08/21/2015 02:09 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How We Survived Survival Mode


I've been staring at the grainy black and white baby video monitor for five hours watching for movement. The twins' first night of sleeping in toddler beds has been a relative success, following an hour of putting little bodies back into little beds repeatedly. Now that the cribs have gone it really feels like we're in a new parenting phase. It's funny how you can demarcate the stages of parenting by the stuff you have -- baby swing to exersaucer, bucket car seat to booster. There are hardly any vestiges of baby stuff in our house other than an errant teething ring lost in the bottom of a toy basket. We're definitely past the early years that can sometimes feel like survival mode.

A large part of success with our family of six -- 2-year-old twins, a 5- and 6-year-old -- centers around sharing sacrifice and gratitude. However, there are some habits and resources that really helped us get through the early years. I hope this list might be of use to our fellow parents still in the trenches draped in burp cloths, dark circles shadowing their eyes.

low and no-tech communication
Whether you have one baby or a brood, there's always a need to ask for help. Rather than yelling for something, my husband and I text each other. For times when the phone is out of reach we have a knocking system. Three knocks on the wall means, please come help me. Double three knocks means drop everything and run! Simple but effective.
I am so grateful for friends and family that answered many questions; sometimes I didn't feel comfortable asking something or didn't think a call at 2:30 a.m. would go over well. In these instances, I relied on this repository of all things parenting -- in particular feeding and nursing. While it won't win any design awards, it was a great help and encouragement.

dry erase markers
This may seem like an odd inclusion in this list, but dry erase markers have helped us disproportionally to their cost. We keep one in the medicine cabinet for sick days writing temperature and doses of medicine on the bathroom mirror. We also keep a marker in the kitchen to write reminders on the back splash tiles -- what lunch and dinner plans are, or what to slip in the backpacks.

I cannot count the hours we have rocked in our glider rockers with tired or ill or cuddly kids (or D., all of the above). I'm so glad we chose comfortable ones.

schedule templates
One of the most confusing parts of early parenting for me was figuring out when to do what during the day. Baby Center has a fabulous series of sample schedules by month for different family situations: SAHM, WFH, nursing, bottle fed, etc. We relied on these examples to patch together our daily routine. I also relied on this site to decode what all the surprisingly numerous parenting acronyms meant!

Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child
Trying to function while being sleep deprived is deeply challenging, going through nap transitions can feel like an epic and confusing battle, and bedtime routines can balloon into an intricate liturgy of tucking and books and kisses. This guidebook helped us with all things sleep-related. It remains my most often recommended parenting item by a mile.

Tomorrow afternoon someone is stopping by to purchase our cribs, and I have to admit I'm a little heartbroken to let them go. It might have been survival mode, but it was such a privilege and delight. Now back to check on my little sleepers in their big boy and big girl beds.