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Giving Your Family a Year-Long Break

Giving Your Family a Year-Long Break

In a discussion based on her book Just Too Busy, Joanne Kraft describes the benefits her family experienced in taking a year off from outside activities so that they could slow their pace of life and have more time together. She challenges parents to consider how they, too, can counter the demands of a hectic schedule.

Original Air Date: January 7, 2013


John Fuller: Well, here’s psychologist, Dr. Kevin Leman reflecting on the trap of busyness that so many families find themselves in.


Dr. Kevin Leman: If you take a look around and you see what’s happening in the American family, the Canadian family, families across the world; they’re on a conveyor belt that doesn’t stop. And I just conjured up in my mind this little gerbil, who is on this little wheel in that cage and he’s running and running and running and he doesn’t get anywhere (Laughter). And that seems to be the plight of the family today.

End of Clip

John: Well, maybe that describes you. Maybe you’re running and running, always busy, but seemingly getting nowhere. If that’s the case, hang on. We’ve got some hope for you on today’s “Focus on the Family,” hosted by Focus president Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: And John, families today are so busy and today’s program will be for all of us as parents who just seem like we are that gerbil, like Dr. Kevin Leman said. We’re on that wheel, just spinning. At the end of the day we’re thinking, “What did we really accomplish today?”

John: Uh-hm.

Jim: It can be insane sometimes trying to get from one event to the next.

John: Oh, yeah, yeah, I mean, I sometimes overload on what’s goin’ on. I just have delegated all of that to Dena. I’m just happy for (Laughter) her to handle that.

Jim: You sound like the typical husband here. You gotta pitch in somewhere.

John: I’m plugged in; I’m plugged in. It affects me.

Jim: Do you take ’em somewhere?

John: Oh, yeah, we divvy up. We have to.

Jim: Well, that’s good.

John: Divide and conquer.


Jim: Well, listen, today we’re gonna talk about that extreme busyness in the family. We have a special guest with us,Joanne Kraft. She’s written a book, Just Too Busy: Taking Your Family on a Radical Sabbatical. Joanne, welcome to Focus.

Joanne Kraft: Thank you so much for having me. It’s an honor to be here with you.

Jim: What in the world were you thinking when you came up with this concept of a radical sabbatical and what is it?

Joanne: I’m not sure we were thinking at the time actually. Well, actually it happened a little bit organically. Like every mom I know, I’m a busy mom. I think that’s a little redundant. I think every mom’s busy. And I was taking my kids to their activities after school. I had ’em involved in some great things.

I thought I had boundaries, you know. They were doing one thing. I was being real good about it. And then I realized that my garage door was, you know, opening and closing like a draw bridge in peewee golf. And I thought (Laughter), is anybody like watching me do this?

Jim: Like your neighbors?

Joanne: Yeah, I was a little concerned, but it was just overwhelming. And I started to realize that, as great as these things weren’t the best things, because our relationships weren’t becoming closer, though I love watching my kids hit a home run.

Jim: Well, Joanne, let’s paint the picture, because you know, we all have different family types and stages out there. How old were your kids at this time when this struck you, we are way too busy?

Joanne: Okay, my children were between the ages of 5 and 15. I have four children. My daughter, Meagan, my son, David, Grace and Samuel. And so, they were between the ages, I believe, 1st grade and 10th grade.

Jim: Hm. So, that is a busy household.

Joanne: Uh-hm.

Jim: You got a lot goin’ on. What struck you with all of that? Why did you come to this conclusion that this is insane?

Joanne: Well, you know, I think it was a couple of things. It was kind of a busy mom hurricane. I was noticing that when I was (Laughter) meeting moms at the grocery store, we speak in the language of busy. We would meet each other and say, “Hi, how are you doin’?” And then we’d start using that word as if it was something of value. You know, “Well, I’m so busy.” And then we’d start playing “busy-mom poker,” I like to call it.

Jim: (Laughter) What is that?

Joanne: We’d start one-upping each other.

Jim: How does that go? Give u the dialogue.

Joanne: Well, okay. It goes, you know, “Hi, Susie. How are you doin’?” “Oh, I’m fine; how are you?” “Oh, I’m so busy.” “Oh, what are you doin’?” “Well, I’m going to, you know, I have three soccer games in Jamaica and I’ve got, you know 12 dozen cupcakes to make.” You know, and then I go, “Well, really? Well, I’ve got basketball tryouts for 24 hours straight.” You know, you just start playing that game.

