Here are ten different “fun facts” about HeidiSongs that I thought some of my fans might enjoy reading and knowing about! If you are a new HeidiSongs user or a long time fan, I hope you enjoy this little “behind the scenes” look at a little bit of the background and little known facts behind some of our songs, books, CD’s, and DVD’s. Enjoy, and I hope you have a wonderful summer!
By the way, here is one thing about ME that you might not know: I’ve been on a leave of absence from teaching for two years, from Sept. 2013 – June, 2015. I’m going back to the classroom to teach full time next year! And I have been placed in a first and second split grade (combination) class! So if you follow my blog, you’ll start to see more ideas for first and second grade start to appear, and eventually some new products, too! But never fear! I won’t forget about my kindergarten friends, either! I intend to still keep thinking about how I would do things in Kindergarten and keep blogging on Kinder stuff from time to time, too!
1. I, (Heidi) thought of my first sight word spelling song, for the word “the,” while attempting to teach my Kindergartners to write a simple sentence with the word “the” in it. It just “popped” right out of my mouth out of frustration that my little ones simply couldn’t find it on the word wall, and couldn’t spell it, either! The next thing I knew, they were all teaching each other the song- and then soon EVERYONE in the whole class could both read and write the word “the.” The song hasn’t changed at all since that moment, and I give all of the glory to God for it!
2. It took a full six months for me to think of my second spelling song, which was for the word “see.” That song hasn’t changed at all since then, either! This was after trying VERY HARD to get the kids to learn to spell other words to the tune of the “the” song (Hot Cross Buns.) I’ve never had ANY luck getting kids to memorize a second word to a melody that I’ve already used for a different word. (By the way, I can now pretty much come up with new spelling songs in a flash! LOL!)
3. My children’s names, and some of their nicknames are in the lyrics of a few of my songs!
* The K Song, from Singable Songs for Letters and Sounds and also our new Animated Alphabet DVD, has my oldest daughter Katie’s name in it! It goes, “K-k-k Katie, Make a line down and, then go in and then go out and that’s a K!”
* One of my twins’ name is Krissie. She is now an actual ADULT (24 years old!!! Okay, BOTH twins are 24 years old and bonafide ADULTS, ha ha!) She works as our HeidiSongs product and operations manager. She also fills orders and answers the phone sometimes, so if you happen to call, you may get to talk to her! Krissie’s name appears in the lyrics for the X Song in Singable Songs for Letters and Sounds and also our new Animated Alphabet DVD. It sounds like we are saying “Crissy-crossy makes an X, Crissy-crossy makes an X!” But in my mind, it’s REALLY, “Krissie crossy makes an X, Krissie crossy makes an X!” When we were in the recording studio, she just shook her head at me and said, “Very funny, mom.”
* Krissie’s nickname from when she was a baby and toddler was Roo, (from Winnie the Pooh’s Kanga and Little Roo.) That somehow wound up becoming “Roodle” or “Roodles” over time- don’t ask me how! Anyway, the word “Roodle” is in the “Be” spelling song on Sing and Spell Vol. 4! It goes, “Be a kanga-roodle! A roodle! A roodle! Be a kanga-roodle! B-E, be!”
4. My youngest twin, Kimmie, has appeared in our DVD’s, although she has somehow escaped getting her name into my lyrics (so far!) If you have seen the “Yellow” song on our animated Colors and Shapes DVD, that’s her! She is also in several other of the colors and shapes songs, and in our new Animated Alphabet DVD!
Not only that, she just finished her first (half) year of teaching! She taught a Transitional Kindergarten class that began in January, 2015, right after she got her credential in December, 2014! The last day of the school year was June 4, 2015. I volunteered in her class as often as I could, which was once a week, if I was in town. Every time I went into her class, I watched her run the whole thing like someone who has been doing it for 10 years running, and I am simply AMAZED. She only JUST STARTED! My daughter is going to BE SOMEBODY in education. That is all I have to say! I certainly didn’t learn that quickly! And her students are doing amazingly well! They are going to enter Kindergarten next year well ahead of their peers, I have no doubt- every one of them!
5. As my children grew up, they often helped me brainstorm lyrics for my songs! One thing that I remember clearly is trying to think of things that were white for the White spelling song. As I sat at my computer and tried to come up with ideas, I was only coming up with snow. So I called out, “Help me think of some things that are white!” My daughter Kimmie had been helping herself to some marshmallows as a snack out of our cupboard, and she called out “Marshmallow!” I thought, “Perfect! That will rhyme with snow!” Krissie, her twin, called out “Polar bears!” (She LOVES visiting the San Diego zoo, where they have a great polar bear exhibit!) Then my husband, called out, “Underwear!” I grinned, and thought, “HA! That will do it! The kids are going to LOVE this one!” (And they DO! It’s a favorite every year.) Here’s the lyrics:
White as snow, marshmallow,
Polar bear, underwear!
