Tag Archives: family

Keith and Taylor’s Wedding

In the days following the wedding, my family had some conversations and disagreements about what exactly Tifie Ranch was. I thought it was just a regular campground and event center, until I remembered the “No Trespassing, Enter by Invitation Only” sign at the entrance. My Uncle Chad thought that some rich man had created it as a playground for himself and his friends, and Keith and Taylor had only managed to snag it as a wedding venue because they knew somebody.

There were no disagreements around the fact that it was beautiful.

We drove down the lane and into the ranch that Saturday afternoon, past the “Keith and Taylor –>” sign, and up to the young men who were pointing us toward the parking lot. Dad rolled down his window. “I have my father-in-law with me,” said Dad. “I was told I’m supposed to take him straight up to the amphitheater so that he doesn’t have to walk so far.”

After a conversation with a bearded guy in a red shirt, Dad drove off in the opposite direction of the parking lot. The road we were on seemed to peter out, so we turned right and drove up the hill on a road that ended…in a garage.

“This can’t be right,” we said to each other, as a garage generally indicates “this is a private residence” and “you shouldn’t be here.”

The bearded guy in the red shirt came walking up the hill. “I think this is right,” he said. “I think this is what they told me.”

Mom got out of the car, and she and the bearded guy walked up a set of stone steps to the left of the garage, and disappeared into the woods. We waited a few minutes, and then they came back.

“Was that it?”


Back to square one. We turned around, which was a bit difficult in the small space we were afforded, and drove back down the hill. There, a pickup met us. Mom and Grandpa climbed in, and the pickup shuttled them up another road, a steep gravel number that disappeared up into the woods. I was a bit confused about what was going on, because I was in the back of the van and couldn’t hear people’s conversations very well. But my siblings and I got out and followed some wedding guests up a footpath, and there was a pretty little amphitheater, and there were Mom and Grandpa, safe and sound.

Now, let me pause at this junction to tell you a little bit about my cousin Keith.

Keith’s two primary characteristics are first, that’s he’s always doing something, and second, that he makes his life as uncomplicated as possible. When I lived with him and his family in 2010 he was doing wrestling, and then he went to college and poured his energy into Ultimate Frisbee, and then after college he moved to Utah and took up rock climbing. He even went rock climbing the morning of his wedding, hurting his knee a bit.

Our mothers are sisters and best friends. When their mother, our grandmother, died a few years ago, all the Yoders gathered at my grandparents’ house that summer to go through their things, because Grandpa was moving in with my Uncle Marcus.

Yoders are notorious for rescuing things. My grandparents’ house had banana boxes of rescued peanut butter jars in the basement, and Velveeta cheese boxes of rescued ballpoint pens under Grandpa’s bed. Those of us who’s Yoder genes were diluted a bit made plenty of jokes about this, and Keith, who has barely any Yoder genes to speak of, mocked the most.

Faced with a houseful of stuff I could just take if I wished to, I ended up salvaging two skirts, a pretty tin, two purses, some decorative buttons, and a navy blue faux fur coat. “Did you get anything?” I asked Keith.

“Yes! I got a pizza cutter, because I lost mine. And I got a rolling pin. I’ve been using a wine bottle for two years.”

The story goes that in January, Keith met a girl named Taylor who, like him, was always doing something, and made her life as uncomplicated as possible. Nine months later they got married.

Their wedding, then, was like nothing I’d ever experienced.

First, it was small. There were maybe 75 people in that little amphitheater in the woods.

That arch was designed and built by a couple of Taylor’s friends, and decorated with wildflowers they’d picked from the woods that morning. All the flowers were picked from the woods, including Taylor’s bouquet.

Keith’s mom, my lovely Aunt Rebecca.

My Dad showed off his handsome new beard.

There were no bridesmaids. No groomsmen. Just Keith and Taylor and the preacher.

Keith’s friend Abe sat in a corner and strummed his guitar as people assembled, and then when the ceremony started, Keith’s brother Derek attached a cell phone to some portable speakers, and voilà! Music!

Taylor appeared on her Father’s arm, looking like a woodland fairy.


She and Keith stood on the platform and gazed at each other, while the preacher performed the ceremony.