Jim: So, I see that hand and I raise you by this much.

Joanne: That’s right. And you know, what I was realizing, you know, Jim, there was no joy about it.

Jim: Hm.

Joanne: It wasn’t like the moms were going, “And it’s great and I love it.” We started to wish away time.

Jim: Well, does a mom derive value from that sense of busyness?

Joanne: What I believe is, we love our children passionately and we want our kids to have bigger, better, more than we had. And I think I was getting confused and thinking the more I did, the busier my kids were, the more they were getting out of it. You know, “good” is the enemy of the best. And the best really was time together.

Jim: What were some of those special moments that you missed out on? Just so those of us that are too busy can actually realize, uh-oh, this is what Joanne’s talkin’ about.

Joanne: Well, I think a lot of times with moms, we tend to, you know, want to do everything. And I’m his No. 1 fan with baseball. He was pitching at the time. And I thought, well, you know, it’s really more important that I say yes to everything, including making the potato salad, ’cause I make the best potato salad with a secret ingredient. And surely I must impress the other moms and make this potato salad. So, I skipped his game, went home, made the potato salad. It was the only time my son has ever hit a home run since or before. I’ve never gotten to see that, because I was busy.

Jim: How did he feel about that? Have you ever talked to him about that?

Joanne: You know, he’s now 18 and young men don’t communicate as well as our daughters (Laughing).

Jim: Mostly in grunts.

Joanne: Yeah, mostly. And he’d say, “It’s okay, Mom,” but to me, it’s not.

Jim: You talk in the book about captivity of activity. What is that?

Joanne: Well, I like to use these little catch phrases (Laughter), you know, “bondage of busyness,” “captivity of activity.” Beth Moore has a great saying. She says, “No one can do 1,000 things to the glory of God.”

Jim: (Laughing)

Joanne: That’s it.

Jim: Why do we in America especially, why do we think that is not true?

Joanne: Because I believe that, that’s what society says, you know. I believe that’s what’s happening and we get distracted. We get drawn away. I think as a woman, I go to women’s conferences and I love, you know, we’ve all, as a woman, you hear the Mary and Martha example given over and over. But in that verse in Luke, chapter 10, Jesus says, “Martha, you’re distracted by many things. Mary’s chosen the better part.”

Jim: Hm.

Joanne: A lot of times we pick that better part, you know, time with Jesus, but we don’t realize, to get to that, we’ve been distracted.

John: Hm.

Joanne: And a lot of these things distract.

Jim: How does believing in the busyness of life as you know, that’s just the way it is, why is that a destructive thought?

Joanne: I think that’s a copout.

Jim: Hm.

Joanne: I think for me it was, because I think a lot of times with our busyness, the older generation told me, “Hey, you’re too busy,” I thought, you know what? You don’t know me. You don’t know our life. We have more opportunity than you had. I’m sorry you kicked the can, you know. That’s what you did, but we have the opportunity to do all these other things. We didn’t think they understood.

Jim: Joanne, in your book, Just Too Busy, you talk about ADD. And when we hear ADD, we think of hyperactivity and all that, but you (Chuckling) refer to ADD as “activity denial disorder.”

Joanne: Uh-hm. (Laughter)

Jim: I mean, define what that is.

Joanne: Well, it’s something I suffer from, activity denial disorder. I want to say yes to things. I forget sometimes that no is a complete sentence. And I love my children passionately, but I would start to say, yeah, that activity’s good. I still struggle with it. I’m signing up for Bible studies now at church. I want to sign up for all of ’em.

The same is with our children. We have to remember, it’s not the activities, you know, it’s spending time together, it’s having dinner around the kitchen table. You know, my mom passed away about 12 years ago and I was a great soccer player. In high school, I was. I mean, I MVP’d. I find value in sports. I love ’em. If I were to run down the field now, I’d need to be resuscitated (Laughter), but if I could have one day back with my mom it would not be her cheering me on when I shot that left-footed goal to win the game. I would be eating dinner around the table with her. I’d be in the family room with her, talking with her. I’d have this one on one with her. And I wanted to have that with my children. I wanted those to be the memories of my kids.

