They tackle everything together! When you are a family of 10 and have a child with special needs, you have no choice but to be a team. “
Adam isn’t the typical dad. He can and does do everything I do for the kids,” said Loren Cooley of her husband, Adam. The Cooleys have been married for 13 years. “I organize and run the household. Adam makes sure that what needs to be done is done. Believe me, that list can be long.”
Loren and Adam have eight children together, the oldest being 12 and the youngest recently turning one. Most would agree to have eight beautiful children and driving a 12-passenger van is pretty unique in and of itself, but the couple also has their son Jaxon, who was diagnosed with non-verbal autism at two years old. “
My journey has been very unexpected but appreciated. Not only am I a mother, but I am also a special needs mother… two very different things,” Loren shared. “Learning of my son’s diagnosis changed my life, my family’s lives, our future, and the lives of others that we hadn’t even met yet. Our life revolves around my Jaxson even though we have seven other children.”
Cooking in the household is something Loren loves to do. The children will jump in and get involved in the process, especially when Pizza Pasta is on the menu. This is a family favorite; they often make two pans, so there is enough for everyone to eat and have leftovers.
Cooking for a large family often means that not everyone will eat what’s for dinner. However, with the exception of Jaxson, this is one meal the whole family looks forward to. “
Every night and day, Jaxson eats the same meal: Banquet popcorn chicken with a side of ruffled potato chips,” said Loren. He doesn’t waiver from this meal, even if the family is away from home all day or on a family vacation. “We bring his bag, Toy Story plate, chicken, chips, and water.”
When the family isn’t eating at home, they often opt for buffets where everything is quick and there are many options. But, even then, Jaxson will have his bag packed and ready to go. “
My kids and the family we have created bring me the most joy. Is our family crazy? Yes, absolutely…but it is a beautiful kind of crazy,” Loren said. “Our dynamic can sometimes be wild, but the love is high. We keep God at the center and hold on to him as tightly as we can. God blessed us with this family and entrusted us to care for these littles. We want to glorify him and do the best we can. Our special needs baby, now growing to be a beautiful young man, has blessed us beyond what I could have imagined. Jaxson is a light to so many. I always want to share parts of his story to be a glimmer of encouragement.”
The Cooley’s Pizza Pasta
• Two rolls of sausage (one hot, one mild)
• One 5 oz bag of small pepperoni minis
• Mozzarella chunks (your desired amount)
• 4 cups shredded mozzarella
• 8 cups Colby Jack shredded cheese
• 2 boxes bow tie pasta
• 2 66 oz jars of Ragu spaghetti sauce
1. Brown and drain sausage, set to the side.
2. Cook pasta as directed on the box, and set aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl, add toppings (sausage, pepperoni minis, any others you desire), mozzarella chunks, spaghetti sauce, the Colby Jack shredded cheese, and the pasta.
4. Mix and divide into two greased cooking pans. (I add spices to taste, including oregano, garlic powder, and onion powder.
5. If you want it spicy, go ahead and add red pepper flakes.)
6. Cover with mozzarella shreds and top with pepperoni like a pizza.
7. Bake at 350 for 50 minutes or until bubbly
Note: You can also add olives, bell pepper, onion, Canadian bacon and any pizza toppings you want. It’s a super fun dish to make with kids.
Gabriele has been married to her husband Daniel for 16 years. Together they have three incredible children – two boys, ages 15 and eight, and a sweet girl who joined the family last summer. She is a full-time Pink Cadillac Sales Director for Mary Kay Cosmetics. When she isn’t spending time with family or building her business, she supports her husband who is the Lead Pastor and Planter of Forward Church in Foley.