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Cupcakes for Dinner, Manicures Mark the New School Year

South Orange, Maplewood families have rituals to start the year well

Locals mark the new school year with routines and rituals. For , the unofficial start to the year is when longtime customer Suzanne Rowland places an early September order at .  The Rowland family, says Ramaikas, marks each new year with cupcakes for dinner. 

"Generally she and her husband have them with a fine vintage of wine," says Ramaikas, "while the kids enjoy a more Beaujolais-esque dairy product."

Claire Sinclair, who returns to the classroom herself at , notes that her sons, 15 and 10, have a ritual that doesn't involve her. "They have been going to town for an 'annual last day of summer lunch' for a few years," says Sinclair.  "My husband and I did not even realize it was a tradition until my older son asked the younger one on Monday, 'Hey Drew, wanna go out for our third annual day before school lunch in the village?'  Apparently, for the last few years, they walk into town together, get some lunch and walk home."

Caldwell mother of three Elizabeth Moore doesn't let a September pass without a photo of her three boys, standing together, ready for the first day. 

To start the year well, the Stein family eats a big breakfast together on the first day of school.  "Waffles, fruit, whipped cream, you name it," says mother Nancy. "It's a big change from the usual cereal and coffee." The rituals doesn't end there, though. As the three Stein children leave the house, Nancy sweeps the front stairs in front of them, and tosses water on the front walk.

"You know," she says, "I don't exactly know what it means. What I know is that my father did it every time I started school in the Bronx, when he was the superintendent of the building. Even when I left for college, I waited for him to sweep in front of me."

Elaine Cataneo, mother of a third grader and a seventh grader at l, will spend the first day of school at a day spa with a friend.

"For me and a lot of my friends," explains Cataneo, "the start of the school year marks the beginning of the chaos - homework, projects, sports, piano practice, clubs - general rushing around after the glorious calm of the summer - BBQs, beach, sleeping late after not worrying about bedtime. So I give myself a day to mark 'Ready, Set, Go'!"

Stein will do the same, having a hair cut, long-delayed highlights and a manicure while her kids meet their new teachers on Thursday. "Why not?" she asks. "It's been a long summer."

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