Noe Valley Voice June 2000

More Mouths to Feed: Camille Rae Kelly

Francine and Sean Kelly gave birth to their daughter, Camille Rae Kelly, on March 15, 1999. "It was short and intense," says Francine, in describing her 12-hour labor and delivery.

"We had all these labor nurses as I kept progressing in labor, and the one that walked in had big, huge orange clown shoes on, and spiked white bleached hair. Sean said, 'This is the one we're getting.' And sure enough, this Bozo nurse turned out to be our labor nurse. But she also turned out to be great. So it was a good omen to see the clown shoes coming in."

The Kellys' beautiful 6-pound, 6-ounce bundle of joy arrived at 9:36 p.m.

"We had a really great time. It was like camp," Francine says. The couple enjoyed the TLC from the staff at California Pacific Medical Center, and Dad got to bunk out with Mom for their two-day stay.

Baby was actually named in a roundabout fashion. Her nickname "Mimi" was selected first.

"We've just been calling the baby Mimi forever," Francine explains. "Before we even got married, we decided we were going to have a baby named Mimi. So then we thought, Okay, how are we going to find a legit name to go with that?"

Then they came up with "Camille," from the play by Alexandre Dumas. "I'm an actor, and it turns out Mimi's a big ham, too," says Francine. "She's really happy and likes to interact with everybody. She'll share a joke and smile at you in a certain way."

"She's into our antics," agrees Sean. "You can do a silly song-and-dance and then hide behind the refrigerator, and she'll look at you with a sly little look."

Their daughter's middle name, Rae, is a derivative of Rachel, a name from Sean's family tree. Mimi's more contemplative side may have roots there.

"Sean is really mellow," says Francine. "He can sit and kind of Zen out and space out. Mimi's great because she's really mercurial and active and all, but she's pretty cool just sitting in his lap in the morning when he reads the paper."

With her blond-brown hair and brown-green "chameleon" eyes, Mimi is "a cool combination of the two of us," Sean says.

"We expected a little black-haired baby. We thought I would definitely dominate things," Francine says. "She was a surprise all the way, which is fine with me. I like what we got."

Mimi's grin reveals eight teeth, "and plenty more coming in. I'm sure we'll hear about it," Sean quips. All the better for tackling those string beans, broccoli, and cauliflower.

"She's really a veggie head," says Mom. "I hope it doesn't change. We were having dinner the other day and we were eating bowls of steamed vegetables with rice, and she just had to have some. We thought it was funny because what kid insists on sharing your zucchini?"

Francine, 34, a drama teacher at the American Conservatory Theatre (ACT), and Sean, 32, owner of a small health-food business, met through a mutual friend in San Francisco in 1992. They became friends and roommates, and a romance blossomed. They bought their house on Surrey Street in Glen Park in 1996 and were married the following year.

The Kellys are thrilled that they can each stay on the career track and still provide full-time care for their daughter. "I guess we're relatively unique," Sean says. "We're either both at home most of the day, or we're handing her off between the two of us. It's been wonderful that we have the flexibility to do it this way. As long as we manage it right, it works out great."

"I'll teach a three-hour class, and then I'm racing home because I miss her," Francine relates. "I feel extremely blessed that she's so close to both of us, and that she and her dad have such an incredible bond."

Mornings find Mimi joining the Noe Valley stroller parade. "We'll go get our cappuccinos, and she gets her juice," says Francine. "Twenty-fourth Street has a lot of babies on the strip, so she can feel at home and get a baby bagel up there."

Sometimes mom and daughter team up with 11/2-year-old pal Liam Schroth and his mother Leslie for day trips in the Schroths' SUV. "We pack them in the back and go up to Sacramento or Davis, just to get them out of the city."

On weekends, Mimi gets all dolled up for visits with Grandma, Katie Torres, who comes by to take her granddaughter out for a stroll, shopping, and lunch.

Jaunts over to Day Street Park are also part of Mimi's ritual. "The Rec and Park Department has a great setup, with story time and Kids' Gym," says Francine. "She especially loves the songs. She can do the hand motions to 'Itsy Bitsy Spider' and 'Wheels on the Bus.'"

Mimi, at 14 months, has recently graduated from crawler to toddler status. And she's erupted with "a word explosion," says Francine. Spicing up her vocabulary are Daddy, Mommy, baby, apple, and the ever popular uh-oh. "You say a word, and she instantly repeats it back to you."

Mimi takes well to strangers, and likes to be with people. So naturally, "going out to dinner is her new favorite thing. We've learned to appreciate family-style restaurants. If they've got highchairs and a floor that looks like it can be cleaned, then we're there," laughs Francine.

"If we go to parties, we usually take her with us," Sean says. "The only thing we can't do is see a movie, unless it's at Tanforan. It's all families with kids. When we went to a movie before we had her, the noise level never settled. It was kids talking, screaming, and running up and down the aisle the entire movie. We were like, Okay, we can come here with a kid."

Wherever they go these days, they enjoy being a threesome. "People tell you how hard having a kid is, and it is very challenging," Francine reflects. "However, we're approaching it this way: we're going to be very mellow about things, and we're not worrying about them before they happen. And she has delighted us -- she goes to bed easily, she eats easily, she's happy.... She gives us back a lot.

"We try to look at the world through her eyes. Every day, she gives us something new to marvel at or appreciate."