This is the language I am speaking a lot right now. Having left for China with a couple useful phrases ("I love you" and "hello" and "thank you"), my vocabulary has increased exponentially. (Of course given where I started from, I realize this isn't saying a whole lot.) I know pronouns, some verbs, and some adjectives, and if you were to see the list, they would tell you far more about my daughter than my language abilities. We all tend to learn what is useful and relevant and that is what I have done with Mandarin. Thus, I know the words for "spicy", because H. does not like spicy food and is always checking whether something is spicy or not before she tries it. I know "peanut" because H. loves peanuts. And I know the useful term, "bu shir" which pretty much means no. And "bu" also negates things which can also be useful.
H.'s English vocabulary grows each day as well. (Far faster than my Mandarin vocabulary ever did.) She also tends to focus on the useful words... happy, sad, yummy, owie, hold on. (Having a child learning a language from you results in finding out which phrases you use a lot. I evidently say 'hold on' more than a couple times a day. Still wondering if that's good or bad.) Anyway, each day it becomes just a little easier to communicate.
This communication does take on some odd sounding phrases, though. I find I speak in a combination of English and Mandarin. Phrases that would probably make other people squirm. For instance, H. is now letting me brush her teeth (Hallelujah!), but she is still very disturbed by all the blood. A friend gave me a very soft toothbrush for me to try. To show H. that this toothbrush might not hurt so much, I made a big deal about showing her how soft it was in comparison to the other toothbrush we were using. In doing so, I found myself using phrases such as "bu owie". Which made me laugh inside, but H. understood. I live a funny life.
One last interesting tooth brushing story... to help with the whole tooth-brushing-thing, I had H. watch as I scrubbed K.'s teeth. When he spit into the sink, I showed here that there was no blood, to reinforce what my interpreter-friend had told her that eventually her gums would heal. When she looked and saw that there was no blood (after what she probably thought was a particularly strong tooth brushing), she was amazed. Truly, it was nothing short of a minor miracle in her book. Perhaps these crazy people really do know what they are talking about.
I have a new article up at Heart of the Matter Online about Adoption and Homeschooling.