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If you know my 6 year old you know that he’s… neurologically diverse. We don’t have an actual diagnosis for him (we’re working on it but it’s *really* hard to get in to places that do neurological testing right now), but if you’ve been around him you know he’s a little different from your typical 6 year old. I would probably put him somewhere on the high functioning/savant side of the autistic spectrum? He taught himself how to read when he was 2, he knows how to troubleshoot technology better than most adults, and he’s just really… intense. He gets hyperfocused on a particular thing and will want to do everything with that thing over and over and over again forever.

One of the things that he gets focused on easily is different types of music. It has seemed very fitting that we unintentionally (but probably with inspiration) gave him the initials DJ because he is in fact a little DJ ๐Ÿ˜‚ He really loved Cocomelon and Super Simple Songs for awhile, but he’s also gone through phases of being obsessed with Marshmello, Panic! at the Disco, Parry Gripp, Noisestorm, Martin Garrix – it hasn’t all been one thing, and it hasn’t always been age appropriate.

For about the last year though his fixation has been on The Laurie Berkner Band. It’s been the perfect thing for him. Her music is age appropriate but high quality unlike a lot of the drivel that is put out on YouTube for kids. I’m fairly sure we have heard every single song she has ever put out on YouTube a zillion times over. My sister (who doesn’t even live near by) has had to learn Laurie Berkner songs to sing with him and can sing them enough that a few bars will make my brother (who also doesn’t live near either of us) cover his ears and run from the room (jokingly) because *he’s* heard it so much. Her songs truly are well done – but any song on repeat 24/7 will get old (unless you’re David). So yeah… he’s a fan.

A little over a week ago it was David’s birthday. We’d come home after a fun night at the Chick-fil-a play place to get ready for cake. While we were gathering as a family I did a quick perusal of my Facebook notifications. On one of the boards that I manage someone was giving away free tickets to a Laurie Berkner concert nearby. My jaw dropped – it had to be too good to be true!. I read through it a few times because I couldn’t believe that I had actually read correctly that on my son’s actual birthday his favorite artist had tickets at a venue not far from our house and we could get them for free?!? I mean, the odds of that are beyond miniscule, I really can only chalk that up to being miraculous.

I quickly contacted the person who had posted to see if he still had tickets left. I was sure there was no way he still had free tickets, but even if I had to buy them it would be the most epic birthday present. Amazingly, he did still have tickets and before we sat down for cake he responded that had reserved two for us! It was the best surprise to be able to tell him that he’d be able to go and see Laurie Berkner live! I can’t even tell you how excited he was, I wish I had thought to record his reaction. I don’t think he even knew how to process how cool that was.

David with his cake, just before we gave him the amazing news!

The concert was unfortunately at the same time as the annular solar eclipse that our family had been planning to attend together for over a year, but we knew how much this would mean to him so we changed plans. My husband took the three older kids out to see the eclipse and I stayed home with the younger two for the concert. I’m sad that we missed out on the eclipse, but we’ve already made plans to go see the total eclipse in April and after seeing a total eclipse 6 years ago I knew that what they would witness with the annular eclipse would be cool… but *nothing* compared to the total eclipse.

(Side note: if you have any way to make it out for the total eclipse I cannot recommend highly enough that you make the effort. My brother-in-law’s write up from 2017 says it way better than I could. Seriously, nothing can compare to what it’s like to actually be there – it is worth it!)

The concert was called Toniepalooza and was sponsored by Tonies, a company that makes a smart speaker system designed especially for little kids. I’d never heard of them before but after seeing them in action I decided I had to pick one up for my son. What’s really cool about them is they use little action figures to control what book or set of songs the child is listening to. They have figures for so many of your kids’ favorite characters – Buzz Lightyear, Daniel Tiger, Disney Princesses, Wild Kratts – quite literally too many to list here. His favorite one (of course) has been the Laurie Berkner Tonie.

The speaker is a lot easier to control for kids who don’t yet have the verbal clarity to give voice commands, plus you don’t have to worry about your kid making purchases that weren’t exactly in your budget (not that that’s ever happened in our house ๐Ÿ™„). The little figures are so cute and fun for the kids to play with. They give a fun visual element and you can easily trade them when your child wants to move on to different content, unlike other digital content that you purchase. The speaker has a 7 hour battery life so it can be carried around the house without needing a charger. It’s even squishy so you aren’t worried about it being dropped or thrown at a sibling. I’m impressed with how well thought out it was to be easy and fun for kids without a screen!