Jim: That is really profound, ’cause I think especially in a materialistic culture, we tend to think that, that is the way to the heart–buying things, even sometimes out of guilt we’re driven to do that. Busy parents, single parents., we tend to want to use materialism to say we’re sorry. But what kids do remember is time spent with them, isn’t it?

Joanne: Most definitely. There’s the Scripture in the Bible that I love, Psalm 90:12 and it’s, “Teach me to number my days, so that I may gain a heart of wisdom.” Sometimes that has to be our first step in the morning. Just pray. Say, “God, show me where my priorities should be. Show me what Your priorities are for me today.”

Jim: Do you think in marriage now, just to take this to the husband-wife relationship and I don’t want to be stereotyping anyone and I know that every couple will be different. Jean and I tend to fall in this camp. She says yes to a lot of things that I would not say yes to (Laughter). I mean, this week we just had that experience.Is it often the mom that is saying yes more than dad?

Joanne: Oh, absolutely. (Laughter) My husband jokes, I signed him up for things at church he never even knew he was on the list (Laughter). And they call him. He’s like, “What?!” You know, yes, absolutely it’s us.

Jim: How does a couple grapple with that? I mean, how doesthe husband and wife [each] recognize the busyness, try to break the pattern? How would a husband approach this in a gentle way with his wife?

Joanne: Well, I’ll tell you, it’s funny, because when the busyness happened, our book is not just about busyness; it’s about all the different layers that God showed us in between. One of the chapters is on marriage. And one of the things I noticed was, any good, godly man is not gonna tell his wife, stop spending time with the kids. They’re not, because they love their children as much as we do, right?

So, I think what I noticed was, with husbands, either they think that it’s not gonna be different or this is how it is. I really kind of put it really more on the shoulders of me as the wife to really go, “Hey, wait a minute; he is first. What am I showing my children if my children are first in everything?” And our kids got to see for that year, that radical sabbatical, they didn’t come first. I really tried to put my husband first.

Jim: So, it started that idea of a radical sabbatical, started by you recognizing you needed to help.

Joanne: Well, that was definitely a part of it because I think we have a great marriage, but no marriage is gonna be strong if you’re not spending time together.

Jim: Well, we’ve identified the problems that modern culture foists on us. Talk about that realization that the radical sabbatical; how did that come about and what is it?

Joanne: Well, okay. It was New Year’s Eve and we were invited over to our friend’s house and I thought, “Well, heck yeah. I just bring a spinach dip and mess your house up. Perfect. We’re coming.”

Jim: Not the potato salad?

Joanne: Well, no, I didn’t bring a potato salad. I’ve already been punished for that one.

Jim: That’s a summertime thing (Laughter).

Joanne: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But I went to my girlfriend’s house and our husbands went off to watch basketball. Our kids went off to play. And my girlfriend and I started playing busy mom poker, you know. And she just said offhandedly, what if we took a year off and did nothing?

Jim: Hm.

Joanne: And I thought, well what if we did take a year off and did nothing?

Jim: She was kinda joking.

Joanne: Yeah, it was pretty offhanded for her. And I took it serious[ly]. And our husbands came in and I asked my husband. I said, what do you think? And he said, “I’m on it; let’s do it.”

Jim: (Laughing)

Joanne: And I thought, uh-oh, no, I don’t know if I want to do this–

John: Now you’re committed.

Joanne: –right, ’cause my girlfriend was watchin’.

Jim: And so, what did that mean though, to take a year off?

Joanne: Well, for us, what we did, New Year’s Day, we have a family devotion time. It’s a little more special than the rest of the year. We set goals. We talk as a family and we talk about what’s coming. And we shared with them then, hey, we’re takin’ a year off of anything that mom has to drive you to, we’re not gonna do.

Jim: Wow.

Joanne: So, that was our rule and not every family wants to do that. You guys’ families might be doing better than we were.

Jim: Now my boys would say, haircuts? (Laughter) They would love that. You’re not gonna get a haircut. All right!

Joanne: Oh, yeah.

Jim: You didn’t mean that though.

