You might be surprised at how well a good optical viewfinder works. If you've only ever looked through the optical viewfinders of point and shoot camera's you're underestimating a good viewfinder on a SLR. I will also say some SLR's have better viewfinders than others. Pentaprism types are better than pentamirror types..
Go to a store and look through the viewfinders..
For fast children in low light you'll need a good autofocus system. I might suggest you look at Nikon. I don't own Nikon gear but I do hear their predictive autofocus works very well. I'm sure others can give more experienced advice..
If you do go the SLR route for faster operation and better low light capability consider that the trade off is larger size, bulk, and expense...
As a mother of four, it is possible that you do not have enough free time to take up a hobby that requires such a time commitment as using a dslr. To improve markedly over the photos you take with a P&S, you will need to study the elements of photography and learn the basics of photoprocessing, both of which take time and effort. Although I'm sure you would enjoy a dslr more than a megazoom P&S, you might want to wait until your kids are grown to move up to a dslr. Just a thought..
There are many good choices, obviously..
My gal wanted to start accompanying me on nature and bird shoots in the Everglades and other places. She wanted a DSLR but did not want to bother with any settings. Essentially, she wanted the quality and speed of a DSLR but the ease of a point and shoot. She had a Canon S3 but kept losing images with the lag times..
I bought her a Nikon D40 and the very sharp 18-135 kit lens with an SB400 flash. This package cost me around $800 for her Christmas present..
Now, I'll admit that one reason was the fact that she could share 80% of my lenses because I shoot Nikon. Secondly, she read that Ken Rockwell (not my favorite) said that the D40 was the best, most fun of the entry levels..
She's been using this D40 for over 2 months now and just loves it. She's never set anything on the camera as it came out of the box, not even the time and date. She thought she'd need Live-View, but now admits it would not be nearly as nice as the viewfinder. Every now and then, she uses one of my lenses, but she's really satisfied with the 18-135 even though it doesn't have image stabalization. We had tried an 18-200 vr but it didn't have that contrasty sharp pop the 18-135 has. Even her daughter who uses a Canon XTi now loves that little D40.
My best friend in the Everglades with her D40.
Image control:Zoom outZoom 100%Zoom inExpand AllOpen in new window..
Might want to check out the Canon 450D. It has a live screen...
If you love her, buy her a nice, wide, padded camera strap. That thing she's using hurts me over the internet. .
The oly e-420 is very soon available. Its has a much better live view and also quite a few other things that make a move from p&s to dslr easy (contrast AF, size, price, etc...)..
I personally think live view is not *that* important. I also thought using a viewfinder is bad and not my kind of thing when I bought my first dslr but it turned out quite different. Live view is sure very nice to have and there are moments where it makes taking a picture much easier but I think more important than live view is that the dslr is easy to hold and the controls are easy to use..
I suggest you go to a camera shop and try to use some dslrs before you buy one. It might be an eyeopener...well at least for me it was.....