Noe Valley Voice September 2000

Christopher Joseph Carell

More Mouths to Feed

wants to show off your newest family member. If you have welcomed a new baby into the house, or adopted a teenager, please send your announcement to the Noe Valley Voice, More Mouths to Feed, 1021 Sanchez St., San Francisco, CA 94114. Or email us at We'd also appreciate a phone number, so we can arrange for the family portrait.


Aileen Carell went into labor during the wee hours of Halloween morning, 1999, which made the birth of her son, Christopher Joseph Carell, all the more memorable.

"You don't want to be in the delivery room on Halloween evening," says Dad, Rick Carell. "We had the Hell's Angels' party nurse."

"She had a risqué French maid's outfit tied to the front of her nursing scrubs," Aileen explains. "My water broke at 1:30 or 2:30 a.m., which was also when the time changed to daylight savings. So in addition to it being Halloween, all the clocks in the hospital were wrong. Every time someone came in to check my monitor, they'd say, 'Oh, this clock has to be adjusted,' and I'd say, 'No, the last person did it.' It didn't inspire a lot of confidence," she laughs.

Luckily, Dad was on hand in the delivery room at California Pacific Medical Center to record Christopher's dramatic entrance: Baby arrived at 10:12 a.m. (on Nov. 1), weighing 8 pounds, 8 ounces.

"Rick was so sweet," Aileen relates. "He was exhausted, so I sent him home after I got up to the room. And he came back so hyper, with flowers and champagne. He was calling everybody, and he couldn't wait to see Christopher. He was just very excited."

Aileen, too, was thrilled with the outcome. For one thing, it meant relief from the constant heartburn she'd experienced during the final three months of pregnancy. "As soon as he was out, the heartburn stopped, immediately," she says. "I remember going up to the postpartum room and thinking, I'm so glad I'm not pregnant anymore! And then I looked over at Christopher and thought, And wow, I have a baby, too! That's neat!"

Probably the most unusual aspect of Christopher's birth, says Aileen, was that he was a surprise. "After trying [to get pregnant] for about eight years, we'd given up. And then, three years later I found myself pregnant. When I got the test results, I just started crying, I was so emotional. We'd tried for so long, and done so many different things. And he's perfect. He's extremely healthy."

Rick and Aileen, both 44, met in 1977 while attending Brown University in Rhode Island. The couple moved to California in 1978 and got hitched two years later. After stints in Belmont, Calif., and in the Sunset and the Haight, they bought their home on Cumberland Street in 1985.

Rick now works as a software salesperson, and Aileen is a project manager for a commercial furniture company. They celebrated their 19th wedding anniversary on Oct. 25, just a week before Christopher was born.

Christopher has blond hair with red highlights, and his deep blue eyes exude vitality and joy. "He's a very happy baby," says Rick. "He trolls for chicks in the supermarket. He hangs out of the cart and engages people. Typically, we'll get stopped three or four times."

"I think he definitely gets his sociable personality from Rick," says Aileen. "Rick is very outgoing and loves to talk with people. I'm a bit more reserved."

Christopher quickly made friends with the folks at Pete's Cleaners on 24th Street, who were among the first to know that Aileen was expecting. "My mom told me that the dry cleaners are going to know you're pregnant before anybody else," she relates. "I'd started to buy maternity clothes, like big-banded pants, and sure enough, the first time I took them in to Pete's, they said to me, 'Baby?' So they were very excited for us." On Christopher's first visit, "they said, 'He's so happy and friendly, just like his father.' They gave him a present, a little musical toy that plays 'Take Me Out to the Ball Game.' I use that to get him to sleep."

Baby hasn't wasted any time in fine-tuning his motor skills. One morning, Rick and Aileen discovered their son had rolled over onto his stomach while in the crib. "It was like, 'Help! I've rolled over and I can't roll back!'" recalls Dad. To help him practice, Mom and Dad set up a blanket "runway" on the floor.

Then, the night before Father's Day, Christopher turned into a vigorous crawler. "He just took off all of a sudden," says Aileen. "He'd been working on it for a few weeks, and suddenly he made a straight shot for the kitchen. He crawled around the kitchen, and that night he woke up at midnight, starving."

"The following week he stood up in the crib," says Rick. "It was an eerie sight to see a pair of eyes peeking out over the crib. Every time you'd put him in the crib, he'd pull up and just stand there and laugh. He wouldn't go to sleep!"

Christopher also squeals with delight when, with Dad's assistance, he practices his high leaps, up and down in the air. "We're training him for a role in the Chinese acrobats," quips Rick. Another favorite trick is popping soap bubbles--with his head! Rick will blow bubbles in his son's direction while Mom guides Christopher through the air on a collision course with the bubbles.

But his parents remember a time when their son was not so easily amused. "It was hard the first few months," Aileen says, "because like most babies he did have a fussy hour at night."

"The hour of Diablo," Rick says. "I used to come home and he'd be screaming his head off. I'd have to put on Frank Sinatra really loud. It seemed to calm him down. I wanted to name him Francis Albert, but Aileen didn't go for that."

Christopher is much more even-tempered these days. "He gets up at 6:30 or 7:00, and we take him in the bed with us," Rick says. "Then he has a bottle, and after about an hour he falls asleep--what a life!"

Though still breastfeeding, Christopher has just started on solid food. "He has some unusual facial expressions when he tries something new," Rick says. "You can tell he doesn't like pears. The face he makes is just incredible."

As for outings, Christopher likes to toddle over to nearby Dolores Park, to schmooze with his buddies and test the playground equipment. And at the Carells' vacation home in Monte Rio on the Russian River, he likes to sit in Rick's lap and enjoy the old-fashioned tree swing. He's even been known to take a dip in the river. Though he enjoys the country, he's a bit wary of some new sights, says Aileen. "Rick had him out on the grass, which isn't like a lawn, it's like wild grass, and Christopher was upset because all the grass was taller than he was!"

When he's ready for action, Christopher joins Mom and Dad on hikes through Armstrong Woods or on visits to the Russian River wineries. "We go wine-tasting with him," Rick says. "He was the hit of the barrel-tasting in March."

Back at the ranch, "We put him in a stroller out on the deck while we're eating, and he falls asleep in it," says Aileen. "When the sun moves over, we just keep strolling him out of the sun."

One of the nice things about fatherhood, says Rick, is that "we get to be part of the 24th Street baby competition. It used to make me so jealous that I had no way to enter," he jokes.

"I've always said that if the Martians landed in Noe Valley, they would think the men had the babies," Aileen adds. "On Saturday morning, that's all I see is the men with their babies."

For Mom, one of the joys is "seeing Christopher progress and change. I'm overwhelmed by all that he has to learn just to get to the starting point in life, like talk and walk. And I realize he's going to do it all himself. I just have to provide the environment and the place for him to be."

"We feel very blessed," reflects Rick. "To be 44 years old and have a newborn.... I used to joke that I was the oldest guy in Lamaze class and that one day I'd be out there in a wheelchair on the soccer field."

"But like my sister said," Aileen reminds him, "maybe Christopher will be into ballet, and then you can sit in a nice comfortable chair." M

Voice 0009 Mouths Carell 415/552-0380 By Maire Farrington