Thanks for all the replies--just to clarify a few things:
I would not be taking any of the kiddos on the boat in the foreseeable future--I wouldn't trust myself at this point to supervise them adequately and maintain control of the vessel--hence daysailing and short overnight trips while grandma or babysitter watches the kids.
Also a motor will pretty much be required for survival where I'll be sailing.
As for crewing on other peoples' boats, that would be ideal, but my work/home schedule will not allow much flexibility for that, which is why I'm thinking rentals/cheap purchase with private lessons.
Any opinions on the Cheoy Lee Cadet? Is 27 ft too big for starters? If the only worry is the Portugese Submarine Fleet, I've got that covered. My brother is a P3 pilot (subhunter) in the US Navy. I'll just give him a call every time I head out of port