Book 5, "The Last Straw": The library has a yard sale as a fundraiser. At the Patterson's house, of course. Afterwards, John smugly anticipates that Elly and her co-workers can "count your pennies". "Pennies? We made over $800! Some idiot even paid $25 for our old black-and-white TV!" John, in garage looking at TV, thinks, "I thought it looked familiar."
Lizzie gets sick, so Elly has to work from home. She laments that before she was working, a sick kid was not a problem. Mike: "Yeah, you were a real mom then!" Later, back at work, Elly is touched to find that work has piled up on her desk. "They missed me!"
Mike resents having to go to Annie's after school when Elly is working. John relays this to Elly. "Why should I stay home when everyone else is away?! What am I supposed to do all day -- bake cookies?!! Dust armchairs?!!" As she continues to rant, John thinks, "From now on, Mike fights his own battles."
Elly feels the pressure of what was then called (although LJ doesn't use the term) "Superwoman Syndrome". Meaning, she works, but the housework is still totally her responsibility. John tells Mike it's hormones. "Something peculiar happens to women. Makes 'em moody from time to time." Elly: "I heard that! There's nothing wrong with me. I'm just sick of picking up after YOU!" Mike, whispering to John, "I see what you mean."
John tells Elly, "If it's too much for you, why don't you quit the job?" Elly: "Which one?" She then lays down the law: everyone contributes. Naturally, John is a harder sell than Mike and Lizzie, but he finally agrees. Connie: "What kind of feminist logic did you use on him?" Elly: "I cried."
John praises his assistant Jean. "If I had to describe you in one word, I'd say you were..." Jean: "Pregnant!" John grips to Elly about what he'll do while Jean is on maternity leave. "It'd be easier to replace a wife!" To Elly's retreating form: "Uh...figuratively speaking, that is."
Elly is still doing aerobics. John remarks that she still doesn't seem to be losing any weight. Elly responds with a barrage of symbols: "*!@#&%($(!" John: "Sorry. I didn't mean to be honest!"
Elly's boss can't go to a workshop in Winnipeg, and asks Elly to go in her place! Woohoo! Elly gets to shop! And shop some more when she gets there! John worries about her traveling alone. Elly assures him that she can manage on her own. John: "Maybe that's what I'm afraid of."
Book 6, "Keep the Home Fries Burning": Jean returns to work with her new baby. "My entire day revolves around her schedule. And at night I get up with her every 3 hours, while my husband just snores away!" John, thinking: "Another excellent argument for breastfeeding."
Elly is still at the library, bringing home a lot of tasks that she volunteered for.
OT, but when Elly's parents visit for Christmas, Elly tells her mother the story of Connie, beginning with, "After their divorce, Connie's first husband went back to South America." Later to be retconned, of course.
Another of John's assistants puts in her notice. "Women!! You train them to do things exactly the way you want them -- and they go and quit on you!" Elly, who was bringing him a cup of coffee, drops it onto the table from a foot above the surface. Coffee-covered John mutters, "Perhaps I should rephrase that." In the next strip, Elly points out that Jean's baby is nearly a year old. John: "You're suggesting that I ask a woman who's devoting her life to motherhood to come back to work?" Elly: "Trust me."
Jean does agree to come back, but only part time. John asks Elly to work the other half of her schedule, just for a couple of weeks. Elly bridles at some aspects of the job, like John never saying "please" when he asks for equipment, but otherwise performs well. However, when she expresses amazement that John can manage "such a hectic schedule," John replies, "You're just not used to working!"
Mike gets to stay alone after school, with the proviso that he get dinner started. Internal monologue: "I won't. I will nt. I will not peel those carrots...If I don't peel those carrots, they'll call me lazy. They'll say I never do anything to help out. They'll point out my messy room, they'll say I don't care...they'll make me pick up every toy I ever owned...I'll peel the carrots."
Jean comes back to work full time when she gets her daughter into all-day daycare. Elly: "Once you add up daycare plus the cost of gas...it hardly makes sense for you to come back to work!" Jean: "Then again...it hardly makes sense for me to stay home and go crazy!"
Elly gets a poem published in a magazine. $50! Woohoo! John to Jean: "The change in Elly is incredible! Ever since she got that poem published..." Jean: "Of course! It's the beginning of a career. It's given her an identity!" John: "What's wrong with being Mrs. John Patterson?" Jean replies by squirting him with the waterpik.
Samples of Elly's work:
When the dryer is on airfluff
When the last load is on spin
When you think the laundry's finished
The next load doth begin.
"That was during my 'futility of housework' phase."
A tiny cry within the night
A mother's touch, a gentle light
A rocking chair, a cheek caressed
A baby to a bosom pressed
A bundle in a cot replaced
A mother's footsteps, soft, retraced
She whispers as the shadows creep,
"Now let me sleep! Please, let me sleep!!!"
"Whenever I felt like belting my kid, I'd put my feelings into poetry." -- "El..that's beautiful."
Elly gets asked to read her poetry at some kind of dinner meeting. John: "You'll be fine, El. You can handle it!...You've made a fool of yourself before." Also, at the meeting, the seeds of what will be one of the longest FOOB story arcs are planted: saving the old theater from demolition.
To this end, Elly is interviewed on the radio. DJ: "And with me is Mrs. Elly Patterson. Or should I say Miz? Never know these days if you want to be Miss, Mrs. or Miz! Always getting into trouble over that one! You girls should wear tags so we'll know what to call you!"
Book 7, "It's All Downhill From Here": Elly has another poem published. The Save the Theater campaign gears up. Once again, Mike sulks because Elly is busy so much. Elly: "I have things I want to do! I have my own life to lead!" Mike: "But can't you lead it without GOING anywhere?"
Connie and Lawrence and Greg return to Eastgate (yes, the town did used to be called Eastgate; I don't care what LJ has retconned). John: "I wonder what the girls are talking about." Greg: "Us. Women always talk about men. They criticize them, they compare them, they analyze and argue about them. Unlike we men, who prefer to discuss things with relevance...So! Who's going to win the Stanley Cup?"
Elizabeth (she started using her full name in grade 1 when she realized how many rhymes there are for "Lizzie". Oh, the irony.) asks what happened to Lawrence's old dad. Again, Elly states that "Lawrence's parents were divorced a long time ago. His dad moved back to Brazil."
Elly seems to have given up exercise when Connie moved away. "No matter how much I exercise, I could never look like you, Connie. You were born with a slim build, and I was born like this...it's fate!" Elizabeth asks what fate is; John replies that "It's fat...with an 'e' on it" as a coffee cup flies at his head.
The family goes through old photographs. Elly wonders when a certain picture was taken. Mike: "Musta been a long time ago...You were thin."
Book 8, "Pushing 40": Mike continues to be a pain in the ass, whining for Elly to stop working and make dinner. John blames it on his becoming a teenager. (Except he's 11.) Mike gets sick, wants Elly to stay home with him, but at the same time doesn't want to be nagged.
John buys his first sportscar, and "ace driver" gear to go with it. A few weeks later, he tells Elly he's taking her car to work, since he can't drive his in a snowstorm. When Elly objects, he tells her, "You're part time -- you can skip work for a day!...Look, whose job is more important -- yours or mine?" Elly gives him whatfor; John takes a taxi; Elly's car ends up in a ditch while she's driving either to or from work.
Elly resumes stressing about losing weight. John reassures her. "Honey...I like you just the way you are! Yep! A woman should provide heat in the winter and shade in the summer. That's what my old grandpa used to say!" After Elly turns the hose on him: "Mind you...I bet he didn't say it often."