Wish upon a star


There are two things that I never intended to do when I started a blog.  First, I never wanted a week to pass between entries.  Second, I never wanted to be the dude who opens a new entry by apologizing for the length of time since the last one.  And yet, here we are...

Blake, who has been my most reliable source of material ever since he came along, is on very, very thin ice at the moment.  I may write more about that once we get through the other side of some things, but right now he is awfully close to making me play the Grinch and take away his Christmas.

Poor sweet Ava has been sick this week with croup, but in one of those examples of life providing unexpected joys, this led to one of the sweetest moments of fatherhood so far.  One of the symptoms of croup is a horrible, barking cough, and one of the treatments recommended is exposure to cold night air.  Seriously!  So when Ava woke in tears at around 11 last night, I decided to let her breathe some night air into those tiny lungs.  We laughed together as I rolled her inside of two blankets like a little burrito, with only her face showing.  Then I picked her up and carried her to the porch with me.

Stepping outside was something I really needed.  The temperature was in the 30s, and something about the cold, crisp, clean air really made my mind peaceful.  We sat there together, Ava in my arms, bundled tightly, and just enjoyed the silence for a few moments before she started asking me about the stars.  It's been over twenty years since I took astronomy merit badge, but somehow I remembered each of the stars and constellations she asked me about.  Each time I answered, she rewarded me with one of the most beautiful smiles I've ever seen.  I know that every daddy is biased, and believes that his daughter is the prettiest girl in the world, but each time she smiled and said my name my heart would skip a beat.  And instead of the prettiest girl laughing at you for being a nerd, she loves you for being her daddy, and thinks you're the smartest guy in the world.

Here's the part that I know will sound like I'm making it up just to give the story a good finish, but I promise this did happen.  As I looked up from her porcelain face for a moment to answer her question about a broadcast tower's lights, we both saw a shooting star arc across the sky.

"Make a wish, daddy!"

I've already got it.

Fox, Goose, Grain


Let us examine two logic puzzles.  The first is a classic puzzle known as Fox, Goose, Grain.
SCENARIO: A farmer is traveling with a fox, a goose, and a sack of grain.  He approaches a river which he must cross.

  1. If the goose is left alone with the grain, the grain will be eaten.
  2. If the fox is left alone with the goose, the goose will be eaten.
  3. The boat has room for the farmer and one other item, nothing more.
PUZZLE:  How does the farmer transport himself and all of his belongings across the river without anything being eaten?
SOLUTION:  Can be found at the link above.  (HINT - the farmer can also be by himself in the boat)

Once you've got it worked out, here's a tougher one.
SCENARIO:  Danny's wife works nights, meaning that he must bathe the couple's three darling children by himself.

  1. The tub is big enough for two darling children, no more.
  2. For the duration of bath time, Danny is essentially stuck in the bathroom, as CPS looks suspiciously on bathtub drownings.
  3. If Blake is left alone with either of the other two darling children, he will torment them into tears.
  4. If Ava is left alone in the tub, she will play "Mermaid," which is a game where she puts her face in the water and kicks both of her legs together as though they are one great fin, splashing water everywhere.
  5. If Jack is put in his room (right next door to the bathroom) with the baby gate in front of the door, he will scream loudly and without cease until you yearn for deafness.
  6. If Jack is left to roam free, he will grab any loose item he can find and stash it in his little hidey-hole in the linen closet.  Please see the picture below, which is all the items I pulled out of there this morning.
    Not pictured - Ava's shoes, which I searched for this morning for over 30 minutes

PUZZLE:  How does Danny bathe all three darling children without going deaf, getting soaked, drying tears, or frantically searching for items of clothing that the darling children can't leave the house without?
SOLUTION:  Dude, I don't know...

What I Like About You, Rebecca Pidgeon


This is the first installment in what will be an occasional series called "What I Like About You."  The point of What I Like About You is to examine something that I do not like and find that one good thing about it.

Today I went and saw the movie RED with my dad.  I'd heard mixed reviews, but we both really enjoyed it!  Imagine a Bourne movie with a lot more humor and more sympathetic adversaries.  Great action sequences, good character interplay, clever script, and injected right into the middle of it all... Rebecca Pidgeon.

Rebecca Goddamn Pidgeon.  Rebecca who delivers every line in the same clipped, precise manner regardless of whether she's playing a romantic interest or a CIA boss Pidgeon.

But then I realized what I like about movies with Rebecca Pidgeon in them.  As soon as she shows up onscreen, you know that what you are watching at that moment will be the worst part of the movie, and that every other scene will be better.  Thank you, Rebecca Pidgeon!

