My kids and I are calling this summer the best summer ever! Why? Because we are bound and determined to make it so.

Since I work from home, I’m able to spend every summer with my kiddos. Sometimes we stick around the house so I can get work done, and sometimes I ignore work altogether so we can get fun done. In the past, I’ve put very little effort into planning our summer. The exception is if there is a vacation in the mix.

We sleep in late, stay up late and when we can get out of the house, we usually head to the pool.

While I have always loved the time we get to spend together during the summer, my kids now span such a big age gap that I knew these next few months would take some extra planning. After all, how does one keep a 12-year-old engaged in the same activity as a 2-year-old?

Solution: Summer bucket list. 

I gathered my kids, searched the internet for fun, local activities and started compiling our own list. We’ve added our normal activities such as going to our favorite city pools, Papio Bay and the Fremont Splash Pad. We love hanging down at the zoo and meeting up with friends for spontaneous picnics.

But we’ve also included other activities we don’t usually make time for, including putt putt golf and bowling. And then we expanded our list even further to the stuff we’re really excited about.

For instance, we’re going to be hunting for the best doughnut in Omaha. One day a week, all summer long, we’re going to try a new-to-us doughnut shop. At the end of the summer, we’ll vote on our favorite doughnut and probably reward ourselves with, you guessed it, doughnuts! We’re going to do the same thing with ice cream cones. It’s going to be tough work scouring the city for the best sweets in town, but somehow we’ll manage.

We’re also going to spend more time in state parks and recreation areas. From Platte River to Mahoney, all the way to Indian Cave, we’re going to make exploring the great outdoors a priority. The best part? These days will be inexpensive! We’ll pack a picnic, buy a one-time park pass and spend our sunny days soaking up all the Nebraska wilderness has to offer.

Our summer bucket list reaches into all the cool neighboring towns as well. We might be Omaha natives, but the close proximity to nearby cities makes a short drive a big adventure. We plan to visit the authentic 1930s soda fountain at Springfield Drug in Springfield, Nebraska. We're also excited to check out the Nelson Produce Farm, where the kids can ride barrel trains, race around the pedal track and I can pick all the fresh strawberries I want. We're also looking forward to playing on the Lake Manawa Dream Playground.

And for those rainy or at-home days? We’re compiling a list of goodies we want to bake and gathering a stack of canvases so we can test our watercolor skills.

The goal isn’t staying busy just to stay busy; it’s to bond with each other and get the most out of these favorite months of ours. I want to make memories with my children that will last their entire lives. Our hope is that our fun, simple bucket list really will make this the best summer ever.

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Rachel Higginson is a married mom to five kids. She is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who has received a Utopia Award for Best Contemporary Romance and Penned Con Award for Best Novella Series. She lives in Omaha.

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