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{Announcement} Gifts We Use is Moving!!!

I have been working my tail off the past month to get to this point and I am excited to share with you some great news...

Gifts We Use is moving to it very own domain!!!

That's right, Gifts We Use is moving to it's very own www and there is lots in store for you! 

Some of the goodness to look forward to in the move include:
~ Updated website theme
~ Improved site navigation to find content easily
~ Exciting new widgets
~ More inspirational content brewing for you!

With all the work that goes into making this transition happen, I will be taking next week off to dedicate my efforts to completing the move.

This doesn't change anything for you if you follow me on social media, so there's nothing you need to do.

The new GiftsWeUse.com will be ready soon and I would ask for your patience as I work out any kinks along the way and appreciate your continued support!

Stay tuned for the official re-launch of Gifts We Use to come in June! Yay!

Do You Know Your Kid's Digital Footprint?

Want to know what your digital footprint is? Google yourself and see what you find. If you're like most people, you may find yourself on multiple social media outlets with images, tweets and maybe even blog posts. Our generation's digital footprint starts when we sign up for a social media account. For the next generation, their digital footprint starts when parents sign up for a social media account, that's you and me. Our kids will be first generation of kids that will have most of their lives documented and accessible online. How does that make you feel? More importantly, how can you keep your kid's digital footprint from being stained and haunting {or hindering} their future?

What is a digital footprint?

A digital footprint is the trail left behind when interacting with the internet via posts, pictures, videos and so on. It's what results in doing a google search of yourself {or your kids}. I want to be up front and say that this post is not written to try to scare you, but only to make you aware.

Just like we have a digital footprint, our kids do too and thanks to us tech savvy parents, their digital footprint will have lots of juice. But does it really matter?

Who Cares about a digital footprint?

Today the only people that might care about your kid's digital footprint might be close family and friends. In the future, it will be potential colleges, bosses and even spouses who will look at and care about what they find when looking at our kids. Not only that, but these potential seekers will have much to do with our kid's future.

How do I keep my kid's digital footprint clean?

As a parent, the best way to keep your kids' online image clean is to be involved in their techy intake. This is why it's important to follow your kids where ever they are online. Kids will be kids, there's no doubt about that, but that's why kids are given parents to guide, direct and train them for their future.

At the end of the day

Again, this post is not meant to scare, it is to make you aware as a parent. Technology has many advantages and gives us gifts that are sometimes immeasurable. Technology is very powerful, but with power comes responsibility. Cliche, but true.

When I first heard about the concept of a digital footprint from a speaker that came to my moms group, it scared me a little. But after chewing on it more since hearing him, it has challenged me. Challenged be to be more discerning when sharing online, less dependent on social media, and live with integrity.
At the end of the day, our kids will see us and grow to be like us, for better or for worse. The kind of person we want our kids to become needs to be the person they find in us, their parents. A clean digital footprint starts with having a clean, clutter free life. So let's show our kids what's important in real life so we don't have to worry as much about their digital life.

Want more tips on media safety for your family? Check out these posts:
Internet Safety for Kids
Social Media Safety for Teens
5 Techy Tips for Parents

If this post has opened your eyes, it would be a gift to me if you would write a comment below.

DIY Business Cards for Bloggers, Moms, or Anyone

Business cards are just as relevant today as they were 10 years ago, they still inform people of the vital information in order to contact you. These days though business cards have evolved and are not just for business people anymore. Moms hand out "Mommy" business cards to other moms at park, church, or school functions. Bloggers hand out business cards to network and connect with other bloggers and brands. Take a look at how I DIY'd some cute business cards for my first blogger event.

Fake it 'til you make it

While preparing to attend my first in person blogger event, I knew I needed to have business cards to hand out. I also knew that I didn't have any money to spend on them, not even for the pack of printer paper you can get at your local office supply store. I struggled a lot with that on a personal level, but decided that I needed to fake it until I made it. 

I wanted to put my best foot forward, but I was ashamed that I couldn't scrape up enough funds to get some decent paper. Although I didn't have business card paper, I did have pretty scrapbook paper and a paper cutter. It was going to have to do for that day. My hubby tried to reassure me that it would be ok. I had to swallow my pride and do what I could with what I had.