“For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife,” said the preacher, and Keith turned and winked at his parents.

Everybody laughed.

That’s what I remember most about the wedding: the laughter. Unlike the last time one of my cousins got married, the guests at this wedding laughed. A lot. Taylor laughed. Keith laughed. It wasn’t a stiff formal affair, it was a fun happy time in the woods with relatives and friends and love.

Then the ceremony was over, and we wandered down the paths and across the little bridges to the reception venue.

Instead of a cake, or fancy catered desert, there was a large stack of delicious little pies from Walmart, in their tiny square boxes. There was tea, and beverage-unsuitable-for-Mennonites, and some ginger ale that quickly ran out because there were so many Mennonites.

We took family photos, which of course were missing the bride and groom, as they were off getting their own pictures taken.

big family

The Yoder Relatives

little family

My Family

And then the taco truck arrived, and that was our dinner. Tacos from a taco truck. Which was delicious and all, but it did make me wonder about how tacos because such a trendy thing to eat. Is there a trick to eating them without bending your head at an odd angle, taking too large of bites, salsa juice running down your chin, and taco filling splooshing out the other end onto your hand? Can one eat a taco elegantly?

In any case, it was yummy, and I suppose we all looked inelegant together.

Here’s a secret: When I got to wedding receptions, I usually feel like I should be having more fun than I am. I sit at a table with people I’ve known all my life, and gaze across the crowded noisy reception venue at people who are cooler than me and having much more interesting conversations than I’m having, wishing there was a way to join in.

This wedding receptions was different. I made more of an effort to move around and talk to different people, and I had a lot of relatives I hadn’t seen in a long time that I wanted to catch up with. Somehow this was made much easier by the fact that the crowd was so much smaller than I’m used to. I suppose there’s no real real way to achieve smallness at a Mennonite wedding unless you only invite your immediate family or have a destination wedding in a cold remote location, but it was nice all the same.

The sun set. Six of Keith and Taylor’s relatives and best friends gave toasts, and I raised my glass of sparkling cider.

Then Derek announced that the father daughter dance was happening soon, and I went outside to watch Taylor and her father dance in a little pavilion decorated with strings of lights. When I went back inside, the crowd was thinning, and most of my family had left.

“We should really go,” said Matt. “I need to go. My flight leaves early tomorrow morning.”

So we said goodbye and took our leave.

Drove back to our rental house, almost hitting a porcupine on the way.

And went to bed.

And that is the story of the lovely wedding in the Utah woods. Tomorrow I will write the last branch of the story, about the journey home.

Big World, Long Drive

“In short words, the reason I went to college was because I found that the more I learned, the bigger my world got, and I wanted my world to be the biggest it could be.”

-Amos Yoder, my grandfather

Monday evening we arrived at my grandpa and grandma’s house in Minnesota.  I hadn’t seen my mother’s parents for six years. In those six years I have become quite fascinated with my Grandpa’s life.

Grandpa lying down for a nap, reading himself to sleep just as I do.

As an Amish boy, Grandpa decided to go to college, and got his master’s degree. He remained Amish, and at the time was the only person ever to get a college degree and remain Amish. Since then there have been a few others, but there are still only a handful of people who have accomplished this.

Right now Grandpa is ninety-five and as sharp as ever. He is currently working on his memoirs, writing about the days he spent in Paraguay after WW2, helping Russian Mennonite refugees who were relocating to that area.

Needless to say, I was anxious to ask him about some of these things. Unfortunately he’s kind of hard of hearing, being ninety-five and all. But when I asked him why he went to college, he said the opening quote, which also sums up why I am in college.

Grandpa, Grandma, and four of their children

The first order of business was to introduce Grandpa and Grandma to Justice, their first great-grandchild. This was such an iconic family moment that every camera on the premises was flashing in their faces. Paparazzi jokes were made.

Of course we all gathered around the living room and chatted.

Yes, I know the picture is blurry, but it was the best I could find. I am stealing pictures from everyone’s cameras to do these blog posts, and I’m not really sure who took which pictures.

I found a whole bunch of pictures of feet, which I presume Fred took, as it seems like something he would do. This picture cracks me up because between Jenny and I there are three feet, and the middle one looks like it could belong to either of us.

