The most exciting news EVER….

24 Jul

What could my exciting news be??


You won’t believe it.

I’ve been keeping this a secret for SO LONG, more than a month, and it was SO HARD!

Okay I told *a few* people.

And of course my immediate family.

But that’s it.

Do you want to know??? I know you do!

Okay here it is.

I would sit down if I were you. It’s big.

Caroline and I are going to Washington DC.

We’re going to meet THE FIRST LADY!!!!

That’s right! Michelle Obama!! We’re meeting Michelle Obama!!!

Yes, seriously!

Okay. Let me regroup. Here’s how it happened….

Back around the end of May, my editor at the Cranston Herald, Meg, received a press release from Senator Jack Reed’s office announcing a recipe contest that Epicurious was putting out in conjunction with the White House. One winner, a parent/child team, would be chosen from every single state. You can read a similar press release here.

Now Meg is a big fan of The Whole Bag of Chips. She emailed me the press release and said, “You should enter this with one of your kids.”

I took a look, and thought, “Hmmm….maybe I should.”

So I broached it to my kids, but there was one problem: you could enter with one child at a time, ages 8-12, but if you entered with more than one child, only one could win and if one was a winner, the whole family doesn’t get to go to Washington, just the one winner and their parent.

Right off the bat, Alex is seven, so I couldn’t enter with her. My first initial thought was to enter with Caroline because she cooks more in the kitchen than Liz and is slightly more independent in the kitchen, and additionally, she’s 12, the top age. She couldn’t enter again if it ran next year.

But, Elizabeth, upon hearing about the contest said, “Well, I’m between 8 and 12 I want to enter too.” So I explained the whole thing about not being able to win with both, even though I could enter with both.

Elizabeth said, “That’s okay, if Caroline won, I’d be happy for her.”

Caroline said, “I don’t know. If you won, I think I’d be too sad. I don’t know if I can do it.”

I was stumped. I didn’t know what we should do. We had some time though, I let them think on it, and I hoped that Caroline would come around and both of them could enter.

One day at the beginning of June, I received an email from Caroline that said, “Okay, I’ll do it.” (I’m pretty sure she wrote that email from in our house, with me right in the house with her, but it didn’t matter to me. She wanted to do it.)

And so, we did it.

Elizabeth and Don with their contest entry, a tuna wrap and all the fixins’!

On June 9, after dinner we got down to business.  Separately we had to come up with our meals, cook up our meals, type up our entries which included the recipe with ingredients and step-by-step instructions and a photo of a complete meal including side dishes and beverages, as well as a short essay.

We have a tiny kitchen. We had to take turns.

Elizabeth had chosen to enter with Don because their healthy lunchtime recipe was one he makes for her lunch a lot: a tuna wrap with lettuce and tomato. On the side she had celery and carrots and a glass of coffee milk (a delicacy here).

Lunch anyone?

Caroline and I came up with an egg white omelette with broccoli and mozzarella cheese because she will only eat egg whites, and she loves broccoli. On the side we had wheat toast and mixed fruit (kiwi and nectarines).

We sent in our entries that night. The deadline was June 17, the night before the last day of school.

That Friday afternoon, following the deadline, I received an email. Caroline and I were finalists for our state. I couldn’t believe it. I asked Don if he’d gotten one, but he had not.

We had to tell them.

I let Caroline see the email first. Then we told Liz. I was worried at how she’d react. Her eyes got bright, but she said, “Caroline, I’m so happy for you. Here, have my lollipop stick,” and she handed her the empty stick. That was the end of it.

I emailed Meg, “We’re finalists! OMG” and began filling out all the paper work needed to complete the next level of the contest. We had five days to get it filled out, notarized and postmarked.

Then, we waited.

We knew from the rules that there could be up to three finalists per state but that’s all we knew; that and the fact that only one of those finalists would win.

And waited.

We wondered. We’re a small state. How many entries could there be?

And waited.

It was agonizing. The original notification date was supposed to be by July 16. I slept about ten seconds the night before.

But we didn’t hear anything.

I checked in. “Just checking to see if all the winners had been notified yet?”

No. Not yet. No one.

We were still in the running. The winners would be notified that week.

So we waited and waited some more. Every day seemed like a week. I checked my email ten million times a day if we were home, to see if we heard anything yet.

By that Thursday I checked in again. A formal email went out. Competition was tough this year. They needed more time. The official notification date would now be Tuesday July 24. We’d hear either way.

And now here it is, Tuesday, July 24.

And guess what???  Well you know already. WE WON!!!!

Caroline and I will be traveling to Washington to represent the state of Rhode Island at the Kids’ State Dinner, which will be held next month!!

I’m so incredibly excited!! But even more so, I’m so incredibly proud of my kids. I’m proud of them for taking the risk to enter, proud of them for being healthy eaters, for being cooks in the kitchen, and for loving each other and us, enough to want to compete against each other and yet be willing to support each other at the same time. To me, and I’m choked up as I write this, that says a lot about the strength of their bond with each other and their bond with us. I love my kids so much, and I’m so, so proud.

I am incredibly proud of my kids!!

I will keep you updated as the trip takes place and you can be sure there will be photos to go along with it. They are creating a free downloadable eBook containing all the recipes from all the winners for each state, so our recipe will be published in that cookbook. I’ll let you know when that becomes available as well.

We won. Can you believe it?

Our healthy lunchtime recipe: Egg white omelette with broccoli and cheese.

23 Responses to “The most exciting news EVER….”

  1. Heather July 24, 2012 at 11:45 am #

    Congratulations! Such great news!

  2. Tracy Bianco Wasilewski July 24, 2012 at 12:15 pm #

    Congratulations Jen and Caroline! That is exciting news! Looking forward to seeing the photos and reading the story about meeting the First Lady!
    Tracy Wasilewski

  3. Meg July 24, 2012 at 12:18 pm #

    I am beyond excited!!!!!

  4. Gina Miller July 24, 2012 at 12:19 pm #

    Wow, congrats Cowart ladies! How very exciting for you!

  5. maripassananti July 24, 2012 at 12:21 pm #

    Hooray! I’m a huge Obama supporter, so I am extra excited for you and your daughter. She will remember meeting Mrs. Obama forever.

  6. Jen July 24, 2012 at 1:47 pm #

    How awesome!

  7. Jenn Maguire July 24, 2012 at 2:24 pm #

    That is so great Jen!! Congrats to you and Caroline! Can’t wait to read about your trip and see pictures!

  8. Sue Meyerson July 24, 2012 at 8:16 pm #

    I am so glad to be one of “the few”!!! and I am so glad youWON!!!!! (I kind of knew/thought you would!!!!) Hooray! Hope you are going to book group Thurs so I can hear more details!!!

  9. caroline July 24, 2012 at 8:49 pm #

    thank you mom I love you too!! I had soooo much fun working with you and I hope we have a great time going to the white house!!! Great job on the blog bost so excited 🙂

  10. dreamzncolor July 25, 2012 at 3:00 am #

    That’s fantastic!!! Congratz!!!!

  11. Nicole July 25, 2012 at 7:45 am #

    Congratulations, Jen and Caroline!! So, so excited for you girls!! Wow! You deserve it!

  12. Jo-Lyn August 7, 2012 at 5:02 pm #

    So much fun!! 🙂 Congrats!

  13. Kathy August 13, 2012 at 7:32 pm #

    I am so happy for you all! Jen, you and your family never cease to amaze me! Well deserved! CONGRATS!

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