From Jen

I must say, I think “our story” is a pretty darn good one. What’s not to like about a childhood crush that starts in church and thanks to FaceBook, ends up with a beach wedding in Jamaica 30 years later?

That’s right, while attending mass as a 10-year-old kid, the highlight of my Sunday was seeing which cute altar boy would be serving that day. I had a crush on 2 blonde-haired, soccer-playing boys who often served as altar boys at the same mass. Rob was the one I thought resembled Ricky Schroeder from the show “Silver Spoons.”

We went to separate schools and although I’m sure we attended some of the same parties in high school and had some mutual friends, we never spoke or knew each other. I only knew him as the cute altar boy from church.

Fast forward to 2011. I attended my 20-year high school reunion on Labor Day weekend. At that time I was living in St. Charles and going through a divorce after 6 years of marriage. In the days following the reunion, there was a flurry of activity on FaceBook with photos being posted from the event. I noticed that a photo of this good looking guy with an adorable little girl kept popping up in my “People You May Know” section of my FaceBook page. There he was, my childhood crush, little Ricky Schroeder had grown up as a hottie named Rob Harper. With nothing to lose, I sent him a friend request and a message asking how he had been for the past 20 years.

I had no idea if he was married or single, but after a few messages he confirmed we has divorced and asked me if I’d like to get together for drinks. OMG! My first date as a newly single woman and it’s with “the altar boy.”

Our first date was at Quintessential on Main Street in St. Charles. The conversation flowed naturally with lots of laughs and frequent comparison of our past. There was definitely a nice bond we shared by growing up in the same neighborhood and having similar experiences in life. I was also relieved that I knew his family, we had mutual friends and the likelihood that he was a “psycho” was low.

We continued to date, getting to know each other better and eventually falling in love. At one point I didn’t think we were meant to be when he told me “I think that vacations are a waste of money.” WHAT!!! Travel is my passion. I go on trips several times a year. How could he not value a tropical vacation the same way I do? Luckily, I talked him into going on a Caribbean cruise, and then a weekend trip to Chicago for Cards-Cubs, and then a week in Negril, Jamaica, and then a Vegas trip for my birthday and then… Needless to say, it didn’t take him long to be hooked on vacations and accompany me anytime, anywhere.

I fell in love with a lot of things about Rob, but I have to say that nothing grabbed my heart more than when I saw him with his daughter Ava. After a few months of dating, and realizing I was a “keeper” he introduced me to his 5 year-old daughter Ava. We went bowling on that first meeting. She asked if I wore hair extensions. And we’ve been BFFs ever since. Rob is an amazing father and puts his full effort into everything he does for Ava. Seeing how selfless and caring he was with his daughter gave me a great deal of insight and hope for how he might be as a husband someday. I love our family time together. I love being the president of Ava’s “Girly Girl Club.” And I love that I soon will be her step mom and get to share in all of the life events she has in front of her.

It’s hard to believe that Rob and I have been together for more than 3 years. I’ve known for a while that we would have a very happy life together. The day that he surprised me with the proposal in Punta Cana was amazing. Totally unexpected! I figured at some point he would ask to marry me, but I never imagined he would put in as much effort as he did to ensure it was perfect for me. I would have said “yes” no matter how he asked, but the message in a bottle, at sunset on the beach, the photographer there to capture it all, keeping it a surprise from me and giving me the most beautiful ring I could have asked for. It was absolutely perfect!

I am so excited to start this new chapter in our life. I’ve never been happier and I know that it’s Rob and Ava’s love that makes me feel that way.