Y’all! The mushrooms this fall are going to be the end of me!

Last Thursday, I read this article about kids being out in nature. Now, I don’t usually put a lot of stock in arguments made from Thoreau’s Walden (yes, I was an English major, but I never did like Thoreau’s nature worship), but the author made some really good points. So good that as soon as I finished reading it, I said, “Kids, get your shoes on. We’re going for a walk.”

We had a nice walk. Until.

We were letting Graham walk around in the grass, and then he picked something up and threw it. It was vaguely ball-shaped. That’s what he does with “balls.” So I didn’t pay a lot of attention until Ian said it looked like a mushroom. I inspected it, and sure enough it was fungus-like. It made me curious, but with a baby there, I decided to keep going and get Graham’s hands washed.

Later, after trying to identify the thing online (If you’ve ever tried to ID a mushroom online, you feel my pain.) and not having much luck, but thinking it was maybe edible, or at least not poisonous, I sent Ian back to get one so we could study it. It was not the wisest move I’ve ever made. All I can say is I had not had a lot of sleep in awhile and we were careful. We dissected it, observed it, drew it and then threw it out and washed our hands thoroughly several times.

Lily's paragraph about the mushroom we studied.

Lily’s paragraph about the mushroom we studied.

I tried again to identify it, and figured out that it was probably a species of scleroderma, which are poisonous but not deadly. When I told Robby, he was upset enough that I quietly began freaking out and decided to call poison control.  They were not encouraging with talks of the emergency room and 24 hour observation and “by this time, we’ve ruled out all but the very worst type of mushroom. Give us a call if he starts vomiting.” They were also not impressed with my fungus identification. Apparently there are so many look-alikes that only a trained mycologist can positively ID any mushrooms. Oh yes, this was quite the learning experience for me! New vocabulary and everything!

So, Graham made it to the 24-hour mark with no troubles. Well, we all did. I was mostly worried about Graham because I wasn’t sure if he put his hand in his mouth after touching The Fungus. I knew the kids and I had been very careful.

So the next day we are standing outside talking to our neighbors and Graham is going up and down their front steps, practicing his new skill. I have my eye on him, because…well, he’s a year old.  After about 20 minutes, someone says, “He just put something in his mouth.” I had seen it too, so I went over and did the mommy thing: stuck my had under his chin and told him to spit it out. But he had already swallowed it. I know you know what’s coming next. Guess what it was?

That’s right. A mushroom.

img_4430A tiny gray mushroom growing next to my neighbor’s front door. There were lots of them. And somehow (I really can’t remember how it happened) he managed to eat another one before I could get him away from them. So, back we went to the 24-hour observation. He was fine. But I think I shaved off a good 2 months from my life span.

So I learned a lot from this experience: 1) The word mycologist. 2) To steer WAY clear of any type of fungus if Graham is with me.  3) Although only about 2% of mushrooms are poisonous, some of them can kill you and there is no antidote.  4) Most edible mushrooms also have a poisonous look-alike.  5) Mushrooms are evil.

Oh, and I’m now a member of a Facebook mushroom ID page.

But nature isn’t done with me yet. Now Lily fancies herself a horticulturist and is identifying “edible” wild plants using a book with sketches of plants. Not photographs. Sketches. The other day she brought in a bowl of “salad” and some acorns she wanted to find a recipe for.  (That’s what I get for reading My Side of the Mountain to them.)  When I told her “NO,” she huffed and rolled her eyes and told me I was being overprotective. I told her unless she took a class from an expert there was no way she was going to eat wild plants. But I’m not with her all the time. She’s free range.

Help me.



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