The Step-by-step

Here is a breakdown how to make your own DIY business cards:

Supplies needed:
  • Computer and computer program to design cards
  • Business card template {if not included in your program or app}
  • Color printer
  • Cardstock scrapbook paper in desired pattern
  • Paper cutter {ideal}, or scissors {and a steady hand}
  1. Design business card information on computer
  2. If needed, cut card stock down to fit your printer {letter size is 8.5"x11"}
  3. Print on the back of scrapbook card stock
  4. Cut cards down to business card size {3.5"x2"}
  5. Make a business card holder
Now that you know how to do it yourself, I will share with you my process.

Making business cards

This part spoke to my creatively techy side, so it was fun for me to design a business card the way I wanted. I used my Pages app on my Mac to create my business cards, but there are tons of templates out there on other programs like Word, Publisher or searching online. Here's what my template looked like.
There are a few key items that I wanted to make sure were on my DIY blogger business cards. They were:
~ My full name & photo
~ My blog logo banner
~ My email
~ My blog website address
~ My social media names

The information is spaced out enough that it doesn't crowd the card too much, but still gives others an easy way to find me online. I also tried to make some things look just like my site to make them memorable. I used the same social media icons that I use on my blog as well as a similar looking banner to jog their memory once they get to my site.

Print, cut and repeat

After designing the business cards to my liking, all I did was take the cardstock scrapbook paper I had on hand and cut it down to letter size {8.5"x11"} so that it would fit in my printer. Then I printed it on the back of my pretty paper and used the guides on my template to cut them to business card size {3.5"x2"}. 

In this step I think it's important to use a paper cutter, and not cut it by hand. It makes for a cleaner cut, and if you're anything like me with scissors, it will save you a lot of time and hassle. Take a look at my crafty-techy-goodness!

Crafting a business card holder to go with my DIY business cards

Because I couldn't leave well enough alone {remember I'm trying to put my best foot forward}, I also wanted to craft a business card holder to keep all my crafty new business cards in. I did an extensive google search, found many different options, and tried several different templates. 

This is the best business card holder template I found. I like that one best because the end result comes out cleanest with straight lines and straight cuts. This template is 2 pages and includes two different sizes. The large one holds about 60 cards and the small one holds about 30 cards.

I would recommend printing each page on a different pattern-the larger size to hold your own cards, and the smaller to corral cards you receive from others.

How did it turn out?

I'm glad you asked! {wink} The cards and card holder turned out quite nice if you ask me. How were they received? People loved them! Why? Because they were on pretty glittery scrapbook paper that made them stand out in design as well as in texture! Color me surprised! 

If I was a craft blogger, I would do that for all of my business cards, that's a big IF! Just look at me getting my craft muscles working! I'm using gifts to grow! Ah! It's almost too much to handle!
I learned some important lessons this day. I learned that I needed to be true to who I am. I needed to be ok with my place in life {having or having not}. I learned that creativity trumps money much of the time. Most importantly, I learned to bloom where I am planted. Just because I didn't have the money to spend on bloggy business cards, didn't mean that I couldn't make the most of what I already had. 

My efforts impressed people and because I took a chance to network despite my lack of "professional" business cards, I eventually got the opportunity to work with a company who does business cards. Gift, gift, and gift some more! 

A friend gifted me with the lesson to bloom where you are planted, and if you get nothing else from this post, I'd like to gift that forward to you. Bloom where you are planted. You might be surprised to find that you are good enough, and better than you thought.
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Purging After a Kids Birthday

My son recently celebrated his fourth birthday and he got some great stuff from family and friends. Stuff that I now have to make room for in our home. It's all good stuff, but as most parents know, there is a lot of stuff! Prior to his birthday party, I prepped my son that when he gets his presents, we were going to go through and put away or share the toys he wasn't playing with anymore. Because I prepped him ahead of time, he was fine when going through the purging process.

