Tessa’s smile

I’d like to show you a recent picture of Tessa, our three-year-old.

I know, let’s make this into a guessing game!

What is wrong with Tessa’s face?

a. she is about to sneeze
b. this is her new smile
c. bell’s palsy
d. epileptic seizure
e. she likes to impersonate pirates
f. Tessa is insane
g. both b. and f.

If you answered a., b., or d. it means that you think I have normal children who might just be afflicted with illness, and may God bless you for that generosity of thought. But you’re wrong.

If you answered e., that she likes to impersonate pirates, it means you think my children are normal children who like to play make-believe just like any other normal children, and may God bless you for that generosity of thought. But you’re wrong.

The correct answer is, in fact, g.

In other words, Tessa is insane, as evidenced by the fact that that picture is, for reals, her new smile.

I’m not kidding.

What I’m saying here is that Tessa seriously thinks that whenever someone holds up a camera and says “Okay, smile for me”


is what that means.

We cannot get her to stop. Usually.

That wouldn’t have been such a problem if it weren’t Christmastime when she learned her new, permanent trick. After a few photos, people started commenting “Tessa’s face looks really funny” or they started prodding her on as we do with children: “Come on, Tessa, smile for auntie! Come on! Don’t make that funny face! Just smile!”

Yet, she would continue with the funny face. Which was baffling until we realized that the funny face with a closed eye and the contorted lips was what she did when she was trying to smile.

Frustrated Adult: Tessa. Smile. Smiiiiiiile! Come on and smile!
Tessa: I am smiling!
As families are wont to do at Christmastime, we decided to dress up in red clothes and go to a portrait studio for pictures (when we weren’t vomiting everywhere). But, we soon realized that we had a problem. The smile was showing up for our professional pictures. There would be a group of people all together, smiling and looking lovely, but then we’d notice that one of those things was not like the other. One of those smiles just wasn’t the same:
Yes. The smile appeared even here.

We thought we were doomed. But then, we discovered a trick–we found an antidote to the smiling problem.
It was very simple, really. In order to get Tessa not to contort her face like a hacked up plastic surgery addict, all you had to do was not tell anyone to smile. Thus we got this:
Solution: don’t ask Tessa to smile. And she will look as somber as a funeral. And various other people will not smile either.

Obviously this was not an optimal solution, but it was good as it was going to get. Or so we thought. However, as we were rounding out our photo session, and in the nick of time, Lolly uncovered another solution. A solution that was perfect! It got Tessa to stop making pirate face, and it also allowed her to show us her big, beautiful Tessa smile with a bazillion teeth.
She discovered the two words–very common as they are for pictures–that must be used: “Say cheese!”
And then 

A picture of Tessa with a perfect smile
And with that discovery, we got pictures with Tessa looking oh so very cute.
And Christmas was saved.
The end.


  1. That's hilarious! No matter what look is on her face she is adorable. Years down the road when she gets married you will have to have her make that face in a picture. Better yet have everyone else make that face. I love seeing your family's personality come through! And yay you posted. Your family has been in my prayers.

    1. I have to agree with every word in this comment. And add that… well, some of us in the world… well… it isn't such a good idea to tell us what to do because even when we mean well, it get's this reaction from us – especially something nebulous like "smile" that has a lot of meaning attached to it. Use the cheese sparingly – it too will turn into a demand she… um… may lose patience with. Not that I know any persons of this bent in my own family… of course. 🙂 Hugs…

  2. I love this. As the parent of children who at various times have done Pirate Face, Don't Make Me Smile Face and Zombie Hungry For Flesh Face, this is a life affirming and soothing thing to read. Thank you.

  3. This question has nothing to do with your cute daughter Tessa's smile. I wasn't sure where to post my question, so maybe you can help direct me in the future. I wanted to know how you felt about the article on sexual morality that was just published in the March 2014 issue of the Ensign by Elder Tad R. Callister. I'm also LDS and I have mixed feelings about it. I would very much like to hear your perspective from an LDS Therapist point of view. Thanks.

  4. Josh, I was laughing so hard I had to fill my kids in on the hilarity and then they cracked up also. Thanks for sharing Tessa's famous "contorted like a hacked up plastic surgery addict" (oh I lost it when I read that!!!) smile! Made us all smile :-). I love that you celebrate all things quirky and strange. Your family is adorable!

  5. My oldest daughter smiled for photos like that when she was three, too. I called it her Igor face. Considering all the other commentors who've seen "smiles" like that, maybe Tessa really IS normal. In a niche sort of way.

  6. This is hilarious!! Thanks for posting. All the pictures are precious and I bet she will love hearing this story as she gets older. Glad that you are back! 🙂

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