6. If you are familiar with my Wiggles Books, then you may be interested to know that the REAL Wiggles actually lives with us! We have two Chihuahuas that are truly “my babies,” and one of them is especially “wiggly” and rascally. Her name is Ruby, and she is the inspiration for the Wiggles character in my books Wiggles Learns the Rules and School, Wiggles Learns to Pay Attention and Wiggles’ First Day at School. Her (adopted) brother, Jasper, is really more of a “Sittles!” He just likes to pretty much lay around and sleep- except when it’s time to go for a walk, that it! So he was the inspiration for the Little Sittles character in my book, “Sittles Learns to Join In.” (This is a book about the importance of class participation.) Basically, Wiggles won’t sit down, and Sittles won’t get up. Get it?
7. When I first started recording songs, it was a complete fluke! I never planned to record a CD and start selling music! All I wanted to do was make a decent recording that I could give to my friends that wanted to use my music in their classrooms, but couldn’t remember the tunes. My husband found out that our neighbor across the street, Mike Cravens, had built a recording studio in his garage. He told him of my problem, and Mike agreed to make a background track for me for my first recording, which was the musical play for Kindergartners, The Gingerbread Man. (Yes, it works fine for Pre-K and first grade, reportedly!)
When he was finished, my three daughters (who were about six and seven years old at the time) and I walked across the street and sang the background vocals in his garage. He sent me back home with a CD in my hand, and HeidiSongs was born! Mike is still my go-to person for music writing help. He and I co-write most of the HeidiSongs tunes together, and I have no idea what I would do without him! Would you believe that:
* I generally now just write the lyrics (with a suggested rhythm as in a chant/voicemail), and Mike writes the melodies, although I occasionally come up with a simple tune of my own.
* Once Mike and I have agreed on the lyrics, style, and tempo (speed), then Mike thinks about it for a while and comes up with a melody.
* Then Mike does the magic with the background tracks! He first comes up with a “skeleton” sort of musical draft that includes a tempo and style, and sends it to me (Heidi) via email! Once I get the music samples, and I listen and reply with feedback. On a perfect day, I say that I love it and he can proceed and add all of the bells and whistles (sound effects, etc.)
* On a worse day, I may ask Mike to write a shorter or longer intro to the song, or perhaps scrap that style that we agreed on and start over on a different one, or perhaps to pick up the tempo a little bit, etc. So we email back and forth, and Mike continues to revise the general style of the song until we get something that I like educationally and that Mike thinks will work musically! Then once he gets my approval, he finishes off the rest of the song.
These days we do our recording at a recording studio at the church that we used to go to, Cornerstone Bible Church in Glendora.
8. My husband Greg is the one that creates all of the DVD’s, designs all of the packaging for CD’s, DVD’s, and books, is responsible for the website design, and generally does all of the heavy lifting on the “techy work.” Without his support, there wouldn’t be any HeidiSongs! His background working at Disney Imagineering and currently in Dreamworks projects has been an incredible asset to HeidiSongs. I do believe that God had a plan when He led us to each other- and I am so grateful!
9. Our office is FILLED with close family friends! In fact, they are so close, they feel like FAMILY! It all started a good 30 years ago when my husband Greg got a job at Carl’s Jr. working with a great guy named Bob Stebbing, and they are still friends! Bob is a pastor at Cornerstone Bible Church, and is the sound engineer that helps us record all of our CD’s!
Bob’s wife, Donna, and I became friends many years ago when we led worship together at church. Donna became the very first HeidiSongs employee that was not actually a member of the Butkus family! She is our office accountant and handles customer service. Bob and Donna’s daughter Sarah recently joined the HeidiSongs family as my social media manager and personal assistant. (“Go ahead, say it: Well lah-dee-dah!!!”) Their other daughter, Krista, came on board a few years ago when my husband Greg trained her to be our video editor. She learned to help create some of the DVD’s, and also helped make TONS of those great Hidden Worksheets and some of the other worksheets and puzzles we sell! (She now works remotely, because she moved, but we let her take her job with her because we love her so much!)
10. All of our children- and Bob and Donna’s children- have sung on our CD’s and DVD’s from the very beginning! Donna and I also sang on most of them as well! However, as of the last few years, I quit singing on them myself so that I could just listen to the rest of the singers and concentrate on how I wanted it all to sound. I guess that makes me the producer, author, and the composer, right?
This is a cute video of the kids recording over the years!
I hope you enjoyed this little bit of HeidiSongs trivia! I sure had fun putting it together!