us.

The good news was that we had absolutely nothing to worry about because before we left we were given a very detailed walk around answering any questions we had. The ease of hooking up and towing with the technology in the Ford Expedition was going to make this trip a breeze. You don’t even need a spotter because you can see everything and are perfectly guided right behind the wheel.

Now that we were all hooked up, It was time to get on the road! You can read Randall’s account of the journey featured over on Thrills and Wheels. It’s a pretty sentimental father-son story that I really enjoyed hearing from his perspective.

Texas Airstream Adventure

The mileage between Dallas and Austin isn’t very far, even driving a little slower with the added weight of towing an RV is only a few hours. We’ve traveled a good deal of Texas so we the location wouldn’t be the unique factor but the accommodations would be. I’ve never been much of a camper. Lucky for me camping in a 2018 Tommy Bahama Airstream is the most luxurious way to stay on the road. Combine that with the amenities that were available to us at the East Austin KOA site,  it was like living a dream. This was in no way going to be a typical camping experience.

Setting Up Our Glampsite

Staying at a KOA site is really cool! There are various levels of camping available, from roughing it my preferred style of ‘glamping’. We had no idea how cool these locations could be! It was our first time to stay a KOA and it definitely won’t be our last! Some locations have tiny homes, treehouses, or teepees you can reserve. I really like the unique campsite ideas. It’s pretty much the only way I want to camp from now on.

Getting set up at our reserved campsite was so easy! We checked just a little after regular office hours but there was still an attendant on duty to give us a check-in packet. Getting our hookups in place and only took about 15 minutes to get set up.

KOA Airstream set up

Our deluxe campsite came with outdoor patio furniture, a fire pit, and a gas grill. The staff who also stay on-site came by to check on us and make sure we didn’t need any additional help. Everyone we encountered was so friendly.

KOA deluxe campsite

I really loved the East Austin KOA location and HIGHLY recommend booking here if you are staying in the local area. I’ll share a more detailed post specifically about this in a post of its own but for now here are a few pics of the amenities onsite!

KOA pool

Inside the Airstream – Home Sweet Home

We have always played with the idea of a tiny house or something of that nature all the while living in Texas-sized accommodations in the neighboorhood of 3000 sq ft. Could we really manage a vacation in an airstream? Not only could we but we loved it! My biggest concern was whether we would be cool enough since the forecast for the weekend we chose was hitting over 100 degrees every day. Not only were we cool enough, one evening we woke up and turned the air conditioner up because we were getting chilled.

Inside the Airstream were all the comforts of home. Let me take you on a quick tour….

In this first space, you’ll see the full kitchen(gas stove, microwave, ice maker, sink, refrigerator), dining room ( which transitions into a full/queen sized bed), bar area and SO MUCH storage and plenty of USB/outlets for all our devices. That part was a dream for traveling with teenagers who are always charging. Even on vacation.

Inside the Airstream kitchen

In this second view, you get a better view of the rest of the kitchen, pantry, queen size bedroom, television, closet, and an idea of where the bathroom and shower are located. The KOA site had amazing wifi so in the evening we could stream a movie or shows if we wanted to but we were so busy having fun there wasn’t really time for that. Still, it was cool to know that if a rainy day had been in the forecast we could have.

One area you can’t see from the pictures is the bathroom with a full shower, toilet, sink, mirror, and storage. The door folds in when not in use to give you more room in the bedroom. It folds out when in use to provide more space when someone is taking a shower etc., It never felt crowded or cramped. We were really impressed with the excellent use of space.

Glamping vs Camping

Glamping vs. Camping means that we expored city life too. While we did spend a good deal of time at our KOA exploring the property, swimming, and lounging about in our fancy airstream accommodations but we also got to enjoy our FAVORITE city some too. It’s no secret that we love Austin and we have the BEST time every single visit. We ate Torchy’s Tacos because truly their queso is heaven. We went night swimming at Barton Springs. It was too hot to sit over a campfire for smores so we went for fancy Smores rolled ice cream from a food truck. Oh, and did I mention I forgot to pack shirts? Yep, not a single one because …. ? That was totally okay though since Austin has some of the best thrift stores- vintage and otherwise- We went family thrifting.

