MAN OF THE HOUSE

What do you do with a growing hamster family? Give them away

We are wealthy with hamsters. Some families have no hamsters at all (which must leave a real hole in your heart). We have nine hamsters. Let me explain.

As luck would have it, there is some sort of Cone of Fertility that hangs over our little home. Here, under the Cone of Fertility, one little acorn leads to a thousand trees. One little kiss leads to a thousand kids. And one little hamster? Welcome to America's fastest-growing city: Hamsterdam.

Two weeks before Thanksgiving, the little guy received a dwarf hamster as a gift from one of his big brother's friends. Dwarf hamsters, as you might guess, are the Mini Coopers of the breed, smaller than regular hamsters and almost toylike.

"Why a hamster?" the little girl asked.

"Because they were all out of skunks," I guessed.

One of the new varmint's first acts was to bite my wife -- so we had that in common. (If she were any sweeter, she'd be a Godiva store.)

The hamster's second act was to run with reckless abandon in his little hamster wheel. Humans have jobs, hamsters have little wheels in which they run round and round, getting nowhere. Same principle.

"He's so cute," the lovely and patient older daughter noted.

"Can we oil that wheel?" I later ask, since the squeaky wheel tends to go all night. Squeak. Squeak. From down the hall, I can hardly hear myself gasp for oxygen, the way I usually do all night long.

"I already oiled it," Posh explained with a shrug.

Apparently, hamster wheels are designed to squeak. It adds to the hamster's sense of purpose.

Squeak, squeak . . . squeak, squeak, squeak. I could barely hear the lovely and patient older daughter come in at 3 in the morning.

Little did I realize our hamster was preparing for a long and painful labor. I assume it was painful, because women are always describing childbirth that way. Wimps. I mean, childbirth can't be worse than the killer hangover I had after the USC-UCLA game. Or the soreness I experienced after moving the older daughter's stuff home. An IKEA bed frame is made primarily of old sponges and balsa wood. But moving 400 crates of shoes will really catch up with a guy.

Anyway, on Thanksgiving morning, the hamster gave birth to eight little peanut-sized babies. I assume it was a natural delivery, since no doctor was on duty. Till that moment, we were pretty sure she was a he.

"Oh, my God," Posh said, as if God has anything to do with hamster births. I'm pretty sure he keeps busy easing human suffering or answering the prayers of all those "American Idol" contestants.

"Oh, my God," said the little guy.

"Oh, my God," said everyone who saw the hamster cage.

That's the day Hamsterdam was founded. Hamsterdam, population 9 ("The City That Never Sleeps").

At the yard sale that weekend, we put up a sign offering "FREE BABY HAMSTERS. FREE!" and got one offer. Since then, Posh has been running one of the world's most sophisticated hamster-human dating services, trying to match up the baby hamsters with potential homes.

CHICAGO