I took a five day weekend so that I, Hotness, and the six kids could drive down to Gilbert, Arizona, for our oldest nephew’s wedding.

Gilbert is about an 11.5 hour drive from Provo, and the Grand Canyon is more or less on the way. Thus, we decided to camp at the Grand Canyon for a couple days after the wedding.

As we made this plan in the weeks leading up to the trip, I think I hid my terror well.

It wasn’t that I was terrified of spending all day, every day with my wife and kids. I can’t imagine anything more wonderful than that, actually. But the driving, which I like doing but have trouble doing when there is a screaming/whining/arguing/shouting child in the car– that scared me. And the logistics of keeping everyone safe from drowning in a hotel pool, burning in the fiery intensity of Phoenix sun, falling off the edge of a really…. large… hole in the ground, and keeping them comfortable during near-freezing nights, all while trying to not let exhaustion make me grumpy, kind of scared me.

We had never attempted such a complex trip before. We needed maps, lists, a very tight budget and a new van bench seat to pull it off. We borrowed a friend’s rooftop cargo carrier (so useful!) and then tried to stuff food, camping and wedding clothes, sleeping bags and small futons (really small), a tent and a bunch of people into the van. It was a challenge.

I knew it would be hard. And I knew that I would want to keep Hotness free to tend to Walnut, so I would need to do much of the other childcare and packing and such. I really didn’t want to have her vacation turn into a bunch of frustrating packing and repacking when she would rather be visiting with her sisters.

I was daunted.

But it all came off very well.

And that canyon really is far better than just good. I had been there before; but Hotness, the kids and Hotness’ two sisters and the family of her oldest sister (mother of the groom/nephew) who all camped with us hadn’t seen it. All that being said, I kind of wish that whoever named the Grand Canyon had come up with a more suitable name.

The Stupendous Canyon! (exclamation point required in all written material that refers to said canyon)

The Mind-Boggling Canyon.

The WTFreaking Huge Canyon.

But then, if it had a different name, Hotness and I couldn’t have turned to each other as we drove along the south rim on the first leg of our journey home, smiled, and agreed that it really is a very ‘grand’ canyon. Gosh, she’s cool.

Highlights of the trip, and for more of these, you should check out Hotness’ blog Chickens at the Window in a day or two, included my 3yo, Gum, and I basically having a 5 day long daddy-son date. We shared a sleeping bag, played water games, giggled at each other, got lots of cuddle time and I got to see just how joyful he is about everything in life.

On Sunday evening, the whole crew (lots of us– Hotness’ oldest sister has 7 kids and six of them (groom/nephew was on his honeymoon) were there with us (and thank Heaven for awesome nieces)) descended on a section of the south rim to watch the sunset. We got there about an hour early (by the way, I called the sunset time to the minute– nearly the second– without consulting any outside sources beyond the position of the sun in the sky) and Gum proceeded to play at length. At one point, he repeatedly jogged a circuit that took him above our spot a little ways, turned around at the highest point, and said, “HI DAD!” from there. He did this at least ten times.

The sunset was amazing. But Gum stole the show for me. Hotness will share one of the best things he said during the trip. You need to see that when she gets it on her blog.

And I got to see my older boys be.. well… real people. I think it’s hard for me to not project my personality onto my kids, so when I open my eyes and hold still enough, I am always pleasantly surprised by the people my kids are becoming. The older lads got to explore, play with cousins, do some camping work, burn stuff, and enjoy with me the experience of the exploding can.

So the can. When I camp and sleep outside, I am always up early. Crack of dawn. Must be the primitive hunter-gatherer in me. On Monday, I was up at 5:15. I wandered, found some wood (NO WOOD GATHERING ALLOWED) near the campsite and finally started a fire. I was hungry, so I put a can of Chef Boyardee noodles and meat into the hot coals. You know the kind? It has a pop top that you peel back to open. I proceeded to gather some more wood (sorry! it was dead and on the ground… what do you expect?).

The older lads emerged in quick succession from the tent and parked themselves in tight bundles on chairs next to my small fire. They asked about the can; I explained it was my breakfast.

I gathered more wood. Look, I know there’s a sign that says no wood gathering, but come on. $7 for a small bundle of firewood? No thanks.

As I stepped away from the fire, having dropped some more gathered wood next to the pit, I heard a loud pop and instinctively spun and ducked. I thought a sap-filled branch had exploded. Bits of flying something landed on me and the ground. I saw it wasn’t bits of wood; it was meaty noodles.

My lads stared wide-eyed at me. I stared back, then burst out laughing. A trail of noodles ¬†and meat bits dotted the ground at least fifteen feet from the fire pit. And the pop top lid? We didn’t see it. (It was later found 25 feet from the fire pit.) My lads joined me in the laughter that follows having done something stupid that came out straight up awesome.

We laughed as I picked a noodle off my neck and other bits off my jacket.

We had just seen one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, a wedding, a sunset over the natural wonder, and spent some great times with family– but the exploding can will be the biggest memory for those boys. Guaranteed.