I got this adorable dress for $8. Our whole family got new outfits actually and we decided to have an impromptu photo shoot. It truly made for the best memories and I’ll be hanging these new family photos on our living room gallery very soon.

As you can clearly see there is a lot of personality in our family. We love spending time together at home or traveling. This adventure was incredibly memorable for reasons I’m not sure I’ve entirely written here. Memories like this get deeper as the years go on. They are the things you talk about at Thanksgiving, weddings, making plans for the future and things your kids tell their kids. I’m actually tearing up just thinking about it.

Bottom line, get out and adventure with your family. Camp. Glamp. Take a road trip. Just get out, make crazy good memories and explore in every season of life.

The Dove Self Esteem Project Helped My Teen and I Have Hard Conversations

Speak Beautiful Dove Self Esteem Project

*The following has been shared with my daughter’s expressed permission & inspired from my experience with the Dove Self Esteem Project and #HourWithHer during Mom 2.0 Summit 2018

Friends, can I be honest with you? I often feel like I’m doing it wrong. “It” can be translated into a number of things in life. Carrer, parenting, marriage, etc, you name it. When I compare myself to the idealistic standards in my mind or on the internet,  I don’t always feel like the perfect mom, wife, or friend. Maybe you feel like that sometimes too. What helps me is being surrounded by a community of trusted mentors, friends, and colleagues that support and soundboard with me ensuring me that I am getting “it” right more times than not. They remind me of my strengths,  let me know I am valued and remind me of all the beautiful parts. As our daughters are growing up they are going through the very same things and need our encouragement. This is something we ALL need, no matter our age or stage in life. Having a mentor and being a mentor to others is so important.

Dove Self Esteem Project #HourWithHer

My Introduction To The Dove Self Esteem Project

Earlier this year at Mom 2.0 Summit, I gave an hour of my time to participate in a Dove workshop as a mentor to teen girls. At first glance, I could tell some of these girls didn’t think we had much in common. As we talked over the next sixty minutes about transformational life moments and instances that had negatively impacted my self-esteem at their age, I could see their demeanor change. They began to share their similar experiences and we talked about ways to reframe those situations. You could see in their smiles that they felt more confident and beautiful. It was proof that sharing our stories connects and uplifts us.

Encouraging authentic storytelling and uplifting the next generation to reshape how they see themselves are actinos that are relevant to our community now more than ever.

That hour showed me just how important it is to be intentional with our time and experiences. Having a teen daughter of my own entering high school this fall, I made a decision to implement the Dove #HourWithHer philosophy at home this summer having intentional conversations. It wasn’t awkward or weird. It was time that strengthened our relationship with such a small amount of effort.

Spending just one hour talking with a girl in your life about beauty, confidence, and self-esteem can make such a difference in her future development.

Some of the conversations we had were light and we laughed until our sides ached. Other conversations were harder. There were a few topics I may have otherwise avoided in an effort to shield her from hard things I’d experienced. What I realized is that as girls are forming into more mature, complete people it is important that they have a good picture of who we are as their parents and mentors. It’s important that they know we are human, imperfect, talented, and yet, still growing too.

Kaitlyn Dove Self Esteem Project

You Don’t Have To Be Perfect

Want to know something that pretty freeing? You don’t have to be perfect to be a role model or mentor. You don’t have to feel like you always have to have the right answers. In fact, as our daughters and young girls are looking up to us if we project this image of perfection it gives them an unrealistic guide to measure themselves against. Perfection isn’t the goal, confidence is. They just need our time and the knowledge that their body, personality, height, weight, hair, and heart is just exactly the correct way as long as they feel confident in it.

The hours I spent with my daughter this summer gave her an open door to ask questions about me when I was her age and other topics that she may not have known how to approach or introduce otherwise. There were several topics and stories I wouldn’t have thought to share. This time helped us see each other in a new way and we both left more uplifted and with more confidence.