This Has Been a Test


As you might have guessed when I was running my Project Horror series, I really enjoy movies.  I don't get to watch as many as I did back when I was a childless bachelor, but that's probably for the best - it's good to leave the darkened room every now and then, right?  Whenever I'm asked what my favorite movies are, after listing off two or three of my all-time tops, I usually add, "But really I just enjoy any movie that can show me something new."

I can forgive a lot if you can just put something different on the screen.  I know people who will beg to differ (wassup, Scott?), but I think that Kevin Smith is just a terrible writer.  I still like Dogma, though, because it's a really interesting premise.  The low budget effects in the first Evil Dead and Dead Alive don't take away from the fact that they're still really great and fun horror movies.  Harrison Ford, star of Blade Runner (my very favorite movie) hates that movie, and calls it "a detective movie in which no actual detective work happens."  I don't agree with him, but even if I did I wouldn't care, because I don't think that anybody has ever presented a more breathtaking and believable look at a futuristic dystopia than Ridley Scott did in that film.

I was thinking of my "just show me something new" rule earlier this week while I watched a movie that I'd been kind of interested in, The Box.  You may remember the commercials from last year - a strange box is left on a family's doorstep, and a man visits them to tell them that if they push the button in the box two things will happen.  First, a person who they do not know will die.  Second, they will receive one million dollars, free of taxes.  I hear that this was also the plot of an old Twilight Zone episode, called "Button, Button," though I've never seen that episode.

What interested me going into this was the thought of watching the characters make and deal with their decision.  Let's be honest, you know that they aren't going to push the button and live happily ever after - there's bound to be some kind of monkey's paw twist.  (Also, I find Cameron Diaz pretty easy on the eyes, and kind of enjoy her in dramatic roles, even if she's not exactly Streeping it out there.)

Here's what was disappointing, though.  It really barely touched on that aspect of the story at all.  It turned into a mystery-thriller as they tried to discover the backstory of the guy who brought the box and the money, and it turned into a muddled mess that falls apart if you examine it too closely.  SPOILERS FOLLOW  Worst of all, the big twist is that the box and whether people push the button is actually a test given to humans by an advanced alien race to see if we are deserving of continued existence.  Seriously?

Do you know why nobody cared about The Others, even though it was a pretty good movie?  Because all of us had already seen The Sixth Sense.  Some twists are so bold that they can work only once, and as soon as The Box revealed that holier-than-thou aliens were testing us I immediately thought of all the other movies that had beaten it to that punch - The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Forgotten, and Dark City all come to mind, and that's without even thinking too hard about it.  Dark City is the only one on that list that really nails it, IMHO.

Thanks for indulging my trip into movie snobbery.

It was just a matter of time


Blake lives hard, y'all.  Of all my children, he is the one who will least surprise me someday when he calls to say that he's been up for four days straight, and he's got a final exam that afternoon, and by the way he's also in Mexico.  So I pretty much knew that it was just going to be a matter of time until something got broken.  This weekend proved me right!

While we were at the park on Saturday, I was pushing Ava in the swing, watching Jack find new things to put in his mouth, when all of a sudden I heard a scream from behind me and turned around to see Blake with his arm hanging all crazy at his side.  He'd been climbing something and fell off; when he landed, it was hand-first with his arm locked at the elbow.

Here's where my brain went into awesome crisis management mode.  I couldn't be sure if the arm was broken, but I was pretty sure from how it was hanging.  Instead of driving to the hospital (which was only like a mile and a half from the park we were at) and calling Courtney from there, I drove home with all the kids first so that my wife the nurse could give her professional opinion.  What made this even more exciting is that my nephew was going to spend the night with us on Saturday to celebrate Blake's birthday, and he was already at the house when we got there.  Courtney took Blake to the ER, I took the wee two to their godparents house, and drove Carter to the hospital with me.  (Carter, who had been silent in the car until Ava got out: "Boy, she sure is a talker.")

Having Carter at the hospital was actually a positive thing - the boys kept each other entertained and happy.  In the part of my brain where hope springs eternal, I honestly thought that they'd get Blake casted up, release us, and the boys would still have a fun evening at home.  Well...  Courtney's shift started at 7 and she had to leave.  The cartoons on the hospital room TV eventually dried up, and the boys began to get restless.  At around 7:45 my sister texted to see how Carter was doing, and that's when I told her where we were and that I hadn't even fed her son dinner yet.  She was very cool about it - my brother in law was up there in the next 15 minutes to take Carter back home.

The orthopedist was stuck in surgery, so he finally came to see us at about 10 PM.  Here's Blake getting his cast.  I think his face pretty much says it all about how he was feeling by that point.

