Lois Yoder holds the newest member of her large family, Amy Nicole, born Feb. 15 at The Memorial Hospital in Craig. Lois has had 11 children in 17 years.

Photo by Shawn McHugh

Lois Yoder holds the newest member of her large family, Amy Nicole, born Feb. 15 at The Memorial Hospital in Craig. Lois has had 11 children in 17 years.

Yoder family of 13 counts its blessings


The Yoder family

Vernon — 45

Lois — 41

Lori — 17

Sheila — 16

Theron — 14

Bradley — 13

Melvin — 11

Jeffrey — 9

Wesley — 6

Judy — 5

Darlene — 3

Tonya — 11 months

Amy — 2 weeks

— Five-year-old Judy Yoder turned to her mother, Lois, and buried her blond head in a cotton printed dress that matched her own.

Silent tears started to roll away from the corner of her eyes as she shook her head.

Lois, 41, leaned in to her daughter and spoke soft words of consolation in Pennsylvania Dutch, a dialect of German carried over from early 17th century immigrants.

“It’s OK, Judy, you’re going to be the next girl to make a quilt,” Lois said in English once the girl had gathered herself. “You’ll get to make one all your own.”

The reason behind Judy’s distress was a pink and mauve quilt that lay atop 17-year-old Lori’s perfectly made bed.

Lori and her sister, Shelia, 16, had sewn it between 2005 and 2008 during the evenings after they returned from school at the Craig Mennonite Church.

There were a few jagged stitches where 6-year-old Wesley Yoder had helped out, and his name was written in black marker on the underside of the quilt.

Theron, 14, Bradley, 13, Melvin, 11, and Jeffrey, 9, also had left their mark on the piece of fabric.

Judy, who was only three at the time, had attempted a few stitches, but Lori later removed them because they didn’t quite fit the pattern.

But Judy’s contribution to a family work of art will not be her last. Soon, she will take on the role of older sister and caretaker for her three younger sisters, just as Sheila, Lori and her brothers had done for her.

Even 3-year-old Darlene was learning to sing to her baby sisters, Tonya, 11 months, and Amy, 2 weeks, and bounce them on her lap.

“My older daughters are blessings to me,” Lois said. “That’s one of the blessings of a large family — the older ones relate to the younger ones in a way they normally wouldn’t.”

For Lori, who is finished with school, watching her siblings full time is a favorite pastime.

“I can’t help but think that life with a small family must be so boring,” she said.

The Yoder family, which now totals 13 blue-eyed, soft-spoken Mennonites, moved to Craig from Grand Junction in September 2003, when they, along with six other families, established the Mennonite Church.

At the time, they had seven children.

On Feb. 15, they added number 11: Amy Nicole, who was born at The Memorial Hospital. Amy was Lois’ 11th child in 17 years and another welcome blessing in the family’s life.

“We’re not saying we’re blessed more than anyone else,” Lois said. “There are some people who can’t have children. We’re not more blessed than them — or a family who has six children — because it’s just the working of the world.

“The Lord has different plans for all of us.”

But not every blessing comes as easily and quietly as little Amy did.

Now 11 months old, Tonya playfully grabbed at her toes and pumped her arms in joy as she sat on the floor of the Yoder house in a sunshine yellow frock.

But less than a year ago, she was taken by helicopter to a hospital in Grand Junction for emergency surgery after she was born.

It was a traumatic event, but Lois said it brought her and her husband, Vernon, together in a way that she never thought was possible.

Tonya also was born with Down syndrome, and Lois calls her “our very special one.”

“Those special babies really have a way of working their way into your hearts,” she said. “God gave us the grace to accept this, and now we don’t know what we’d do without her.”

The Mennonite faith is what drives the Yoders’ values and lifestyle.

From the simple, hand-sewn dresses to practicing peace and non-resistance, Lois said the family lives by the Bible in order to maintain purity and holiness.

“We pretty well fit into the world,” Lois said. “But we’re separate in that we don’t really participate in worldly amusements that are just for pleasure and fun.”

They find their own amusement in a variety of ways, from playing with air guns in the basement to photographing elk that wander through their land a few miles north of Craig, to simply spending time with one another.

They each have assigned chores that rotate every day and responsibilities ranging from room-cleaning to picking peas from the vegetable garden in the summer.

The boys have been building up their tool sets for years and often help with their father’s construction business after school and on weekends.

They also keep a clockwork schedule.