About the Dove Self Esteem Project

Dove understands it can feel daunting to introduce new conversations like this and they have solutions to help you get started. They have even categorized guides to the discussions for Parents & Mentors, Teachers, and Youth Leaders. You can search for specific topics on the site as well. For those that need a different way to spend time with these topics, you’ll find other helpful resources like the short video below that you can watch together to softly introduce discussions.

Dove Real Beauty Productions recently produced this short film, directed by Debbie Allen, to show the impact just one hour with a girl can make.

Learn more about the Dove Self Esteem project on the website here or follow the #HourWithHer hashtag on social media.

Connecting with Your Teens at Six Flags Over Texas

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Six Flags Over Texas Mr Freeze

At least once a season we make a family outing to Six Flags Over Texas. This is always such a fun outing because there is something for everyone to enjoy no matter your level of adventure. We’ve been making a concentrated effort to spend time connecting with our teens this summer as much as possible. This time our whole family was invited to visit and share everything that’s new for summer 2018 at Six Flags Over Texas. As part of our experience, we were provided with tickets, flash passes, and meals so we could experience as much as possible.

There really is a TON to do at Six Flags Over Texas even if you have one or two in your group that aren’t extreme thrill-seekers. Pro-Tip: grab preferred parking and flash passes before you arrive at the park. They are an excellent value and make for an even better experience.

Connecting with Your Teens at Six Flags Over Texas this Summer

Our most recent visit was an exceptionally great time with our teens for a number of reasons. This visit Sebastian made a leap to try his first ever thrill ride- the brand new for 2018 Harley Quinn Spinsanity! They are growing up but definitely still include us in their fun. We enjoy every opportunity to see them grow.

Six Flags Over Texas Teens

On this day, it was obvious our teenagers had grown leaps and bounds since our last visit. Not just because all worries of qualifying for a height requirement were long removed. It was more to do with the way they walked up to the park gates with confidence, keenly aware of exactly where they wanted to go.  It’s clear they are becoming more and more independent with every passing summer.

Six Flags Over Texas Connecting with Teenagers

We saw a lot of them from the back as they walked ahead enjoying each other’s company and finding their own way. Almost like clockwork, they would come rushing back to us excited to share what they just learned, saw, or experienced. It’s so similar to when they were smaller, running ahead but turning back for a certain amount of reassurance.  I love seeing that the world is still full of wonder. Parenting will always be a good deal of experiencing the world through their eyes like everything is brand new. I imagine it will always feel like this no matter how grown up they become.

Six Flags Over Texas Selfie with the Teens

And then, he rode his first thrill ride!!

The Newest Thrill Ride at Six Flags Over Texas- HARLEY QUINN Spinsanity

What came next was a complete surprise to everyone in our group. We have always had a mix of extreme thrill seekers and easier-going personalities. Kaitlyn has always been a major thrill seeker looking for the highest and fastest, while Sebastian has always insisted “life is enough of a rollercoaster” for him. Even if he didn’t want to ride, he always walks through the line with us telling jokes. When it’s time for our group to board the ride, he passes over and waits on the other side. Most rides aren’t more than a couple of minutes. Surprisingly, this time he said he really wanted to take the ride.

Six Flags Over Texas Harley Quinn Spinsanity

We were shocked. The newest ride, just introduced to the park that week, Harley Quinn Spinsanity, was quite the ride to attempt for a first-ever thrill-ride.

This first-of-its-kind thrill-ride was inspired by the movement of a gyroscope and delivers unpredictable, gravity-defying flips, twists and turns. Harley Quinn Spinsanity features a unique futuristic triple box design that allows the gondola to spin around three separate axes while rotating forward, backward and sideways simultaneously at up to 70 feet in the air!

We took a video interview to capture the before and after reactions he had. The video is priceless. I have the whole thing featured on a highlight reel on our Instagram account – you can see that and all the behind-the-scenes of our summer visit here.

