As many times as Steve has tried to explain the term "play action" to me I still remain mystified by it. Not the actual play - that makes sense: fake a handoff, then pass - but "play action" sounds like it was coined by someone who did not really know what either of those words mean. Patrick does this a lot. Not the fake pass thing; the slap a couple of likely words together and hope for the best thing. Today he told me he was going to need me to start assuaging his lunch.

One of the fifty million camps Patrick attended this summer was an afternoon sports camp. Three high school seniors and a college kid took about twenty first and second graders through the rudiments of basketball soccer and baseball over the course of a week. On the first day I arrived a little early and sat in the car watching the basketball court. As the children were herded back toward the soccer field to be distributed to their parents I saw one child drop behind the others, hobbling slowly. It was like a reenactment of the Pied Piper. The straggler, of course, was Patrick and I easily caught up with him as he lurched across the parking lot.

"I... I hurt myself," he whispered.

At this point one of the coaches came jogging over and told me that Patrick had tripped while playing basketball and they had given him a bandaid. I thanked him and escorted Patrick to the car as he hung on me, weak as a kitten.

"I think we'd better go to the hospital," Patrick said so faintly he had to repeat it four times before I could understand him. I suggested he allow me to examine the wound first. I removed the bandaid while he groaned and I studied the entire knee in bright light. It is possible that there might have been a scrape there of some sort but... I would not have bet on it.

"Alas poor Yorrick I knew him Horatio," I said to Patrick for the billionth time, meaning that I appreciate his dramatic gifts and I believe that he is one of the greatest tragedians this century might ever see. Also, I'm not taking him to the hospital.

For the past few days Caroline has been pulling herself to standing using the Baby Jail mesh. She looks delighted and then abruptly lets go, falling and thunking her head against the carpet. Then she cries. Patrick watched her routine today and said, "Oh Menace Girl, I lack poor yogurt you know you're horrible."

Now why... oh right. I was talking about how Patrick strings words together sometimes that make no sense. Like play action. Or Shakespeare in a blender. I think Patrick is hilarious and I am very very happy that football season has started again.

- This is something I am sure I will be rebuked for treating with anything but reverence but Patrick's school is requiring that all classroom volunteers undergo a background check and I think it is stupid to the point of Ionesco absurdity. Not that I object to protecting children from those who would do them harm; it's just that I find this particular attempt 1) naive 2) alarmist 3) ill-conceived and 4) detrimental.

1. There are horrible people in this world. Children are vulnerable. It is natural to want to protect them. It is natural to want the reassurance that comes from knowing your child is safe because you have managed to prevent any and all harm from reaching them... by having people voluntarily complete a form. This is naive.

2. I realize that there are predators who prey on children. I realize that it is possible that these predators might have children of their own. Therefore there is a possibility that a parent within a school community might have dreadful intentions. What I have trouble imagining is that this person would go to the trouble of filling out the volunteer calendar and then attempt some kind of transgression within a classroom containing a teacher and 20 other children. In fact, I am interested to know if anyone, ever has been convicted of harming a child under these circumstances. Not by sneaking around a school but by going through the channels that a background check implies. Seriously. Anyone? Ever?

3. When I asked a fellow mother who supports this new initiative who the background check is supposed to weed from the volunteer rolls she replied, "Criminals." When I asked what kind of criminals she was confused. But, really, DUI? Check kiting? Drunk and disorderly? A long time ago my inebriated but generally harmless roommate, Doug, was on the roof of a party in Baltimore dropping bricks off the roof. One fell as someone turned the corner. The brick missed the guy but was close enough to cause the man on the sidewalk considerable alarm. Since that guy happened to be a policeman on foot patrol he was able to translate his alarm into something concrete like an arrest. When Doug called me to discuss bail he was being charged with attempted murder. True story (the charges were reduced to a misdemeanor which he pled out and he spent senior year dividing his time between engineering coursework and community service.) I spent two years working for the Public Defender's office as a flunky and I have always retained the very strong impression that I recieved there: people accused of crimes are just people. Some are ignorant. Some are vicious. Some are greedy. Some are innocent. Some serve their time and grow up and move on with their lives and why in the name of all that is holy should they not be allowed to come and cut out construction paper letters for their kid's classroom? The idea of a bunch of sheltered suburbanites shuddering over a ten year old possession and distribution charge really sets my teeth on edge. I understand that this particular volunteer provision is trying to prevent child predators from accessing children in the schools. Great! Couldn't agree more. However, isn't this clearly pointless? Either the predator has never been caught in which case they will pass the background check or he has and he is already prohibited by the terms of his release from coming within x hundred yards of a school. I am not saying that this existing prohibition is ironclad, just that it should be as effective as asking people to announce themselves and provide a social security number. Oh, and I did read the actual Minnesota statute that was passed last year to enable schools to require these checks. The statute is fluffy like a marshmallow, simply allowing schools to determine if they want to assess volunteers but providing no guidelines for what they should do with the information. I'm not impressed.

4. Public schools rely heavily on volunteers to compensate for inadequate funding. Requiring people to complete a form, pay $15 and wait weeks to be cleared creates a barrier to entry for volunteering that I suspect many will not be willing to overcome. Steve flat-out refused to complete the form on principle (so he says - for all I know I unwittingly married a lieutenant in the Medellin.) I meant to return my form in July, then August but I just got the damned thing to the office this week; only to be told that the original sheets they had distributed were incomplete and I needed to fill out another one. At this rate I will be cleared to play Hangman with Patrick's class again by Christmas; although his teacher said she would be happy to have me do things for her in the back until I am vetted. When I consider the probablity that the school lost volunteers compared to the likelihood that they have tangibly increased the safety of their students I just roll my eyes.

So it's stupid. In my opinion.

PS Feel free to tell me I am wrong and if you are persuasive enough I will gladly shout mea culpa. Heaven knows I believe someone needs to think of the children.