When Mazzy was about three months old, getting her to smile for the camera was the easiest thing in the world. Smile was the first word she seemed to understand, and as my daughter, this made perfect sense. She would be sitting there expressionless, you'd stick a camera in her face, say smile and *POP* ear to ear grin. Every. Time. (See above).

Then at some point Mazzy either got wise to the camera, wanted to touch the camera too badly or became too involved with moving in every direction imaginable for me to get a decent shot. She will look beyond adorable, dressed up in some killer baby outfit, smiling her heart out but when I announce "I have to take a picture!" the smile disappears, Mazzy's on the go and I am left to chase her around the apartment making ridiculous noises to get her to look in my direction. I could make a noise that sounds like a hyena getting runover by a tractor driven by a rooster and if the camera is in my hand, the baby will not even blink (at this point I could give Michael Winslow from Police Academy a run for his money). My next option is usually to snap my fingers near the lens as if the baby is up for Best of Breed in a dog show. If I'm lucky this works once and then she is off again. Most of the time our chases end with me on the floor and Mazzy in my face attacking the camera, like we're constantly reenacting scenes from the life of Sean Penn.

For every good picture I post on my blog, I have about 250 that look like this:


But then two nights ago, I was feeding Mazzy dinner. Chicken, string beans, and some sweet potato. She was not interested. I looked in the fridge and found some cheese. (I'm not a big cheese eater so this was the first time I was giving some to the baby). I gave her a little piece and she seemed to enjoy it so I smiled and said CHEESE. She smiled back and tried to copy me. So I said it again. CHEESE. She smiled wider, tried her best to repeat me. I said it again. CHEESE. At this point, Mazzy cracked up. I've mentioned this before but Mazzy does not laugh. She smiles all the time (just not at the camera) but when it comes to that coveted baby belly laugh she just won't go there. We tickle her, bounce her around, give zerberts, make funny faces, but we've only had the pleasure of hearing a stifled little chuckle a handful of times. I figure either she's got no sense of humor or she's got such an incredibly superior sense of humor that my husband and I are not meeting her high standards for funny. In any case, here I was saying CHEESE and much to my delight, Mazzy was cracking up.

The next day, Mazzy was once again looking especially cute in yet another killer outfit and I, of course, announced— We need a picture! So I got the camera and tried and tried and tried to get a decent shot. I got this:


And then I had a thought. I'll try the cheese thing. CHEESE. Mazzy stopped. Looked at me. CHEESE. She gave a little smile. CHEESE. Her smile got even bigger. CHEESE. She started laughing. *CLICK* *CLICK* *CLICK*


I mentally patted myself on the back for my obvious maternal brilliance. So excited was I with this newfound trick, I pushed my luck and tried it again. Mazzy— SAY CHEESE. It wasn't till that moment that I made the connection. I hadn't discovered the key to successful baby picture-taking. Parents have been saying "CHEESE" when taking pictures of their kids since the beginning of time! I am no genius. I AM A COMPLETE MORON.

But next time I see Sean Penn on the street? He doesn't stand a chance.