What if someone in our group doesn’t enjoy thrill-rides? No Problem! There is still SO much to enjoy!

A larger family always means knowing there will be a lot of preferences to accommodate for. Until this recent visit, we’ve always had to plan for how we would handle those that lived for thrill-rides and those that would rather sit it out while still maintaining an enjoyable experience for all. We’ve got a few different strategies and suggestions for this.

Here’s a list of several activities you can enjoy at Six Flags Over Texas that ensures everyone has a great time!

6 Ways to Enjoy Six Flags Over Texas Even If You Don’t Like Thrill Rides

  • Special Events- from educational events to special celebrations of the arts there is always something being showcased to look for and enjoy. For a current calendar of events at Six Flags Over Texas click here.
  • Shopping – Love shopping at the park and plan to visit a lot? Did you know there is a Season Shopping Pass?! Right now for just $19.99 this add-on to your Season Pass will give you a 20% discount on almost all in-park merchandise through the end of the 2018 season — no minimum purchase required!
  • Holiday Festivals – Depending on the season you will often find the park decorated for the holiday and full holiday spirit during Holiday in the Park- or full of spooky Spirits if you visit during Fright Fest.
  • Games – You won’t have to look far to find a game that suits your skill level. All throughout the park, you’ll find various midway games to compete in for prizes.
  • Food-  No matter what type of food is your favorite, you’ll find it at Six Flags Over Texas. In between coasters, get ready to enjoy every goodie you can imagine, from pretzels and popcorn to funnel cakes and brisket nachos. We were also pleased that the vegetarians in our group could find a healthy salad or other option at several locations at the park with no trouble.
  • Live Performances- All year long there are live performance and concerts to enjoy that will keep you singing and vibing as you stroll along. During our visit, we enjoyed a free live concert and danced for over an hour near the concert stage inside the park.

We had such a great time this visit and stayed until the very minute the park closed. On the way home, the backseat was filled with chatter of how much fun they had. The next day, I even received a couple of text messages thanking me for spending the day with them. Texting is true teen appreciation.

I want to say once again how much we appreciate Six Flags over Texas sponsoring this post. These moments of connection with our teens will last a lifetime.

Here We Go Again! Mamma Mia! : One MORE Tiny Human

Mamma Mia! Here we go again!

No matter your feelings on ABBA, there is a MUCH bigger announcement to come in this post than just a movie release. When I heard that Mamma Mia! was making a sequel I was honestly pretty excited. Our at home Friday night dance parties admittedly have a pretty eclectic playlist. ABBA’s Dancing Queen is definitely in the mix from time to time. Of course, there is another reason Mamma Mia!  became a favorite of ours recently.

ABBA

One Tiny Human

If you were following us right before One Tiny Human arrived, we were trying to select our parenting 2.0 names– because there was zero chance were we going use the “grandparent” term. I am WAYYYYY too young for that. For the record, we still don’t use the g-word. On occasion, it will slip out for the sake of simplicity when trying to explain the relationship.

We finally decided on Mia and Abba for a number of reasons ( you can read about that here).

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again! at Mom 2.0

I was at Mom 2.0 back in May when I learned of the Mamma Mia! sequel and storyline. I picked up a few promo items, a couple of movie passes to see it opening weekend and made an absolutely terrible boomerang gif that I briefly thought about including here since it was branded with the movie. I reconsidered that because it was so terrible that my friend Vikki would unfriend me if it was ever leaked- yes, it is THAT awful.

In full disclosure, it was also that AWESOME that I still have a printed picture from the aforementioned attempted boomerang tucked away in my dresser that I pull out anytime I need a good laugh. Instead, I wore the tshirt we received as a consolation prize while I typed this post.

Mamma Mia! Here we go again! take 2

I tend to get exciting news at or around Mom 2.0. It’s where I first received the news of One Tiny Human, so it seemed fitting to receive this news the week after getting this year as well. I guess I really should have taken the movie title as a sign.

