26 February 2014

Review: The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris

If you were to ask me five months ago (just prior to starting The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt) what I knew about Theodore Roosevelt I could have summed it up about like this:
  • He was definitely a president.
  • Teddy bears are named for him.
  • He was instrumental in getting the Panama Canal finished.
  • Tread lightly and carry a big stick.
  • Something about Rough Riders.
  • Something about the Natural History Museum in NYC (thanks, Night at the Museum!)
  • Dutch ancestry
Really. That's it. Once I started reading the book I checked a few things on Wikipedia and other really important aspects of his life came to my recollection. But generally I knew very little about him. I may have liked the book for the sole fact that I had a lot to learn by reading it, but the fact that the book is really well-written sealed the deal for me.

This book is the first in a series of three (all of which are completed, so you don't need to wait on pins and needles for the next installment to come out). The second one, Theodore Rex won the Pulitzer Prize, and based on the excellent writing of the first, I'm not surprised.

It is, hands down, the best biography I've ever read. The writing is so clear - descriptive when it's necessary, but not overly so. Many details are so specific that it's clear the author researched and scoured an unfathomable amount of material, only to whittle it down to the most important things for the reader. 

This book is dense, but it's still easy to read. I spent about five months reading it, and it's 780 pages before the end notes and index, which are just over 100 pages.

18 February 2014

Just Different

Before I had more than one child, I frequently asked parents of more than one child (especially moms) how their kids were different. Usually the parents could give one or two details, but inevitably the answer came, "They're just different." It's something that I can totally understand now.

Here are some differences in my two boys:

Ike was usually big for his age, and Felix is barely on the charts.

Ike loved everyone, and Felix is more discriminating.

Ike liked to get in the mix and play with big kids; Felix is more likely to stand on the sidelines and watch before jumping in.

Ike never cuddled as a baby (he does now); Felix cuddles daily. (It's so nice!)

Ike was really independent in practically every way; Felix is just not. He loves to be held and generally requires more attention than Ike did as a baby.

Ike was somewhat oblivious to other people's emotions. (He's more aware now that he's older, but as a baby/toddler emotions were not on his radar.) Felix notices when people are sad and takes it very personally if he's chastised.

Ike wasn't especially picky as a toddler (though he is somewhat picky now); Felix is incredibly picky. This probably accounts, in part, for his small size.

Ike didn't want to stop nursing; Felix didn't seem to notice or care when I weaned him.

It took a lot of effort to make Ike laugh as a baby. (Again, his behavior as a little boy is different. He laughs readily now.) Felix has always laughed readily. He seems to be constantly on the lookout for something to laugh about.

All in all, though, they're just different.