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After taking a break, Martina McBride gears up for a big summer

Story by Wendy Newcomer

For most people, a vacation is time to get away, a time to visit

new places or meet new people. For Martina McBride, however, the ideal getaway is no further than her own backyard.

"When you tour in the summer and you have a week off, the thought of packing up and going somewhere is not thrilling," she admits. "So we just stay at home. Our vacations end up being when we come off the road."

Yet Martina's idea of a good time might seem a little ... well, ordinary to her fans. "We do normal stuff," she says. "John and I both love to go to the movies. I like to cook and we have dinner every night. We putter around the house and just kind of hang out. Every once in awhile we'll go bowling or go shopping. The whole family went to the grocery store the other day. I told John, 'We need to do this more often!' It was fun."

Martina's been off the road since last fall, when daughter Delaney started kindergarten. But just because she was home doesn't mean Martina wasn't busy. Currently on the radio with her hit single "It's My Time," she's also been finishing up her next album project, a greatest-hits CD slated for fall release.

"My next single is going to be the first single off of the greatest-hits album," she says Martina, "but we haven't picked it yet."

In addition to radio smashes like "My Baby Loves Me," "Independence Day," "Wild Angels" and "Safe In The Arms Of Love," the new CD will also include four brand-new songs.

"When I put together a new album, I try to make it more than just a bunch of hits," explains Martina, "I try to find songs that are beautiful pieces of music - songs that might not ever be

singles, but really balance the album and make it a complete piece of work.

"A new album for me is more of a journey. A greatest-hits CD is me topping off what's happened so far in my career. To me, it feels like a transition."

Last year Martina, husband John and daughters Delaney and Emma made another transition - into a new home.

"It was cool timing," says Martina. "We bought this house and moved in and then went out and worked really hard all last spring and summer. Then we got to come home and live in it for the past six or seven months.

"It's fantastic," she adds. "We still pinch ourselves. It's a great place to raise a family. It's really homey and feels very warm. We walk around every day and go, 'Gosh, this is our dream house.' "

But soon Martina will be back on a bus, family in tow, as a part of an upcoming all-female tour called Girls' Night Out. She'll be sharing the bill with the current toast of Broadway, Reba McEntire. The show also features Sara Evans, Jamie O'Neal and newcomer Carolyn Dawn Johnson. It kicks off July 13 and runs through Aug. 19.

"I've always wanted to do a show with all women," says Martina, who met with Reba to organize the summer tour. "Reba is one of my idols and mentors. And this seems like the right time to do this show."

Martina's looking forward to being a part of such a unique bill.

"Five women on the same bill is special in and of itself," she says. "We all have a lot in common, yet we're all in different stages of our careers. And it's a chance for me to work with Reba. I've always looked up to and admired her from every standpoint."

As July 13 nears, the days of relaxing in her new home will soon be over -- but Martina doesn't mind at all.

The family, she notes, has "a lot of fun out on the road. The kids get to go to zoos and Disney World." And when she performs at summertime festivals and fairs, the kids have a blast. "They go to the fair every day!" she laughs.

As she thinks about hitting the road again after her break, she feels her anticipation building. "I'm excited to be back," she says with a smile. "I've missed it."