Six years ago, Mike Brostowitz received a phone call that would change his family's life. A social worker called about a group of four siblings who needed a forever home.
Mike and his wife, Dawn Brostowitz, who live in Nekoosa, Wisconsin, had just started the formal process of getting a foster care license with the intent of adopting. At the time, their biological sons, Austin and Leo, were 10 and 12.
"We were very, very open with our social worker that we wanted to adopt," Dawn said.
When Mike called Dawn to share the news, he asked if she was sitting down.
"And I instantly asked, 'What did you break or buy?' Because I knew he did something," Dawn said.
Despite the surprise of four siblings, the couple spoke with two of their former foster moms and immediately felt there was something special about the kids. That feeling was confirmed when they met the four siblings -- Bruce, Autumn, Annissa, and Atlantis -- for the first time on a short weekend visit.
After gaining a temporary license, the siblings moved in nine days later, according to the couple. In that time, Mike said he rearranged the entire house and even started to build an additional bedroom to make them feel at home.
"When they showed up for the weekend visit, they saw the house under construction, and the kids got to go with us that weekend and pick out the colors for the rooms and all their bedding. So when they would show up, the rooms were together, everything was there," Mike said.
The following June, in 2017, the Brostowitzes officially adopted the four siblings and their family of four doubled to a family of eight. While the Brostowitzes said they were overjoyed, having six children comes with challenges, from schedules to finances and adjusting to the new family dynamic.
"All of a sudden we get a whole new family added to ours and that adjustment period was really interesting," said their son, Austin.
However, with a supportive network of family and friends to help, they family created balance. They even had other foster children come live with them for periods of time, including at one point an additional group of five foster kids, filling their home with eleven kids, at some points.
"I'm happy to have a great family that took us in and is able to give us a loving home that we never thought we would have," said Autumn, 16.
The meaning of family
The Brostowitzes say the years have taught them something meaningful about family.
"When we started prepping for fostering, we said that any kid that comes into our house is going to be treated the exact same as our biological children," Mike said. "They were loved equally, they got to do and experience the same things as our biological children and I think that was a very strong building point for our family."
Family isn't blood. Family is the people you choose to be around.
"The ... four [children] that we adopted are my kids, no matter what, they're my kids, I may not have given birth to them. But they are 100% my kids," Dawn said of their bond.
Celebrating their 'familly-versary' with matching tattoos
The Brostowitzes say they also have their own ways of celebrating each other. One way is through a "family-versary" dinner in February to mark the day Bruce, Autumn, Annissa and Atlantis first moved in.
To commemorate becoming a legal family, this year, Mike and their sons all got tattoos of the day -- June 23, 2017 -- in Roman numerals.
"We all got the adoption date tattooed on our bodies as a sign of family isn't blood. Family is the people you choose to be around ... who you choose to be with," Austin said.
Dawn and their daughters, Autumn, 16, Annissa, 13 and Atlantis, 10, have plans to follow suit when they're older.
"When the girls get older, I said I would get one with them. And it's something they all agreed on," Dawn said.
In November, to mark National Adoption Month, Dawn said the family shares their story to show the importance of foster care and adoption in hopes to inspire others.
"I tell anybody who will listen our story, because if we can do it, anybody can," she said. "Even if you think you can't do it, you really can. It's all about changing your priorities, changing your lifestyle."
"I'm happier with my siblings in my life than without them. I can't imagine how different everything would be if I didn't have them," Austin said.