Prep is important

The best thing we did when getting my son to detach from his toys was to prep him ahead of time. If I had sprung it on him as we were opening gifts, it would not have gone well. With most things, prepping is important. If kids know what's coming and what the boundaries are, they do fine for the most part.
As my son saw me preparing for his party, I would use that opportunity to remind him that when he got new presents, we would be "putting away and sharing the toys we don't play with anymore". Those are the exact words I used. I didn't say "give them away" because he might form an attachment to them, but "sharing" he understands. You could have also uses "donate" so that he understands that they won't be coming back home.

Sorting and purging the old

After prepping and opening the gifts, it was time to for the great purge. When going through and purging, it needs to be a team effort. Don't just leave your kid to purge on his own and box up what's left out. That is sure to cause some tears when some toys were never intended to go away.

I went through each of our toy chest toys and bins and let him decide if they would go or stay. If kids feel like they have some control over the process, that also helps them to detach. He actually kept more than I thought he would, but lucky for him, there was room for enough for the new toys that he could keep what he wanted. If we had run out of room, I would have gone through another purge until everything fit.

For the most part, he decided to put away toys that he had outgrown, many of which I had expected. Some of his choices surprised me, but I let him decide and it was good for both of us. Here's what we were able to purge.

Fitting in the new

Once the purge was done, it was easy for us to make room for the new. We managed to completely empty one bin and replace it with a new toy. It wasn't just toys that needed to be cycled through, but his clothes needed a once over too.

Clothes are harder for me because my son is on the petite side so he fits anything from 24 months to 4T depending on the brand. His pants and shirts are all now 4T, but there are some shorts that are 24 months that he can still fit into. My son's closet got a big organization thanks to his birthday. Stay tuned for that update.

Here's a before and after of the toy chest.
It still looks just as organized as before, but it now has more of his bigger boy toys and less of his toddler toys. It looks like guns and cannons have replaced pop up vacuums and toy tools! {tear}
I am so glad that this process was easy for us. I know that it could have been really hard, but preparation and participation made all the difference. I just hope that it continues to be this easy as the years go by. It was important for me to help my son learn how to live within our means. In a small and simple way he learned that this is our toy chest, and we can't fit all of these toys there, so some of them will have to go. We can put them away or we can share them with other kids who don't have toys. Learning this early will hopefully make giving to others easier as he grows. That's a gift I want him to gift forward for sure.

Do you do a purge after a kid's birthday? How does it go for you? Share in the comments.
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5 Techy Tips for Parents

Technology has successfully weaved itself into our everyday lives. There is almost no avoiding it anymore. As adults, we have to take intentional steps to tame technology in our lives. Our kids need us to take those steps and set those boundaries for them. In this post I will share tips for parents to implement when weaving technology into their kids' lives.

Location, location, location

Where do you place the computer your family uses? Is it in a common room of the house? Is it in your kids' bedroom? A good rule of thumb for kids of any age is to keep the primary family computer in a common area of the house with the monitor easily seen by any adult passing by. 

There should not be any technology {phones, tv, video games, etc.} in our kids' bedrooms. Why? Because they will loose much needed sleep. When your phone lights up when you're about to go to bed, what do you do? Yep, I check mine too. If it's an area that we adults struggle with, our kids will too, so we need to draw that line for them.


Do you know your teen's social media passwords? You should! Knowing your teen's passwords is an important way to safeguard them from harming themselves and others. I go into more detail on this in a previous post, Social Media Safety for Teens.

Remember that technology for kids is a privilege. Earning privileges comes with resposibilities and boundaries. It's ok to know your kids' password, keep in mind freedom within boundaries. This is just one of those boundaries.

Web Browsers

Any browser that is installed on your family computer needs to have the appropriate filters enabled and locked in at all times. Protect your kids' browsing from deceptive viruses and explicit pop ups by making sure filters are in place.

Along with filters, younger kids should be using a kid-friendly browser exclusively. I share about kid-friendly browsers in my post, Internet Safety for Kids. Go read it! There are free tools for everything I share with you. 

Cell Phones

If your kid has a cell phone, heaven help you! If your kid has a smart phone, I'll be praying for you! I'm not in that stage of life yet, but I can only imagine what you have to go through with them. One way of taming the technology in their lives is to pull the plug on their cell phone for the night.