The top half. I have tea. Does Jenny want it? Hmm.

Early Tuesday morning Amy, Dad, and Aunt Rebecca flew to their respective homes. Jenny, Mom, and I made applesauce for Grandma.

Wednesday, aka today, was the funeral of Susannah, the grandmother of Annette and Janet on their mother’s side. Mark and Janet cut their honeymoon short in order to come to the funeral, and it appears that since their wedding, both of them got sick with terrible colds. 😦

(I just realized that the above paragraph sounds like some of the stuff I read in my grandparent’s copy of The Budget. Wow. Okay, moving on.)

Mom, Jenny and I babysat baby Justice while Annette was at the funeral. I feel like an aunt to that child, not only because I changed his diapers, but because I have a weird urge to post millions of pictures of him on my blog.

But no, I’ll resist that urge.

Okay fine. Just one more.

Goodnight for now. Tomorrow I will post the last installment of this trip, about the road home.

Never mind. I wrote this up on Wednesday, as we were driving, but I couldn’t get both an internet connection and a charged computer battery at the same time and so I never posted it.

Here is a brief summery of how the drive home went:

Driving, driving, driving, carsick, driving, sandwiches from the cooler, driving, sleeping, sleeping, mom making you sleep in the back seat with Jenny so she can sit up front and sleep without getting kicked in the face, sleeping, getting kicked in the face, sleeping, waking, meeting Aunt Geneva in Spokane for breakfast, accidentally talking about my diarrhea problems in front of the waitress, driving, driving, carsick, driving, home.

The end. See you some other day when I have things to post about besides driving.

Weddings and Families

The point of our road trip was to go to my cousin Janet’s wedding. To understand what made this wedding so special, you will have to understand some things about my family.

First, when I post about family gatherings and hanging out with cousins and stopping in to see an aunt or a grandmother, I am almost always speaking of my Dad’s side of the family, the Smuckers. The Yoders, on my Mom’s side, are quite different. Managing to gather a group of Yoders in one place is rare, but oh so special.

Second of all, six years ago the Yoder family was rocked to the core when my cousin Leonard committed suicide. Leonard has two sisters: Annette, who was married at the time of his death but was unable to have children, and Janet, his little sister who looked up to him more than anything.

This summer, God has been redeeming and blessing the Yoder family in a way that is amazing to behold. First of all, after seven years of frustration and tears, Annette and her husband Jay were able to adopt a breathtaking baby boy named Justice Creed. Secondly, Janet is getting married. The family that lost a son is gaining a son-in-law. The girl who lost the man who she looked up to now has a man to look after her and care for her the rest of her life.

There is our cast of characters: Janet the bride. Marcus and Anna, the parents of the bride. Annette and Jay, the sister and brother-in-law of the bride. And Justice, the adorable loveable nephew of the bride.

My Aunt Anna with her grandson, Justice Creed.

Rounding out the cast list are me, my parents, and my siblings Matt, Amy, and Jenny. Also, my uncle Fred and my Aunt Rebecca. Fred, Rebecca, Mom, and Marcus are all siblings.

And now, for pictures.

Amy, Jenny and I dressed in wedding finery. I had to stand just so on that dock so my stupid spindly heels didn’t go down the cracks. I just knew that if there were any handsome single men at that wedding they were going to think, “oooh, she’s the kind of girl who buys shoes she can’t walk in. So not interested.”

My real excuse is that I’m too cheap to buy myself nice white sandals, and instead borrow my sister’s and wobble.

Apparently I tried to delicately punch uncle Fred while we walked into the church. This picture just cracks me up.

The only camera I have access to right now is my Mom’s, which doesn’t have good pictures of the ceremony. However, I decided to post one blurry one, with notes telling you who is who.

Finally, a good picture of the cute-handsome-nice-funny-amazing-affable-benevolent couple.

Uncle Fred takes a picture of bridesmaid Annette in her beautiful wedding finery.

The bridal table. Janet the bride looks intently at her chair. Annette and Jay look intently at baby Justice. The two random members of the bridal party also look at their chairs, which leads me to believe that the whole lot of them wanted to sit down.