On Mondays and Thursdays, all the clothing is washed, Fridays are reserved for visits and Tuesdays are for sewing, gardening in the summers and scrapbooking to keep each and every special memory alive in fabric-bound binders.

There is a birthday almost every month, for which the older girls bake elaborate cakes suited to each of the personalities in their family.

But all the structure in the world cannot tell the future for Lois, who smiled as she held her newest blessing, bundled in pink, to her chest.

The future could hold another baby or another hardship. Whichever it is, it isn’t up to her, she said.

“That’s in God’s hands,” she said. “And we thank him, even for our little surprises.”


JAHM 7 years, 1 month ago

Wow I am very sorry that a part of this family thinks having a small family "must be boring" To each their own. Mine is small. I have myself, my husband and my two amazing daughters and thats all I need. I think this is a good article except for the fact that that statement would be published, and yes I know its freedom of speech but at the same time how do you think everyone in craig that has a small family that could not ask for anymore than what they have and are so happy with the small family they have are going to feel about that statement? when I read it, it cut to the bone. Made me sit back and ask myself "because my family is small, are we or is this family really boring?" that small little statement hit me like a ton of bricks, BUT I want everyone to know that I HAVE A SMALL FAMILY and I and my husband are so happy with the family we have and are thankful every day that we were lucky enough to have been blessed with the amazing daughters we have.


CindyLou 7 years, 1 month ago

JAHM I have experienced small families and large families and the statement is dead on. Small families are special, wonderful, fun, and very rewarding, but they are nothing like a large family. The activity, excitment, comotion, energy, etc. etc. etc. Anyone who has experienced both would make the statement that a small family is relatively boring compared to a larger one.

Its kind of like the difference between the county fair and disneyland. Nothing wrong at all with the county fair. I love to go and take my two kids every year, but it isn't nearly as exciting as Disneyland. Sure Disneyland is more expensive and can be a bigger pain in the but, but its also an amazing experience if you get the chance. Unfortunately in this day and age most people don't have the time and energy for a disneyland. Its nothing personal, some people just get the chance and others don't.


justmyview84 7 years, 1 month ago

I really doubt she said to it offend anyone, so sad how SOMEONE always has to take offense at the littlest things! Love the article, love the family, such great uplifting in these hard times! I'm happy with my little family too, and I find NO offense whatsoever in anything that this article says.


daybyday 7 years, 1 month ago

I understand the statement also and know Lori doesn't mean "boring" as lesser. I grew up in a large family, and it's a totally different atmosphere. Her perspective is based on how she grew up, but we with smaller families understand the same concept and call it "empty nesters." No matter how many children you have, when they grow up and get married or otherwise independant, the house gets very quiet.


CindyLou 7 years, 1 month ago


You and/or your partner must be doing something extremely wrong in the bedroom if you think that a woman can't and does enjoy sex also. I feel sorry for one or both of you because of your lack of enjoyment on this particular activity. Hopefully though this will have kept the two of you from "doing it" and your genetic information hasn't been passed on to any children who will be as ignorant as you.

Also, it would seem that you believe in god since you gave reference to believing in the devil. If that's the case then you technically belong to a cult yourself (find a nice thick dictionary and look up the definition of the word "Cult.") because cults include christians also, it's just a matter of who's perscpective you are using.


David Carrick 7 years, 1 month ago

Sumarjn, your comment applied HOW to the Yoder family? Only if you apply the disfunctions of the entire human race to yourself, and make yourself responsible for the sins of society. Can I assume you have no intention of doing such? At the very least you owe this devout, hard-working family an apology for the smear-by-inference.


Frank Estey 7 years, 1 month ago


Your entire statement becomes ludicrous when you mention the devil… there is no such thing… only in the minds of children.

CindyLou, You may recoil at the prospect but I agree with part of your statement about a woman enjoying sex as much as a man ...


schoolmarm 7 years, 1 month ago

Beautiful family and beautiful story. What an honorable family.


lostyermarbles 7 years, 1 month ago

While I would not attempt this many kids I do admire these people for bringing up such "admirable" kids. These kids are all brought up to have good horse scense and know how to survive with out all the cell phones stuck to their head and in a tough time survive while most kids now day's don't have a clue if the store isnt open or their phone isnt charged. They dont know the word of manners by a big percent and in general dont have the good scense of a drop in a bucket to these kids. Yeh their are good "regular" kids that attend church or whatever I guess "don't knock it till you tried it". But yeh, that is alot of kids!! But I don't have to live there!!


Sumarjn 7 years, 1 month ago

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