This goes along with keeping technology out of our kids' bedroom, cell phones should be surrendered to mom/dad at bedtime. Sound harsh? Maybe to some, but again, this is about drawing proper lines and safeguarding our kids. Lines need to be drawn.

Having trouble keeping texts or data usage under control? Did you know that most cell phone companies have control features available? All you have to do is ask! Some may charge, others do not. What can you loose for calling? Overage charges, that what.

Google & YouTube

Some of the most popular sites for homework and fun. Make sure that safety controls are enabled on each of these to keep explicit material out of sight. I give you step by step instructions on how to do that here.
This has been a hot topic for me recently thanks to Scott Burnett from Integrity Computer Concepts, but it is important for us parents to show our kids healthy limits when it comes to letting technology into our lives. Sure I love me a good gadget or app, but I love my son more and would rather let him grumble at me for taking his cell phone at night than have to hear that he's texting in the middle of the night. The best way we can show our kids healthy tech limits is to model it ourselves. Let's do our best to keep devices off at dinnertime or during family time. If we show them that being present is more important than being "caught up", then that is a gift that will keep on giving.

Do you implement these boundaries in your home? Is there something new you learned here that you will try? Let's talk about it in the comments.
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Minted Does Business Cards Right

Now that my bloggy wheels are have been fully oiled and are turning at a rapid pace, it's time to take my blogging to the next level. I am so happy doing what I do here for you! The longer I work at it, the better I want to be of service to you. Part of my development is to connect with other bloggers and brands that fit this blog, you and me. When I got the opportunity to partner with Minted and get beautifully designed business cards to help step up my bloggy game, I jumped at the chance! I spent some time perusing their site {I could have been there all day}, and now I want your help in choosing my new business cards!

Artful Design + Personal Touch

Before I found Minted, my business cards were DIY {I'll post about that later}, so I had so much fun playing and designing my very own bloggy business cards. Not only do they have some of the best designs I've ever seen for business cards, but their personalization options are also outstanding.

Personalizing business cards is so easy! Choose a design you like {there are so so many!}
Enter your information
Choose a backing option {I chose to upload my own image with my blog background and logo}
Then have a gander at the awesomeness!
I love the modern pattern, fun font and the personalization options that make Minted + Gifts We Use look amazing! Now that you've seen how simple it is to create your own business {or mommy, or personal} cards, take a look at me getting carried away with design.

My Saved Designs + Your Vote

I could have been on Minted designing business cards all day, but alas, duty calls. But I did manage to get a bunch of options done and, as some of you loyal readers may have noticed, there is a BIG change to my information.

Because it's hip to be square, I tried out some square designs.

Here are a few designs with banners that match an upcoming re-design I'm working on.
Last, I played around with some modern designs that I just liked, but don't necessarily "match" my site.
Can you see how I easy it is to get carried away on Minted? And I was able to save each of these designs until I finally make up my mind! I love a good techy gift!
In case some of you didn't catch my round about announcement, Gifts We Use is getting a makeover! I'm working on a new site {my own domain and everything!} with an updated site design, and thanks to these new business cards, a professional branding touch! Minted could not have come into my life at a better time. Even if I weren't blogging, I love the idea of having a Mom card to hand out at church or school events. They have a ton of cute designs for whatever you do.

So which of these designs do you like best? Square? Banner? Modern? I can't decide! They all look so good! Please tell me which design you like best in the comments and help a blogger out.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Ovuline: More Than Just an App & a Giveaway!

It is amazing what we can use technology for these days. Staying organized, being social, and now you can help grow your family using Ovuline. I was thrilled that the folks at Ovuline approached me to review them and am happy to share my experience with all of you. I am a big tester of apps and am pretty particular when it comes to the app that I keep on my device. Here's why I think that Ovuline is so much more than just another app.

Who is Ovuline?

Ovuline is a comprehensive system to help couples who are trying to conceive. Their system consists of an app, support, advisors and supplies that together increase the chances of getting pregnant. Working with them was a perfect fit for me since I love technology and we are open to growing our family.

How is Ovuline different?