At the parent’s request, I have had to keep this a secret for a few reasons but I can finally tell you all!!

Are you ready???

Here’s the news… One Tiny Human is going to be a big sister!!

Paul & Sydney are having another baby!

There is going to be one MORE tiny human coming November 2018!!!

  • One MORE tiny human
  • Arrival estimated November 2018
  • SO EXCITED!!!

Here we go again 🙂

Gaining Insight and Elevating Expectations | The 2019 Honda Insight

HondaJet 2019 Honda Insight

Some experiences in life take you by surprise, remind you of what’s possible and elevate your expectations. This was so not the story I was expecting to tell when I first received the invitation to drive the 2019 Honda Insight in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I expected to come back sharing a story of my fondness for thoughtful, hybrid vehicles and their makers, i.e. the 2019 Honda Insight. It’s safe to conclude it became a little bit more.

Remember when you were a kid and sort of had this underlying feeling that anything was possible or something wonderful could happen at any moment? I left Minnesota dreaming a little bigger and reminded that joy is often just waiting to be found. I hope when you are finished reading you come away a little more inspired and ready to dream a little bigger too. ( If you would like the condensed info on the 2019 Honda Insight, check out my latest article at ThrillsandWheels.com)

Arriving at Hotel Ivy

After meeting up with a new friend and my drive partner for the trip at the airport. I arrived at the Hotel Ivy, where I would be staying on this trip. Hotel Ivy features nearly 2 dozen luxury suites, a fitness club and one of the best spas in Minneapolis. The guest rooms were spacious, with comfy beds, a sitting area, and a large desk space. The limestone bathrooms were spa-like with both a glass shower and deep soaking tub. It has some very unique features and history I’ll share with you in a post of its own soon. I’d highly recommend making a reservation for a stay here if you’re planning a trip to Minneapolis anytime in the near future.

Hotel Ivy

After getting unpacked and making myself at home in my room, my new friend and I were off to explore “the tunnels” of Minneapolis. These “tunnels” are really called the Minneapolis Skyway System. They connect various buildings over 80 full city blocks and 11 miles of pedestrian walkways. It’s really quite fascinating even if I did feel a little like a hamster in a cage trying to make sense of them all at first. We spent a couple of hours exploring the skyway system, getting in a count of just under 8,500 steps before dinner.

The Guthrie Theater

The Amber Room

photo credit: plsn.com

Dinner that evening and our official introduction to the 2019 Honda Insight would take place at the Guthrie Theatre. After reading the vision of the Guthrie I couldn’t imagine a more inspiring place to partner with for this occasion.

The vision of the Guthrie is this:

“to create transformative experiences that ignite the imagination, stir the heart, open the mind, and build community through the illumination of our common humanity.” 

Sold. You had me at transformative experiences and talk of community building.

The Amber Room is Solid Gold


Along the top floors is a viewing area called the Amber Room. This was our space to mingle before the event introduction. The room is made of glass that is tinted in a yellowish tone that is best described as a living Instagram filter. From this space, you can take in a panoramic view of the river and the surrounding city that is no less than breathtaking and a perfect place for gaining a new perspective. This is definitely a place I would consider making an entrance because I’m creative and fancy like that.

Honda Insight Introduction

Taking New Roads in the 2019 Honda Insight

The next morning was breakfast, presentation, and drive day. I actually look forward to the presentation portion as much as the drive time. I was always a really good student in school. The Honda team always has an exceptionally well-prepared presentation in all forms of communication- kudos to them for that.  There are usually really nice pens involved too (I love nice pens almost as much as nice flowers)

Honda Insight Presentation

It was finally time to drive. Like everything in the Honda line-up, the Insight is a great car. It doesn’t immediately make you think hybrid, no dramatic exterior or colors that give it away. I like to think of it as the Clark Kent, just waiting to save the day. It is the perfect vehicle for anyone interested in making the first transition to hybrid life.

