We are over the moon to introduce you to our daughter, Nova Winter Larson! We are absolutely in love with her … she’s our Christmas miracle!
We became a family two weeks ago on December 4 at 10 a.m. in a government office in Changsha, China. We spent the first 11 days of our new life with Nova in China finalizing paperwork and waiting for her Visa before we traveled home last Friday and she became a U.S. citizen (woooo!!!!!). I feel like if we can survive that 14-hour flight together, we can survive anything … haha!
We had an amazing time in China. We fell in love with the country, the food and, of course, the wonderful people who took such good care of our little girl for the past two and a half years.
This photo was taken the first night we were “home” (in our hotel room). China adoptions happen all in one day, so when you meet your child, you are back to your hotel within hours and they are in your full-time care from that time forward. As you can imagine, this comes with so many advantages and definitely disadvantages as well. It was the most emotional time in our lives. The highs were so high and the lows were very low. At some point when we feel fully transitioned and settled here at home I’ll be able to put all that into words. But for now I’ll just tell you that adopting Nova was by FAR the best choice we’ve ever made in our lives, and we couldn’t feel luckier or more in love with her.
Today (when I am writing this) is our 15th day together and I swear to you that almost every day I say, “I think this was the best day of my life” … and it’s true every time. It just keeps getting better and better.
We are still getting to know Nova, seeing new sides of her personality every single day. She’s so hilarious. She loves music. When we first met her, the orphanage representatives who brought her to us told us that she is like a little adult, and that is so true. She copies everything we do, which is both adorable and terrifying. Haha!
Here’s a photo of Nova getting to know her gǒu gǒus (doggies). We’re so relieved she doesn’t fear them (that was one of our biggest fears) and they are warming up to each other slowly.
Now, to address a few questions I keep getting …
Yes, her hair was buzzed in the orphanage. Some orphanages do this to make it easier to care for the kids and I’m assuming to prevent lice. You can see her hair more clearly in this photo. It has already grown quite a bit in just two weeks. Nova’s hair and eyelashes are white, and yes that is the natural color she was born with. She was born with albinism, which effects the pigment in her skin, hair and eyes. Her eyes are extremely sensitive to bright lights (both natural and artificial) and that’s why we are teaching her to love her sunglasses (which she is doing GREAT at!) You can read a little more about albinism here.
I have also been getting a lot of questions about food. We know what she ate in her orphanage and we are still eating those foods everyday (she’s LOVES noodles), but not exclusively. While we were in China, we ate at a lot of hotel buffets and they’d always have a mix of Chinese and western foods, so we were able to try a lot of things in small doses, and so far we’ve only found a couple foods Nova DOESN’T like. She’s not picky.
Nova started to speak English words after four days of being with us. She currently speaks a ton of Mandarin. We felt lucky to have Mandarin speaking people all around us for 11 days to translate for us (and we still have people we can send videos to to translate, which is so wonderful to have!). We want Nova to continue to learn Mandarin. She loves her Chinese kids songs that we listen to every day. It’s so cute!
As far as English, her first word was “Dada,” which was crazy because we were saying bàba (Chinese) and papa, but then she just started saying dada on her own. One of her other first words was “Nova”! Today, she said her first three-word phrase (“Here you go!”).
Right now, she’s walking around our house all day saying, “Hello dolly. Hello dolly. Hello dolly.” Haha!
Watching her pick up language is honestly the most mind blowing thing I have ever watched. We’re keeping a journal of new things she learns each day and her milestones in bonding, and it’s been encouraging to zoom out and see how fast it’s all happening.
(From our first morning at home. I’ve never loved a grainy photo more!)
The most meaningful part of sharing our adoption story is hearing that other families and individuals are becoming aware, curious or interested in adoption. During our process, I became aware of so many little faces who are still spending this holiday season in their institution. It’s heartbreaking and it inspires me to do anything I can to spread awareness and support the children who are waiting. Some wait for longer than others. In our adoption group, there was a family adopting an 11-year-old boy and it was so incredible to see their family united!
Holt International (the adoption agency that connected us with Nova) has an incredible opportunity to give to these children during the holidays. You can choose all different things to give them, from education to food to blankets and coats. It would mean so much to me if you’d consider supporting children like Nova with a donation.
I hope you all have a lovely holiday and from the bottom of my heart, thank you for all the kindness and love and support you’ve shown to our family!!! Love you all – Elsie
P.S. You can read all my previous adoption story posts on my family blog. I am still on my maternity leave, but I’ll be back to regular posting here on ABM in January!
Credits//Author and Photography: Elsie Larson.