So... That was my weekend, how was yours?  Oh, also Jack had an ear infection with yellow gunk running down his face, and Ava had strep.  I have never been happier to walk into my office than I was this morning.

But here's the worst part!  A little over a year ago, Ava broke her arm.  Ever since then, whenever I needed a tiebreaker in a parenting argument discussion, I could always just play the "what do I know, I'm just the parent who's never had a kid break a bone on my watch" card.  And now that's gone!  GONE!

So that I don't leave you on a bummer, here's a picture from happier times, when we picked Blake up and took him to lunch at Chuck E. Cheese on his birthday.  That place is weird when it's empty, Chuck and the band singing to an empty showroom like Spinal Tap at a state fair...


Heroes & Villains (and Jack)


Last weekend, Netflix delivered The Fantastic Mr. Fox to our house, and it's been a huge hit with the kids.  I think we may end up buying a copy of this one, because even I love it.

One of the opening scenes is set to the Beach Boys song, "Heroes and Villains."  Blake, never having heard that song before, just thought it was some new song, and told me he liked it.  I told him it was even older than I am, found it on my computer, and played it for the kids.

But here's where it gets great.  Ava and Blake both kind of bopped along to it in their own ways, but Jack rocked out.  You know the scene in Flashdance where she does that dance where she just kind of tucks her head down and runs in place?  Kind of like that, but with the unmistakable sound of crinkling diaper in the background.

Later, when I was getting Jack ready for bed, I sang just a little bit of the part where all the Beach Boys come in at once ("Bom bom bom bom...").  Play the clip below for his reaction, which I love.

Greater love hath no man than this


During college, and shortly after, I went through a stretch of spiritual uncertainty.  I'm far from unique in this; many people face similar times in their lives, and find many ways to come to terms with it.  There are two things that eventually brought me back into a good relationship with God.  One is my friend Chad Haught, whose capacity for love is boundless, and who witnessed to me in exactly the way I needed.  The other is the Gospel of John.

A pastor friend of mine once told me that when he speaks with people who are going through their own uncertain times, he always encourages them to read the Gospel of John.  It is, I believe, the most beautiful book of the Bible, maybe even one of the most beautiful pieces of writing ever.  I'm leading a year-long Bible study right now, in fact, that spends eight weeks in John during the spring, and I can't wait.

The passage I'm always reminded of on Veterans Day is John 15:13:
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Of course, when Jesus spoke these words, he went on to let his followers know that He is our most true and devoted friend, and they would only fully understand later just how sincerely He meant these words.  I saw these words almost every day in college, as they are engraved in a plaque at Texas A&M's Memorial Student Center, which is dedicated to the memory of Aggies who have fallen in war.  I think they apply in an even broader sense than just to those who died, though.  Anybody who has served has taken an oath to protect our freedoms, even at the cost of their own life, if need be.  Just to take that oath is to lay down your life for your friends.

All of this, I guess, is a long intro for me to tell you a little about my Grandpa Jack.  If the name Jack Holwerda sounds familiar to you, here's why:

My boy, my own, my precious youngest son - Jack.

One of my dearest wishes is that I could have met my grandfather.  Sadly, he passed just a short time before my parents were married.  He was one of eight children, born to parents who emigrated to Michigan from Holland.  He played football at Stanford for Pop Warner (!), and was a member of the famous Vow Boys, the Stanford squad who swore they would never lose to USC, and were true to their word.  While he was a student, he met my grandmother, who was the daughter of a Stanford law professor.  I'll write some more about him sometime, but what I want to talk about today is that when his country was in a time of need he, like so many others of his generation, answered the call.

I wish I'd known him to hear his stories.  I wish I'd known him to ask about our family's past.  I wish I'd known him to hear his voice, to know if it was deep and resonant like mine and my dad's.  I wish I could ask him what the banking and business world was like when he was working in it, now that I'm in the same field.

I don't know exactly what year this photo was taken, only that it was during World War 2.  Grandpa Jack was born in 1910, which means that he was almost exactly the same age in this picture as I am now.  I look at it, and I wonder if I could be brave enough to do what he did.  He spent the rest of his life with trouble hearing out of one ear because a deck gun misfired near his head.  At the time this picture was taken, my dad and uncle hadn't even been born yet - he was a man with a life still before him.

I don't want to try and make Jack out to be a saint, because like all men he had his weaknesses, but he was a strong man and a brave man, and he left behind a proud legacy for our family.  I'm proud of him.  I love him.  A day does not pass that my children don't reap the blessings of freedom that he and so, so many others strove to ensure.