I mentioned earlier that I am not afraid to test out apps. I've downloaded a number of different apps to track period and fertile days. The Ovuline app isn't just a period tracker. It's much more. Based on initial data that you share when you sign up for a free account, Ovuline begins to learn your unique cycle. The app then rates your chances of getting pregnant, keeps track of data that you enter, and reminds you of things you can do to increase your chances! That is my favorite part.

For extra credit, a gold membership gives you access to support and advice from experts affiliated with Ovuline. In the health section, you gain insight into the phase of your cycle, what to expect physically or emotionally and personalized action steps.

Another part of their system that makes them more than an app is their Smart Fertility Supply Kit. I was given a kit to test out and share with you.
Their supply kit comes with Fertility vitamins for him and her, 1 basal thermometer, 10 ovulation tests, 2 pregnancy tests, sperm friendly lubricant, and a piece of chocolate {to sweeten the deal}. My hubby and I have been praying for another bundle of joy to bless us one day soon and having these supplies on hand gives us hope that we are doing what we can to increase our chances.

Where can you access Ovuline?

The mobile app is available on the iTunes App Store for iPhone. You can also track data on their website, Ovuline.com.
This is the most detailed data tracking that I have seen yet and data points are accessible through the app and the website. By the way, the app and website data are automatically synced so anything you enter in one place magically appears in the other. I love that about technology!

A Gift for you!

While access to basic tracking and app features is free, the folks at Ovuline want to gift you, my friends, with a FREE Gold Membership to 1 lucky reader! A Lifetime Gold Membership {valued at $49.95} to Ovuline includes an upgraded mobile app, expert advice and more! See a full comparison here. To enter the giveaway, just use the easy rafflecopter form below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
I hope you are as excited as I am about Ovuline! I love how comprehensive it is and that is goes beyond the app to give you support through their experts, website and supplies. They certainly use technology to their advantage and that is what I'm all about when it comes to technology. Lastly, our family would appreciate your prayers for us that we might have exciting news to share soon as we continue to use Ovuline even after this review and giveaway is over.
Disclosure: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Social Media Safety for Teens

In a previous post, Internet Safety for Kids, I shared the dangers lurking in our home's technology and ways to safeguard our kids. While that is a great general start, there are more specific dangers parents need to be on the lookout for. Kids and teens are more tech savvy than ever and now the majority of teenagers are involved in social media. As an adult, I myself can get overwhelmed by my social media, in fact, I take an intentional day off of them all together. How much more overwhelmed can our teens get by social media? Here are some steps parents can take to safeguard their teen's social media lives.

Being a Teen is Hard

All parents know how hard it was to just be a "normal" teenager. We've all been there. But this new generation of teens have something we didn't have growing up, social media. Teens now have to deal with cyber bullying, sexting and all the ramifications that go with it all swirling in their hormone-filled lives.

As a parent, remember the pressure your teen is under. An attitude of understanding will help to bridge the gap between parent and teenager. It's hard to be a teen and even harder to be a parent of a teen, but there are ways to make it easier for everyone.

Role Parents Should Play

One of the best pieces of parenting advice I've ever heard is to give kids freedom within boundaries. This is true for kids as young as toddlers and also applies to teens active in social media. What teens crave most is freedom, and what parents crave most are boundaries. Both can be accomplished if we parents communicate well with our kids and enforce boundaries consistently.

There's is enough teenage drama in the world without tossing in Facebook, Twitter and Vine. Parents, have you heard of Vine? You better keep up if you don't. As tech savvy as teens are, parents need to be as up to date, if not ahead of the curve in order to know how to navigate their teen through a world laced with social media.

Teens don't know how to "turn it off", we adults have enough trouble with it. Teens need their parents {because they will never admit it} to flip the switch for them. Even responsible teens need these lines to be drawn for them, not just for their sanity, but for their safety as well.

Boundaries Parents Should Set

There are three conditions that parents must lay down before allowing their teens to enter the world of social media. In order to be most effective, all three they need to be followed together.

