Her son in her arms, a phone tucked under her chin, Gwyneth Paltrow is hopping on one leg toward the fridge.
Now she's hopped to the counter and is pouring a glass of pineapple juice as the golden-haired tot, who's got to weigh at least 25 pounds, straddles her hip and tugs at her loose blond ponytail. Now she's hopped to the opposite end of the kitchen and is quickly checking something on her laptop while balancing gracefully on one bare foot.
It's an overcast July afternoon, and Paltrowbusily tending to 15-month-old Moses at her summer digs in the Hamptonsis trying to maintain life as usual while recovering from knee surgery. Her husband, Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, is in the city for the day, recording, and the nanny has gone out to pick up three-year-old Apple from day camp. So it's just mother and son right now, and Moses, a solidly built lad with an adorable toothy grin, keeps trying to pull ice out of his mom's glass. "Bubba!" she clucks when he spills some of her drink. Andhop, hop, hopshe springs back into action in search of a paper towel.
Even on one leg, Paltrow makes motherhood look surprisingly easy. "I'm supposed to be able to walk on it in another week," she says brightly. And in the meantime, she has gotten so good at hopping that she hardly needs her crutches when she's in the house. There are, of course, a few concessions she's had to make. For one, she was supposed to be on a plane yesterday en route to Valentino's 45th-anniversary gala in Rome. "But I can't carry a bag, so that meant I would have had to bring someone, and then go attend the party in a gown and crutches!" she says, shaking her head. "It was too crazy." So she decided to just stay home.
Staying home is something she's done a lot for the past three years. After the death of her father, Bruce, in 2002, her marriage to Martin in December 2003, and the birth of Apple the following May, Paltrow decided that she was going to put the brakes on her career to focus on family. "I just sort of got to the point where I had worked too much, so I stopped completely to be home," she says. "It's nice to get out of everyone's face for a while." Although the actress took on a couple of blink-and-you'll-miss-her rolesa cameo in the opening scene of Infamous, the Truman Capote biopic directed by her friend Doug McGrath, and a small part in Running With Scissorsshe hasn't had a star turn since her Golden Globe-nominated performance as the tormented daughter of a late math genius in the 2005 movie Proof, which she filmed while pregnant with Apple. The Paltrow the public has glimpsed since has mostly been a London yummy mummy-about-town, strolling around Belsize Park with a yoga mat under her arm, or hand in hand with Apple, her dimple-faced mini-me. She's been so absent from the Hollywood scene that earlier this year, when she walked the red carpet of the Academy Awards clad in salmon pink Zac Posen, she seemed almost like a visiting dignitaryone from a totally different universe than that inhabited by the Jessica Biels, Jennifer Hudsons and other It girls of the moment.