Joanne: No, actually I’ve cut their hair before. What we meant was, anything that mom had to drive to was done. Our daughter, Grace still was in choir at school. That was okay. It didn’t take time away from dinner around the table. It didn’t take time away from us and that’s what we did. And each month we did a family field trip. We did something special each month together.

Jim: By driving, taking them like [somewhere].

Joanne: Well, I realized busyness even had to do with our quiet time. We were busy. The first month we did something together, it was overwhelming what we chose to do–this, this, this and this. And it’s like, we can’t even slow down if we want to.

Jim: How did it go? What was the first month like?

Joanne: It was a disaster actually. (Laughter)

Jim: That’s some honesty.

Joanne: And Grace got to choose. It was her birthday month and I think mom guilt set in, so we went ice skating and we went on a picnic. We went to a matinee movie. Not only was it busy; it was expensive.

John: Hm.

Jim: So, it didn’t actually achieve [less busyness].

Joanne: Yeah.

Jim: What kind of corrections did you make at that time? What [were] month two and three like?

Joanne: Well, I’ll tell you what was the big change for me, was by the spring, it was my turn to choose the field trip. And I went to write down Daffodil Hill on the calendar, and my kids almost choked, because Daffodil Hill, all that is where we live, it’s a little farm that explodes 300,000 daffodil bulbs. But then I remember when I was a kid, when it was rumored we were gonna go on vacation, I thought for sure we’re going to Disneyland. We lived in California at the time. But when our 9-passenger wood-paneled station wagon showed up in front of a lumber mill and in front of a fish hatchery, I realized this is no vacation, you know. But you know what? Looking back, it’s the best memories. And so, I kept Daffodil Hill down and our family learned to be closer. We did.

Jim and John: Hm.

John: You’re listening to “Focus on the Family.” Our guest today is Joanne Kraft. I’m John Fuller. Our host is Jim Daly and there is more online. If you would like to stop by our website, you’ll find resources. How were the kids initially with all of this? I mean, you just said, Joanne, that looking back now those boring times, if I may,were–

Jim: To the fish hatchery.

John: –yeah, they were actually rich times. Were your kids unconvinced that this was a good move?

Joanne: Well, what’s interesting is, I have included in the book all my kids’ reactions honestly. And one of ’em was not thrilled, my son. But my daughter, Meagan has written a letter as an adult now. She’s an adult, looking back as to that time and she is so grateful for it. It was the change for us and it was something she’ll never forget.

Jim: Well, again for the person that may not quite be grabbing what you did, for your son, you eliminated baseball for that year; is that right?

Joanne: I know. Don’t I sound awful? I know.

Jim: That sounds pretty hard to a former Little Leaguer myself.

Joanne: A lot of people are thinking that’s horrible.

Jim: How did that go down?

Joanne: Well, you know, I’m married to a very logical man and my husband will say, you know, there’s only one Mark Spitz. And if my son is not loving the sport where he eats and breathes and drinks it, he can do without the sport, you know. And so, we did. We took it. My son still talks to me. He loves me very much (Laughing), so he’s okay now.

Jim: It was for that year.

Joanne: Yeah.

Jim: And how old was he again?

Joanne: At the time he was 12.

Jim: But that can be a pretty critical year, too, when boys particularly are finding their feet athletically.

Joanne: Uh-hm, right.

Jim: Do you think there’s any residual effect on him because of that?

Joanne: Well, I’ll tell you what’s interesting is, taking a break from things has become kinda the norm in our home, because it wasn’t long after that, that he said to me, “Hey Mom, I’m gonna take an iPod fast.” And I went, “What?” And he said, “Yeah, I’ve been spending too much time with it, so I’m just gonna take a day tomorrow and not use it.” Okay, that was huge for me, ’cause I thought, wow!

Jim: Hm.

Joanne: He’s actually thinking, this is taking up too much of my time. And to me, that was an effect of us taking that break.

Jim: That’s a great example of teaching discernment skills. Other benefits that you might have seen in your kids? What did the other children think about it?

Joanne: Okay. Well, I’ll tell you this. This is huge. For anybody who has teenagers, those of us who have teenagers or have been a teenager understand that when the kids get older, you’re not a big part of their life as far as their wanting to hang out with you. They’ll climb over your dead body to get to a friend, over you.

Jim: (Chuckling)

Joanne: And my daughter, Meagan, by the beginning, she so was not into this. She was my sophomore, going into junior in high school.

