Thanks to everyone's suggestions, I've ordered a camera. Should be here first of the week, and I can hardly wait. I have to go through one more weekend racking up 35mm prints to develop. I haven't done that in so long I have no idea how much they even cost anymore!
So - before I tell you which one I got, I'll tell you which ones I considered. And lemme tell you, I spent literally hours comparing features, reading reviews, polling friends and looking at sample photos on online galleries. In the end, it was a race between the Panasonic Lumix DMX-T4 (and 5), Kodak EasyShare 1015, Sony CyberShot DSC H2O, FujiFilm Finepix 8100 and Cannon SD 400.
I wanted to get maximum pixels AND maximum zoom, with reviews that praised picture quality, no lag between shots and image stabilization. Remember, too, I wanted under $300. What I eventually chose came out under $275 including shipping and a 4 GB memory stick. I bought the camera directly from the manufacturer and the card from Amazon. The card was almost $20 less on Amazon, thanks to a sale they had. Should get here around the same time, but if not, I think the camera has a smaller card that comes with it. Either way, I'll have both ready by next weekend, when I intend to drag 'em all out and make up for lost photo ops.
And you know what, I'm going to wait until it comes in the mail to tell you which one I got!