Today, I think of him, and I think of all my friends who have answered the call.  I don't have words strong enough to thank you, so I rely on the words of the Apostle John, and say that you have shown the greatest love there is, and I love you in return.

(Click on the newspaper clipping at left for a bigger version.  It's from a Ford advertisement that ran in August 1947, about a month before my dad's birth.  Grandpa worked in labor relations until the mob moved in on things, and he had to leave Michigan for California when they threatened the life of my newborn dad.)

Threat Level Holwerda


I'm working on an entry about my trip this weekend.  Short version - it was AWESOME.  Time with good friends, catching up with my cousin, amazing food, fun music...  The weekend was just fantastic.

Until I have that finished, though, I thought I'd give you a little look at the Danny of yesteryear.  I thought of this story yesterday when I was going through airport security, musing on how different it is now than it was ten years ago.  Here we are in 2010, taking off our shoes, and watching the lady in front of us being told that she'll be subjected to a thorough patdown if she doesn't remove her sweater.

But I also remember going to visit a friend in NYC for New Years 1997-98.  At the time, he couldn't get Shiner Bock up there, so I took a twelve pack of it as my carry-on luggage.  Just to reiterate that, I decided to forgo having something to read on the plane, or bringing on my bag instead of checking it, just so I could carry beer on the plane.  Can you even imagine how many TSA rules that would break now?  I watched a supervisor get called over yesterday because a dude was carrying a half-empty bottle of V8.

At least beer can be stowed under the seat in front of you and made inconspicuous.  The summer after my junior year of high school, I had the chance to take part in a month-long study program in Kuwait and Oman.  It was one of the best, most eye-opening experiences of my life.  Here's a picture of me in my parents' backyard on the night that I returned.
I didn't change into that outfit once I got home.  No, for it to get the laugh that I wanted when they saw me, it had to be on when I left the plane.  My itinerary was JFK to Washington National, then to DFW, and lastly back to Lubbock.  There wouldn't be much time to connect in DFW, so I put the outfit on in a bathroom in Washington.  Our nation's capital has a pretty diverse crowd traveling through it, so I didn't get too many second looks.  Reactions were much more uncomfortable once I got back to Texas, but you know what's important to me?  Committing to the bit, that's what.

So I found myself thinking of that in the security line yesterday, wondering how much I'd still commit to that bit now, almost 15 years later.  Is wearing a dishdasha worth a full pat down?  The little voice inside says that my answer would probably be yes.


One from the road


I'm testing out blog-by-text from the baggage claim in San Diego. Why? Because I can. Can't wait for Brian to come and get the evening started!

I've flown my whole life, and it's still bonkers to me that I can leave Lubbock at 4 PM and be in San Diego at 6:45.

"San Diego, which of course in German means..."

I'm going to shamelessly name drop for a second, and tell you that I never miss an entry at my friend Ali's blog.  She's funny, and she's hot, so you don't really need a third reason to go, but here's what keeps her awesome - Ali posts almost every single day.  I'm going to admit it - I'm struggling to make this a daily thing.  Having Project Horror gave me something to do each day but now that it's over, I'm floundering a little bit!  I don't imagine I can keep watching a movie every day, and my kids can only do many hilarious things in any given day.  Most of my day is spent at the office, and I'm wary of posting too much about work.  My goal is to get to that daily entry place, I'm just working out what to fill it with.

There's some ideas for future viewing and other projects that I'm kicking around.  If there's something you'd like to see in the pages of Look What Danny Made! feel free to pass a note and let me know.

Now, having said that I'd like to post every day, I'm going to tell you that my posts over the next couple of days will be infrequent to nonexistent.  I'm leaving in about an hour to spend the weekend in San Diego for my friend Eric's wedding.  Even more exciting, I'm staying with my cousin Brian, who I haven't seen in several years.  Most exciting of all, I am travelling with no children, after four straight nights of being Night Shift Dad!

I've already name dropped, now here's a plug.  Brian is in a band called Blackout Party, and they are awesome.  They aren't performing this weekend, but he's taking me to see some other shows, which should be fun.  Here's a picture of Blackout Party.  I won't tell you which one is Brian, but consider that he is a Holwerda, and that I am 6'6", and I think you'll be able to pick him out quickly.
He is from the much swarthier California branch of the Holwerdas.

Have a great weekend, everybody.

