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.