I don't count the stitches on the needle as a finished row. That will be row number 'whatever' when you knit it, so you don't count it as a completed one.
When I count rows, I ususally put the tip of my needle in the hole of each stitch--makes it easier to keep track.
For your color changes, do you mean an intarsia pattern in the middle? Or do you mean a stripe?
"Trust the pattern!"
Time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like a banana.
Hop aboard while we follow the cloud-covered van of knitting harmony, man!! Woooo!! --Hedgehog
IngridKH on Ravelry