They had a great deal at the concert for a starter set, and David won the storage case so we got him more to start with than I’d anticipated, but it’s been awesome for him! David’s starter set – Toniebox, Tonies Headphones, Listen & Play Bag, plus a bunch of Tonie Figures: Laurie Berkner, Wild Kratts – Martin, Blue’s Clues, Daniel Tiger, Mickey Mouse, Gabby’s Dollhouse – Gabby, Tigger, Octonauts – Captain Barnacles

David played with his nearly nonstop over the weekend since I let him unbox it – and then he tried to convince me that his teacher said he needed to bring it to kindergarten ๐Ÿ˜‚. I wish I’d gotten him one of their Creative Tonies – they’re little figures that you can record your own audio or import audio from their free library on their app! I didn’t understand how they worked when I was at the concert but in retrospect that should have been the first one I picked up because my kid would have LOVED that! It will probably be the first thing he gets for Christmas this year (shhh! Don’t tell him!) He insisted on making an unboxing video. We will see if I can get that edited and posted soon. It was about 45 minutes long because he had to try out each individual Tonie and was in heaven making the video – but I don’t think anyone wants to watch him playing with his new speaker for 45 minutes ๐Ÿ˜‚

The concert was awesome. When Laurie came out she started playing her song “When I Woke Up Today” and I may or may not have cried. I felt like the biggest sap to be crying at an upbeat kids’ song! But the song goes, “When I woke up today, I shouted out ‘Hooray!’ Because I knew I’d see you and we could sing together…” and it goes on talking about how happy she is to be singing and dancing with these little kids. I knew that being at that concert meant the world to my son and hearing someone that he loves so much telling him that she loved being with him too (even if it was part of the act) meant the world to me.

One of the unusual things about a Laurie Berkner concert is that everyone in attendance is encouraged to bring a stuffed animal to put on their head when she performs “Pig on Her Head“. David had brought his dinosaur named Ollo which we gave him when his baby brother was born (he’d been telling us there was a dinosaur in his tummy ever since we’d told him there was a baby in mine, so it seemed fitting that the dinosaur could be born when his brother was ๐Ÿ˜‚) and I happened to have a stuffed penguin in our diaper bag which I figured I could put on his brother’s head during the song. I knew David would be absolutely insistent that his brother had a stuffed animal for that too so that was fortuitous. I hadn’t actually planned a stuffed animal it just happened to be in our diaper bag.

Well, when the song came up I noticed that our neighbors who were at the concert as well didn’t have a stuffed animal for their little girls and I figured they would enjoy the penguin more than my 6 month old so I let them borrow it. I wasn’t going to put a penguin on my baby’s head who would think that was weird when someone else could enjoy it so much more. I hoped that David wouldn’t notice but… of course he did. He was on the verge of a meltdown and I had to think quickly.

At home my kids *love* to put the baby on their shoulders and he spends a considerable amount of time traipsing around the house on top of their heads. It scares people when they watch it at first but it really makes him so happy and the kids love it too – I’ve watched them do it enough to know that he really is safe up there, but I understand why it would make people nervous! I decided that it would be a good way to appease David that I could put the *baby* on my head instead of the baby having a stuffie on top of his head. I was right and that tickled David’s sense of humor just right ๐Ÿ˜‚

I was out there dancing with him like that and from the stage Laurie interjected, “if you have a child on your head, please be careful!” Eep! I think I was the only one crazy enough to put a kid on their shoulders, so I’m pretty sure that was directed at me. Sorry Laurie! I laughed to be called out on having him up there from stage!

As the concert went on a lot of the kids went up by the stage and started dancing in front. I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to let David go up and join them. With the baby in tow I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to wrangle him back in if things got out of hand. He’s just such a wild card, I could envision a meltdown if the words to a song were changed up, or he might get it into his head that he should be on the stage, or any number of things. But I decided to let him join the other kids in the front while I monitored him from the sides.

Luckily it seemed like he joined into the fun without getting out of hand. He was in HEAVEN! He spent the rest of the concert front and center, dancing with Ollo and singing along. I’m sure he was also trying to talk with and ask Laurie a million questions, but I didn’t fully realize it until after the show was over. She did a great job of just carrying on with her show regardless of what he was telling her from the ground – I didn’t even realize he was talking to her until we were going home and he kept telling me that he had *more* things to tell/ask her๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™€๏ธ He was sad until I told him we could write her a note later. So be on the lookout Laurie, there might be a note coming your way soon! ๐Ÿ˜‚

You can see David in the red shirt right next to the stage. My favorite part is when he turns to the other kids to get them involved with the show – what a ham! ๐Ÿ˜‚

Overall it was an amazing experience. Thank you SO much to Tonies for sponsoring the event, and to Laurie Berkner for putting on such an awesome show. It really was so great for my kiddo, and he’s continuing to enjoy the experience with his own Tonie now!