"When you come over, the first thing [Katie] does is say, 'Are you hungry? Let me make you something,' " their friend, Internet mogul Sky Dayton, tells PEOPLE.
A favorite pastime is family movie night: "Tom and Katie will get in the kitchen and make this amazing popcorn with chocolate," Dayton says. "Suri is there playing. Kate feeds her a bottle and then Tom feeds her."
According to those in the couple's inner circle – which includes Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, Yahoo CEO Terry Semel, Mission: Impossible III director J.J. Abrams, Victoria and David Beckham and fellow members of the Church of Scientology such as Leah Remini and Dayton – the Cruises are nothing like the characters portrayed in headlines.
But that normalcy hasn't stopped the speculation that their marriage is on the rocks and that Holmes, 28, is controlled by Cruise, 44. Those who know the couple best are mystified by the rumors, PEOPLE reports in its new issue.
"We're shocked when we read that stuff," says Semel. "Kate is bright and has opinions." Adds Abrams: "She's hardly a shrinking violet."
"I think everybody has this image: Poor little Kate, she doesn't have the strength to take care of herself," says Pinkett Smith. "People don't know that behind all that grace is a tiger. ... People think Tom and the Church of Scientology got something on Kate? They don't. Kate is running her own show." (For our complete interview with Pinkett Smith about Cruise and Holmes, click here.)
King of Queens actress Remini agrees: "I really don't get it. They're married, they love each other and have a beautiful baby. They do 'weird' things like take care of their kid and go to baseball games."
Holmes's parents, Martin and Kathleen, are a part of that picture. Kathleen flew to L.A. for Suri's first birthday on April 18, and a source says both remain "very close" to their daughter, who has embraced her husband's religion. "She's very involved and it's her choice," says an acquaintance. "She spends a lot of time reading books and learning on her own."
As for another rumor making the rounds, that Cruise has tried to convert the Beckhams to Scientology, a Beckham family friend calls the story "rubbish" and adds, "Ages and ages ago Tom gave them a booklet, but that was it. There hasn't been anything more than that. It is never discussed."
For more on Tom and Katie's marriage, including their recent trip to Las Vegas and how they've been spending time in Louisiana, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.