She probably already meets the academic requirements


Click Play to hear the conversation I had with Ava in the car this morning (or just scroll down for the transcript if you are multimedia challenged):

Danny:  "Ava, where do you want to go today?"
Ava:  "Um, to Texas Tech."
Danny:  "But you go to school at Westminster Preschool, right?"
Ava:  (firmly) "No!  I want to go to Texas Tech."
Jack:  "<sound>"
Danny:  "Why do you want to go to Texas Tech?"
Ava:  "Because I want to!"
Danny:  "Don't you think that Texas A&M is better?"
Ava:  "Yeah..."
Danny:  "Yeah?  But you wanna go to Texas Tech today?"
Ava:  "Yes."
Danny:  "You know that's a school for big boys and girls.  I don't know if they'll let you into class there."
Ava:  (pause, sad) "Nooo."
Danny:  "Well, let's go to Westminster Preschool, and maybe they can tell us how you can go to Texas Tech, OK?"
Ava:  "OK."
Danny:  "OK."

All Saints Day: A Look Back at Project Horror


I made it!  One month and 34 movies later, I feel like I actually accomplished something.  I mean, I didn't cure cancer or anything, but I set a goal for myself and I stuck to it.  Here, for the interested, is a final scorecard of the month's movies (all ratings are on a 5-point scale):
10/2ClassicThe Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
10/3ClassicThe Fly
10/4ClassicWerewolf of London
10/6ZombieDead Snow
10/7ZombieThe Burrowers
10/8ZombieCity of the Living Dead
10/11ForeignA Tale of Two Sisters
10/12ForeignVisions of Suffering
10/13ForeignCannibal Holocaust
10/14ForeignMondo Cane
10/15ForeignLet Me In/Let the Right One In
10/16Occult & SupernaturalThe House of the Devil
10/17Occult & SupernaturalBubba Ho-Tep
10/18Occult & SupernaturalThe Dunwich Horror
10/19Occult & SupernaturalParanormal Activity
10/20Occult & SupernaturalThe Amityville Horror
10/21Creepy CreaturesThe Thing
10/22Creepy CreaturesAn American Werewolf in London
10/23Creepy CreaturesIt's Alive
10/24Creepy CreaturesMonkey Shines
10/25Creepy CreaturesThe Host
10/26The Evil Men DoBorderland
10/27The Evil Men DoCrawlspace
10/28The Evil Men DoDread
10/29The Evil Men DoThe Virgin Spring/
The Last House on the Left
 (1972 & 2009)
10/30The Evil Men DoThe Human Centipede
10/31Danny's ChoiceTrick 'r Treat

Because this is a Danny Production, now you get some statistical analysis.  Sometimes during this month, it felt like I was giving out way more negative reviews than positive ones, so I was surprised to see that the mean score is 3.4, and the mode is 5!  That seems about right, if you take 3 as a middle of the road score, and I did see several movies that I really liked.  The block with the highest average score was Creepy Creatures, with a 3.8; The Evil Men Do was lowest, with a 3.00.

If you are looking for a horror recommendation, and want to take one from my list this month, I cannot say enough good things about Bubba Ho-Tep.  Even the non-horror fans in your house will like it.  It is so good that if you watch it and don't like it, I will write a blog entry right here on Look What Danny Made! and apologize to you by name.  After that, I would heartily recommend either Let the Right One In or Let Me In, or both.

Watching this many movies in a row makes it impossible not to draw comparisons and find trends.  One thing I especially noticed is how horror reflects the fears of the time in which it was made.  It seems that whatever we used to be scared of, these days we're mostly scared of each other.  There's still stuff about the supernatural coming out, but it's not a ghost coming for you, it's your possessed wife.  A lab accident isn't going to transform you into a horrible creature, but a crazed kidnapper might.  Even the monsters that emerge from the sewers are ultimately monsters of our own making.

One of the questions I heard most often this month is, "Are you having crazy dreams from watching all of these?"  I really didn't.  There was one night about two-thirds of the way through the month where I had a pretty intense nightmare; in the light of day, I could see that it was very clearly inspired by a certain scene in Paranormal Activity.  Congratulations to PA, for being the one movie to truly invade my subconscious this month!

I'd like to bring Project Horror to a close with a huge thanks to everybody who took part in this with me.  To everybody who recommended movies when I announced the project, thank you so much!  I wouldn't have made some of these selections unless they'd been suggested to me.  For those of you who commented either on the blog or on Facebook, I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts and making this an interactive experience.  And for everybody who talked to me in person, via e-mail, or on the phone and let me know that you were enjoying what I wrote, thank you most of all.  It has been incredibly rewarding and fun getting to have these conversations with all of you.  (Hi, Marcy's mom!  I see now why Marcy is such a cutie!)

I'm kicking around a few ideas for future viewing projects, but I'd be interested to get input from all of you, too.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a month's worth of DVR to catch up on.  I just reread that last sentence and realized how completely lucky I am that Courtney has not divorced me yet.