  1. The parent must know the platform {and have their own account} before their teen can have an account.
  2. The parent must follow their teen on that platform.
  3. The parent must know their teen's account password.
If these rules aren't followed together, the parent must must must be disciplined and consistent enough to enforce consequences {i.e. confiscating the device or removing access to screen time}. I know it is easier said than done. Remember "freedom within boundaries"? These are the boundaries. If your teen has already had a "private" account for a while, this road will be long and hard. If your teen is just starting to ask about these things, make sure you establish these boundaries from day one.                                                                                                                                                                                          

Tools Parents Can Use

With the danger of online predators lurking around every corner of the www, it's nice to know that there are smarties who have discovered ways to keep our teens safe when it comes to their social media.

MinorMonitor is a free web-based tool that gives a parent a quick, easy view into their child’s Facebook activities and friends, through knowledge-based analytics. Via an intuitive dashboard view, parents can access either a snapshot, or full detail and specifics, of potential dangerous activities such as bullying, hate crimes, drug use and sexual references.
What does that mean for parents? That means that if a middle aged man "friends" your teenaged daughter, her parents are going to know about it and can take steps to protect their teen from a potentially dangerous situation. MinorMonitor is free to sign up, free to use and should be openly discussed with your teen. This is another boundary parents must set. Here's a look at some of what MinorMonitor provides.
This is not a sponsored post! From one parent to another, I am sharing free tools that parents can use to keep their teens safe in a world that can be very dangerous. This is not to give you a reason to live {or parent} in fear. This is a means to start conversations and train your teens about the dangers of the outside world, and teach them about to think carefully about their impact on the world around them. Teaching them to control their technology is a powerful thing, gift it forward parents.

Do you monitor your teens social media activity? Do you implement other rules when it comes to your teens social media? Share them with us in the comments!
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Where Was Invisalign When I Was a Senior in High School?

I attended a blogger event recently where Invisalign made a presentation. They showed off the amazing new technology that they use to straighten teeth without the use of wire braces. You know what I kept thinking? Where was Invisalign when I was a senior in high school!?! I didn't get to take advantage of that new and innovative technology, so my senior year of high school was filled with wire-toothed pictures of me. Did it make my senior year any less awesome? Maybe a tad, but I do have lots of brackety pictures to show for it. Enjoy the throwback shots everyone!

My Senior Year filled with braces

A high schoolers senior year is supposed to be their best yet. A swan song full of good byes to the old and hellos to the new. One senior disappointment of mine was that I had to take the immortal senior pictures with a mouth full of metal.
I was a bit of an over achiever growing up {Surprised? I didn't think so}, so of course I was involved in many things during my high school career. All of which I am super proud of and would encourage any other high schooler to get involved in too. I was privileged to play varsity volleyball all four years of high school, among other sports. I was also in a women's show choir all four years and served as president of the group as a senior. Can you imagine how hard is it to play sports and sing with wires and brackets attached to your teeth?
The best thing that happened to me at the end of high school was I met my hubby the summer before I would be a big bad senior. That meant that we got to go to all my senior dances together! Him, me and my braces! I didn't realize how red my senior year was, that wasn't on purpose.

A New Era for Braces

As much fun as it was to dig up these photos and reminisce with you, I cannot help but be thankful that my son won't have to go through the pain of braces thanks to Invisalign. Like braces, Invisalign may be used by teens and adults, minus the wires and brackets of traditional braces. Invisalign is different, they use a series of nearly invisible, removable “aligners” that are used to gradually straighten teeth without metal or wires.
Thanks to amazing technology, metal braces can be a thing of the past. Invisalign uses 3D imaging and computer science to straighten teeth the same way braces do, but in a subtle and discreet way. Technology used for the greater good, I love it! 

I learned that when using Invisalign, patients often have less ortho visits and possibly a shorter treatment time overall. Also, a great {and potentially bad} thing about them is that they can be removed! Take them off to eat, brush and floss, but that should be it and you have to remember to put them back on.
This is the best illustration I can give you to show that technology is a tool. Use it to organize your home, your family life, and your teeth! If the time comes for my boy to get braces, you can be sure that I will spare him the pain and hassle that I had with traditional braces. Although, because I stopped wearing my retainers, I may need to use it myself! Sigh. Oh well. Good bye wires, hello aligners!

How was your experience with braces? Would you have used Invisalign if they were around when you needed braces? Let's reminisce together in the comments!

Disclosure: This is a “sponsored post.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value to write it. All opinions and high school pictures are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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