You guys know I like nice things and behind the wheel, I didn’t feel like I was sacrificing anything. Driving the Honda Insight at Touring trim level carries many features I look for with larger 17-inch wheels, navigation, a power moonroof, dual-zone climate controls, leather-trimmed and heated power front seats and a large 8-inch HondaLink infotainment system all at an affordable $28,985.

In addition to features of comfort, you will also find the full range of safety and driver-assistive technology. Honda Sensing is standard on all Insight trims. It fully met my requirement of non-negotiable features at an incredibly reasonable price point. (For full details on the LX/ EX/Touring trim levels and pricing click here)

We Found a Beach!

Honda Insight New Roads

Did you know that there are beaches in Minnesota? Are there beaches in Minnesota?? Actually, I’m not really sure. This was my first time visiting. We may have crossed over into Wisconsin. We were thoroughly enjoying the drive and may have missed a turn here or there. Although we were off-course a bit, it didn’t feel like we were completely lost.  Sometimes the wrong turn is exactly where you are supposed to be.

At this point, we were definitely off course but had reached the “let’s see where this road goes” phase of our adventure.  Imagine our surprise when at the end of this beautifully shaded, curvy road was a totally empty beach! It was really like stumbling on a movie set or something. We opted not to worry about getting sand in our shoes and pulled over to explore. 

2019 Honda Insight Beach

It was super peaceful and totally unexpected. We took a few pictures and then headed out. I could have probably spent the rest of the afternoon there and been completely happy but I definitely didn’t want to miss out on what was coming next.

Honda Insight Beach 3

Living my best Top Gun life in the HondaJet

Honda Insight Friends

We headed immediately over to our lunch destination at Holman’s Table located in the Downtown St Paul Airport. We dined on the patio, enjoying our lovely meal while we waited for our scheduled flight time in the HondaJet to get an aerial view of Minneapolis—St. Paul. HondaJet is the fastest, highest-flying, quietest, and most fuel-efficient jet in its class.

HondaJet Collage

When it was our time to board, I had the opportunity to sit with the pilot. Of course, I said yes! I so wish I could tell you I played it cool but the ear to ear smile could literally be seen across the tarmac.  Basically, I was living my best Goose-Maverick-Top-Gun-aviator-wearing life that day.  It was an awesome, multilayered experience that I will not forget. It is no exaggeration to tell you I can feel my entire face light up every time I think or talk about it. I will never be able to play it cool. This smile will give me away every time.

Honda Insight Friends

It really is the little things

As if the day couldn’t have gotten more magical, this happened. When I exited the building, I could swear I heard the sounds of an ice cream truck.

Guyssss…. THERE WAS AN ACTUAL ICE CREAM TRUCK WAITING OUTSIDE AFTER OUR PRIVATE JET RIDE! Was this real life?? 

I could pick any kind of ice cream I wanted. Childhood dreams becoming real.

I selected my ice cream bar and enjoyed it next to a friend sitting on the steps outside the airport in the warm breeze. In case you were wondering, I got the Strawberry Crunch Bar, obviously.

Honda Insight Ice cream

In summary

Remember in the beginning when I said: Some experiences in life take you by surprise, remind you of what’s possible and elevate your expectations?  This entire trip was a series of moments that reinforcing all of that. Living a joy-filled life is all about the sum of moments like this. They happen all the time if you look for them and expect something wonderful to happen. Here are 3 life lessons I will be taking away from this adventure :

  • Be open to adventure and don’t worry too much about taking a wrong turn. Trust your path, even if it looks a little different than everyone else’s.
  • A new perspective can make a situation look entirely different. Make sure you have looked at what you are working on from all angles. MSP looked entirely different through the yellow tint of the Amber Room than it did flying overhead in the HondaJet or even driving it at street level in the Honda Insight.
  • Remind yourself each day that anything is possible. Don’t limit yourself. The potential for your dreams really is unlimited. You never know when YOUR ice cream truck is going to be waiting outside after a private jet ride.

I want to say a HUGE thanks to Honda for making this trip possible. As is common in the industry all travel, accommodations, etc were provided for.

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