After the wedding was over, and Janet and Mark were safely off on their honeymoon, mom and aunt Rebecca went over to the place where Annette was staying so they could hold beautiful baby Justice for the first time.

Aunt Rebecca holding/loving Justice.

If only I had brought my own camera, or charged my droid and dragged it around with me, I could have brought you pictures of the summits I climbed, the lakes I canoed across, and the sunsets I observed during my short two days in beautiful Canada. But I didn’t. So I can’t.

I can, however, post a few more pictures of the good family times we had this afternoon.

Dad holds Justice.

Marcus, me, Jay, and Annette sit around a table, intending to talk to each other. However, we just cannot keep ourselves from staring at Justice instead.

Now, here is a twist in the good old plot. Jay, Annette, and Justice were planning to fly back to Pennsylvania tomorrow, while the rest of the Yoders (minus Janet, obviously) went back to Minnesota for a bit of family time with Grandpa and Grandma.

However, this morning, the day after Janet’s wedding, Janet’s Grandma on her Mom’s side died. Which means that Annette and Justice are coming to Minnesota as well, and Janet is cutting her honeymoon short and coming down for the funeral.

Although they’ve been expecting her death for a while now, it strikes  me as such a bizarre turn of events. A wedding, and then a funeral, all in one trip. Granted, I didn’t know the woman who died, and therefore probably won’t go to the funeral. But for Marcus, Anna, Annette, and Janet it will be. A birth, a marriage, and a death, all in one summer.

I must get to bed, as I am road-tripping to Minnesota tomorrow. Prepare for more styles and miles coming your way.

A Year of Family Quotes

Cast of Characters:

Dad (Paul)

Mom (Dorcas)

Me (Age 21)

Ben (Age 18)

Steven (Age 17)

Jenny (Age 12)

Omitted from this are my siblings Matt, 25, and Amy, 23. They were both out of the house most of last year so I didn’t get quotes from them.

And now, without further ado…

A Year of Family  Quotes

Steven: I’m not a wedding expert dude thingy! Don’t ask me!

Jenny: What’s this book about? A girl discovers that she is actually a princess so she is excited at first but then she has to do all this stuff she doesn’t like?
Me: Um, yes. Did you read the book?
Jenny: No, I looked at the picture on the cover.

Mom: Do you guys like your cookies to be chewy?
Ben: I prefer my cookies to be more Han Solo.

Me: (whiney voice to my laptop) Why are you not connected to the internet?
Jenny: Emily, you’re annoying me.
Me: It’s just my voice. It annoyed me too.
Jenny: You’re also squishing me.
(later, after I had laughed and repeated her lines)
Jenny: You’re going to put that on facebook now, aren’t you?
Me: Do you want me too?
Jenny: NO!! YES!!! I love the publicity!

Me: (to Jenny) Hey Schnitzelbonk! (I thought it was an endearment, like “cupcake”)
Jenny: Why did you just called me a “workbench” in Dutch?

Me: Mom do you want more fabric?
Mom: That’s like asking Michael Jackson if he wants more drugs.

Jenny bought some crickets at a pet store, but she ultimately decided to let them go, and save the carrier they came in for a “bug abode.”
Me: Why would you want to keep bugs when they have a nice home outside?
Jenny: I might want to observe their behavior.
Me: Did you observe the behavior of the crickets?
Jenny: Well, I noticed that they like to hide. And they poop a lot.

Mom: (looks at me with big eyes, like she’s just discovered the secret of the universe) I guess if you just take facts, and embellish them any way you want, you can write a story!

Steven: If Spencer married you, I’d shoot him.
Me: No you wouldn’t! Spencer’s a nice guy.
Steven: Exactly.

Ben: I’m like a walking wikipedia. I may not always have very good sources but I seem to know a lot.

Jenny: If I were like, weird, and not a Christian, I would whack your butt.

Me: Jenny, do you like all books?
Jenny: (thinks for a bit) No, I didn’t like Ben-Hur.

Jenny: It wouldn’t take as much make-up to make you look like a vampire.
Me: Um, thanks?
Jenny: I guess that didn’t really sound like a compliment.

