We have a baby in our house - a 2-month-old boy with healthy lungs who doesn't like to sleep when we do.

My wife and I have settled into a routine. We gently rock this baby to sleep by 11 p.m. each night, then carefully place him in a bassinet in the same room our two other children - a 6-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl - sleep.We then tiptoe to our bedroom, stepping on a floor-board that squeaks under our feet. That inspires slow, steady whimpers from the baby that quickly crescendo into full-fledged wails.

We repeat this process at half-hour intervals until about 2 a.m., when we're so tired we no longer hear the wails.

Until the other morning, the only time the baby didn't follow this pattern was on New Year's Eve. He fell asleep at 10 p.m. and slept until 6 a.m. We, however, sat in front of the television until 2 a.m. watching the movie we had rented to keep us occupied during the hours we expected to be holding the baby.

My wife and I haven't slept more than a few hours at a time since November.

During the days, we spend a lot of time sitting on our living room sofa, numbly granting permission for anything our other children want to do.

Child: "Daddy, can I color on these checks in your wallet?

Me: "Just as long as you leave me alone."

That's why I was trying to be extra quiet the other morning. I had to be at work early. For once, everyone in the house was asleep, including the dog. It would have been the perfect morning to read the newspaper while trying not to crunch my cereal.

Perhaps everything was too perfect.

When I opened the door to get the paper, an icicle fell on my head. I looked up and saw several more hanging from our rain gutter. I began knocking them down and accidentally swatted one into the vines surrounding our front door.

That vine happened to be the temporary home of a sparrow. Before I could react, the bird flew out of the vines and into my house.

My dog went nuts. He forgot everything I've taught him for the past year and a half. He was jumping on furniture, jumping on curtains, ignoring my pleas to be quiet.

He chased the bird up the stairs - directly into the room where our children sleep.

"Honey, we've got a little problem," I said, trying to wake my wife against the backdrop of mounting confusion.

She sat up in time to hear our boy shout, "Mommy! Daddy! There's a big moth in our room!"

We debated what to do. We thought about trying to cover the bird with a cardboard box, slipping the lid on before it flew out. But the dog made sure the bird never stayed still long enough. We thought about calling the city animal control people, but we weren't sure they were at work that early.

Finally, my wife grabbed a broom. Within minutes, she was chasing the poor bird through every room of the house, with our two older children and dog in tow.

We coaxed the bird through the front door and back into the wilds of suburbia.

In the end, I was late for work, sans breakfast. My wife was left to contend with two children who were up much too early. The dog never noticed the bird flying out the door. When I left, he still was running from room to room, jumping on furniture.

But the baby never stirred.