Jim: Oh, that’s tough. That’s a tough moment.

Joanne: Yeah and not to mention, we look kooky, right?

Jim: Right.

Joanne: I mean, and so, by November it was her turn to choose what we were gonna do as a family and I was just ready to say no, you know, no, it’s just the automatic with a teen. And she said, “Hey, mom, what if we just hang out all day in our pajamas and watch movies as a family?” Okay, that was huge. That was huge. She wanted to actually be with us.

John: Uh-hm.

Jim: So, in effect, you’re teaching your family how to relax. That is a biblical concept. You touched on it. I want to ask about it though, others thinking you’re kooky.

Joanne: (Laughing)

Jim: I mean, what did others like your girlfriend back at the beginning of this, her observation and neighbors and friends from church, what were they saying to you?

Joanne: Yeah, well, I’ll tell you; they were very supportive and they were watching us. We were kinda like in a fish bowl. Yeah, are they really gonna do this? We had an audience. But what I found was interesting is, they may not have done what we did, but so many of them said, you know what? We’re gonna have our own sabbatical from fast food. We’re gonna have meals more around the table. People were actually taking their own radical sabbatical in their own way, you know. Radical doesn’t just mean “extreme;” it means “revolutionary.”

Jim: Hm.

Joanne:And it was making a revolutionary change in their home.

Jim: Looking back on it, how do you think it impacted your marriage, back to that aspect of the radical sabbatical?

Joanne:Well, I think it impacted our marriage in that we took time together. We actually had time. We weren’t slapping high fives as we were going to practices. You know, you take this one here; I take this one there. We had time together. But even more so, we showed our kids what we want to see in our kids’ marriages when they’re older.

John: So, you and your husband had to kinda live this out in your own lives. I mean, you couldn’t take the extra time and devote it to outside of the home activities. Is that right?


John: And what did that mean for you? Did you have to give some things up?

Joanne:Well, my husband was on the board at church and he stepped down from that for a year and I stepped down from the women’s ministry board. We still were involved in our Bible studies. We still did that, because that was somethin’ the whole family could go to, you know, at church. But for us, it really was modeling for our children just an intentional marriage, you know, that we actually wanted to be together, spend time together. Our kids were old enough where we didn’t need a babysitter by their teen years, so we could actually neglect them for like an hour (Laughter) and go and actually have coffee together.

John: Uh-hm.

Joanne:And so, that became a ritual with us. We still do that.

Jim: The impact of your friends. I mean, did other friends pick up on this and were you able to observe what they were doing?

Joanne:Well, actually, they were starting, like I said, they were paying attention. And what I’d get is, I’d see a girlfriend at the store and now instead of saying they’re so busy as a badge of honor, it was almost like, you know, I really shouldn’t be this busy. You know, because busyness is almost I think like telling me I’m fat, you know. I don’t want to hear that, okay. I know, but I’m used to eating Ho-Hos every day or whatever. You know, with women, we don’t want to be told, but we like to see. We like it modeled.

Jim: When you think back on it, the biblical orientation for all of this and really rooting it in Scripture, you mentioned Martha and Mary.


Jim: That’s an obvious one. Are there other scriptural references? It always struck me for example, that Jesus could heal everyone, but at moments, He chose to withdraw from the crowd.


Jim: He needed to replenish. Is that a premise for this radical sabbatical?

Joanne:Oh, one of the Scriptures–that’s a great question, Jim–one of the Scriptures that really hits me, well first off, Jesus never ran anywhere. So, if I’m running places I’m not modeling Jesus. It was “Jesus wept,” not Jesus ran ever. But the Scripture that really hit me was John 10:10 and that was, “The enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy, but Jesus came to give us life abundant.” And how I broke that down was, the enemy comes to steal our time. We have time stealers. How that was played out for me was, I was at a conference and they asked me, where would your kids put a yellow sticky note if somebody had to get you immediately? Where would they put that sticky note? Would it be on your iPod? Would it be on your iPad?

Jim: The television set.

Joanne:On television? On your iPhone?

Jim: Hm.