Steven: (squeezing his water bottle) Hey look! The water’s heaped up! I’m heaping water!
Me: You’ve never seen water heaped up before?
Steven: Yes I have! I’m just showing you the science of magic!

Dad: So, do you think you could help me out in school on Monday October 31’st?
Me: Sure. Can I wear a costume?
Dad: Why? Because it’s Valentines Day?

Me: Steven, you’re weird.
Steven: Your face is weird.
Me: Your…hands are weird.
Steven: My hands?
Me: Yeah. They’re half black and half white.
Steven: (doing jazz hands) Showtime!!!

Dinner conversation at the Smuckers, Act 1, scene 1
Steven: What’s a Zombie’s favorite food?
Jenny: What?
Steven: Gravy.
Me: Oh, I get it! Grave-ee.
Ben: That was really lame.
Steven: Just popped into my head.
Dad: I’m lost.

Ben: That thing was chunky.
Me: What was?
Ben: The half-and-half. It was half liquid and half solid.

(Jenny and I are talking, mom is getting annoyed.)
Mom: Can’t you two like, write notes or something?
Jenny: Uh, you mean text, right?

Mom: Ben, did you know you were baby Jesus one time?
Ben: Is that when you first started to see my great acting talent?
Jenny: Ben was baby Jesus?? Where?
Dorcas Smucker: At Birchwood Christian School, at Dryden.
Ben: I was an AWESOME baby Jesus! I tore it up as Baby Jesus! I OWNED that role!

Steven:It’s gonna beep!
Fire alarm: Beep, beep, beep!!!
Me: Steven, what did you push??
Steven: There’s a fire! Hee hee hee
Me: (very annoyed) Steven, WHAT DID YOU PUSH?
Steven: I pushed your buttons.

Mom: Paul, the ceiling’s leaking again, can you go holler at Steven in the shower?

Mom: (Bursting into my room, waving a newspaper in my face) The newspapers are full of RAVE REVIEWS!!
Me: Wha…? There’s a review of our play in the newspaper?
Mom: No, I just feel like that’s what would happen in a movie.

Mom: You know you’re truly in a Mennonite home when you need a booster seat for your child and they pull out the Martyr’s Mirror to sit on.

Me: Today someone asked me if I have a serious boyfriend.
Aunt Barb: And you said, “no, I have a funny one?”

Me: (facebook stalking girls at EBI) Well, *confidential name* looks cute.
Ben: Are you saying that just because she likes 7 Brides for 7 brothers?

Me: I’m feeling apprehensive.
Jenny: (whispering) Tell me what that means and I’ll feel sorry for you!

Me: Watch out for that car!
Steven: Oh, that’s the same lady I cut off before.
Me: She probably hates you by now.
Steven: I love her.

Jenny: What would it be like to get a tongue transplant? Everything would taste different.

Mom: You’re long waisted.
Steven: What does that mean?
Mom: It means if you were a woman you’d be lucky because you’d be able to breathe during your pregnancy.
Steven: TMI

Dad: Hey, maybe we’ll have a sunny day today!
Jenny: No we won’t. I saw a low-hanging cumulonimbus cloud.
Me: Why do you have to be so smart??
Jenny: And there’s a strong South wind.

Ben: (talking about EBI in an exaggerated British Accent) You go outside one day, and say, “By George, it smells like oil!” Then you go outside another day and say, “Great Scott, it smells like turkey farms!”

Me: (flipping through the JCPenny catalogue) Hey Ben, wanna lend me 100 bucks that I won’t pay back?
Ben: Well, I think I’ll have to pass on that offer.
Me: But you’d get to see me walk around in such pretty clothes!
Ben: It would be a bad return on investment.

Ben: Are you writing in your journal?
Me: Yeah.
Ben: I’ll bet if I stole it, someday it would be worth as much as the diary of Anne Frank.
Me: Awwwwww that’s such a nice thing to say!
Ben: But you’d have to die within the next three months in some tragic way.

Me: Its weird how close that camp is to civilization. I mean, its just right outside of town.
Ben: Well I don’t know, some people wouldn’t consider Sweet Home to be “civilization.”

That’s all for today, folks. Tune in tomorrow for another episode of The Famous Nobodies!