Joanne:My husband had been telling me, you’re spending too much time on the laptop. And I thought, well, phff! You’re spending too much time on your laptop. How do you know? (Laughter) But here’s where it hit me is Samuel won flower seeds at school and my youngest brought home some seeds and he surprised me and hid them somewhere where I would find them. They were in my laptop. That broke me.

Jim: Hm.

Joanne:I thought, oh, okay. This needs to be put away. My kids can’t see me spending more time with my laptop than with my kids. So, the enemy comes to steal. He steals our time. The enemy comes to kill our joy. I’m not joyful when I’m firing cheeseburgers into the backseat and running from fast food to yelling about shin guards. There’s no joy there. The enemy comes to steal and then kill our joy. The end result is, the enemy comes to destroy our relationships. That’s the kill shot right there. So, if we’re not starting out; we’re not intentional now with our children, we’re not gonna have those relationships with our adult kids and it starts now.

Jim: Joanne, you came to this realization. I’m sure there are many moms driving right now in the minivan, running to and from some activity with their kids and they’re hearing this, going, yeah, but.


Jim: How do they get started? What do they do tonight when they get home and they talk to their husbands?

Joanne: Well, I wish I could give ’em a hug, ’cause I’ve been right there with them. I wish I could talk to them face to face. What I would tell them is this. I would say Revelation 21:5, “Behold He makes all things new.” That is a life-changing verse. And that word “behold” in the Greek, it’s active. It’s an active present-tense verb. It means right now.

God can make anything new, anything new. That means our busyness, our children, our relationships. He can redeem the time. I write about how he can redeem the time. Nothing is at a loss right now. He can change anything.

Jim: Joanne, when you look at the breakdown of the family in our culture today. One of the enemies of the family is the way that time eats away at our ability to have relationships.


Jim: Here at Focus, we talk about mealtimes together and the importance of that. It’s not eating together per se; it’s spending time together. You come from a blended family. Your husband was a police officer. He’s now doing other things.


Jim: That is a very demanding vocation; many marriages fail in that vocation. Talk a bit about that, how you and your husband have brought your respective families together and the way that this has played out in your personal testimony.

Joanne:Well, our family comes from broken places. I was married very young and I had two children. I went through a divorce. I wasn’t a Christian at the time and I don’t say that to make an excuse, but I say that to share just where I was spiritually.

My husband and I were married and he adopted our oldest two when they were real little itty-bitties and we had two more children. One of the things that’s huge for me and I never ever talk “blended” in our family, because you know what’s funny is, there’s so many families out there that are hurting. I have a passion for single parents, working moms, stay-at-home moms. I’ve been all those things.

But here’s the thing. God doesn’t make half families. God doesn’t make half siblings. I really have a hard time when I speak at conferences and these moms come up to me and they have such sweet hearts, but they’ll say, “This is Susie, my stepdaughter. And this is my son from my marriage.” You know what? I’m not God’s half child. I’m not God’s stepchild. I’m God’s child.

And I really encourage parents, don’t talk blended; just talk family. Let’s say you’re in a divorce situation and that child may not want to call you “mom.” That’s okay. You know what? You call him “son,” because that’s your son. And you give him value and you don’t put a label on him, like “stepchild” and “stepson.” And you don’t set him apart that way.

Jim: Do you think, given your circumstances and what the Lord brought you and your husband both through, do you think this attention to spending time together has been one of the keys to your success as a family?

Joanne:Well, I think the key to our success as a family has definitely been Jesus Christ. I think that has been the No. 1 key. We could not open the door without Him. He is our saving grace. And you know, I think with families, I think if they lean on God, if they put God first, it falls into place. If you’re in a blended family and there’s another family that’s pulling and drawing away time, don’t focus on that. Don’t be distracted by how they are when the kids are with them. You focus on being that godly family with that child and you do the right thing every time, even if that child doesn’t want to go to a fish hatchery or doesn’t want to hang out with the family. How boring. Hang on; hold onto those reins. God has a hand in it.

Jim: Joanne, when you look back on this, did you do this for just the one year or is it something that has become part of your family DNA

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Becoming a Clutter-Free Family

Joshua Becker discusses the benefits a family can experience if they reduce the amount of “stuff” they have and simplify their lives. He addresses parents in particular, explaining how they can set healthy boundaries on how much stuff their kids have, and establish new habits regarding the possession of toys, clothes, artwork, gifts and more.

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